Madrid stands firm against Kosovo self-rule

19th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Move "has no legal basis," says Spain despite EU and US backing

19 February 2008

MADRID - Spain remained adamant Monday that it will not recognise Kosovo's declaration of independence even as the European Union's four largest members and the United States said they plan to establish diplomatic relations with the Balkan nation that split from Serbia on Sunday.

"Our position is clear, we are not going to recognise this unilateral declaration," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos told reporters in Brussels. "It has no international legal basis."

Wrestling with a separatist problem at home in the Basque Country and Catalonia, Spain pushed other EU nations to tread carefully in dealing with Kosovo's declaration of independence, which was vehemently opposed by Serbia and Russia. The result was an agreement between the EU's 27 members yesterday to promise to guarantee stability in the Western Balkans and to leave it up to each member state to decide whether to recognise Kosovo as an independent nation.

By last night, at least 16 EU countries, including Germany, Britain, France and Italy, had said they recognise or are planning to recognise Kosovo's independence. In a joint statement, the EU states noted that Kosovo's split does not set a precedent, describing it as a "unique case" because of the bloody Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Moratinos denied that Spain, in refusing to recognise Kosovo, was acting out of fear that the move could trigger a "domino effect" and cause other restive European regions to attempt to follow in the footsteps of the mostly ethnic Albanian province.

"This has nothing to do with Spain... we just don't want to open Pandora's Box in the Balkans," the minister said.

He argued that Spain would only recognise a country's independence from another if it is first accepted by the United Nations or both parties agree.

While Madrid has looked on warily, Basque and Catalan nationalists have been outspoken in their support for Kosovo's independence - some toasted the occasion with sparkling wine - although they have been careful to differentiate the situation in Spain from that of the Western Balkans.

They nonetheless accused the Spanish government of showing "disrespect" for democracy in not recognising Kosovo's right to self-determination.

Despite refusing to recognise its independence, Spain has pledged to maintain its 1,200 troops in the country as part of NATO's peacekeeping force. "There's nothing contradictory about that," Moratinos insisted.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / A. EATWELL 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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