Luxembourg recognizes independent Kosovo

Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Européennes Robert Schuman

The Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn, made a statement in the Luxembourg Parliament to explain the Grand-Duchy’s position concerning the Kosovo conflict. This statement was followed by a debate on Kosovo, the EU–Serbia relations and the Western Balkans, where the political parties expressed their positions which, in very large parts, are similar to the government’s policy[1].
 
Asselborn justifies the intervention of the international community in Kosovo by referring to the atrocities committed in this territory before the 1999 NATO military operation. Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon agrees that the ‘status quo’ cannot be a definite solution. There can be no return to the ‘status quo ante’ as the EU decided under the Luxembourg presidency in 2005. Even the Serbian authorities agreed to this point. The Troika (Russia, the USA and the EU) discussions brought no solution because there was a lack of political will to do so. Thus the international community, and especially the EU, have to take their responsibilities: if no agreement between the Serbs and Kosovars can be reached, they must act. Russia would like to continue the negotiations, even if they lasted for years, even dozens of years and it wants to maintain the ‘status quo’ in the meantime. This cannot be agreed to. The UN Security Council could be bypassed as well. Russia’s position is clear and will not change: no vote will be taken, but no agreement will be reached either.
 
Europe has a political responsibility: the Balkan region must not be destabilized again! Maintaining the ‘status quo’ will surely produce a unilateral declaration of independence within a very short time. Nearly all member states of the EU agree to prevent by all means a UDI – unilateral declaration of independence. The aim of the EU is to reach a CDI – a coordinated declaration of independence. The decision will be based on a proposition of the special UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari, namely that of a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo, with special protection for ethnic minorities: a so-to-say internationally controlled independence.
 
A civil mission has to be created: this 1500-men-strong EU mission will have to count on the strong support and protection of the NATO.
 
The Christian-democrat parliamentary representative Laurent Mosar underscores the importance of this new EU mission in Kosovo, but he worries about the legal basis of this mission. Wouldn’t it be useful to urge the UN Secretary General to order this mission officially, and, in this way, legalize it de facto. We must be aware that the UN Kosovo resolution 1244 from 1999 does not cover a new EU mission. Mosar concedes that Russia is ready to veto any new Kosovo resolution in the UN Security Council.
 
In the eyes of Foreign Minister Asselborn, the KFOR mission has to be prolonged. Even Russia agrees that if NATO forces were withdrawn, a destabilization would be the immediate inevitable consequence.
 
Luxembourg, together with other partners, wants to get Serbia into the boat, which asks for satisfaction, too. As the future of Serbia lies in Europe, bridges have to be built for Serbia to have a European perspective.
 
The Foreign Affairs Committee speaker, the socialist Ben Fayot, naturally supports the Foreign Minister’s position. He insists that Parliament must be aware that the present Kosovo policy of the EU does have special implications for Luxembourg. No one in the Parliament could ignore that peace-keeping missions of any kind in Kosovo would have serious and lasting consequences for Luxembourg. The controlled independence needs a continuous EU engagement.
 
The European perspective offered to Serbia will be a first stage towards a further enlargement of the EU in the Balkan region. The paramount goal must be to prevent “terrible nationalism” to spread again. How could we have built a united Europe if the terrible hatred between France and Germany had not been overcome in order to co-operate?
 
Fayot recalled the position of the Russian federation’s delegation chairman who recently visited Luxembourg. Russia fears that even a controlled independence of Kosovo might give way to a Domino effect on the Balkans. The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee argues that this domino effect exists already. Montenegro has achieved its independence, Macedonia is on its way into the EU and even Albania envisages a European perspective. Serbia wishes to sign the stabilization agreement. It is very clear that the Domino effect has already started.
 
Laurent Mosar, the Christian democrats’ spokesman on foreign affairs, is well aware of Kosovo’s desire for more autonomy. But it seems strange to him that, on the one hand, new borders in Europe are being created within a few months from now, and, on the other hand, both Serbia and Kosovo are at pains to become members of a united Europe in a not too far-off future. Then the newly built border posts will have to be torn down again, which is preposterous.
 
Mosar believes that the newly-elected Prime Minister of Kosovo, Mr Thaçi, has learned that he can only achieve independence in cooperation with the European Union and that he should not insist too much on a very early date for the proclamation of independence in order to prevent ultranationalist Serbian voices from prevailing.
 
Charles Goerens, the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly special envoy to Serbia and foreign affairs spokesman for the liberal party, does not see it this way. The opposition speaker asks his fellow MPs to face reality. He says that the Kosovars will not give way one iota in their strife for independence. The apparent restraint is due to the ongoing presidential election in Serbia. No Serbian election candidate can afford to admit to a possible independence of Kosovo. Goerens does not need to speak as cautiously as the Foreign Minister bound to diplomatic constraints.
 
Goerens refers to Luxembourg’s own national history: “Luxembourg itself was a province before being conceded independence in 1839” (by the great powers). It has “no solid argument to refuse independence to another province that wishes to become independent as well If there is no alternative to the obvious facts, Luxembourg should not be the last country to recognize an independent Kosovo”[2]. Felix Braz, MP (‘green’ party) and foreign affairs spokesman, can only agree with Charles Goerens. He believes that the proclamation of independence is inevitable and a great majority of EU members will recognize this independence at once.
 
On 18th February 2008 Luxembourg Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Asselborn took part at the meeting of his EU counterparts in Brussels where one of the main subjects concerned the declaration of independence by Kosovo the previous day. After a meeting with Javier Solana Asselborn announced that Luxembourg would join the UK, France, and Germany in recognizing the newly independent Kosovo, despite the serious challenges brought forth by Serbia and Russia[3]. Luxembourg’s three neighbours did recognize the independence of Kosovo, although Belgium has its own problems with a separatist movement[4]. So the Luxembourg Christian-Democrat/Socialist coalition government decided to do the same on February 21st[5].
 
In a very exhaustive speech delivered to the Luxembourg Parliament, Jean Asselborn recalled all the political and legal arguments speaking in favour of an international recognition of Kosovo[6]. In the following parliamentary debate, the speakers of the opposition (Greens and Liberals) and the Socialist party supported the Foreign Minister’s position. Laurent Mosar, Foreign Policy spokesman of the CSV, the Christian-Democrats, provoked the Foreign Minister’s outcry. The liberal newspaper’s parliamentary correspondent commented: “If (Asselborn) had closed his eyes, he could have had the impression to listen to the speech of the representative of a left wing splinter party.”[7] Mosar denounced the official recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Luxembourg. He said he just could not believe that this new state could be a viable one. Mosar regretted that Europe and the USA preferred the principle of auto-determination to the principle of territorial integrity. Mosar cited the example of the Finnish Aaland islands which enjoy a special autonomy status. Serbia would have accepted a similar solution as a compromise. These facts should be well known before launching a new dynamic. Minister Asselborn was very puzzled and ‘not amused’ at all. He asked Mosar if he spoke in his own name or the name of his coalition partner, the Christian Democratic Party. Anyway, the CSV finally accepted to vote in favour of the Kosovo recognition, but “without conviction” (dixit Mosar)[8]. Interviewed on RTL, a radio channel in Luxembourgish, Prime Minister Juncker had to find a path between the Foreign Affairs Minister’s position and his own party’s Foreign Affairs speaker[9]. On the one hand, he accepted Mosar’s legal arguments speaking against the Kosovo independence, but on the other hand, he also had to recognize that the continuation of the status quo was no solution either. Juncker professed his solidarity with his Foreign Affairs Minister, “who attempted many times to build bridges between contradictory positions”[10]. But Juncker declared that the handling of this subject was in no way a success story of a European foreign policy. A common European foreign policy cannot be defined as a “do as you like“ way to act.


[1] Chambre des députés, Compte rendu des débats, Déclaration du Ministre des Affaires étrangères, 12.12.2007.

[2] Chambre des députés, Compte rendu des débats, Débat sur la Déclaration du Ministre des Affaires étrangères, 12.12.2007.

[3] «Asselborn says Luxembourg will recognize Kosovo», 352 Luxembourg news, 21.2.2008.

[4] «La Belgique va reconnaître le Kosovo», available at: www.Rtbf.be/info/international (last access: 18.2.2008).

[5] «Le Luxembourg a reconnu formellement le Kosvo», Letzebuerger Journal, 22.2.2008.

[6] «Discours .Intervention de Jean Asselborn au sujet de l’indépendance du Kosovo», Chambre des députés, 20.2.2008.

[7] «Kosovo-Erklärung mit Ecken und Kanten. Koaltions-Eklat im Kammerplenum – Laurent Mosar gibt sich als Querschläger», Letzebuerger Journal, 21.2.2008.

[8] «Kosovo provoca «fricçao» entre Asselborn e Mosar», Contacto, 27.2.2008. “Contacto” is the newspaper of the Portuguese speaking community in Luxembourg.

[9] «Jean-Claude Juncker au sujet de l’actualité politique», RTL, 23.2.2008.

[10] Ibid.