With the International Court of Justice set to rule on the autonomous province’s unilateral declaration of independence, pressure on Serbia to drop its legal challenge from the so-called ’Quint’ has become intense. At Comment is Free, Bancroft argues that Spain’s plan for fresh negotiations offers a reasonable compromise which high handed behaviour from Britain, Germany, France, Italy and the US is designed to prevent. In addition he highlights threats from Kosovo Albanian separatists to foment further secessionism in southern Serbia.
From the instant Belgrade decided to test Nato’s Kosovar protectorate against the precepts of international law, it has been subject to bullying from the region’s sponsors. The launching point for the CIF article is a ’strongly worded communiqué’ from the Quint which accuses Serbia of “aggressive rhetoric” and “adventurous actions”. As Bancroft observes, the Serbs have vowed to oppose Kosovo Albanian independence by exclusively “peaceful, diplomatic and legal means”. Spain concurs with Belgrade’s verdict that the ICJ judgment offers “ a very important opportunity for restarting dialogue, that would help us find a functional, sustainable agreement for all sides involved in the Kosovo question, which we believe remains unsolved”.
The Spanish argue that Kosovo’s claim violates Serbia’s territorial integrity, under UN security council resolution 1244, and, until the resolution is replaced, the province’s status must be decided by a political process. It is a desperate irony, Madrid contends, that Belgrade’s peaceful, legal attempts to reach a negotiated solution have resulted in a campaign of diplomatic hostility conducted by threatening Serbia’s goal of eventual integration into the EU.
As the Serbs attempt to reopen dialogue on the status of their breakaway region, Jakup Krasniqi, a former spokesman of the KLA and President of the Kosovo Assembly, has indulged in grandstanding about possible secessionist violence from ‘ethnic Albanians in Southern Serbia’.
The spectre of further mayhem, raised by former terrorists, and designed to provide impetus for their political goals, is something with which Northern Irish readers will be wearily familiar. The difficulty, for Krasniqi, is that the majority of Serbs in the north of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija don’t accept Pristina’s remit. Ironically, given that the Kosovo Assembly is founded on a separatist claim of doubtful legality, the authorities there have attempted to ensure the north’s compliance by threatening violence in neighbouring regions of Serbia proper.
The ICJ’s verdict will be an important test of the primacy of international law. Is the court prepared to apply, dispassionately, the UN resolution as it stands, or will it bow to diplomatic pressure applied by the larger countries, and wheedle out of its responsibilities? If the latter approach prevails, it will be a victory for unilateralism, and a blow to attempts to foster meaningful and equal partnership.