Tuesday, September 9, 2008

At UN, Indigestion at Request for Court Ruling on Kosovo Independence

On Serbia's UN resolution to seek a ruling by the International Court of Justice on the legality of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence, the European Union is in a conflicted position. On September 4, Inner City Press asked Jean-Maurice Ripert, the Permanent Representative to the UN of France, which currently holds the EU Presidency, what the EU will go in the upcoming General Assembly meetings. Ambassador Ripert said it is still being considered, but "we do not contest" Serbia's right to "address the General Assembly and we will even facilitate it." But question is what position the EU will take on voting on the resolution, not Serbia's right to present the resolution.

An EU diplomat who insisted on being identified as such because not authorized to be quoted in his own name told Inner City Press that EU consultations are still ongoing. Some, he said, are urging EU support for the resolution as a way to support Serbia's pro-EU government by helping them "park" this burning domestic issue in the Hague. The downside, he said, is that the pendency of such a case would slow down if not halt other countries' recognition of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence.

Costa Rica's Ambassador Jorge Urbina said that his country, even though it has already recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence, will be voting in favor of getting ICJ review. Ambassador Urbina rhetorically asked Inner City Press, how can we oppose a member state which has lost a province getting a court ruling?

Inner City Press asked U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff how the U.S. will vote on the resolution. We haven't reached a decision on that yet, Ambassador Wolff replied.

Inner City Press asked Serbia's Ambassador Pavle Jevremovic if he thinks his country's resolution will pass. He nodded, and said, "We're trying to keep things uncontroversial." Some cynics even speculate that Serbia's current government might want to lose the case, or at least wouldn't mind losing it, because then the Serbian public could be told, "We tried everything possible, now let's get on with the business of business." Among the evidence presented for this theory is Serbia's foreign minister's statement that if the ICJ rules against his position, Serbia will have to respect it. Meanwhile, even if Serbia won, the ruling would only be advisory. The theory goes, why would anyone start a court case they could lose, but couldn't meaningfully win, unless they want to lose?

Another diplomat not authorized to be quoted by name said it will be difficult for his African country not to support the resolution, and he wonders how the United States could justify not supporting it. We'll see.

Footnote: Meanwhile the UN Mission in Kosovo's position becomes more and more untenable. Without any Security Council authorization, it is passing buildings and cars to the EU's EULEX. The former chief legal officer of UNMIK, Alexander Borg-Olivier, is getting paid by the EU, through the UN Development Program, to advise the Kosovo government, despite legal ethics and UN "post employment" rules. (Inner City Press has formally asked the UN to explain why these rules wouldn't apply to Borg-Olivier, who was involved in UN procurement).

Ban Ki-moon's political advisor Nicholas Haysom, just back from Pristina, was brooding his colleagues in the UN's basement cafe on September 4. Perhaps they can explain how l'affaire Borg-Olivier is consistent with the UN's claims to be status neutral on Kosovo.

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