Rambouillet Agreement

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The Rambouillet Agreement is the name of a proposed peace agreement between then-Yugoslavia and a delegation representing the ethnic-Albanian majority population of Kosovo. It was drafted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and named for Chateau Rambouillet, where it was initially proposed. The significance of the agreement lies in the fact that Yugoslavia refused to accept it, which NATO used as justification to start the Kosovo War. Belgrade's rejection was based on the argument that the agreement contained provisions for Kosovo's autonomy that went further than the Serbian/Yugoslav government saw as reasonable.

The most controversial provision was the status envisioned for Kosovo, by which Kosovo would remain a de jure province of Serbia, but would become a de facto third republic. This provision spelled out a a greater degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the federal government for Kosovo than Serbia or Montenegro. Serbia viewed this as a secession of Kosovo from Serbia. Even more controversial was that while Serbia would retain no influence over its then-southern province of Kosovo, Kosovo would have been granted substantial influence over Serbia. For example, Kosovars would take part in Serbian elections by electing representatives (MPs) to the Serbian parliament, which would have no jurisdiction over Kosovo. Kosovars would have guaranteed seats in the Serbian Government and the Serbian Supreme Court, which would deal exclusively with the territory of Serbia without Kosovo. Kosovo would also have an independent judicial system including its own autonomous Constitutional Court, but it would also have guaranteed representatives in the Yugoslavian judiciary, which would have no jurisdiction over Kosovo. Furthermore, NATO would have free and unrestricted military access to the country. According to Appendix B:

NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.

After the war the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo led by Richard Goldstone investigated the Appendix issue and concluded that it had by accident been copied from other peacekeeping agreements such as those for Bosnia. However, the British politician, Lord Gilbert, said in an inquiry by a House committee "I think the terms put to Milošević at Rambouillet were absolutely intolerable; how could he possibly accept them? It was quite deliberate."[1]

The Serbian Parliament responded on 23 March 1999 to the agreement with a sharp criticism. Though it agreed that Kosovo should be given autonomy, it stated that it would prefer the incursion of the United Nations over that of NATO, accusing the "separatist-terrorist delegation of ethnic Albanians" of:

[avoiding] direct talks as it did not give up its separatist goals: to use autonomy as a means for establishing a 'state within a state'; to secure occupation of Serbia through the implementation of the political agreement; to create an ethnically pure Kosovo-Metohija under the pretext of protecting human rights and democracy; and to secure the secession of Kosovo-Metohija from Serbia with the help of their patrons and through an international protectorate and referendum.[2]

The Rambouillet Agreement was important in the debate about the Kosovo War. However, the entire text of the agreement was leaked onto the Internet about the time when the war started and many non-mainstream reporters and NGO activists were referencing the agreement in their commentaries on the war.

The Rambouillet Agreement was initially fully rejected by the Kosovar-Albanian side, whereas Belgrade had agreed to all of the political and non-military points. Belgrade requested NATO troops be replaced with UN troops for full acceptance. At the talks, the Agreement was repeatedly amended until the Kosovar-Albanian side was forced to sign, whereas Belgrade rejected it. It was amended to open the Kosovo status process and include annexes that were found unacceptable by most, which bordered FRY on the level of NATO occupation.[3]

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