Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Canada's Position on Kosovo

Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported that Liberal party leader Stéphane Dion has urged the Canadian government to recognize Kosovo's declaration of independence. Further, the CBC adds some additional detail.

"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.


Anonymous said...

Canada should not recognize kosovo as the breakup is not legal under the UN convention. The U.S. administration was told not to recognize Kosovo but as usual they did not follow the advice

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this enlightening piece. As a Canadian living in Germany with both Seerbian and Albanian friends this has been a tough issue for me. The lack of a referedum within Kosovo as well as the seemingly rushed nature of this statement of independence puts me surprisingly on the side of Serbia and Russia.

Anonymous said...

Canada should recognize it ASAP Quebec and Kosovo issues are two different situations.

Anonymous said...

What does the assertion that Quebec and Kosovo are different have to do with anything? Recognizing Kosovo at this point and under these circumstances would be a violation of international law and the United Nations charter. If Canada wants to continue to have influence in the international community, it cannot recognize Kosovo at this point.