Monday

18th Dec 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

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.

EU must help independent media in Ukraine

Some seven journalists have been killed in Ukraine since the pro-EU uprising of 2014 - with elections looming in 2019, next year looks like another dangerous year for reporters covering Kiev.

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

News in Brief

  1. EU-UK Brexit trade deal by January 2021, official says
  2. Bitcoin is 'deadly', Danish central bank warns
  3. EU Commission wants to ban 'legal weed'
  4. France files €10m complaint against Amazon
  5. EU negotiators reach deal on 'circular economy'
  6. Poll: Tight race in Catalonia days before elections
  7. EU: Israel built 8,000 settler homes in six months
  8. China agrees to promote London as centre for yuan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  2. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  3. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  4. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  5. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  6. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  7. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  10. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  11. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  2. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  3. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  5. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  6. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  7. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  9. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  10. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  11. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  12. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  2. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  5. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  7. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  9. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  10. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  11. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  12. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left