Albania and Kosovo Jan 18th 2007 | PRISTINA AND TIRANA
From The Economist print edition
Nationalism is not nationality
SOON after Serbia's parliamentary election on January 21st, Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president asked by the United Nations to produce a plan for the future of Kosovo, will present his ideas. Since 1999 Kosovo has been under UN jurisdiction. Technically it is part of Serbia, but 90% of its 2m people are ethnic Albanians who want full independence. Mr Ahtisaari's plan will suggest that Kosovo becomes independent, but only with conditions. One is clear: Kosovo will unite neither with Albania nor with Albanian-inhabited parts of Macedonia.
In the 1990s, when the old Yugoslavia collapsed in blood, Serbs and Croats tried to carve out a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia. Many Serbs feel that it is thus only a matter of time before Albanians seek a Greater Albania. Yet neither in Kosovo nor in Albania have politicians advocating union ever made headway. A poll in Kosovo in 2005 found that whereas more than 90% backed independence, fewer than 10% wanted union with Albania. This points to a conclusion that Albanian nationalists hate: younger Albanians in Kosovo have developed a Kosovar identity of their own. It is not that they do not feel Albanian; rather that they see no contradiction in feeling Kosovar as well.
Over the next few months this debate will intensify, not least because Kosovo will need a flag. Today Kosovo Albanians use Albania's; but if Kosovo becomes independent, it will need its own. Prominent in the discussion will be Migjen Kelmendi, who edits a paper written in Kosovo's Albanian dialect, as opposed to the standard literary form. He says that when Kosovo was oppressed by Serbia, “I had to identify with Albanianism.” Now, he feels proud about being a Kosovar as well.
The difference between Serbs and Croats on the one hand, and Albanians on the other, is that most Serbs and Croats lived in one country until 1991. Since the end of Ottoman rule in 1912 Albanians never have, and so they have grown apart. Politicians in Albania have never shown much interest in their kinsmen outside the country. With independence in sight, Kosovo's leaders have no intention of submerging their new state into another.
Albanian nationalists generally dislike the term “Greater Albania”, preferring to talk about “ethnic Albania”. This covers not just Albania, Kosovo and western Macedonia, but parts of Serbia and Montenegro too. Few Albanians, however, are interested in fashioning a new state out of this land. For most, joining the European Union is a far more pressing concern.
In any case, especially between Kosovo and Macedonia, a quarter of whose 2m people are Albanians, politicians and academics, students, businessmen—and criminals—all move around as if they lived in one country. A Macedonian Albanian, Teuta Arifi, argues that Albanians should emulate German-speakers, who have built separate identities in Germany, Switzerland and Austria while continuing to belong to the same German culture.
A pan-Albanian market of 6m consumers, is slowly emerging. But in terms of business there is some way to go. In 2005 Kosovo's exports to Albania were a mere €5.2m ($6.5m), and Albania did not even rank among its top ten importers.