Kosovo leader speaks softly, carries big hope

Insists separatism set no precedent

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The president of Kosovo is troubled when her 3-year-old nation is compared to other regions with separatist movements, whether in northern Spain, the Middle East, the former Soviet bloc or Asia.

Kosovo does not set a precedent,” President Atifete Jahjaga told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “I don’t like to see comparisons with any other case, or any other circumstances, or any other country. We are a case on our own.”

Mrs. Jahjaga is the first woman to rise to the highest office of a Balkan nation, and she is only 36. These facts have inspired headlines as well as audiences during her U.S. visit.

The firmness with which she resists having Kosovo’s independence characterized as a model for dissident movements defies the position taken by a handful of larger nations, including China, Russia and Spain.

Those countries, along with others eager to express solidarity with Serbia, remain unwilling to recognize Kosovo for fear of emboldening separatist groups operating in their own corners of the globe.

The International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Kosovo’s independence last year, dashing Serbian hopes of bringing the breakaway province back into its orbit and effectively making Kosovo the seventh nation to separate itself from the rubble of Yugoslavia.

While 85 nations officially recognize Kosovo, the U.N. Security Council is divided because China and Russia, two of the five members with veto power, remain opposed.

Russia’s resistance stems from its longtime alliance with Serbia, along with the precedent Kosovo sets for Chechnya’s independence aspirations. China’s resistance appears similarly tied to fears of Tibetan sovereignty.

Israel also rejects Kosovo, primarily out of concern that Palestinians will use it to justify their own unilateral declaration of independence.

However, lingering opposition within the European Union looms most significantly for Kosovo, which is eager to pursue EU membership.

While the EU has collectively backed the deployment of police to Kosovo, five of its 27 member countries - Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain - remain unwilling to recognize the nation’s independence from Serbia.

Spain, which for years has sought to crush Basque separatists in its own northern region, may be the most influential with respect to its ability to stifle Kosovo’s EU aspirations.

Mrs. Jahjaga declined to specify whether an effort to persuade Spain to change its mind was a focus of her meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week. The Kosovar president said only that there is a “continuous lobbying” effort being “supported by our strategic partners and the friendly countries which have so far recognized our independence.”

The Basque movement’s decline over recent years could prompt a softening of Spain’s posture on Kosovo. Mrs. Jahjaga said she is “very much pleased” about recent “messages coming from Spain.”

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