By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
“The Court considers that general international law does not contain any prohibition on declarations of independence,” said the president of the International Court of Justice, Hisashi Owada, as he read the court’s non-binding opinion. “Accordingly, it concludes that the declaration of independence [of Kosovo] on the 17th of February 2008 did not violate general international law.”
That ruling came as a setback for Serbia, which had asked the International Court of Justice, the ICJ, to give an opinion on Kosovo’s declaration. Serbian President Boris Tadic said Serbia would not recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Kosovo officials hailed the decision. In Washington, visiting Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci called the ruling “the best possible answer for the entire world.”
Trial observers said the court’s non-binding ruling could encourage more countries to recognize Kosovo’s independence. Kosovo’s statehood has been recognized by 69 countries, including the United States and most European Union nations. But Serbia and its main ally Russia and several others have opposed the move.
There is also concern in countries ranging from Spain to Georgia that international recognition for Kosovo could lead to similar demands from separatists in their independence seeking regions.
But in an earlier interview with BosNewsLife in Budapest, Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni said several countries had told him they would recognize Kosovo’s independence after the court procedures.
He said he believed that even Russia, would eventually recognized Kosovo as a sovereign nation. “Russia as well will recognize Kosovo one day. It doesn’t mean that Russia will be among the first to do that. But definitely it may not be among the last to do that.”
But he also admitted that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 has not yet brought prosperity to everyone, and that there remains concerns about the treatment of Kosovo’s Serbian minority. “Many people are without jobs. And I say very openly that independence has resolved many of our problems but not all of them,” he said in an extensive interview.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department expressed support for the ICJ ruling and urged Europe to “unite behind a common future.”
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said the U.N. chief urged “constructive dialogue” and urged all sides to “avoid any steps that could be seen as provocative and derail the dialogue.” The spokesman said the advisory opinion would be forwarded to the General Assembly, which would “determine how to proceed on this matter.”
Kosovo was placed under U.N. supervision in 1999, following a 78-day NATO bombing campaign that ended a two-year war between Serbia and the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo, which was then a Serbian province. (Parts of this BosNewsLife News Story also airs via its affiliated Voice of America (VOA) network. BosNewsLife NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals, especially in (former) Communist and other autocratic nations and countries in transition).