THE BLOG

Kosovo and Crimea: US/EU Double Standards

24/03/2014 12:44 | Updated 23 May 2014

Question: Why was it permissible for the US and most EU states to recognise Kosovo as an independent state in 2008 (contrary to the wishes of Serbia) but, according to these states, it is not permissible for Russia to recognise Crimea as an independent state in 2014 (contrary to the wishes of Ukraine)?

Kosovo
In 1999, Yugoslavia consisted of two republics - Serbia and Montenegro (which seceded in 2006). According to Serbia's constitution, Kosovo was an integral part of Serbia, but with an overwhelmingly Albanian majority that favoured separation from Serbia, and a Serb minority that opposed separation.

That Kosovo would remain an integral part of Serbia was one of the principles enshrined in the agreement of 2 June 1999, which brought to an end NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia and the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo.

Point 8 of the agreement envisaged "substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account ... of the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia". Kosovo was to have "substantial self-government", but was not going to be allowed to secede.

The Security Council endorsed the agreement on 10 June 1999 when it passed Resolution 1244 by 14 votes to 0 (with China abstaining). This reaffirmed "the commitment of all [UN] Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia".

So, in June 1999, there was no question of an independent state of Kosovo being recognised by the international community, was there?

But, on 17 February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo declared Kosovo to be "an independent and sovereign state" with the unanimous support of those members present. 11 Serb representatives boycotted the proceedings.

The following day, 9 states (including France, the UK and the US) recognised Kosovo as an independent state. Today, over a hundred states have done so, including 23 out of the 28 members of the EU. These states were undeterred by earlier commitments by the Security Council, binding all UN member states, to support the territorial integrity of Serbia, or by the fact that, according to the Serbian constitution, Kosovo was an integral part of Serbia.

Crimea
On 11 March 2014, the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, with the support of 78 out of its 100 members, resolved that it would declare Crimea to be an independent state, if the people of Crimea voted to join Russia in the referendum to be held 5 days later. The vote to join was overwhelming and so the parliament declared Crimea to be an independent state, which was recognised by Russia. The parliament then applied to join Russia and the application was accepted.

The US and the EU have been asserting that the declaration of independence by Crimea's Parliament is illegal under Ukraine's domestic law. It is true that the Ukrainian constitution states: "The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is an inseparable constituent part of Ukraine." (Article 134) and "Alterations to the territory of Ukraine shall be resolved exclusively by the All-Ukrainian referendum." (Article 73).

But the Serbian constitution stated something similar with regard to Kosovo in 2008 and the Serbian authorities were vigorously opposed to the proposition that Kosovo had a right to declare independence. This hasn't stopped the US and most EU states recognising Kososo's independence.

The question arises: why was it permissible for the US and most EU states to recognise Kosovo as an independent state in 2008 (contrary to the wishes of Serbia) but, according to these states, it is not permissible for Russia to recognise Crimea as an independent state in 2014 (contrary to the wishes of Ukraine)?

US Vice President, Joe Biden, described Russia's acceptance of Crimea's request to join as a "blatant violation of international law" and "a land grab". In reality, what has happened is a voluntary union with the enthusiastic support of the people of both Crimea and Russia - and that cannot possibly be contrary to international law.

Israel
As for land grabs, Israel has occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Syrian Golan Heights, against the wishes of the indigenous people, for almost 47 years (and annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights). In all that time, the US has made no attempt to isolate Israel politically or to sanction it economically for this land grab.

On the contrary, successive US administrations have protected Israel politically (by, for example, vetoing more than 40 resolutions critical of it in the Security Council). "May the bond between Israel and the United States never, ever be broken", Biden said at Ariel Sharon's state funeral last January.

Far from imposing economic sanctions on Israel for its land grabbing, the US has showered it with military aid. Today, it receives over $3bn per annum, more US tax dollars than any other country in the world, even though its GDP per head is around the EU average. (And the EU has given it privileged access to the EU market for its exports through an Association Agreement).

Ukrainian constitution
The US and the EU protest that the Ukrainian constitution has been breached by Crimea's secession from Ukraine. On 22 February, the constitution was breached when the democratically elected President of the Ukraine was removed from office without following the impeachment procedure laid down in Article 111 (see How William Hague deceived the House of Commons on Ukraine). Did the US and the EU protest then? Of course not - since they wanted the removal of the President. So they pretended that the proper constitutional procedures had been followed.