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Why Kosovo's independence bid is unique

Effort may lack UN legality, but is politically practical, say many diplomats, despite Serb anger.

Pushed out: One million people fled Kosovo in 1999 to escape Serbia's ethnic cleansing. Here ethnic Albanians wait at the Morina border crossing to Albania.

ANDY NELSON – STAFF/FILE

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As Kosovo prepares to be Europe's newest state on Sunday – supported by the United States and most of Europe – it is doing so without United Nations Security Council approval, the guarantor of legality among nations. Russia calls Kosovo independence illegal, a "Pandora's Box," in the words of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Serbia, a UN member, says Kosovo succession violates its ancient, sovereign territory. Cyprus and Romania cite a dangerous precedent in allowing minority groups to split willy-nilly.

Even some diplomats supporting Kosovo say that on legal grounds alone, the arguments – Serbian sovereignty vs. ethnic Albanian self-determination – are inconclusive. They say Kosovo is a political not a legal problem – one clouded by nine years of world attention on terrorism, Iraq, Guantánamo, and an erosion of America's high ground after the Berlin Wall fell.

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