Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sovereignty open thread

The UN's International Court of Justice ruled today that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia was legal. (The Court declined to positively state that Kosovo's actual independence is legal, but that's a whole other story.)

In the lead-up to the ICJ's announcement, Serbian PM Boris Tadic said this:
“If the I.C.J. opinion establishes a new principle, an entire process of creating new states would open throughout the world, something that would destabilize many regions of the world."
Presumably because they agree with Tadic, separatist targets Spain, Russia, and China have aggressively argued against recognition of Kosovo's independence.

So: true or false?

Does this decision destabilize the globe? Do you expect that Catalunya, Xinjiang, Dagestan, and Texas will declare independence? (And if they do, does it really mean anything?)

While we're at it, let's flash all the way back to Versailles: aware as we all are that self-determination is a bit of a slippery slope, is the will of the resident majority justification enough for independence?

UPDATE: More on this subject from Joshua Keating at (Nothing like the Abkhazian president lauding Russia's "rightfulness" to brighten up a grouchy afternoon!)

1 comment:

  1. Although I haven't read the ICJ opinion, I think even your opening sentence is too strong. Sounds like the court ruled as narrowly as possible that the declaration of independence was not specifically prohibited under international law. Which would not be surprising - when most basic international law was crafted, such declarations would have been prohibited by domestic law, and dealt with accordingly.

    It sounds like the Court did not rule that the declaration had any legal impact on Kosovo's status. And since recognition by other states (a matter of state practice) is a generally the lynchpin of du facto sovereignty, I'm not sure how much this actually matters, Serbian alarm notwithstanding.

    Personally, I'm with Allen Buchanan on this question: political self-determination should only trump territorial integrity and sovereignty where a pattern of gross abuse or marginalization against a minority makes it unreasonable to expect that their human rights will be respected in the context of the broader state.