Serbia's triumph over EU double standards

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Serbia's triumph over EU double standards

Post  Admin on Wed Nov 05, 2008 7:09 pm

Europe did itself no favours by opposing Serbian diplomatic efforts on Kosovo

Tuesday 21st October - by Ian Bancroft


Serbia's success in persuading the UN general assembly to support its application for an advisory opinion from the international court of justice (ICJ) on the legality of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence represents a victory not only for Serbia's diplomatic endeavours in recent months, but for the rule of law and multilateralism more broadly. The decision by many EU member states not to back this initiative, however, further demonstrates the EU's contradictory attitude and approach towards matters of international law.

In a bid to deter Serbia's diplomatic efforts, several attempts were made to directly link the issue to the country's European prospects. Britain's ambassador to Serbia, Stephen Wordsworth,publicly warnedthat the resolution would be "a mistake" that constituted "a direct challenge to the EU"; one that will "only make cooperation and Serbia's integration into the European Union more difficult". Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, meanwhile, stated that "we have reiterated numerous times that Serbia cannot seek to join the European Union while also asking Europe to agree with the initiative" and labelled the move "self-destructively isolationist".

Having insisted that disputes in the western Balkans be settled through peaceful means, the EU's failure to support Serbia's initiative at the UN general assembly is fundamentally inconsistent and untenable. As the Serbian president, Boris Tadic,re-affirmed, "our intention is not to repeat aggression or confrontation with the world, but to use a different methodology in politics which is not usually seen in the Balkans".

Advisory opinions from the ICJ, though non-binding, offer a powerful alternative for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, with solutions derived from the legal as opposed to political realm. To fail to act to strengthen such institutions of international law and justice at a time when the EU struggles to contend with Russia's recognition of South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence will only further undermine its standing in an increasingly unstable international environment.

As arecent reportby theEuropean council on foreign relationsrevealed, with respect to human rights issues, the EU's influence at the UN continues to decline. One of the explanations given concerns the double standards of European states which continue to oppose discussion of their own human rights problems, such as those concerning the treatment of migrants, and avoid criticism of the United States' persistent violations. Europe's failure to support Serbia's initiative, despite its avowed commitment to the principles of the UN charter, will only further reinforce this growing sense of inconsistency and ambivalence in international affairs.

By returning the Kosovo issue to the legal arena, Serbia's resolution is likely to further stem the already sluggish recognition process. In spite of significant diplomatic pressure from the architects of Kosovo's independence declaration,recognitionhas been forthcoming from only 48 of 192 UN member states. Though the ICJ's verdict will not be binding, the decision to seek a ruling willvery likely"slow down or halt the wave of recognitions". With many countries deeply concerned by Russia'sretaliatory recognitionof Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, Kosovo will continue to struggle for international legitimacy.

>Should the ICJ decide that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence breaches international law,Vuk Jeremic, Serbia's foreign minister, expects several countries, for instanceCosta Rica, to retract their recognition. A ruling of illegality by the ICJ would inevitably reignite debate in several EU countries which were deeply divided domestically over the recognition issue, particularly Poland and the Czech Republic. Indeed, Poland's president,Lech Kaczynski, recentlyblocked attemptsto establish an embassy in Pristina and condemned the Polish government's decision to recognise Kosovo.

The EU's failure to support Serbia's application for an advisory ruling from the ICJ raises important questions about its commitment to strengthening international law and multilateral institutions. The decisions of EU member states themselves cannot and should not be exempt from legal scrutiny; nor should attempts be made to threaten Serbia's European prospects in a cynical bid to deter its recourse to legal means. Instead, respect for international law should be the hallmark of the EU and its burgeoning common foreign and security policy. For it to recapture some of its lost influence at the UN, the EU must no longer persist in applying double standards to matters of international law and justice.

This article first appeared on The Guardian's Comment is Free (CiF) section on Friday 10th October..

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Re: Serbia's triumph over EU double standards

Post  mafiafran on Fri Aug 27, 2010 6:41 pm

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