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Sat. December 15, 2018
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Recognizing an Independent Kosovo?
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On Sunday the 17th February, the Kosovo Parliament declared its independence from Serbia. This declaration was made, based in part on the UN plan drawn up by former Finnish President and UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari. The UN plan, drafted in 2007, after years of UN administration and NATO protection of Kosovo, proposed the establishment of what was termed as ‘supervised independence’ for the province, limited due to circumstances and the need to ensure the protection of the Serb minority within. Since Sunday’s declaration of independence by the Kosovo Parliament, there has been much heated debate amongst many of the world’s leaders and foreign ministers. Some countries believe that this declaration is a step toward stabilization of Kosovo and perhaps the beginning of some stabilization of the Balkan region as a whole. Those like the United States lent substance to the Kosovar declaration by acknowledging its independence publicly. Other countries, such as Russia and China, have supported Serbia’s claim that the declaration of independence by Kosovo violates international law, the UN Charter and several other documents. Russia, a member of the UN Security Council, has spoken out against the Security Council recognizing Kosovo as an independent country. Russia also stated that it would block any calls to have Kosovo recognized and given country status within the UN and other international organisations. Many observers regard Russian opposition as protection from the possible backlash acknowledgement of Kosovo would have on its own similar troubles at home with Chechnya and the separatist movements in two of the provinces in Georgia. While Russia and the US sat on opposing sides with regard to the handling of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, in Europe there was more debate on how to proceed with its treatment of Kosovo. After a day of debate and intense talks between the EU member states’ foreign ministers, it was announced in Brussels by the EU presidency that member states would be free to decide individually whether or not to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence. This divide saw key EU member states such as the UK, France, Germany and Italy signal their support for an independent Kosovo. While some member states, led by Spain, have opposed the declaration; others have expressed their concern that recognition of Kosovo leaves a few questions about the legality of the move under international law. The issue of Kosovo’s independence seems to have only reinforced and further exposed the existing divide amongst EU member states over recent years, on foreign affairs matters, including most prominently the EU’s lack of a unified position on the Iraq War. Despite the lack of unity amongst the EU foreign ministers on the matter of Kosovo’s independence, a joint statement was issued following their meeting earlier in the week, stating that "the conflict of the 1990s in Kosovo” could be viewed as a justification for its [Kosovo’s] declaration of independence following the recent failed discussions between Pristina and Belgrade on determining Kosovo’s status. Perhaps more significant than the joint statement of EU foreign ministers was the Council of the European Union’s press statement on the 16th February, two days before Kosovo’s declaration of independence, stating its intention to establish an ‘EU Rule of Law Mission and appoint an EU Special Representative’ to Kosovo, to assist in the transformation and strengthening of a sustainable and accountable system of institutions to protect and assist Kosovo’s multi-ethnic population. However, the real question remains to be answered - What next for Kosovo? With its international status still to be determined, and many on both sides arguing about this situation setting a precedent or that Kosovo is the exception, perhaps what many will be thinking and wondering about in the coming weeks and months, is “What impact will recognition of an independent Kosovo have on other struggling separatist movements around the world?” Perhaps more importantly is the worrying notion that this situation, precedent or exception, could serve as the impetus for separatist movements across Europe and globally to act – with whatever means are available to them. Dale Mineshima-Lowe is a Senior Editor for the International Affairs Forum.

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