February 22, 2008
Recognition of Kosovo’s independence is an unfortunate solution, but there is currently no better a solution.
It is easy to say that EU foreign policy has failed because we could not unanimously agree this recognition. But is it to be expected that Spain and Cyprus could join in? Or some of the central European states?
The EU has a common commercial policy, but that does not mean that the Member States agree all the time. The difference is that the common commercial policy is decided by qualified majority vote, whereas foreign policy is intergovernmental and requires unanimity.
The aspect which, in my view, holds the answer to the above questions, is whether the 27 worked constructively together in seeking a solution. I would suggest that the answer is Yes. After the rejection of the Martti Ahtisaari proposal by Serbia in 2007, the US, France, Germany and the UK made clear their intention to recognise the new state. Once the Kosovars knew this, they had no incentive to make concessions to Serbia in the negotiations. In fact, the US effectively decided some years ago that it would recognise Kosovo’s independence. Having said this, the US and EU aims are similar but not necessarily the means to achieve them.
It is understandable that a small number of countries emphatically reject Kosovo’s independence as being contrary to international law. Neither the EU nor the US has provided any reasonable justification to back this position. Even the legal basis for the EU mission is legally doubtful (the Dutch raised this issue in December). Kosovo has separated from Serbia without its consent; and the UN has failed to endorse its independence because of strong protests by Serbia and Russia, backed by China. However, the question should have been brought before the UN Security Council, as the legitimacy, if not the legality, of the independence would have increased with a resolution supported by a large majority, despite the veto(s). The EU foreign ministers have clearly stated that Kosovo is a special case that should not become a precedent but that may fall on deaf ears in Spain, Cyprus…
Hopefully, Serbia will not be able to do anything seriously to sabotage the process, and the Russian bear will growl but not bite. The EU has not sufficiently talked to Moscow and listened to its serious concerns and should remedy this, confirming that it will not recognise any breakaway Russian statelets. The European Council should at its next meeting reiterate that the recognition of Kosovo does not create a precedent for other territories.
The 15 000 strong NATO force, a 1 500 police force from the EU (EULEX) and an international High Representative ‘overseeing’ the country, should assure law and order. However, massive international financial assistance will be (possibly permanently) required as Kosovo appears to have little chance of becoming economically viable in the foreseeable future.
Serbia and Kosovo both joining the EU would change the context of the problem and facilitate relations between the two countries. The Serbs are expected, after their first negative reactions, not to give up their plan to join the EU.
How right former British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, was in 1991 when he argued that no former Yugoslav territory should be recognised except in a complete package recognising all their statuses. But Germany insisted on a unilateral recognition of Croatia (and with it, Slovenia).
Kosovo won’t really be independent for years, will not be able to join all the international organisations and will continue to be economically dependent. It will be the first EU protectorate. Hardly a desirable outcome but the best on offer. What might have been is…history.Author : Stanley Crossick