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A dangerous precedent? The political implications of Kosovo's independence on ethnic conflicts in South-Eastern Europe and the CIS

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Kosovo's declaration of independence on 17 February 2008 has re-ignited debates about the interaction among the fundamental international legal principles of self-determination, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The question of conformity with international law was interrelated to scenarios on the political implications of secession. After more than one year the following article elaborates if the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo had a precedent-setting impact for long-standing autonomist and secessionist conflicts in South-Eastern Europe and in CIS. The Kosovo-precedent formula had its biggest impact in the secessionist conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where a powerful external actor Russia, made effective use of the precedent-formula in its coercive diplomacy against Georgia. Generally speaking, in South-Eastern-Europe, the independence of Kosovo had only minor destabilizing effects with the exception of Bosnia and Hercegovina and Macedonia where political entrepreneurs used the opportunity to play the nationalist card and to profit from worst case scenarios of a disintegration of their country.


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