Decision in favour of Kosovo's independence could have far-reaching implications for other separatist movements
Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in February 2008 did not violate international law, the international court of justice (ICJ) said today in a groundbreaking ruling that could have far-reaching implications for separatist movements around the world, as well as for Belgrade's stalled EU membership talks.
The long-awaited ruling - which the court took up after a complaint to the UN from Serbia - is now likely to lead to more countries recognising Kosovo's independence and move Pristina closer to entry into the UN. At present, Kosovo's statehood is backed by 69 countries but it requires more than 100 before it can join the UN.
Announcing the decision, the court of justice president, Hisashi Owada, said international law contains no "prohibition on declarations of independence".
Although both Belgrade and Pristina had said they were confident of a ruling in their favour, speculation began to emerge a few hours before today's announcement in the Hague that the decision - which is not legally binding - had gone Kosovo's way.
Prior to the judgment, the US vice-president, Joe Biden, had made it clear that the US would not contemplate a retreat from Kosovo's newly independent status.
Key considerations that the UN's top court examined - arising out of dozens of submissions by UN member states as well as by Kosovo's own leadership - have focused on issues of sovereignty, the slim volume of precedent in international law, and how formerly large states such as the USSR broke up along administrative borders.
- More http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/22/kosovo-independence-un-ruling