A prominent U.S. scholar on the Balkans Wednesday argued that independence for Kosovo, the key objective of that territory's ethnic Albanian majority, would have destabilizing effects throughout the southern Balkans.
Peter Liotta, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Pennsylvania, says in the Balkans, where ethnic groups coexist uneasily and often without reference to national borders, what happens in one country has immediate spill over effects. In that context, he said, independence for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo must be addressed with caution. It would take a miracle, said Professor Liotta, for Kosovo to become a viable country.
"Kosovo would not succeed," he said. "It would be a failed state immediately economically unless it would find integration with the immediate neighbors in the community and in the larger European context."
Mr. Liotta believes that regional integration is the way forward for the Balkans as a whole. He says the region wants and needs to be connected to western Europe.
"There has to be a kind of Europeanization across borders. I think that process is slowly occurring," he said. "And the answer is going to be the number one answer for reconciliation. The notion that, 'I can not survive economically without you. Even though for centuries we have had differences in some regards.'"
Professor Liotta believes the European Union and not the United States will take the lead in promoting reconciliation in the region. It was extremely positive, he said, that European heads of state last month formally invited several east European nations to join the economic union. Mr. Liotta said with the Balkan wars hopefully at an end, it is time to stress investment instead of intervention. Regional cooperation, he said, is promoted by cross boundary infrastructure projects like roads and pipelines.
Nikola Dimitrov, Macedonia's ambassador to Washington, agrees that transportation links are vital. "Ultimately, it will be in the interests of all interested parties to have both the east-west and north-south [Highway No. 10] corridors built. Because the region will gain in stability and importance," he said.
Both the planned east-west and north-south highways pass through Macedonia. Professor Liotta regards a multi-ethnic Macedonia as the region's best hope. He is also optimistic about post-Milosevic Serbia.