Today's advisory ruling by the International Court of Justice on the legitimacy of Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 is very welcome, because it confirms the right of territories to secede from a state, irrespective of the wishes of the remainder of that state. They ruled that:
international law contains no "prohibition on declarations of independence" and therefore Kosovo's declaration "did not violate general international law."
There were elections to the Assembly of Kosovo on 17 November 2007 and on 17 February 2008 it voted to unilaterally declare independence from Serbia.
Declaring independence is one thing, but being recognized as an independent country by the other countries of the world is something else again. Because each country is free to do what it likes, it becomes a matter of consensus ... if enough countries recognize your independence, you are independent. The rule of thumb seems to be that it takes recognition by about a hundred countries to get you into the United Nations.
In Kosovo's case, its independence had been recognized by 69 countries including most of the big players. Good, but not quite good enough. Therefore the UN requested an advisory ruling in an attempt to clarify the matter so as to help reach greater consensus. It goes without saying that there are hardliners who will never accept it: Serbia of course, Russia as Serbia's closest powerful advocate, and countries like Spain who will do anything to stop Catalunya and Euskadi breaking away. But this ruling should now pave the way for many undecided countries to recognize Kosovo's independence.
From the point of view of those of us who want to see an independent Catalunya—as well as independence for our own countries, of course—the timing could hardly be better. The Catalan elections are only a few months away, and this ruling confirms that the reasoning behind the strategy adopted by Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència, as mentioned in my previous post, is perfectly sound.