Friday, July 23, 2010

A Court Upholds Kosovo Independence: Now What?

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Horns honked, flags waved and toasts were raised in Pristina on Thursday at the news that Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 was upheld by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague. The ICJ, the U.N.'s highest court — albeit limited to advisory powers — said that there was "no applicable prohibition" of a declaration of independence from a sovereign territory like that made by Kosovo in 2008, leading court president Hisashi Owada to rule that the move, "did not violate general international law." The decision was hailed as a vindication in Pristina, but in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, it was forcefully rejected.

"This is a great day for Kosovo, and my message to the government of Serbia is, 'Come and talk to us,'" said Kosovo's Foreign Minister, Skender Hyseni, after leaving the court. But Serbia insists it will never recognize what it called a "unilateral declaration of independence of the ethnic-Albanian authorities of our southern province." Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic had a different interpretation of the ruling, saying, "Today, in the courtroom, we did not hear that anyone had a right to secede."

The contrast in reactions was predictable: the tiny, landlocked Balkan territory of 2 million people has been a site of centuries-old tension between Serbs and Albanians, flaring up dramatically in 1999 when a NATO air campaign drove a rampaging Serbian army out of Kosovo. Although the territory was legally part of Serbia, its ethnic-Albanian majority had been agitating for independence, and the Serb authorities had responded with a campaign of ethnic cleansing. After the NATO intervention, Kosovo became a protectorate of first the U.N. and NATO, and then of the European Union.,8599,2005996,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

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