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10 Jul 12

Dependent Independence

Lawrence Marzouk

The International Steering Group’s decision to free Kosovo from the shackles of supervised independence is unquestionably significant.

It sends out a powerful message to the world. It’s a symbol of progress and confidence in Kosovo: the international community believes that Kosovo can have the stabilisers taken off now as its time to ride free and alone, unhindered and unaided, if a little wobbly.

Actually I don’t believe it. Unlike the father succeeding in teaching his son the joys of two-wheeling, I believe that both sides have reached a stage where they feel that enough “supervision” has been imparted – and most importantly enough money spent – to end this loveless relationship and save face.

But the relationship between Kosovo’s government and its international overlords is unlikely to shift fundamentally as a result of the ICO’s departure in September.

It’s worth remembering that at no point did the ICO and its head, Pieter Feith, use his executive powers to override Kosovo’s government.

Perhaps, you could argue, this is a ringing endorsement of PM Thaci’s policies and an indication of the mature-beyond-its-years governance that he has instituted.

Seasoned observers know this to be poppycock.

While there has been no open conflict between the ICO and Thaci, relations have been fraught at times and behind the scenes there has been the usual frenetic horse-trading and “diplomacy”.

The right to override was never used because it was not seen as a useful political tool, even if it was a handy “credible threat”. It would have been bad PR for the government, bad for the ICO, and delayed the ad-hoc organisation’s departure, something that neither side wanted.

Post-ICO, technically the government will of course be free to pass whatever law it decides without fear of Mr Feith bulldozing the parliament.

But anyone that believes this is an end to international meddling and that Kosovo government will really have free rein will be sorely disappointed.

With EULEX still parked in its thousands on Kosovo soil, KFOR, as well as EU diplomats and, of course, the omnipotent US Embassy, post-ICO politics is unlikely to be very different to pre-ICO.

Ultimately Kosovo’s international friends will hold immense power over any government because without their support the country cannot survive.

Sad but true – this is the nature of Realpolitik. Supervised independence may end, but dependent independence will continue.

Talk about it!

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