Kosovo & Crimea: the
West’s double standards
In 1999, Yugoslavia
consisted of two republics – Serbia
and Montenegro. 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.
(In 2006, Montenegro
seceded and Serbia
became an independent state in its own right.
was no more.)
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:
“A political process towards the
establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for
substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accords and the principles of sovereignty and
territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia …” 
Kosovo was to have “substantial self-government”, but 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, the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia was
sacrosanct to the international community, wasn’t it? There could be no question of an independent
state of Kosovo, recognised by the international community, could there?
* * *
Fast forward to 17 February 2008:
“We, the democratically elected
leaders of our people, hereby declare Kosovo to be an independent and sovereign
state. This declaration reflects the will of our people …” 
These words are taken from the declaration of independence
endorsed by the Assembly of Kosovo on that day with the unanimous support of
those members present. 11 Serb
representatives boycotted the proceedings.
There is no doubt that an overwhelming majority of the people living in
Kosovo supported independence from Serbia, but no referendum took
place to confirm this.
The following day, 9 states (including the France, the UK
and the US)
recognised Kosovo as an independent state.
Today, over a hundred states recognise it, including 23 out of the 28
members of the EU (an exception being Spain, which fears that approval of
Kosovo’s secession would encourage its own secessionist movements) .
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.
Serbia asserted that Kosovo’s declaration
of independence was contrary to international law. It persuaded the UN General Assembly to exercise
its powers under Article 96 of the UN Charter to seek an advisory opinion from
the International Court of Justice on the matter. Thus on 8 October 2008, the General Assembly
passed resolution 63/3 
which requested the Court to render an advisory opinion on the following
“Is the unilateral declaration of
independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in
accordance with international law?”
On 22 July 2010, the Court delivered the (majority) opinion
that “the declaration of independence of Kosovo adopted on 17 February 2008 did
not violate international law” (see , Paragraph
On 11 March 2014, the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic
of Crimea resolved that it would declare Crimea to be an independent state, if
the people of Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation in the
referendum to be held 5 days later. The
resolution, which was passed with the support of 78 out the 100 members of the
Parliament, included the following:
“We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea
and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United
Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into
consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations
International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral
declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn’t violate any
international norms, make this decision.” 
On 16 March the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to
join the Russian Federation
and, following this, the Crimean Parliament declared Crimea to be an
independent state, which has now been recognised by Russia. The Crimean Parliament has applied to become part
of the Russian Federation
and the application has been accepted in principle by Russia.
and the EU have been asserting that the declaration of independence by Crimea’s
Parliament is illegal under Ukraine’s
It is true that the Ukrainian constitution states:
“The Autonomous Republic of Crimea
is an inseparable constituent part of Ukraine.” (Article 134) 
"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 vigorously opposed the
proposition that Kosovo had a right to declare independence.
This hasn’t stopped the US
and most states of the EU recognising the declaration of independence by
Kosovo’s Assembly in 2008 (which unlike Crimea’s
wasn’t the subject of a referendum).
The question is: why was it permissible for the US and most states of the EU to recognise Kosovo
as an independent state in 2008 but, according to these states, it is not
permissible for Russia to recognise
Crimea as an independent state in 2014? Dare I suggest that a double standard is
If, as now seems certain, Crimea becomes a part of the Russian Federation,
would that be in breach of international law?
This is been talked about in the West as the “annexation of Crimea”,
which implies that Crimea is being forced to become part of the Russian Federation
against the will of its people. In
reality, the union is voluntary – and that cannot possibly be contrary to
What about Israeli occupation?
There are real instances of forcible occupation and
annexation in this world, in particular, Israel’s
47-year occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Syrian
Golan Heights against the wishes of the people who live there, and its
annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The US
and the EU have been remarkably indifferent to these over many years, resisting
any suggestion that it would be appropriate to apply sanctions to Israel to
persuade it end its occupation.
On the contrary, Israel
receives about $3bn per annum in military aid from the US, more than
any other country in the world, even though its GDP per head is around the EU
average. And since 2000, the EU has
given it privileged access to the EU market for its exports through an
What about the unconstitutional removal
of the President?
The US/EU are concerned that the Ukrainian constitution has
been breached by Crimea’s secession from Ukraine. Or so they say. But they are fickle in their concern. On 22 February, the democratically elected
President of the Ukraine was removed from office without following the
impeachment procedure laid down in Article 111 
of the same constitution (see my How William
Hague deceived the House of Commons on Ukraine ). Were the US/UK
concerned then? Of course, not – since
they wanted the removal of the President.
So they pretended to the world that the proper constitutional procedures
had been followed.
18 March 2014