"You have here a population requesting its independence unanimously," [Stéphane Dion] added, referring to the Kosovars. "Nobody will contradict that. They have been victims of very, very serious negative attacks from the former state, Serbia."
This declaration of independence was not unanimous [BBC, Kosovo MPs proclaim independence]:
Kosovo's 10 Serbian MPs boycotted the assembly session in protest at the declaration.
Those 10 MP's represent 8% of the assembly. Not much of an influence in the assembly overall, I admit – it does however indicate how much more complicated a situation this is.
Hypothetically, suppose in a similar circumstance, under a Stéphane Dion-led federal government, a majority Parti Québécois government in Quebec declared independence to an empty Quebec National Assembly, when the opposition provincial Liberals and ADQ abstain. Would the Liberals led by M. Dion recognize and accept an independent Quebec? This would be a "unanimous" declaration of independence too.
Of course, the federal Liberals would not - but the precedent for recognizing such a declaration would have been made.
In addition, if international powers decided to recognize an independent Quebec, like say Serbia and Russia in retaliation for recognizing Kosovo, then what?
There is no question that Kosovo has suffered greatly at the hands of Serbian governmental policy, so it should come as no surprise that the province would seek independence. I also agree that the circumstances behind this declaration are different than a similar one in Canada.
As I said, this is a complicated issue.
A better Canadian position might be a conditional recognition of Kosovo independence itself dependent upon:
- continued UN or European Union governance for the time being;
- negotiating terms of settlement with the Serbian government (per UN rules on creating independent states); and
- a referendum with a "clear question" being conducted in all 30 municipalities within Kosovo to indicate support or opposition to this declaration. Those municipalities opposing the declaration could choose to remain within Serbia.
At the very least, a municipality-by-municipality referendum would confirm that the people of Kosovo want independence - thereby weakening Russia's opposition. Or, it would confirm which parts of Kosovo want independence and which wish to remain a part of Serbia - perhaps suggesting that partitioning the province is a better idea.
This would clear and reconcile our position on declarations of independence, both domestically and internationally.