International law allows unilateral indy

News / 18.4.16

Ms. Stanič, the keynote speaker at the Coppieters Dinner-Debate, which took place on Friday 1 April 2016 addressed secession and state succession from an international law perspective; shared her experiences and observations about what lessons can be drawn from newly independent states, such as her home state of Slovenia; and provided recommendations about how to prepare for independence and what to expect in future negotiations.

During an interview with the Centre Maurits Coppieters, she highlighted the difference between the existence and the functioning of a state and its recognition under the international law. According to Ms to Stanič, “the existence of a state is a question of fact not a question of law, which means that the idea of recognition of a state is quite separate from the idea of its existence”.

Ms. Stanič indicated that there exist numerous states perfectly able to manage and organize a territory and to represent their own populations, such as Nagorno-Karabakh or Palestine, although they have not acquired any official recognition nor membership at the United Nations organization. Although, international recognition and membership in international organizations may play an important role, they do not represent fundamental requirements for “a group of people to be regarded as a state” she argued.

Ms. Stanič stressed the fact that international law does not clearly stipulate or foresee criteria for the creation of a new state, since “there is nothing in international law that prohibits unilateral declaration of sovereignty […] or independence for a people,” she added.

She further explained that “the principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity are relevant for the relations between states”.  As a consequence, these values are not in contrast with the right of self-determination or with the entitlement to declare independence as clarified by the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo advisory opinion.

Ana Stanič is the founder of E&A Law Limited, an innovative law firm based in London which advises states, companies and financial institutions on issues of international and EU law. She is also a lecturer of international arbitration law at the University of Dundee in Scotland. Prior to moving to London, Ana Stanič worked for the Slovenian Ministry of Economic Relations and the Slovenian Central Bank. Her research at Cambridge University on international law on financial state succession assisted Slovenia and Croatia during the negotiations concerning the Yugoslav state succession.