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Lessons from Belgrade

Serbia and Kosovo independance

On 22nd July 2010 the UN International Court of Justice decided that Kosovo's declaration of independence was in line with international law.

Addressed by the UN's General Assembly on Serbia's initiative, the guardian of the international community's law did not however open the doors to the right to secession as some would like us to believe.

It's logic, which is of an astounding modernity reassures those who are calling for organised, regulated, more controlled international relations.

The decision contained in 44 pages can be summarised as follows:

In answer to a de facto situation, which was intolerable because the spectre of genocide hovered over the European continent once more, the UN Security Council asked that all violence and repression against the Albanian minority cease by rightly and "judiciously" suspending Serb sovereignty over Kosovo and by taking direct administration of the region.

Its restrictive resolutions are part of international law because they express a legitimate reaction on the part of the international community against a blatant, unacceptable means of action.

It has assumed its responsibilities and seen for itself, by way of its representative in the field and after a great number of impartial missions that independence had become inevitable because of the negative attitude of one protoganist.

The declaration of independence by the "representatives of the people of Kosovo" was therefore in line with the international law as it is laid out in for individual cases.

"The scope of the principle of territorial integrity is therefore limited to the sphere of inter-State relations" and does not concern the right of people to revolt against injustice and domination.

The Serb leaders indeed bear an extremely heavy responsibility.

They lost the war, together with the battle for international opinion and now they have lost in terms of the law.

European supporters in Belgrade should not think about a responsibility which we find it difficult to see as being collective but rather about their policies.

Their own people is expecting them to turn to the future.

It is urgent that we settle real problems suffered by the people in the country, that we help the refugees, the Serbs of Kosovo and Serbia to emerge from a desolate, stagnating - and we might say declining - administrative and economic situation.

It is the uppermost duty of any government to take care of the well being of its people.

It is vital that real dialogue between the Serb and the Kosovar governments be accepted to settle a regional situation that remains dangerous uniquely because of Serbia.

This is the only way for the doors of Europe to open up.

Even the most reticent of European States who still have not acknowledged Kosovo (Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Cyprus) should do so if they want to want to play a full role in the common foreign policy in the region.

The European Commission cannot continue to pretend by offering "technical" means to draw closer to Europe without any proof of real good will being shown.

The Union is offering Serbia the free movement of its inhabitants within the Schengen Area. It is now expecting a return on this gesture.

No-one ignores how hard the task is and the courage it requires, but no-one can now underestimate European determination:

No Europe without long term peace and stability.

No hand of friendship and no advantages for neighbours who do not play by the rules.

The European Union will not accept new States within its fold if they have not settled the problems they have with their neighbours.

More generally we should be pleased that the UN Security Council's decisions, made necessary in order for the respect of elementary principles of the civilised world infringed by force, are approved and integrated into international law.

This is a significant innovation that helps towards the stability of international relations, the respect of human rights and more generally towards the progress of civilisation.