Wednesday, 21 July 2010

No clear verdict on Kosovo expected from ICJ

Tomorrow the International Court of Justice will rule on Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.  Sponsored by Nato, the province is already recognised as an independent state by 69 countries, but many more are sceptical of its claims.

In theory the ICJ could offer the best guidance for governments who are unpersuaded, either way, by the Kosovo Albanian case, even though its verdict will not be binding.  However it is much more likely that the court's guidance will not lean clearly toward either party.

Certainly Serbia expects status negotiations to follow tomorrow’s determination, while Kosovo Albanians are talking down its significance.  Independence, they argue, does not depend on the court’s endorsement.

Belgrade demonstrated peaceful intent and respect for the international community by referring Kosovo to the ICJ, but the court has neither the authority, nor the will, to clear this issue up for good.  International law exists in theory, but in practice power resides with the states who make up the UN.

It is highly unlikely that the ICJ will intrude, more than it absolutely has to, on such a sensitive subject.  In yesterday’s Guardian, Ian Bancroft outlined tensions in the EU over Serbia’s future membership and Kosovo’s independence.

Further afield, a host of frozen conflicts, disputed territories and breakaway regions could quickly become much more volatile, if the ICJ were to deliver an unambiguous verdict.

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