Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days 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.

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.

Will the centre-right stand up for EU values?

Time for Christian Democrats in the EP to show where they stand on Hungary and on the EU's founding principles, say Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in a joint text.

Europe needs more modern leadership

If Europe wants to be a global leader, our political leadership has to change dramatically. Power needs a new face in Europe, and it needs to get legitimacy from the people, argues liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  4. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  5. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  7. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  9. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  12. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us