Kosovo faces many problems after independence

Belgrade/Pristina, Feb 17 (DPA) There probably was not one person among the more than two million Kosovo Albanians who did not take part in celebrations following the declaration of independence of the new state Sunday.

After peaceful demonstrations in the 1980s, the building of parallel education and administration systems, and finally after the bloody conflict in the 1990s, the dream of the majority in Kosovo at last became reality.

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But expectations that the miserable living conditions will dramatically improve in a sovereign Kosovo may rapidly deflate, as the new country must now come to terms with the reality of its problems.

In the short-term, it must cope with a blockade imposed by Serbia, over which much of Kosovo’s food and electricity is supplied.

An interruption of those supplies, along with a blockade of the key transport routes, could cause hardship to the impoverished population.

After that, in the medium-term, foreign investors need to be persuaded to deploy their capital in a territory where ethnic volatility triggered bloody violence in the not-too-distant past.

Only billions of dollars of investments in infrastructure, construction, energy and farming will create the jobs desperately to counter high unemployment running at 80 percent in some areas.

The toughest task is in the long term – to convert Kosovo into a truly democratic place with the help of European policemen, judges, customs and administration officials.

Despite an almost a decade of development under international guidance and billions of dollars in aid, Kosovo remains a hub of crime in Europe.

Trafficking in humans, weapons and drugs, prostitution and racketeering, it is all a way of life, just as it is an open secret that many top politicians have links to criminals.

Western politicians and diplomats publicly repeat the mantra that Kosovo should not merge with any of its neighbours. Privately, however, they see it only as a matter of time before Albanians in Kosovo, as well as those in Macedonia, Montenegro and southern Serbia, start pressing for unification with Albania proper.

Now spread across five countries, the six-million-strong Albanian nation is among the larger groups in the fragmented Balkans.

The European Union, of which the majority of member-states intend to recognize Kosovo, is nevertheless in a quandary. At the moment, wary of stumbling on the final few metres of their journey, the Albanians nod to everything Brussels says.

However, the question is what will happen once they become fed up with the nagging over failure to meet criteria set by their EU backers.

Many see the answer in Kosovo’s quick induction into the European Union, but for others that would be a step toward the Balkanisation of Europe.