The Letter to The Honourable Kevin Rudd MP, Prime Minister of Australia

Honourable Prime Minister:

We write to you on behalf of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the substantial, patriotic Serbian community in Australia to urge you and the Australian government, in the strongest possible terms, to reverse its decision of 19 February 2008 to extend diplomatic recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral secession from the Republic of Serbia.

Kosovo and Metohija is Serbia’s spiritual Jerusalem and the very cradle of the Serbian nation. Kosovo is and remains an integral province within the sovereign Republic of Serbia in accordance with The Charter of The United Nations, Security Council Resolution 1244, as well as all relevant international conventions on human rights, the rights of peoples and on the inviolability of internationally recognized borders. Therefore, the recognition of Kosovo as an independent entity violates every established norm of International Law concerned with state creation.

First, customary International Law, for very good reasons, holds that secession from a recognised state can only be granted if it has the consent of the host state, in this case Serbia. As the former Secretary-General of the United Nations Boutros Boutros-Ghali observed in 1992: “[I]f every ethnic, religious or linguistic group claimed statehood, there would be no limit to fragmentation, and peace, security and economic well-being for all would become ever more difficult to achieve”. (Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace, Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-keeping, United Nations, New York, 1992, para. 17.) Second, the putative state of Kosovo fails to meet the essential criteria of statehood set out in the Montevideo Convention of 1933. In particular, Kosovo’s present situation of effectively being an international protectorate renders it incapable of satisfying the requirement that a state should be possessed of a government and capacity to enter relations with other states. Kosovo simply does not meet the threshold of independence required by International Law. Third, recognition of Kosovo violates the European Union’s Guidelines on Recognition in relation to states emerging from the former USSR and Yugoslavia issued in 1991. In particular, prospective states had to establish that they respected and guaranteed various international law norms relating to human rights and the rights of ethnic and national minorities. The situation of the remaining Serbian population in Kosovo, which is segregated behind barbed wire and protected only by the presence of international forces on the ground, is a horrific demonstration of the violation of these requirements in Kosovo.

Prime Minister, not quite three months ago, the Australian people elected you and your government with a mandate to provide new leadership for this country. In terms of Australia’s foreign policy, it was clear that this mandate meant that Australia would exercise its own independent policy and no longer be part of any ‘coalition of the willing’. Recognition of Kosovo betrays this trust placed in you and your government by the Australian people. That Australia’s traditional allies, such as the United States and Great Britain, have sought fit to extend recognition to Kosovo, is not reason enough for Australia to automatically fall into line. Instead, it is in Australia’s interest to follow the lead of its closest regional ally, New Zealand, and not recognise a state in circumstances where, to do so, would be to ignore fundamental norms of International Law.

As the war in Iraq has led to massive instability in the region and exacerbated the growth of terrorism, in like manner the precipitate recognition of Kosovo will lead to the same consequences in the Balkans. Australia should take note of the concerns and interests of states in the region, such as Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia that are most likely to suffer from the regional instability that will inevitably follow recognition, and that have, therefore determined not to recognise Kosovo.

For all of these reasons Prime Minister, we urge you and your government to revoke the decision to extend recognition to Kosovo, and further, to use Australia’s standing as a good international citizen that respects the Rule of Law to impress upon all interested parties that the only way to resolve the status of Kosovo is through equitable, constructive dialogue and peaceful negotiations.

Yours sincerely,

+IRINEJ Bishop of Australia and New Zealand The Serbian Orthodox Church