Canada is right to withhold recognition

DUI - Référendum - Kosovo (17 février 2008), Soudan (janvier 2011)

On Sunday, shortly after Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia, the Parti Québécois sent the self-declared country, the world's newest, its congratulations.
Canada, meanwhile, is staying stonily on the sidelines, neither lining up with the United States, Britain and most of Europe to offer Kosovo support and acceptance, or refusing, like Spain, to recognize an independent Kosovo.
Self-interest is clearly at play with Canada and Spain, and beyond them with Russia and Serbia as well. Spain continues to struggle with its Basque independence movement. Russia does not want any more disgruntled regions to spin off from the leaking mother ship. And Canada has the PQ to worry about.

But how reasonable are these concerns that local separatist movements could take heart from Kosovo's example? Is it remotely possible to draw a parallel between Kosovo and Quebec?
The short, and correct, answer is no. Russia and Serbia both will contend that according to United Nations rules, no province or territory can legally secede without permission from the larger country. But as the U.S. and a majority of European Union countries are expected to argue, Kosovo is a unique case and as such should be treated as an exception to the general law.
Although Kosovo is still a province of Serbia, it has been administered by the UN since 1999, when NATO airs trikes finally stopped Serbian aggression against ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 per cent of Kosovo's population.
An estimated 10,000 people died in the conflict, a fact that has done nothing to lessen the hostility between Kosovo and Serbia. As German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted as saying this week, "A negotiated solution was not possible. That is why we cannot now escape this event."
There is nothing to buttress the notion that Quebec is like Kosovo. Kosovo's population is poor and largely unemployed. Its physical infrastructure was heavily damaged in the 1990s conflict and its political infrastructure needs to be rebuilt as much as its bridges and schools.
In a place still crippled by water shortages and electricity blackouts, the one bright note was sounded by Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, who promised that Kosovo would be a democracy that respected all ethnicities.
Quebec is a thriving, modern economic powerhouse with a fully functioning democracy, complete with one, possibly two separatist parties. But, thanks to Stéphane Dion's politically courageous Clarity Act, Quebec could never claim exceptionalism to the rules of engagement. To secede, Quebec would have to hold a referendum, win a majority on a clear question and then enter into negotiations with the rest of Canada.
Canadians might well feel happy for Kosovars, but they might want to temper that joy. Kosovo's 2 million people suffered ethnic cleansing; they have also, it has to be said, made the 10-per-cent minority Serb population feel unwelcome and vulnerable. There are worse things than being cautious. Canada is right to hold back on its recognition of Kosovo.
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