Key Kosovo ruling grips Europe's press

Girls holding Kosovo flags - file pic
Image caption Kosovo's statehood remains unfinished business as other countries worry about secession

Many European analysts believe the UN judges' ruling on Kosovo's 2008 independence declaration will pave the way for more countries to recognise the territory, despite Serb opposition.

Kosovo is a sensitive issue for other European countries with large ethnic minorities and separatist movements.

Here is a selection of press comments following Thursday's International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that the declaration did not breach international law.

Editorial in Kosovo daily Kosova Sot

This is the best news for Kosovo and comes during a delicate political situation and it will have a strong effect in the months to come. The Serbian offensive to send the declaration of independence to The Hague court has boomeranged. This strong ruling has opened the way for Kosovo to progress in the international arena.

Report in Kosovo daily Koha Ditore

The clenched face of Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic at the moment when the presiding judge read the "magic" words was the best illustration that Serbia had lost a battle which it started, while Kosovo received a major push to increase the number of states that recognise it, a bigger push than even the most optimistic could have predicted.

Tamar Spaic in Serbian daily Blic

The opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague confirmed the views of all those who were warning that the court is not an independent institution, regardless of how respectable it is.

Vanja Strbac in Bosnian Serb daily Glas Srpske

The situation would be totally different if the Bosnian Serb Republic [Republika Srpska] were to declare that it was seceding from Bosnia ... it lacks the funds for lobbying, unlike the [Kosovo] Albanian mafia.

Report in Croatian daily Vjesnik

This decision should open the UN door for Pristina and it is also expected that more countries will now recognise Kosovo… The ruling is also important for the long-term stability of the region.

Report in Slovene daily Delo

Sooner or later Belgrade will have to accept that Kosovo's independence has gained full international legality… The decision cannot be changed unless something else - so often seen in the Balkans region - is used: violence.

Commentator Kakha Gogolashvili in Georgian daily Rezonansi

Kosovo's independence has no links whatsoever to the case of [Georgian breakaway regions] Abkhazia and Tskhinvali [South Ossetia]. The Kosovo precedent - if this can be called a precedent at all - cannot apply to these regions. We know that Serbs committed genocide there, and the international community led Kosovo to independence because the co-existence of the Serbs and Kosovars was impossible. It is the other way round in Georgia, as the majority of the [ethnic Georgian] population of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali was evicted from there. Therefore, it is impossible to justify their independence.

Petr Iskenderov in Russian daily Vremya Novostey

A dangerous international legal precedent has been created in the issue of settling numerous ethnic conflicts around the world… Although formally the ruling is non-binding, the arguments used to justify the verdict may well be applied to other hotspots... Europeans will have to draw their own conclusions, as the current independent Kosovo cannot be regarded as a factor of stability in the region.

Gennadiy Sysoyev in Russian daily Kommersant

When the West starts reproaching Moscow for "recognising the separatists in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali" again, Moscow will now be able to point to yesterday's decision by the ICJ.

Fedor Lukyanov in Russian daily Vedomosti

The ruling is also beneficial for Serbia, which will now be able to go ahead with its integration into the EU, as the burden of the Kosovo factor has now been lifted.

Pierre Rousselin in French daily Le Figaro

Let's hope that this legal epilogue does not awaken old demons and that energies can be focused on the real questions of the day: the vital fight against corruption and organised crime in Pristina and the rapprochement with the European Union in Belgrade.

Editorial in Spanish daily El Pais

The ruling represents a huge setback for Serbia, which has fought tenaciously to retain the cradle of its civilisation, where 120,000 Serbs continue to live among almost two million Albanians. A crisis in its precarious coalition government cannot be ruled out. But the reformist government is unlikely to take wide-ranging reprisals against Kosovo.

Ricard Gonzalez in Spanish daily El Mundo

The reality is that the USA's positioning on Kosovo is due to solely geopolitical considerations and not legal ones, even if it sells them to the whole world as such. Wherever it suits Washington's interests, it recognises the secession of stateless nations.

Frank Herold in German daily Berliner Zeitung

The court has shifted the traditional balance. The territorial integrity of states is no longer given priority in all cases. In some circumstances, greater weight must be given to the right of peoples to self-determination.

Michael Martens in German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The defeat in The Hague should lead Belgrade to rethink its destructive Kosovo policy. Nobody demands that Serbia must be one of the countries that recognises Kosovo, but it is time to adopt a more pragmatic course.

(This press roundup was compiled by BBC Monitoring.)

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