Anybody who’s interested in Kosovo has long since bookmarked this incredibly useful page. Scroll down a bit and you’ll see that it lists every country that has recognized Kosovo (current tally: 43) plus the official statements of almost every country that hasn’t.
That’s plenty of fun reading by itself, but it gets even more interesting when you compare it to another list: the members of the United Nations Security Council.
The UNSC has 15 members, five permanent and ten elected. The elected members are chosen for two-year terms, staggered so that five members leave every year.
Let’s take the 2008 members and look who recognizes Kosovo’s independence.
United States (yes)
Great Britain (yes)
Members for 2007-8
South Africa (no, and probably won’t)
Indonesia (no, and certainly won’t)
Panama (no, though they don’t seem to care much)
Members for 2008-9
Burkina Faso (yes, just recently)
Libya (no, because President Qaddafi says so)
Vietnam (definitely no)
Costa Rica (yes — was one of the first)
Croatia (oh yes)
So, the current Council is split almost perfectly — 8 in favor, 7 against. It’s also a pretty even split in terms of intensity; on both sides, there are some countries who feel strongly about the issue and some who don’t much care.
To get something out of the UNSC — like, for instance, a resolution recognizing Kosovar independence, either explicitly or by amending UNSC 1244 — requires a 2/3 majority: 10 votes. So, Kosovar independence is not going to be on the table this year. In fact, at the moment, the Council is bogged down considering whether to accept Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s recommendation that the UN get ready to reduce its mission there.
Which is not to say that nothing is happening. There’s been a subtle shift in the last month or two. Here’s what the SC-watchers at Columbia University have to say:
Both Serbian President Boris Tadic and Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu addressed the Council during the open debate. The Serbian representative attended under rule 37 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council (this provides for a member to participate in discussions where its interests are affected) and the Kosovo representative under rule 39 (this allows the Council to invite someone to provide it with information). Over the months, there has been greater Council acceptance procedurally of direct Kosovo participation. In June there was no opposition to a Kosovo representative participating in an open meeting, unlike in December 2007. At that time the US and Europeans had wanted the Kosovo representative to be able speak in an open debate but Russia was opposed.
So, they’re now allowing the Kosovar President to address the SC openly. That’s tiny, micro-incremental progress, but it is a step forward.
But that’s about all that’s likely to happen this year. The SC is pretty much deadlocked. So nothing will happen for the next six months.
And then? Well, then it gets interesting. We lose that middle group, 3 noes and 2 yeses. That leaves a 6-4 split, with the yeses needing 4 votes from the 5 new members to prevail.
Is this possible? Well, the elections are by region. For 2009, there will be one open slot from Africa, one from Asia, one from Latin America/the Caribbean, and two from “Western Europe and others”. So far, Austria, Iceland and Turkey — all recognizers — have announced their candidacies for the two Western European seats. (Yes, in the UNSC, Turkey is part of Western Europe. Don’t ask.) Other candidates may yet step forward — the elections aren’t until October — but since the majority of Western European countries support Kosovar independence, right now it looks like those seats will cast “yes” votes.
And the other three? Well, there’s a sub-rotation in Africa that is due to give the seat to an East African country this year. So we’re probably looking at Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, someone like that. Most of these countries have ethnic separatist movements of their own, and so are unlikely to favor Kosovar independence. (In this context, it’s worth noting that Serbian President Boris Tadic visited the annual summit of the African Union yesterday, thanked its members for their support on Kosovo, and asked that they continue to do so.)
The Latin American seat is, at the moment, wide open. There was a very bitter dispute in 2006 between Venezuela and Guatemala, which may become an issue again this time. Not many Latin American countries currently recognize Kosovar independence, but then most of them haven’t had much reason to think about it.
And the Asian seat? Well, the only country that has expressed an interest so far is… Iran. Which would be interesting for reasons that go well beyond Kosovo. (Iran is a “no”, BTW.) Iran got elected once before, back in the 1950s, but the Islamic Republic has never been a serious candidate before. There will surely be other candidates; possibilities include perennial candidate Japan (yes), India (no), Malaysia (no) and the Philippines (maybe).
So, next year’s UNSC is up for grabs on this issue. They’ll almost certainly have eight votes favoring Kosovar independence, will probably have nine, and might perhaps reach ten.
Of course, as we all remember from that one boring class in high school, at a certain level this doesn’t matter, because permanent members have a veto. The Russians can always crush any resolution that favors Kosovar independence. So Kosovo won’t take a seat in the UN for many years to come.
But at another level it matters a lot, because if that happens then it will drastically transform the terms of the debate. It’ll no longer be “the UN doesn’t recognize Kosovo”; it’ll be “the UN would recognize Kosovo, except for the Russian veto.”
So, Kosovo-watchers will be keeping one eye on the UN elections in October.
(Meanwhile, the number of countries recognizing Kosovo continues to creep slowly upwards. It might reach 50 by the end of this year. Is that a lot or a few? Well… that depends. Another post, perhaps.)