New world order looming large? (photo via cybertoad, Flickr)
First, a confession: I love smartass words and incomprehensible headlines – and this blog is the place to share this secret passion. The “Post-Multi”has nothing to do with German Post’s resigned boss, though there would be a lot to talk about that subject, too. In this case, the phrase is referring to the independence of Kosovo which is about to be declared on Sunday and will be erasing most of the last of Yugoslavia’s leftovers.
During Tito’s reign in the second half of the 20th century, Europe tended to see Yugoslavia – which had emerged amid the chaos of World War II and the collapse of the Habsburg Austria-Hungarian empire – as a positive example for a functioning multi-ethnic state, a principle powers like France and Britain had build their colonial nation-building on (to be precise, they just drew lines on the map and did not care much about who lived there). Of course, this respect for Tito blinded out the fact that there had always been ethnic tensions – which finally accumulated and led to the wars of the 1990s and the independence of Kosovo we are now seeing.
With the recognition of Kosovo, European states would send a quasi-farewell to the idea of functioning multi-ethnic states in its middle (no wonder Spain intends to ignore Kosovo’s independence). If you look around the world, the consequences of the colonial idea of nation-building continue to exist as states which are multi-ethical-constructs, held together by strong and often dictatorial leaders. No wonder that on a UN-level, most of these states will all but recognize the former Yugoslavian province. From minorities trying to break away like the Kurds from Turkey, the Baloch people from Pakistan or Tibet from China to multi-player-disputes along tribal (Somalia, the Victoria Lake region, Sudan) or religious lines (Nigeria, Iraq, partly Syria, Lebanon): There are a lot of “multi-states”, and a lot of them are under immense tensions.
Kosovo’s independence will not set a precedent for the other regions, as it will have EU’s troops and economical backing to ease the transition. Still, it reminds us of the fragility of multi-states and points to the Post-Nation-as-we-know-it-age that may come. Over the next decades, we might see a lot more countries going to pieces. In a Middle East, as destabilized as it is, there may be painful and bloody transitions ahead once strong leaders lose their grip. In the region around Africa’s Lake Victoria, the Post-Nation-Age has already arrived: dominated by players’ ethnicity and tribal backgrounds, its conflicts cannot be understood by a Western World thinking in the 1648 dimensions. The attempt to export the colonial ideas of state and nation into some of the most diversified regions of the world, may indeed prove to be a long-term failure. The fate of former Yugoslavia shows that the idea is not even viable in Europe itself.
Kosovo is a nationalist provocation againt a multicultural europe.