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Book Review: Re-Envisioning Sovereignty: The End of Westphalia?

In this edi­tion of our ongo­ing series of book reviews, Paul Mignano presents a crit­i­cal but ulti­mate­ly favor­able take on Re-Envi­sion­ing Sov­er­eign­ty: The End of West­phalia?a col­lec­tion of inter­dis­ci­pli­nary essays dis­cussing the con­cept of sov­er­eign­ty.


By Paul Mignano


Re-envisioning SovereigntyFor a con­cept that is so cen­tral to inter­na­tion­al rela­tions and pub­lic inter­na­tion­al law, the mean­ing of “sov­er­eign­ty” is sur­pris­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to artic­u­late. At its essence, West­phalian sov­er­eign­ty is about the abil­i­ty of a state to engage in polit­i­cal self-deter­mi­na­tion, to be con­sid­ered a legal equal of oth­er states, and to ensure non-inter­fer­ence of out­side states in its own inter­nal affairs.

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The Effects of the ICJ Decision on Kosovo (if any) on the “Frozen Conflicts” of the Former Soviet Union

by Gra­ham Dumas (J.D. Can­di­date 2011)

Note: This is a cross-post from my Rus­sia-spe­cif­ic blog, Onion Domes and Oli­garchs.

That yesterday’s advi­so­ry opin­ion by the Inter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice, Accor­dance with Inter­na­tion­al Law of the Uni­lat­er­al Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence in Respect of Koso­vo, was decid­ed on extreme­ly nar­row grounds has already been not­ed else­where in the blo­gos­phere. Fur­ther, its sta­tus as an advi­so­ry opin­ion of course means that it is non-bind­ing (though wide­ly respect­ed) and per­tains only to the ques­tion asked of the Court by the U.N. Gen­er­al Assem­bly.

Nev­er­the­less, it may be inter­est­ing to apply to the con­text of the frozen con­flicts in the for­mer Sovi­et Union some of the prin­ci­ples dis­cussed in and gen­er­at­ed by the Court’s Koso­vo opin­ion. After all, polit­i­cal lead­ers in Moscow have fre­quent­ly (and threat­en­ing­ly) cit­ed Koso­vo as a prece­dent for the inde­pen­dence of Abk­hazia and South Osse­tia, despite the obvi­ous and numer­ous dif­fer­ences between these cas­es. A brief bit of analy­sis after the jump.

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ICJ Rules on Kosovo Independence

The Inter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice today held that inter­na­tion­al law did not pro­hib­it Kosovo’s dec­la­ra­tion of inde­pen­dence, while side­step­ping the larg­er issue of Kosovo’s state­hood.  All of the opin­ions can be found here, but we are hap­py to host the opin­ion of the court on this JILP Forum, since the ICJ’s site has been dif­fi­cult to access as of late.

In a way, as Chris Bor­gen notes at Opinio Juris, this result should not come as a sur­prise, since inter­na­tion­al law gen­er­al­ly does not seem to have much to say about dec­la­ra­tions of inde­pen­dence.  The Court side­steps the trick­i­er prob­lem of the lex spe­cialis cre­at­ed by S.C. Res. 1244 (and the sub­se­quent Con­sti­tu­tion­al Frame­work adopt­ed by UNMIK) by hold­ing that the dec­la­ra­tion did not con­sti­tute an act of one of the Pro­vi­sion­al Insti­tu­tions of Self-Gov­ern­ment.  This lays the ground­work for the Court to con­clude that the dec­la­ra­tion essen­tial­ly took place out­side the scope of S.C. Res. 1244 and the frame­work.  Pre­lim­i­nary thoughts after the jump.

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