The lion and Sharri mountain dog
By Petrit Selimi
Former British Prime Minister Lord Palmerson once said that Britain does not have eternal allies or enemies, it just has eternal interests.
This realistic description of international relations does not seem to be fit for the relations between United Kingdom and Kosovo.
If we measure interests with exact state interests, relations with London should be of much less priority. With Britain we simply have very little trade, we import from there less than 1% of our needs, and we do not even represent a measurable percentage for the British imports. Britain is not a major investor in Kosovo, and with about 20 million euros in investments, according to the latest official data, it lags behind many other smaller states like Slovenia.
Our Diaspora in Britain counts less than 40,000 persons, a much smaller number than our presence in
Germany, US or Switzerland (although the London returnees have a disproportional impact on the social and cultural life).
Kosovo is not a member of important international forums where our vote would play any significant role, so we have little influence to lure British interests.
Therefore, if the state interests indicators, like money or political influence, dictate the strength of relations between two states, then Kosovo would not have reasons to count the Kingdom as one of its strategic friends, while Britain would have even less reasons to deal with us.
However, it turns that this special relation is a classic example how history I dare say also feelings play a role in international relations.
The Kosovo side will never forget the role of Britain under Prime Minister Blair for the liberation of Kosovo and stopping of Milosevic in the Balkans like will we never forget the fact that Britain was amongst the most powerful partners in the independence and recognition process of Kosovo.
On the British side, the public may not know much about Kosovo; apart from blurry memories from the 1999 war, but the state administration composed of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FCO) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) have collective strong memories of imperial traditions. Leading almost the entire Europe on the Kosovo issue, it is natural that Britain wants Kosovo to be a success story. Many diplomats and soldiers have invested efforts here and this relation can be easily translated as interest and also as sentiment
Otto Von Bismarck said: The entire Balkans is not worth the bones of a single German solider. This is another statement describing state interests that were so valid at the time both in London and Paris but still it was the Balkans that burned the world by triggering the First World War in which the states that used to state they had no interests in the region found themselves fighting each other and losing millions of people.
But if the history defines the reason, then why do we have this powerful relation and what will be the future of relations between London and Prishtina? A stable region and fully integrated in EU and NATO would undoubtedly be a success of the British policy. And this is the key request by Kosovo itself, rather driven by existential reasons. Are we going to forget each other once we achieve our strategic goals? Of course not. Our bonds will only intensify and diversify.
We will gain the membership by all means and we will have our voice in the world security and diplomatic architecture so that we pay back Britain for its concrete support.
In economy, states have little impact. It is the companies and consumers who set priorities, however, we can say with full confidence that economic exchange will increase with an increase of Kosovo economy and opening of opportunities to invest in mining.
The Olympic Games in London 2012 will probably be the first when one Kosovar will compete for a medal. If that is the case, the British Olympic organization presidency will play a fundamental role.
Cultural links will further advance although they have been quite strong after the war: the first genuine play at the National Theater after 1999 was Hamlet by famous producers David Gothard, and last year we had the British music icons Morcheeba in a nice concert in Prishtina.
International relations are definitely defined by a full scope of contacts between the people of both states. Therefore the relations with London will keep strengthening.
The number of Kosovar students studying in Britain is not big, but their quality is quite high, and many of them have come back to play an important role, be it at the Government and also at the opposition, media and the civil society.
Those Brits that have contributed in one way or another in various fields in Kosovo like Christopher Hitchens, historian Noel Malcolm, politician Dennis MacShane, activist Bianca Jagger, soldier General Sir Mike Jackson will continue their interest and will bring new people in the network of personal relations comprising the tissues of the British-Kosovar bonds. Last month we had Alastair Campbell, the principal and loyal advisor to Blair, as a guest, as he shaped the media strategy during the 1999-war that led to the military intervention. He was like an old family friend to Prime Minister Thaçi and he brought wise ideas in our journey ahead.
In the end, I also want to mention that both foreign ministries, that of Britain and of Kosovo, have co-financed at the British Council to strengthen cultural, diplomatic, public links and academic exchanges that aim at European integration of Kosovo.
In short, it is a friendship that will only deepen and advance in the years to come.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Editorial was published in the oldest diplomatic magazine in the world, The Diplomat in London. The headline is of the editors.