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International Court of Justice's Advisory Opinion (Kosovo)

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 27 July 2010

I welcome the delivery of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on 22 July on the accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo.

The ICJ decided, by 10 votes to four, that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law. In coming to this opinion, the ICJ considered general international law, UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the Kosovo constitutional framework.

The Government are a strong supporter of Kosovo’s independence. The United Kingdom submitted arguments to the ICJ in support of the conclusion which the Court eventually reached.

The Milosevic regime’s campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1999, which led to the forced exile in neighbouring countries of around half the entire Kosovo Albanian population, with thousands of deaths and other acts of brutal violence at the hands of Serbian forces, meant that Kosovo could never again be integrated back into Serbia. Kosovo has been functioning as an independent state for two and a half years and the UK holds firm in its conviction that Kosovo as a sovereign state defined by its existing borders is a positive force for stability in the Western Balkans.

Despite differences over Kosovo’s status, EU member states agree about the next steps. Kosovo’s and Serbia’s long term futures are in the EU. All EU member states are backing Baroness Ashton’s offer to facilitate talks on matters of practical co-operation between Kosovo and Serbia. This will help both countries take steps together which will improve the lives of ordinary people of all communities and move them towards their EU future. The Government have made it absolutely clear that any attempt to encourage the partition of Kosovo or re-open status talks threatens stability in the entire Balkans region and will be strongly resisted. We believe that the Opinion’s publication should mark an end to discussions on Kosovo’s status.

The Government will continue to lobby for further recognitions for Kosovo. We believe that the ICJ Opinion will encourage those states who have not yet done so to recognise Kosovo.