The Hague, 16 February 2008 - As Kosova is expected to declare its independence from Serbia within the nest few days, UNPO consultant Michael Gibb was invited by BBC News to participate in a ‘World Have Your Say’ radio program broadcast live on 15 February 2008. The theme of the evenings was ‘Who decides when a state is ready for independence?’
Although the United States and several European Union countries are likely to support Kosova’s move for independence, Russia and Serbia have said any such declaration would be illegitimate and have urged the United Nations Security Council to take swift action against it. Participants in the broadcast discussed a variety of factors surrounding Kosova’s undecided future, including if the conditions are right for a unilateral declaration of independence, what the benefits of independence would be and what the principles or requirements are for an entity to gain independence.
Gibb noted the difficulty surrounding identifying standard requirements for independence, but highlighted the importance of language, culture and national identity when making the transition to sovereign statehood.
Participants voiced their arguments both in support of and against Kosova’s potential independence. Those in support cited the possibilities of economic development, fostering regional integration in Europe and building a new social fabric which has been difficult to develop under Serbian rule. Opponents argued even with sovereign status Kosova would remain economically dependent on the international community and would likely face great difficulty when attempting to join international institutions, such as the United Nations or even the European Union one day. From an institutional perspective one caller suggested that Kosova does not fulfil the full criteria for independence, including being a unit of a federal state at the highest institutional level, such as East Timor demonstrated prior to their independence.
The situation of Kosova resonates in other areas of the world including Somaliland, Quebec, Northern Cyprus and Iraqi Kurdistan. Using the example of Quebec, Gibb reminded callers that self-determination has many meanings, not all ending in the creation of a sovereign state. As such regional autonomy designs and systems which take into account cultural and minority rights are all elements surrounding self-determination.