Friday, July 23, 2010

Independence day

July 22, 2010

Serbia's foreign minister, looked ashen. He knew what was coming. Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate general international law, said Hisashi Owada, the president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, in a non-binding advisory opinion. Ten judges voted in favour of this ruling, with four against. Serbia's strategy of attempting to outmanoeuvre its former secessionist province through the international court lay in ruins. In Pristina, Kosovo's capital, cars began hooting in celebration. Cheers erupted from bars and cafes, where people had gathered to watch the judge deliver the court's opinion. Shkelzen Maliqi, a well-known intellectual and commentator, summed up what most Kosovars were thinking: "Perfect. Who would have expected such a clear answer?" In Belgrade there seemed no room for doubt either. "It was a classic knockout," said Braca Grubacic, an analyst. "I don't know how the government can get out of this."

To date 69 countries have recognised Kosovo's independence, including the US and 22 of the 27 EU member states. But Russia, China, Brazil, India and many other important countries have refused to follow suit. Whether a flood of new recognitions will follow today's ruling remains to be seen, but would not be surprising. It is, however, unlikely that China, with its eyes on Taiwan and Tibet, Russia, with its problems in Chechnya, and other countries in the world with secessionist movements will recognise Kosovo any time soon.