Kosovo has declared independence, after years of restraint; and it seems likely that the international community by and large will recognise it - most of the EU member states will decide to do so at tomorrow's regular meeting of foreign ministers, and various other international actors have been lined up at least to facilitate the process. It's no big secret that I've been in favour of this for a long time; I'm glad that we appear to have a fairly soft landing for this process, though of course there are many pitfalls ahead. As one of my Kosovo friends said last year, this was one of the least unexpected developments in the Balkans in the last two decades: the ground had been well prepared, and the choreography is being duly executed.
The unexpected good news is that the Greek Cypriot president, Tassos Papadopoulos, has lost his bid for re-election, by quite a narrow margin but none the less he is out. There's still some way to go - in particular the two remaining more moderate candidates must now compete for Papadopoulos' hard-line votes - but the prospects for a Cyprus settlement suddenly look a bit better. As usual the Cyprus Mail has a trenchant commentary (written before the election took place) as part of its regular Tales from the Coffeeshop series; you may have to concentrate to interpret the columnist's nicknames for the personalities involved - eg: 'The ad contained the following statement by the five-star, luxury hotel suite freedom fighter: “My history does not allow me to be silent.” As if there is anyone in Cyprus who does not know his history as a windbag.'
There is a possible connection between the two events. The two situations are more closely linked than may be immediately apparent; certainly I have always been conscious of the similarities. Papadopoulos is practically the only Greek Cypriot president who could not even manage a modest lurch towards a settlement, and the voters have duly taken note. It may possibly be that a crucial bloc of Greek Cypriot voters realised that his policy towards the Turkish Cypriots was dangerously similar to the Serbian policy towards the Kosovars, which has so visibly and catastrophically failed today. Sometimes the 'domino effect' can be a positive one.