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Kosovo's 'Moment of Opportunity'

Interviewees: John B. Bellinger III, Adjunct Senior Fellow for International and National Security Law, CFR
David Gowan, Former British ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro
Interviewer: Hagit Ariav, CFR.org
July 28, 2010

The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion July 22 that Kosovo's 2008 independence declaration did not violate international law. Though the opinion is non-binding, it has implications for Kosovo and Serbia, as well as countries and secessionist movements around the world.

David Gowan, who served as British ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro from 2003 to 2006 and coordinated British work to investigate war crimes in Kosovo in 1999, emphasizes the significance of the ICJ's decision as creating a "moment of opportunity" for Serbia and Kosovo. "It gives both Serbia and Kosovo an opportunity to look ahead," says Gowan, "to focus on the European Union, moving toward the EU, and, indeed, to work with each other."

John B. Bellinger III, CFR's adjunct senior fellow for international and national security law and a partner at Arnold & Porter, LLP, says, "The decision was very narrow and was not surprising as a matter of international law or, really, of politics." Bellinger does not see the World Court's opinion as setting a precedent that will encourage other groups to declare independence, though he expects it will spur "a very substantial number of new recognitions of Kosovo."

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