Ever since little Kosovo proclaimed itself an independent state five years ago,it has failed to win all the recognition it so craves. Neither the United Nations,which confers legitimacy,nor all the European Union,whose members are divided on the question,much less Serbia,from which Kosovo broke away,recognize the birth of a new European nation.
But after a campaign waged by an army of devoted Kosovars and strategically placed allies,Kosovo is hailing a grant of legitimacy by a new arbiter of national identity: Facebook.
Last month,Kosovo declared victory,after its officials said Facebook approved a number of changes,including giving users registering from the diamond-shaped area on the Balkan Peninsula the option to identify themselves as citizens of Kosovo,rather than the decidedly less attractive option for many there,Serbia. They can also use the Facebook function that allows users to check in on the website from locations within Kosovo,like a cinema or a bar.
It is not as if Kosovo has joined NATO. But in an era when accumulating likes may top a seat in the General Assembly,at least for many young opinion leaders online,Kosovos leadership is hailing a change on a social media site as a diplomatic coup worthy of Talleyrand.
Facebook has grown to 1.2 billion users in eight years,faster than the growth of Islam,Christianity and the Internet itself, said Petrit Selimi,Kosovos 34-year-old deputy foreign minister and the leader of the governments digital diplomacy.
He said having Kosovo fully included on Facebook had been a priority,along with the still-elusive goals of having Kosovo compete in the Eurovision song contest and in the European Champions League in soccer.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. But because Facebook,mirroring the United Nations,did not initially list Kosovo as a state,many among the countrys majority ethnic Albanian population opted to register as being from a country other than Kosovo.
Kosovo is recognized by the United States and a majority of European Union members. But five,including Spain,which is battling separatist movements of its own,refuse to recognize it. Serbia is also vehemently against recognizing Kosovos independence,and Russia,a staunch Serbian ally and a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council,has blocked Kosovos membership in the United Nations,stifling its economic and political development.