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Mladen Staničić ; Institute for International Relations, IMO, Zagreb

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The USA and the largest countries of the European Union have announced the forthcoming recognition of the independence of the Republic of Kosovo. Proclamation is planned for February 2008.

The recognition of the independency and sovereignty of Kosovo will have far-reaching relevance in strengthening stability in South-Eastern Europe. While commenting this, one must have in mind the especially sensible relation of the neighboring Southeast European countries with Serbia, due to the minority aspect. There is large Serbian minority in Croatia and on the other hand relevant Croatian minority in Serbia, Bulgaria also has certain segment of Serbian minority and vice versa. The same relates to the bilateral relations between Serbia and Hungary. Consequently the timing of this simultaneous diplomatic act has been very carefully chosen with obvious intention not to worsen the stability in the region on the one hand and to meet their international commitments on the other.
The same could be referred to the simultaneous invitation of Croatia, Albania and Macedonia (on the formal name of this country discussions are still going on) to the NATO at the recently NATO summit in Bucarest. Becoming a member of a large group of countries sharing common democratic values, within a system of collective security, creates certain general benefits. These include contribution to democratic reforms and stability and improved relations with other member states and contribution to the stability and prosperity in the SEE region also in the Kosovo case. More specifically, as a NATO member, Croatia shall act better in resolving possible ethnic issues or border disputes, which will be favorable. As far as Albania and Macedonia (?) are concerned, their position must be by and large assessed from the point of view of the Kosovo issue and its impact on the regional stability as a whole. It is still uncertain how the population of these countries will react to the recently proclaimed, and from many important countries on the global scale but also on the regional scale recognized, sovereignty of Kosovo. Bearing this in mind the situation in Macedonia is particularly vulnerable, due to the very delicate relations between around 30 % Albanian part of the entire population and the slight majority of the Slavic, that is to say, Macedonian population. Very serious disagreement has come up on the recognition issue, where the Albanian part of the population has forced to the very quick positive reaction from the side of the Government. It weakened the Government, however, a kind of bigger crisis has been prevented. There is some assessment it happens due to the pressure from outside which is a kind of evidence or indicator of the positive impact of possible NATO membership to the contribution of these countries to the regional stability once becoming full-fledged members. This is also a benefit, which can not be expressed in tangible form however it is very real and important.
Due to the very comprehensive impact of the Kosovo issue to the regional and broader stability we devoted Dossier of this issue of the “Croatian International Relations Review” to this topic trying to enlighten the problem from various relevant aspects, especially from the aspect of the international law as well as the aspect of the nation building. It has been prepared by two very relevant authors and we hope it will contribute to the better understanding oh the problem.
As far Croatia is concerned it is very important that these two issues – the resolution of Kosovo issue and the invitation to NATO – are gaining the almost same momentum. It is, on the other hand one of the very illustrative indicator of cost and benefits of Croatia’s accession to NATO. NATO membership is a mixture of political and economic benefits and trade off between national security and collective security. It has some benefits but also some down sizes, but on the other hand great majority of those costs would almost certainly arise with or without any given country being NATO member state or not. We can say that if it was not a NATO member, these costs would be even higher, but with much smaller security effect as they are in the frame of NATO. Euro spend in the frame of NATO is better spend as it would be outside NATO frame or in other words for Euro spend as NATO member you get much more, as if you were not a NATO member. NATO membership did have some more pleasant effects, like participation in NATO mission in Afghanistan or Iraq, but all those effects and costs are part of wider package of benefits, costs and obligations which make in general quite positive balance for the member state national security.
In this issue we are publishing some other articles dealing with various aspects of international relations, we are continuing to publish Chronology of Homeland War and the process of recognition of Croatian's sovereignty, and subsequently we are publishing our regular columns as Book Reviews and Events.

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