Dealing with a new neighbor

Recent news reports, mostly overshadowed by the Israeli offensive in Lebanon, said that work is set to begin on an international road project connecting Kosovo to the Adriatic Sea (at the port of Durres) and through the port to Italy and the other European Union states. Work is set to finish in two years’ time and will allow the transfer of people and goods between Kosovo and the European markets. On the margins of the dramatic developments in the Middle East, negotiations on the divided province’s final status continue. The international community is expected to negotiate Kosovo’s independence by the end of the year. The West seems more determined than ever to remove the thorn from this corner of Europe. Increasing diplomatic effort, much of it behind the scenes, has come with a swift campaign to develop the infrastructure of the nascent state (economy, public administration, road networks). Italy, Austria and other countries have joined hands in seeking to create the conditions to consolidate their economic and political leverage in a consumption-driven society of 2 million that is key to regional stability in the western Balkans. Regrettably, Greece, the only EU country to share a border with Kosovo, has been largely absent from its state building. The road currently under construction will cost more than 1 billion euros, while the port of Thessaloniki lies less than three hours away from Pristina. But a huge opportunity has been wasted. Rather than overwhelming the Kosovo market with Greek exports, Greece has left the market to Italy, Turkey and, even, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Whether we like it or not, we will soon find ourselves with a new, independent neighbor with whom we must establish friendly ties. Waging a lonely battle to keep Kosovo in Serbian hands is quixotic and rather myopic.

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