Kosovo independence precedent
|This article needs to be updated. (May 2015)|
The Assembly of Kosovo, then a province of Serbia under transitional UN administration (UNMIK), approved a declaration of independence on 17 February 2008. Kosovo was soon recognized as a Sovereign state by the United States, Turkey, Albania, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and others. This triggered an international debate over whether Kosovo's independence has set a precedent that could apply to other separatist movements or is a special case. The recognition of Kosovo's independence by 109 out of 193 UN states, according to many sources, has given fresh impetus to other separatist movements.
There is an estimation that a group of between 70 and 200 unrecognized nations and organizations use the Kosovo precedent to achieve their goals. Abkhazia and South Ossetia renewed their calls for the recognition of their sovereignty. Kosovo's independence also led to increased tensions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the Republika Srpska vetoed recognising Kosovo, and threatened to declare independence themselves. The Republic of Crimea proclaimed its independence from Ukraine on 11 March 2014, citing the Kosovo precedent.
- 1 Arguments
- 2 Influenced events
- 3 North Kosovo
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Kosovo does not establish a precedent
Some leaders argue that the Kosovo situation is unique and does not establish a precedent.
In a statement issued 19 February 2008 the U.S. State Department argued every territorial conflict is unique. It said Kosovo's unilateral independence cannot be used by other states to resolve disputes. When asked about the Kosovo's independence in reference to recognition of South Ossetia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed it and said, "we've been very clear that Kosovo is sui generis and that that is because of the special circumstances out of which the breakup of Yugoslavia came. The special circumstances of the aggression of the Milosevic forces against Kosovars, particularly Albanian Kosovars, and it’s a special circumstance."
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon in an interview for Interfax news agency said "Each situation needs to be examined based on its unique circumstances," and said Kosovo was a "highly distinctive situation" because of the intervention of the international community. At the same time he emphasised that recognition is left up to UN member states and is not decided by the Secretariat or the Secretary-General.
Kosovo establishes a useful precedent
Some argue that Kosovo establishes a precedent for other people who wish to secede.
- Daniel Turp, a member of the pro-Quebec sovereignty Parti Québécois who sits in the National Assembly of Quebec, said "Recognition [of Kosovo] sets the stage for Ottawa to eventually recognize an independent Quebec"
- László Tőkés, an ethnic Hungarian who is a member of the European Parliament for Romania, said Kosovo is a "model for the Romanian region of Transylvania".
- Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian negotiating team, said that if the United States and the majority of the European Union "have embraced the independence of Kosovo, why shouldn’t this happen with Palestine as well?"
- Igor Smirnov, the leader of Transnistria, a predominantly Russian and Ukrainian separatist republic in what is internationally recognised to be eastern Moldova, said "For us, the Kosovo precedent is an important ... factor."
Kosovo establishes a dangerous precedent
A number of political leaders have voiced their belief that the independence of Kosovo will create a dangerous precedent for other separatist movements.
- Argentina Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana: "Recognizing Kosovo's independence ... would set a dangerous precedent against the national claim to recover sovereignty over the Malvinas islands"
- The Sri Lankan foreign ministry said Kosovo "could set an unmanageable precedent in the conduct of international relations, the established global order of sovereign states and could thus pose a grave threat to international peace and security."
- Czech Republic President Václav Klaus: "For me Kosovo is, above all, a precedent. We’ve opened a Pandora’s Box in Europe that could have disastrous consequences."
- The Indian Ambassador to Serbia Ajay Swarup: Kosovo "can set a very dangerous precedent for similar cases around the world".
- President Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali: "International norms must be respected because their abuse and the violation of territorial integrity could threaten a series of countries with a similar problem."
- Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico: Kosovo may become a dangerous precedent to be followed by separatists in other regions.
- Tajikistan Foreign Minister Asomudin Saidov: "This precedent may result in other peoples also demanding territorial independence."
- Vietnam's Ambassador to the United Nations Le Luong Minh: "By creating a dangerous precedent, this development has negative implications for international peace and stability,"
To minimize a serious influence of Kosovo Precedent to the solution of other conflicts, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held in Kyiv in July 2007 issued a warning that "solution of certain conflicts should not be used as a model for the solution of other conflicts".
Position of the Russian Federation
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in 2008: "Our position is extremely clear. Any resolution on Kosovo should be approved by both sides. It is also clear that any resolution on Kosovo will definitely set a precedent in international practice." Analysts have taken this as meaning the Russian Federation would come out for the independence of de facto independent breakaway regions in the Former Soviet Union.
Sergei Mironov, the chairman of Russia's upper house of parliament stated in December 2007, "In case of the unilateral recognition of the independence of Kosovo, Russia will be entitled to change its approach to the so-called unrecognised republics in the post-soviet regions - South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Pridnestrovie." He went on to state "In case of such a recognition of Kosovo, Russia will be able to say that it is free in its approach, including towards the so-called unrecognised republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Pridnestrovie [Transnistria]."
Immediately following Kosovo's declaration of independence the Russian officials appeared to soften their position, with Boris Gryzlov stating only that Moscow should “reshape its relations with self-proclaimed republics” which according to news reports could mean lifting the economic embargo on the regions.
On 13 March 2008, following a hearing on the unrecognised republics, the Russian Duma Committee for CIS recommended an upgrading of relations with Abkhazia, Transnistria, and South Ossetia - including the possibility of recognition. Other recommendations included or reported include:
- the establishment of diplomatic missions in the regions, with the foreign ministry to decide whether they are consulates or another type of mission
- a removal of import duties on goods created by businesses with Russian shareholders in the regions
- increased humanitarian and economic assistance for Russian passport-holders in the regions
Alexei Ostrovsky, chairman of the lower house's committee on former Soviet affairs said at the parliamentary hearing, "The world community should understand that from now on the resolution of conflicts in the ex-Soviet area cannot be seen in any other context from that of Kosovo."  Participation of the breakaway republics in international organisations and forums was also mentioned in a press release before the hearings. The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily described the hearing as "the launch of a procedure of recognition". The committee recommendations were set to go to a vote a week after the hearing. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said the ministry would "look carefully at all the recommendations" but that Russian policy remained unchanged.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated in 2008: "A precedent is objectively created not just for South Ossetia and Abkhazia but also for an estimated 200 territories around the world. If someone is allowed to do something, many others will expect similar treatment." Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee Mikhail Margelov said the precedent set by Kosovo "will inspire separatists not only in Europe, but in the Middle East as well."
In 2014 Russia recognized Crimean independence, but not Kosovan.
Ukraine and Republic of Crimea
Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia
EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana has expressed concern that Kosovo's campaign for independence could set a precedent for Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. On 6 March 2008 Russia's Foreign Ministry announced it had lifted sanctions on Abkhazia and called on other CIS member states to do the same. Russia denied the event had any connection to Kosovo, but Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze said she believed the move was part of Russia's response to Kosovo's declaration and signals an attempt to "annex" Abkhazia.
Eduard Kokoity, the President of South Ossetia's breakaway republic, speaking immediately after Kosovo's secession said, "Some countries will recognise our republics [South Ossetia and Abkhazia]. I cannot rule out that some of them may do so later this year. Russia, however, will not necessarily be the first to recognise our independence." South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transnistria have all submitted formal requests for recognition of their independence to Russia, among other countries, and international organisations citing Kosovo as a precedent.
Abkhazia's Sergei Bagapsh and South Ossetia's Eduard Kokoity said in a statement addressed to the United Nations: "If Kosovo is separated from Serbia and its independence is recognised, one more powerful proof will emerge that ethnic conflicts can be solved on principles other than a respect for territorial integrity ... Abkhazia and South Ossetia have just as strong grounds to demand independence as Kosovo." Separately, Sergey Bagapsh said "The fate of Kosovo has been ordained, thus our fate will also be determined in the nearest future."
In October 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that parallels between Kosovo and South Ossetia are "inappropriate" and that "We are categorically against drawing parallels between the Balkan events and the events in the Caucasus. As concerns South Ossetia – it’s our unambiguous, absolutely clear position – it about repelling direct military aggression. And what was done by Russia after that, was done in full accordance with the UN Charter." and that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence and the events that followed "have confirmed the inadequacy of attempts to adjust the solution of complex international problems to considerations of notorious political expediency. We consider it unacceptable to do what was done in the Kosovo precedent – to use the lack of progress at negotiations as the reason for unilateral actions, including recognition of new international legal entities." and that the solution to the Kosovo problem should be based upon "the international law, decisions of the UN, resolutions of the UN Security Council and, primarily, Resolution 1244".
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenia's Deputy Parliament Speaker Vahan Hovhannisyan has said Kosovo's independence will influence the settlement of the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan declared at the UN General Assembly session in October 2007 that the Armenian side “does not understand and cannot accept the reverse logic that Kosovo was given independence and that another nation cannot obtain self-determination." Before being elected president, Armenian prime-minister Serzh Sargsyan said Kosovo was not a precedent for Karabakh. He underlined that Nagorno-Karabakh has been independent for the past 17 years. However, former President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan said "The Kosovo precedent is too important for Armenia. Certainly, this will have a positive influence for recognition of independence of Nagorno Karabakh Republic".
An Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry spokesman has said of Kosovo: "We view this illegal act as being in contradiction with international law." Following a skirmish between Armenian military forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan forces which left 4 Azeri and 12 Armenian soldiers dead, Azerbaijan said it was sparked by international recognition of Kosovo. US State Department Spokesman Tom Casey rejected the comparison stating "Kosovo is not a precedent and should [not] be seen as a precedent for any other place out there in the world. It certainly isn't a precedent for Nagorno-Karabakh."
Moldova and Transnistria
President of the unrecognised Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic, also known as Transnistria, Igor Smirnov said that "the Russian leadership, in recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, has underlined the priority of the expression of the wills of the people for solving such problems."
On 27 August, the day after Russia's recognition, Dmitry Medvedev met with President of Moldova Vladimir Voronin, where the Russian leader made clear that Moscow is ready to make the maximal efforts to solve the Pridnestrovian problem in the framework of the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. Relations between Moldova and Pridnestrovia worsened after Moldova refused to support the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Chişinău categorically rejected, considering that "as in the case of the recognition of Kosovo, this step only decreases amenability of the sides in the search for a compromise."
According to a poll of Bosnian Serbs taken by the Brussels-based Gallup Balkan Monitor in November 2010, 87 percent would support a referendum being called on Republika Srpska's independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Since Kosovo's declaration of independence Bosnian Serb nationalists have called for Dodik to fulfill his promises and call a referendum. Dodik has since said he will only call a referendum if Srpska's autonomy is threatened. Despite this Bosnian Serb lawmakers passed a resolution on February 21, 2008 calling for a referendum on independence if a majority of the UN members (97 out of 192), especially members of the European Union, recognise Kosovo's declaration of independence. After the resolution was passed the U.S. cut aid to the SNSD and the resolution was condemned by the European Union. The Peace Implementation Council (PIC) overseeing Bosnia and Herzegovina said the country's entities have no right to secede. The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Miroslav Lajcak said Srpska has "absolutely no right" to secede and that he would use his Bonn Powers "if there are threats to peace and stability" or the Dayton peace agreement.
In an interview for a Novi Sad daily, Dodik said if most countries recognise Kosovo's self-proclaimed independence, this would legitimise the right to secession and added "we do not see a single reason why we should not be granted the right to self-determination, the right envisaged in international conventions."
Ozdil Nami, a senior Turkish Cypriot official, told the Turkish Daily News, "When diplomatic efforts are exhausted other alternatives are put on the table. We clearly see this in Kosovo where diplomacy proved futile and other formulas are floating around. This will certainly have an impact on Cyprus." Nami suggests the resolution of Kosovo may be applied to North Cyprus well. According to Nami, "Everyone sees 2008 as the last window of opportunity for a solution to the Cyprus problem." He claims Cyprus is being warned that "other alternatives could be on the agenda" if there is no resolution. Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat has rejected this connection saying "We do not see a direct link between the situation in Kosovo and the Cyprus Problem. These problems have come up through different conditions."
Since the 2001 insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia, there has been several terrorist incidents in the Republic of Macedonia involving Albanian militants. The Kumanovo shootings (9 May 2015) was claimed by the National Liberation Army.
Since the independence declaration, the Serb-inhabited North Kosovo, through its municipalities and subsequently the Assembly of the Community of Municipalities, was de facto independent during the North Kosovo crisis, until the Brussels Agreement (2013). In 2012, a referendum saw 99.74% of voters reject the Republic of Kosovo. A new Community of Serb municipalities is set to be formed in 2015.
- Colour revolution
- Greater Albania
- Kosovo status process
- Yugoslav Wars
- Controversy over Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence
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The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, a group of some 70 members from Abkhazia over Kurdistan to Zanzibar is and will be using the Kosovo precedent to pursue its objectives.
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The influence of the Kosovo precedent is so serious that the declaration of the summit of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Kyiv on 9 July 2007 contained a warning that solution of certain conflicts should not be used as a model for the...
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"We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn't violate any international norms, make this decision," says the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media.
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During the last year or two years, relations between the leadership of Slovakia and the native ethnic Hungarians, who live in close-knit communities in the country's south, have worsened once again, for which reason the Kosovo precedent is viewed in Slovakia as a potential treat to territorial integrity of the comparatively young Slovak state.
- How will Kosovo affect global politics? Ynetnews
- Sovereign Kosovo raises questions for Hungarian minority -- Canadian Hungarian Journal
- The Kosovo precedent in the making Turkish Daily News
- Breakaway regions look to Kosovo precedent Reuters
- Serbia warns of a new Balkan war as peace talks over Kosovo fail The Times
- Messy Kosovo breakaway stokes fear of partition Reuters
- Tensions mount by the shores of the Black Sea The Globe and Mail
- The Kosovo Crisis in an International Law Perspective: Self-determination, Territorial Integrity and the NATO Intervention