The secession of Kosovo from Serbia concluded the bitter and bloody breakup of Yugoslavia. However, the onset of independence for Europe’s newest member of the family has been the most contentious.
Kosovo Albanians clearly suffered great atrocities under Serbian rule, leading to NATO intervention and UN protection thereafter. Despite strong opposition from a number of countries including Russia and China, Kosovar’s determination for statehood was undeterred resulting in a unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008.
Although, now recognised by over 69 UN member states, the issue of the legality of the Kosovar independence, facilitated with the support of its American and British allies, has stirred tensions and debate ever since; and crucially has initiated a sense of weariness for a number of countries with their own separatist headaches.
The recent ruling by the International Court of Justice, the first case of secession raised before the World Court, declared that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was in fact legal and did not contravene international law.
This was a highly significant development for Kosovo in its quest for full recognition and UN member status, but it also carries significant ramifications for future cases.
Key global powers in support of Kosovar’s rights have continuously pointed to the notion that Kosovo was a special case, that Serbia’s brutal campaign had forfeited their sovereignty over the province and, as a separate ethnicity, the Kosovar’s were free to choose not to reside with their Serbian counterparts.
However, no matter how this is masked, clearly a strong precedent has been set for nationalist struggles across the world. Furthermore, this is another demonstration of the stark double standards employed by western powers that plagues the notion of a new world order and the ideals of freedom and democracy that the West is desperately trying to promote.
Nowhere in the world is the case of Kosovo more significant than in Kurdistan. The similarities are striking. Ethnic Albanians have suffered under the hands of occupiers and dictatorships as have the Kurds. Albanian’s pose a minority in a number of countries, including Serbia, Macedonia and Greece as do Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
However, while Albanians may have suffered great crimes, their existence as a distinct ethnicity has never been denied and they have an independent state in the form of Albania. Not only was Kurdistan forcibly assimilated, but Kurds in Iraq suffered great campaigns of genocide under the noses of the West; and in Turkey they have never been officially recognised as having a separate identity.
To date, the Kurds still form the largest stateless nation in the world. This begs the question of the criteria for judging the merit of nationalist struggles and just who has the authority to determine and endorse such moves.
Clearly in the case of Kosovo, many countries still refuse to recognise their independence including the veto-holding powers of Russia and China. It was the ardent support of the US and key EU states that was all that was necessary.
The concept of self-determination is not new and was first championed by the then US president Woodrow Wilson after World War I. From colonialism and the fall of great empires numerous new countries suddenly appeared in the international arena.
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