Monday

9th Dec 2019

Opinion

Serbia should stop comparing Catalonia to Kosovo

  • Kosovo became 'Newborn' with its declaration of independence in 2008. (Photo: Wikipedia)

After the turbulent situation in Catalonia following the independence vote on 1 October, Serbia was quick to accuse the international community of double standards regarding Kosovo.

Whenever there is an issue regarding territorial disputes, international recognition or independence, Kosovo is the first topic to be brought into the discussion by Serbia.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Kosovo citizens from the Albanian majority - 93 percent of the population - were committed to gaining independence. (Photo: European Parliament)

But, in fact, Kosovo's independence is completely dissimilar to the Catalan scenario.

Kosovo has different historical, legal, and factual specifics in relation to other such cases. This makes it a unique case and, as a result, incomparable with other situations.

For a start, the country went through a long negotiation process with Serbia to attain its independence, facilitated by the international community.

Kosovo's independence

The negotiations in Vienna were a direct result of a UN-led international process for determining Kosovo's political status.

A former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari, who served as the UN secretary-general's special envoy, was the international mediator during the negotiations on Kosovo's statehood.

That was followed by the declaration of independence, which was in full accordance with international law and in compliance with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999.

Moreover, this was also asserted by the International Court of Justice's opinion of 22 July 2010.

In this advisory opinion, the court concluded that "the adoption of the declaration of independence of 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law."

Accordingly, the UN's principal judicial organ concluded that "the adoption of that declaration did not violate any applicable rule of international law."

Following on from that, on 9 September 2010, the UN general assembly welcomed the EU's willingness to facilitate a dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo to normalise bilateral relations.

The EU's involvement follows its stated intention of promoting peace, security and stability in the Western Balkans.

In 2011, Kosovo and Serbia started a regular technical and political dialogue under EU mediation, with the aim of normalising relations before mutual diplomatic recognition takes place.

As a result, the first trilateral agreement between Kosovo, Serbia and the EU was reached in April 2013.

Differences to Catalonia

Kosovo had been a part of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which no longer exists.

During its existence, Kosovo had the same state attributes as the other federal units, including a constitution, and had its representatives in all federal institutions - in the collective presidency, the assembly, the executive council or federal government, and the constitutional court.

It also had its own presidency, assembly, government, police, territorial defence, constitutional court, intelligence service, central bank and secretariat for international relations.

At the federal level, Kosovo had the right to veto, and equal participation - along with other federal units - in all key federal institutions such as: the collective presidency, the federal government and the federal assembly.

Kosovo's well-defined boundaries - as well as the international borders of the former Yugoslav Federation and those of other entities - were protected by the constitution, and could not be changed without the consent of the federal units, for instance the parliament of Kosovo.

The dissolution of the former Yugoslavia began with the violent destruction of Kosovo's federal status in 1989 by Serbia, which illegally stripped Kosovo's autonomy through the police duress and military force.

Now, to compare with the Kosovo case, Catalonia's autonomy was not illegally revoked by Spain.

The Catalan people did not face the violent repression, crimes against civilians and ethnic cleansing by Spain - the way Serbia did in Kosovo toward Albanian majority.

The events in Kosovo between 1989 and 1999, caused by Serbia, were characterised as a humanitarian catastrophe and a serious threat to international peace and security - something that fortunately did not happen in Catalonia.

Kosovo's independence is also a result of the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, which was confirmed by UN Resolution 777.

In Kosovo, there were almost 1 million people forced to flee the country and some 25,000 people killed by the Serbian regime. This was not the case in Catalonia.

Kosovo citizens from the Albanian majority - or 93 percent of the population - were committed to gaining independence. This is not the case in Catalonia, where there is division between proclaiming independence and mediating with Madrid.

The factors mentioned above, regarding Kosovo, are not found in any other cases - including Catalonia - making Kosovo's independence completely unique and also in line with norms in international law.

Serbia - what about Crimea?

While Serbia is complaining of the EU's double standards and finds similarities between Kosovo and Catalonia, we should not forget Serbia's attitude towards Russia's annexation of Crimea.

In fact, Serbia never condemned the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, despite the fact that Ukraine was a state and Crimea formed an integral part of its territory.

Even before the USSR's disintegration, Crimea's status as part of Ukraine's territory should have been respected from the perspective of international law.

In light of this, EU member states confirmed that Kosovo's independence was legitimate under international law and diplomatic policy, whereas the annexation of Crimea was an act of illegitimate of aggression by Russian power.

Serbia, as an EU candidate country itself, should align with EU foreign policy and condemn the annexation of Crimea. Although this was required by the EU, Serbia has never showed any will or commitment to align with the bloc on this matter.

Every intention of Serbia to compare Kosovo with other cases in the world is to buy time. It is to avoid fulfilling the EU-facilitated agreements reached with Kosovo, and an intention to block the independent country on its path towards international recognition and state building.

Following the vote in Catalonia, Serbia should instead pay more attention to a possible referendum for the independence of Vojvodina or Sanxhak, instead of Kosovo, whose independence is a one-way road, especially after the signing of the first contractual agreement with the EU - the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

Kosovo's independence is already determined, and this agreement is the country's first step towards the EU accession negotiation process.

Mimoza Ahmetaj is a former Kosovan minister for EU integration.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Catalan separatists under pressure from business

Catalonia's independence plans have come under more pressure from the financial sector, with banks deciding to move their HQ and ratings agencies downgrading the region's notation.

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

EU investment bank 'wide open to abuse by fraudsters'

Fundamental reforms are needed if the EIB is to become more accountable, democratic and transparent. Establishing a firm grasp on corruption to ensure that public money no longer feeds corrupt systems is a vital first step.

European beekeeping in crisis

Europe's bee population is dying. The number of pollinator species threatened by extinction is increasing each year, and human activity is the main cause.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us