Kosovo recognition deals blow to Serbia

Serbia’s neighbours in Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria dealt a blow to the Serb campaign to overturn Kosovo’s month-old independence on Wednesday by announcing they would recognise the new republic.

In a joint statement issued in Zagreb, Budapest and Sofia, they said the decision was based on ”thorough consideration”. They also underlined the importance of protecting the Serb minority in Kosovo’s 90% ethnic Albanian republic.

The Croatia mission in Belgrade, near the United States embassy that was attacked and burned by Serb protesters last month, was closed for the day behind new steel shutters.

Some Bulgarian families, worried about security, left Serbia, diplomatic sources said. Police protection at the embassies was at normal levels when the news was broadcast in Serbia.

A Hungarian diplomatic source said there was concern in Budapest about potential attacks on the ethnic Hungarian minority of about 300 000 in the northern province of Vojvodina.

”Unfortunately, it can happen, [but] independent Kosovo is a reality and recognition cannot be avoided,” he said.

Serbia’s pro-Western Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremic, acknowledged the neighbours’ decision ”with sadness”.

”Countries that take this decision cannot have good ties with Serbia,” he said in Greece, a traditional ally, which has not recognised Kosovo.

Canada announced recognition on Tuesday, reiterating the Western case that forcing two million Albanians to rejoin Serbia after nine years under United Nations rule is not a viable option. More than 30 countries have now recognised Kosovo.

Serbia’s pro-Western President, Boris Tadic, said earlier this week that already fragile ties with Croatia would suffer. Serbs and Croats fought a war from 1991 to 1995 over the break-up of Yugoslavia.

”We want to have the best possible relations with this country and to see it in the European Union as soon as possible,” Tadic said. ”But recognition of Kosovo is certainly not an act of goodwill between neighbours.” — Reuters

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