THE BLOG

Vladimir Putin and Crimea

05/12/2014 10:55 am ET | Updated Jul 12, 2014
Sasha Mordovets via Getty Images

The Balkans create as always new, complex historical events that Europe can barely "digest." They are the inexhaustible source of historical lessons, changing history's course many times.

In my friends' circles, but also at my workplace, I am often asked about Crimea's current situation and Russia's actions. For many people these seem to be unpredictable but, if we study attentively the international history, as well as past and recent facts, they were as expected. In the lines hereunder, I will try to present and explain certain actions for a better understanding of the present situation.

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As a Romanian, I have lived close to the Balkan area and here I refer to Serbia, and especially Kosovo. This region has great implications in the region's extended stability, and I do not refer only to the Balkans, but also EU and N.A.T.O.

My Romanian experience, the fact that I lived for 10 years in a majority-minority area of Romania, Tg. Mureș, witnessing the authorities' long way to provide stability in the area following several interethnic conflicts (March 16-19, 1990 -- when violent clashes occurred between two ethnic groups: Romanians and Hungarians. Street riots grew to such an extent that armed forces' intervention -- with tanks and armored cars entering the city, was needed in order to bring the situation under control), all of this made me perfectly understand Kosovo's situation together with certain states' position of refusing to recognize Kosovo's independence and accept it as a state.

Kosovo region was confronted with the same kind of conflicts. Its stability depends on the national minority population's protection relationship. This region belongs to Serbia and has an Albanian majority population. This stability has to be in accordance with the generally accepted standards in this field: guarantee of the highest standards in regard to minorities' protection, use of the maternal language in administration and justice, their representation in the Parliament, etc. We must notice the fact that all these minorities' rights need to be achieved in conformity with the recognized standards in this field. No one can achieve stability, order and peace outside international law's norms.

The way I see it, what happened in Kosovo was wrong from the perspective of international law and of all its consequences taking place now in EU and N.A.T.O.'s extended neighborhood.
The real problem is that basic international law principles were breached by creating a state without any legal basis.

The golden rule is that national minorities can not exercise their right to self-determination externally, this right being granted only to nations. By minorities' rights we refer to "individual rights" and not "collective rights."

The international law does not recognize minorities as subjects. They do not have the right to self-determination, in other words, they do not have the right to secession, independence, nor the right of associating themselves with similar groups from other states.

For a better understanding, try to imagine that the U.S. Hispanic or Ukrainian minority would declare itself independent on a certain majority-minority territory (e.g. Brighton Beach, neighborhood predominantly populated by Russians ethnics).

UN's former rapporteur, Francesco Copotorti, defined in his book, Study on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, the concept of minority which does not

refer to minority groups as legitimate owners of the rights included in it, but rather accentuates the necessity to collectively exercise these rights. Therefore it is justified to conclude that a correct construction of this norm should be based on the idea of its double effect -- the protection of the group and its individual members.

Also the EU accepts the concept of individual (and not collective) minority rights as a common value through the Constitutional Treaty, being later adopted by the Lisbon Treaty. In conclusion, the basis on which Kosovo was constituted does not respect the values of the EU or those of the international law.

Based on the declarations made prior to the events in Crimea, Vladimir Putin stated that Ukraine has a state fragility and can easily be disintegrated because of its different cultures, more precisely its southern region, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as well as other provinces like Abkhazia, Transnistria, Georgia, by invoking Kosovo's precedent, thus, it becomes easy to understand what is currently happening with Crimea.

This region has an important historical significance due to its geo-strategic position, especially Sevastopol (the Battle of Sevastopol -- November 10, 1941-July 4, 1942 -- took place during the Crimean Campaign, which aimed to conquer the peninsula.) In this battle, German intentions were to interrupt the oil supply to Caucasian Soviets and take control of the Black Sea. Although the Soviet influence over the Western part of the peninsula was diminished, a large part of the German military forces was weakened because of the long battles they led, which greatly influenced the rhythm of the subsequent Eastern Campaign), the place where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is present.

Initially a Turkish territory, belonging to the Ottoman Empire, Crimea became a part of the Russian Empire after the 1853-1856 War, by the Treaty of Paris of 1856. This region mostly populated by Armenians was forcefully Russificated, the existing population being practically exterminated. After the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., it becomes the Autonomous Republic of Crimea within the newly set independent state of Ukraine. From this point of view, Russia expresses certain opinions regarding Russia's rights over Crimea.

EU and N.A.T.O.'s attention and concern should be directed now, more than ever, towards Romania.

Romania is a country that has a special relationship with both previously presented regions. Besides the fact that it is located in the vicinity of the Balkans, but also of the Eastern Neighborhood, including the region of the Black Sea, it stands as a geographical bridge between the Balkans and the Eastern Neighborhood. It is a border region between the East and NATO. By placing an anti-missile shield in Romania and Poland, the Russia's "red line" was crossed, fact that led, in great part, to the current situation in Crimea.

It would be good if the EU and N.AT.O. rethink the best ways to approach these threats and risks, to have a greater responsibility as well as an increased solidarity of EU and N.A.T.O. states, in order to protect the democratic community's common interests and values.

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