Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of
independence from Serbia in 2008 did not violate international law, the United
Nations’ highest court has said.
The ruling by the International
Court of Justice sets the stage for Kosovo to renew its appeals for further
international recognition and could also encourage other separatist movements.
The world court’s president,
Hisashi Owada, said after a 10-4 vote that international law contains no
“prohibition on declarations of independence” and therefore Kosovo’s
declaration “did not violate general international law.”
The ruling was a response to a
request by the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly had asked the court in
2008 to clarify the controversial issue.
Kosovo caused fierce debate across
the world when it seceded from Serbia in 2008, following the 1998-99 war
between ethnic Kosovo Albanians and Serbia.
Some two million Albanians and
120,000 Serbs live separately in Kosovo with occasional tensions and hostility
to each other.
Serbia had firmly condemned
Kosovo’s secession claiming that it was a “flagrant violation” of its
The case could now cause more
worries in countries with own separatist movements. Some of them, including
Spain, Russia and China, have not recognised Kosovo’s independence.
The court’s opinion has set the
stage for a renewed push by Kosovo for further international recognition of its
The small Balkan country has been
recognised by 69 countries, including the US and most European Union nations
but it needs 100 for full statehood.
Experts said the decision could
move Kosovo closer to entry into the UN.
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk
Jeremic said that Belgrade’s position remained unchanged.
He said: “Serbia will never,
under any circumstances recognise the unilateral declaration of independence of
the so-called Republic of Kosovo.”