A state does not come to exist simply by a magic declaration of international recognition; rather, recognition only comes once a state exists. If the International Court of Justice validates Kosovo's independence today, this quandary of major proportions will rest solely on the shoulders of the new nation. If Kosovo's succession is ruled illegal, then Serbia will have a major crisis to deal with, as the hypothetical reintegration of this separatist region would come with a price tag that Serbia would hardly be able to pay. In either case, before relinquishing its status as a semi-protectorate (of the UN and the EU), Kosovo will have to demonstrate that it is more than a struggling semi-state.

Whichever way the Court rules, it is highly unlikely that the international community's position will change. States that have formally recognized Kosovo are not going to back down in the face of this unique situation, seen more as a political problem rather than a legal one. Those who have refused to formally recognize Kosovo (including EU members Slovakia, Romania, Spain, Cyprus and Greece, as well as Russia and China) will continue to do so, with the argument that they cannot recognize an entity that does not meet the objective criteria of a state.

Reconstituting a truly multicultural Europe

It is most likely that the International Court of Justice, well aware of its purely consultative role, will formulate a neutral opinion that will placate both sides. The Court will affirm the current judicial impasse that was largely ignored at the time that Kosovo's declaration of independence was signed (17 February 2008), and whose consequences were wisely left to the political agenda of the Euro-Atlantic countries.

This agenda, which has now become largely irrelevant, considered the dismantlement of Yugoslavia and the Albanisation of the western Balkans as a guarantee of a unified order in the region, a means of reconstituting a truly multicultural Europe, not just a rubber-stamped solution taken from the treaty of Versailles.

A truly new point of departure?

The situation on the ground has also changed. Five EU member states have not recognized Kosovo and have no reason for doing so, which renders the admission of Kosovo into the EU an impossibility. At the same time, a regime dominated by corruption and organised crime has flourished in Kosovo, erasing distinctions between politics and business, destroying confidence in its leaders and intimidating society as a whole. Foreigners have for their part closed their eyes to the situation out of a preference for "stability". For Serbia, the Kosovar mythology, more than the principle of territorial integrity, has irrationally polarized attention to such a degree that any other solution is excluded.

In order to find a way out of this impasse, we need to consider holding discussions concerning the Western Balkans under the aegis of the EU and the permanent members of the UN Security Council, to specifically address the future rapports between the EU and the entitles created by the dismantlement of Yugoslavia. A return to the former status quo is not realistic, and preserving the current state of affairs is clearly unacceptable. We must therefore define a new and different model for a future status quo based on principles that take into account the transitional nature of this undertaking. The failure of the Ahtisaari plan (in 2007, Martti Ahtisaari, UN mediator for Kosovo, proposed the creation of a Kosovar state supervised by the international community) can still be transformed into a new opportunity for success, but not without a truly new point of departure.