Slovakia takes a cautious line on Kosovo independence

Kosovar Albanians wave flags while celebrating the independence of Kosovo, in Pristina, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008, photo: CTK

Slovakia looks likely to be the only Central European country not to step forward and recognise Kosovo. It joins Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Romania as EU nations who have opposed the unilateral declaration by Pristina. While the Czech Republic has yet to make a commitment, other Central European states have indicated their willingness to form diplomatic relations with Kosovo.

British Foreign Affairs Minister David Miliband,  left,  shares a few words with Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Kubis,  photo: CTK
Slovakia is the only Central European state and one of only five European Union members unlikely to recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of Independence. What Slovakia has in common with these other states is a significant minority group – in Slovakia’s case Hungarians. There is also a nationalist party in the governing coalition which is known for verbal attacks on minorities and its leader, Jan Slota, has in the past warned that Kosovo’s independence could lead to secessionist claims from Slovkia’s Hungarian minority. Interestingly no politician is actually raising that claim at the moment but these facts go a long way towards explaining the Slovak position. Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubis chose his words carefully when referring to Kosovo’s secession.

“We have taken into account the declaration of Kosovo independence, but to this day, we do not see an option to officially recognize Kosovo only on this basis. We will be closely watching the forthcoming developments in the region as well the moves taken by the international community. Only after a thorough analysis of the whole situation, we will announce our official position. This should be done within the 120 days period.”

Despite its negative stance towards the unilateral declaration of Kosovan independence the Slovak Republic wants to participate in its stability. Kubis highlighted the fact that now Slovakia has the first five police officers who are trained and approved by respective EU organs for the EULEX mission. This mission should substitute the current UN mission in Kosovo.

KUBIS: “We will support any action that would increase stability in the region. It is stability which should be our main motive in this situation. This, however, doesn’t mean any change in our position towards the Kosovo independence.”

Kosovar Albanians wave flags while celebrating the independence of Kosovo,  in Pristina,  Sunday,  Feb. 17,  2008,  photo: CTK
Slovak politicians are mostly united in their viewpoint on the situation. The chairman of the parliamentary foreign committee Boris Zala fears that despite presentation of the Kosovo situation as a unique and individual case in Europe minorities all around Europe may view it differently.

“This is a unilateral declaration on behalf of Kosovo leaders, which is not backed by a decision of the United Nations. Any such declaration represents a dangerous precedent since it can reappear elsewhere. It can encourage extremist forces within ethnic minorities to take the Kosovan path. This can spur on very radical undercurrents ... rendering the politics of individual countries more difficult and contributing to instability in Europe and the world over.”

Jan Slota, head of the Slovak National Party shares the same opinion.

“It can only bring evil to Europe. No matter how it is presented, it IS a very dangerous precedent within international law. Same thing may occur in different parts of Europe. Slovakia simply has to neglect such unilateral declarations.”

The EU has recently started the ratification process of the Lisbon treaty. One of its main pillars is the new foreign policy supremo, which should increase the EU profile. In spite of this, the European council has confirmed that it is up to individual member states to take the position on Kosovo, according to their national interests. It seems like this is exactly why EU members differ in their positions on Kosovo.