Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Democratization of Sovereignty

"With our blood we coloured the soil, with our bones we marked the borders. Around the Church lie the tombs of 25 Serbian Heroes of the Kolubara battle 1914."

Montenegrin referendum demonstrated that peaceful secession through a democratic process can be a realistic alternative to the separation or unification of states through the agreement of political elites or to violent secession through war. The same could occur in the Serbian breakaway province of Kosovo and Metohija, although it is uncertain of what the eventual outcome of its independence will be? Invoking the principles of international law the Serbian government defends a strong and legitimate position that an imposed independence of Kosovo remains unacceptable.

Can the processes in the Balkans trigger similar developments in the rest of Europe and the world? Autonomous provinces of Spain, just to offer an example, looked with great interest at the events of the Montenegro referendum and it is not excluded that some time in the future constituent parts of EU member states might ask for independence.

The European Union, it can be argued, possibly represents a safety niche that can accommodate such independence claims without disrupting the political stability of these countries. As to whether this is possible in other areas in the world, one should be extremely sceptical, since we are still living in the era where nation states have absolute power and beyond the nation states individuals have very little rights. Borders still matter very much and embarking on a project of democratization of sovereignty is very dangerous outside of the context of the European Union. Independence claims of any territorial entity must be resolved taking into account the interests and political stability of the larger state from which it wishes to secede. Internal enlargement might play the role of a compromise solution but this is unfortunately realistically conceivable (in the long run) only within the boundaries of the EU, nowhere else.

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