Friday, September 6, 2013

Who Gets To Say What Counts As A Country?

Should nations stay within their historical boundaries, or change as their populations do? Kosovo is a cautionary tale 

The river Ibar, which divides the Albanian and Serbian areas of Mitrovice, a municipality in Kosovo. Photo by Contrasto/Eyevine
  
The river Ibar, which divides the Albanian and Serbian areas of Mitrovice, a municipality in Kosovo. Photo by Contrasto/Eyevine.

There are only two questions in politics: who decides? and who decides who decides? Every country solves these questions in its own way, be it through democracy, autocracy or dictatorship. But however it answers, the same dilemma emerges again at a deeper level. Who gets to say what is or is not a country?

For most of human history, nation states as we now recognise them did not exist. Territories were controlled by powerful local people, who in turn pledged allegiance to distant authorities, favouring whichever one their circumstances suited. In Europe, the tensions in this system eventually led to the Thirty Years’ War, which killed eight million people and only ended in 1648 with a thorough revision of the relationship between land, people and power. The resulting set of treaties, known as the Peace of Westphalia, introduced two novel ideas: sovereignty and territorial integrity. Kings and queens had ‘their’ people and associated territory; beyond their own borders, they should not meddle.

For the rest of the story: http://www.aeonmagazine.com/living-together/in-kosovo-who-gets-to-say-what-counts-as-a-country/

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