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Stabilization and Progress in the Western Balkans

Proceedings of the Symposium 2010, Basel, Switzerland September 17-19


Edited By Dusan Simko and Ueli Mäder

For more than a decade, the Balkans have been a centre of crisis – armed conflicts have brought death, expulsion, destruction and untold suffering to the people. The postwar efforts of the West have failed to bring lasting stability and real progress so far.
The Symposium at Basel University was an interdisciplinary event where complex issues were elucidated by historians, geographers, sociologists and political scientists. The event enabled East and West European scholars and their American counterparts to exchange their somewhat divergent views. The speakers covered a broad range of subjects: historical causes, aspects of postwar economic and social development as well as sociocultural consequences of the democratization process. Special attention was devoted to the situation of minorities, the refugee problem and the security situation in the fragile states of the West Balkans and also to the responsibility of the EU and USA for the general stagnation in the area.
The Symposium was intended to illustrate differing interpretations of the events of the past ten years and to encourage discussion between speakers and participants at the event.


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IVO SAMSON - International Law and Conflicts - 95


95 IVO SAMSON International Law and Conflicts Introduction For several years, especially since the war against the former Yugo- slavia, the issue of the binding character of international law has been discussed intensively in the international community. Politicians, political analysts, international lawyers and a number of experts in fields like political science, history, sociology, theology and eco- nomics have taken part in the discussion. The debates seem to have confirmed the old proverb that where there are two people one can find three opinions. Unfortunately, this split in expert opinion has been confirmed among international lawyers, which is both bad and good news. The bad news is that there no normative guidelines in international law to define what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The good news should be seen as the impossibility of a group of experts de- ciding about the people’s fate (including those of ethnic groups or nations) without taking into account the difference between law and right. Splits in the international community derive from various atti- tudes toward international disputes including, among others: • the ‘Kosovo war’ of 1999; • the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001; • the invasion of Iraq in 2003; • the invasion of Georgia in 2008; • the declaration of independence of South Ossetia and Abkazia in 2008;1 • the declaration of independence of Kosovo in 2008 and the split in the international community about whether to recognize Kosovo or not; 96 Ivo Samson • the decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2010 giving an...

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