On 17 January 2008 the government of Kosovo proclaimed its independence. Since that time a number of states have declared that they will or will not recognise Kosovo as a state. This seminar, which was part of the Institute's 'Rapid Response' seminars on matters of immediate public interest, dealt with many of the key issues of international law that are raised by these actions.
Dr Stefan Talmon (University of Oxford), Dr Jure Vidmar (University of Nottingham) and Dr Ralph Wilde (UCL) gave excellent presentations. They discussed the historical background to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, including the 1974 Constitution, the international territorial administration that occurred in Kosovo under Security Council Resolution 1244, the international legal criteria for statehood, when recognition can be legal or illegal, and the right of self-determination. There were diverging views as to whether the recognition of Kosovo as a state was lawful under international law.
The session was well attended and there was informed and eager engagement by all present. Helpful comments were made by representatives of both the Serbian Embassy and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. There were also questions about the likely precedent value of any recognition of Kosovo to other territories around the world. All participants were aware that, while the decision as to recognition of an entity as a state may appear to be largely a political one, there are clear international legal issues at stake and very significant consequences of such recognition, from international obligations of governments to freedom of travel by individuals.