Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 has been widely regarded as a failure for international diplomacy in general, and for the European Union (EU) in particular. The narrative that has emerged suggests that, rather than taking charge of the situation, the EU was instead a “victim” of external machinations led by Washington and Moscow. This article challenges this view. It argues that, during the status process, it became clear that in the case of Kosovo there was a tension between the constraints imposed by international law on acts of secession and the requirements for stability on the ground. While Russia insisted on the former, albeit for a range of reasons that went beyond upholding international law, the United States placed emphasis on the latter. For their part, the key members of the EU eventually decided that, after having tried to win Moscow over to their position, they too had to ensure regional security; even if this meant circumventing the United Nations and the Security Council and challenging long-standing legal norms and principles concerning the territorial integrity of states.
Kosovo, Russia, European Union, United States, United Nations
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