State Creation and the International Recognition of New States. The Examples of Palestine, Kosovo and Timor-Leste

Master's Thesis, 2016

101 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. Theoretical framework and literature review
2.1 Introduction
2.2 International recognition of states
2.2.1 The declaratory theory of recognition
2.2.2 The constitutive theory of recognition
2.2.3 A middle ground theory on recognition
2.3 Realism
2.3.1 Classical realism
2.3.2 Structural realism (Neorealism)
2.3.3 Classical Realism vs. Structural Realism
2.3.4 A (neo)realist theory of state action in foreign policy
2.4 The frame for analysis
2.5 Conclusion

3. Methodology
3.1 Possibility of choices
3.2 The chosen research design
3.3 Detailed report on methodology

4. Palestine, Kosovo and Timor-Leste – background on state creation and current situation regarding recognition
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Palestine
4.3 Kosovo
4.4 Timor-Leste
4.5 Conclusion

5. Research results and discussion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Palestine’s non-recognizers and their reasons
5.2.1 ‘Non-recognizers’ that voted ‘pro’ Palestine
5.2.2 ‘Non-recognizers’ that abstained in the voting for Palestine
5.2.3 ‘Non-recognizers’ that voted against Palestine
5.3 Kosovo’s non-recognizers and their reasons
5.3.1 ‘Non-recognizers’ that voted ‘pro’ Kosovo in UNESCO
5.3.2 ‘Non-recognizers’ that abstained for Kosovo in UNESCO
5.3.3 ‘Non-recognizers’ that voted against Kosovo in UNESCO
5.3.4 ‘Non-recognizers’ that did not vote at all for Kosovo in UNESCO
5.4 Evaluation of hypotheses and discussion of the results
5.4.1 Evaluation of the hypotheses
5.4.2 Discussion and interpretation of the results
5.5 Conclusion

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

This master thesis elaborates the issue of new states and their struggle for gaining general international recognition. It fits in the field of International Relations since it deals with the issue of possible new members in the international society of states, which can have an impact on global issues and threats that are of common relevance.

Some states that have been created since the end of the 1980s have achieved to gain general recognition like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eritrea, Moldova, and Timor-Leste. Some other states, also created (or separated from a parent state) have not achieved to gain general recognition. Such states are Palestine, Kosovo, Abkhazia, and Somaliland.1

Three cases are the focus of this master thesis: Palestine2, Kosovo3 and Timor-Leste.4 As mentioned above, Timor-Leste has achieved general recognition and the membership in the UN, while Kosovo and Palestine, despite having more than 100 recognitions (out of 193) from UN member states (136 Palestine and 108 Kosovo) have not achieved yet to become members of the United Nations Organization (UN), even though Palestine is a ‘non-member observer state’ since 2012. I have been aware that Palestine and Kosovo, in general, are not analog cases due to their great differences regarding the state creation. However, since these both are the countries with more recognitions than any other state (except UN member states), and both seek to gain general recognition and membership to the UN, in the context of this thesis they are comparable.

This research aims to find out the reasons why Palestine and Kosovo could not get general international recognition and become members of the UN and also to assess the plausibility of two theories regarding their explanations for states’ decisions toward the recognition of new states (Palestine and Kosovo in our case). The theories that will be used in this thesis are the recognition theories (declaratory and constitutive) and the realist theory of international relations (a combination of classical realism and structural realism/neorealism).

Palestine, Kosovo and also Timor-Leste have been subject to a variety of studies since each of them has its characteristics and distinguishes an interesting study subject for the political scientists in particular and also for the researchers in other fields.

Since 1999 Kosovo and Timor-Leste have been the focus of plenty of researches, investigating the cases from different perspectives and with different approaches. Lise Morje Howard in her work Kosovo and Timor-Leste: Neotrusteeship, Neighbors, and the United Nations analyzes the international missions in Kosovo and Timor-Leste and concludes that the mission in Timor-Leste was more effective than the one in Kosovo. She points out that UNTAET in Timor-Leste has cost less than UNMIK in Kosovo, and has been more effective since it has had a unified leadership, differently from the mission in Kosovo whose leadership was divided between United Nations, the European Union, and other international organizations. She suggests that the mission in Timor-Leste should be taken as a model for future United Nations interventions.5

Zohar Nevo and Tamar Megiddo in their work Lessons from Kosovo: The Law of Statehood and Palestinian Unilateral Independence analyze the case of Kosovo and the consequences of a possible general recognition of Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state and its implications for Palestine. They argue that Kosovo has not fully met the Montevideo criteria of statehood, also known as classical criteria of statehood, but however, they point out that if Kosovo becomes a recognized country it may be used as a precedent for other separatist movements around the world.6

Pal Kolsto in his research The Sustainability and Future of Unrecognized Quasi-State even though does not mention Kosovo as a quasi-state, because his research was published prior to the declaration of the Kosovo’s independence, he characterizes states that have had the status of not generally recognized states for more than two years as quasi-states, and in this regard now also Kosovo and Palestine can be considered as quasi-states, if we use Kolsto’s frame. However, he predicts that the future of these states, as international community wants, should be to rejoin their parent states or to get the status as autonomous entities within a federative country.7

There have been also other studies that have emphasized the issue of Kosovo, Palestine and Timor-Leste, but most of them have analyzed the interventions of international community in all countries, the structures and competences of the missions, their effectiveness in rebuilding the state structures and stable institutions, negotiations between parties in conflict and war crimes committed by respective parent states, but I haven’t had the chance to read a research which focuses exclusively on the international recognition of these new states. The new perspective that I hope to study through this master thesis is concentrating exclusively on the issue of recognition of the new states and the circumstances that facilitate this process and make it possible for new states to become members of the United Nations Organization.

I consider that there is a gap in the knowledge regarding how can new states gain international recognition or why they fail to get general international recognition. I am convinced that this is an interesting topic to be researched because there are ongoing separatist movements in the world that pretend to become independent states, but which will struggle with the problem of recognition of sovereignty by other states.

The main purposes of this study are: checking the plausibility of the recognition theories and the (neo)realist theory of IR on explaining Palestine’s and Kosovo’s lack of general international recognition; identifying some general patterns and relationships regarding why independent states decide to recognize or not recognize a new entity as a state; and making a prediction when and under which conditions can Palestine and Kosovo become members of the United Nations.

The main research question that I intend to answer in this master thesis is: Why Kosovo and Palestine remain as not generally recognized countries?

Some possible answers to this question (hypotheses), mainly based on the discussed theories’ predictions are as follows: existing states do not recognize new states (in this case Palestine and Kosovo) until a sustainable agreement that ensures peace between parties involved in the conflict is reached; states that share the same interests or have friendly relations with an existing state that has disputes with an emerging state tend to act on a way that serves their partner's interest. In this case, friendly states of Israel do not recognize Palestine and the friendly states of Serbia do not recognize Kosovo; existing states hesitate to recognize new states due to their domestic situation. The existing states that have significant domestic separatist movements recognize neither Palestine nor Kosovo in order not to set a precedent that could be used by their separatist movements to gain independence; some existing states, despite their positive opinions for the causes of some new states, do not recognize them until they agree on a common position with the other members of an international organization that they belong to, like the European Union; and existing states do not recognize a new state when they consider that the new entity proclaiming to be a new state does not meet the classical statehood requirements/Montevideo criteria.

The independent variable of this thesis is ‘the relation between the new state and its parent state.’

The depended variable is international recognition of new state/membership of the new state in the United Nations Organization.’

The research design that I have chosen for this master thesis is the ‘least-similar cases’ design. The cases that this research covers are Palestine, Kosovo and East Timor. The subjects that will provide the information for the research are all the countries that have not recognized Palestine and the countries that have not recognized Kosovo. For some countries that have not recognized Kosovo it proved to be impossible to find the information for the reasons why they do not recognize its independence. These countries will be mentioned in the fifth chapter, where I discuss all countries’ official statements regarding Palestine and Kosovo’s recognition. Internet was used as the main tool to find this information, mainly through access to the government’s official webpages and sometimes through media reports, when the governments’ webpages were inaccessible or the information was not found there.

One limitation of this research is that the statements of 21 countries that do not recognize Kosovo (out of 83) could not be analyzed due to the impossibility to access such information or these countries have not made any official statement regarding Kosovo’s recognition.

There are a few terms used in this thesis that I want to define in order to avoid any possible ambiguity for the reader: ‘parent state’ – in this thesis is considered the state that used to exercise control (or still does) over the territory of the new state (Israel over Palestine, Serbia over Kosovo and Indonesia over Timor-Leste); ‘(neo)realism’ – is used in this form to include both the classical realism and the structural realism; and ‘general international recognition’ is used as a synonym of having enough recognitions to gain membership in the United Nations Organization.

In conclusion, this chapter offered a broad overview regarding what this thesis is about and tried to give reasons why this topic is worthy being researched.

The second chapter of this thesis brings the discussion of the main theories used in this thesis (the recognition theories and the realist theory of IR). It also defines the recognition, brings examples from the past and shows the predictions of the recognition theories regarding when should a country be recognized and what criteria should it meet before getting recognition. Classical and structural realism follow the discussion and a (neo)realist way of state action in foreign policy is developed based on these theories.

The third chapter offers detailed information about the chosen research design and the methods of collecting data. In addition, it tells about the alternative research designs that could be used for this research.

The fourth chapter studies in detail the background on the state creation and the current situation regarding recognition for all three case studies (Palestine, Kosovo and Timor-Leste). It offers inputs regarding the history of their conflicts and the causes for the recent developments. A short analysis of the fulfillment of classical statehood criteria (territory, population, government and the ability to enter into relations with other states) for Palestine and Kosovo is also included. This chapter is supposed to fulfill the requirement of ‘process tracing’ that my chosen research design requires, and is supposed to find out if there are other truths different from the ones discovered by the findings of the research.

The fifth chapter presents the findings of the research and a discussion of these findings, including an evaluation of the hypotheses. The sixth and final chapter concludes this master thesis.

2. Theoretical framework and literature review

2.1 Introduction

International recognition of new states or more specifically the lack of general international recognition of Palestine and Kosovo is the main focus of this master thesis. Since these two states are the ones being the most recognized states in the group of not generally recognized states, my concern is why Palestine and Kosovo remain as unrecognized states, meaning not being full members of the United Nations Organization (UN), since that is a fact that puts away all questions regarding statehood for a new state. The aim of this thesis is to find out what has driven the existing states’ decisions not to extend recognition to these two states. In this chapter, I bring the theories toward state recognition, the criteria of statehood and the situation when the existing states have a ‘duty’ to recognize a new entity as a state through the declaratory and constitutive theories of recognition. I will also bring a ‘third’ theory, which conciliates both of them on a middle ground.

My assumptions are that the decisions of states not to recognize either Palestine or Kosovo are driven by different political motives, and consequently they can be best described by the realist theory of international relations, more precisely by a combination of classical realism and neorealism (structural realism). After the discussion of recognition theories, I discuss these two sub-theories of realism and the changes between them, which make it possible to build a frame for analyzing the reasons of the existing states not to recognize Palestine and Kosovo. A (neo)realist8 way of state action in foreign policy follows the discussion and in the last section before the conclusion, the frame for analysis is described.

2.2 International recognition of states

Independent and sovereign states are conceptualized to create an international society of states since they accept and acknowledge some common rules and values and also recognize each other. For a new state, in this regard, recognition from other independent states is important due to the need for cooperation and a ‘safe’ position in the international arena, and also for the establishment of diplomatic relations with other states.9

When an entity, within a state, has secessionist intentions, it is a great concern for both parties, for the entity itself and also for the parent state from which the secessionist entity is trying to gain independence. The reason for the parent state to be concerned is very clear, because if the secessionist entity succeeds, the parent state’s survival as a unified actor in international politics comes at a risk, since it will lose control over a part of the territory and a part of the population, too.10

As Alexander Berlin observes, in order to become full-fledged states, the entities that secede from another state must get recognition from other states for one of these two reasons: “Either because recognition is an essential precondition for statehood or, more practically, because it is only with recognition that new states actually realize the benefits of statehood.”11 As a consequence, recognition remains an extremely important issue for the secessionist entities, and as Berlin brings the definition by Crawford, “Historically, international recognition has been the major foreign policy goal of any secessionist movement.”12 The main goal of new states in the aspect of securing the ‘state status’ in the international system is gaining membership in the United Nations Organization (UN). In the case of admission to the UN, the new state joins the globally organized community of states.13 Hillgruber argues that once “a state is admitted to the United Nations, its statehood cannot be called into question with the effect of contesting the validity of mutual rights and obligations arising from co-membership.”14 Following his argument, the admission of new members in the international community happens through an act of collective or individual recognition by existing states, which base their decisions on their individual evaluations, whether or not the new entity should be part of the international community.15

It is reasonable to define recognition before going further in describing the theories that deal with this issue and the determinants of the states’ decisions to extend recognition or not to a new entity proclaiming to be a state. In Berlin’s words “recognition of an entity as a state signifies that the recognizing state accepts that the recognized entity is a state and that the recognizing state will extend to the newly recognized state all of the benefits that come with statehood and formal relations.”16

Unrecognized states face different difficulties due to their lack of recognition, mostly in carrying out diplomatic relations with other existing recognized states and the participation in international organizations and international treaties as well.

Regarding the recognition of new states, which is the main topic and the focus of this thesis, as one of the most discussed issues in the international relations, there are two opposing theories, the constitutive theory and the declaratory theory of recognition. Oppenheim stands that “A state is, and becomes, an international person through recognition only and exclusively”17 and this statement sets the constitutive theory of recognition. Triepel, Le Normand, Liszt, Lawrence, Wheaton, Anzilotti, Kelsen, Redslob, Bluntschli, and Lauterpacht also support this theory.18

The opponent theory, known as the declaratory theory of recognition, which is stated by Hall stands that “States being the persons governed by international law, communities are subjected to law … from the moment, and from the moment only, at which they acquire the marks of a state.”19

As Fabry puts forward, the practice of state recognition has a history of two centuries and has started being practiced as a response to the idea of self-determination of peoples. However, during this period (until nowadays) its understanding has changed significantly.20 The idea of self-determination, during this period, has had two versions that have supported the practice of recognition. First, the negative idea of self-determination, which was dominant for more than a century until 1945, that state recognition implied the acknowledgment of a situation where a de facto statehood was achieved by people desiring and claiming independence, usually from another previous sovereign government.21 This view is a similar version to the declaratory theory of recognition, which we will discuss later. This idea supports the argument that effectiveness is the determinant if a state should be recognized or not.

Second, the positive idea of self-determination, which occurred after the World War II, added an entirely different meaning and effect to the state recognition. Instead of considering the effectiveness or the de facto achievements, the positive idea of self-determination considered state recognition as an acknowledgment of an entitlement to independence in international law.22 The positive idea regards state recognition in the same way that the constitutive theory of recognition does. This idea saw a significant development in the course of the 1950s and excluded colonial rule and ‘non-sovereign depended status’ as possible arrangements in the international society.23

For the first time, in 1960, the United Nations General Assembly, in its Resolution 1514, defined specific peoples that should be allowed to have state sovereignty as “the populations who resided within the inherited boundaries of non-self-governing and trust territories.”24 However, it did not define whom the “peoples” were, or what conditions should they fulfill to be considered in the category for state sovereignty entitlement. After 1960, the candidates having the legitimacy for recognition were restricted in three groups. First, non-self-governing and trust territories that were blocked to their right for positive self-determination or who could not achieve it yet. Second, the constituent units of dissolved states, whose separation was agreed by a consensus between the involved parties, such as the United Arab Republic or the Mali Federation. Third, the seceding entities that received permission to do so from their parent states, like Singapore.25

The following section discusses the two most known, opposing theories regarding the effect and the criteria for state recognition. These are the declaratory and the constitutive theory of recognition.

2.2.1 The declaratory theory of recognition

As it was shortly mentioned above, the declaratory theory of recognition belongs with the negative idea of self-determination and defines statehood as a fact, based on the effectiveness, independently of recognition. So from the perspective of declaratory theory, “the recognition of a state indicates that the entity concerned possesses the characteristics of sovereign statehood, and hence exists as such, rather than helps to bring it into existence.”26

One of the most known scholars in the field of state recognition, James Crawford, in his book The Creation of States in International Law discusses both theories on state recognition and also the states’ practice towards this issue. According to him, the statement that the creation of a new state is a matter of fact and not of law, and, therefore, recognition is more of a political act than a legal one, was supported by a great spectrum of the legal opinion, too.27 As he puts forward, according to the declaratory theory, when a new state occurs, as a matter of fact, the law should take account of the new situation, and, therefore, the statehood is a legal status, independently of recognition.28 The same applies in the cases when a state does not exist anymore, if the law still treats it as an existing state, then it might be considered that the law is not responding properly to the existing reality.29 Declaratory theory puts the effectiveness instead of legitimacy as a criterion for state recognition.

Mikulas Fabry in his book Recognizing States – International Society and the Establishment of New States since 1776, among other things, also analyzes the declaratory theory, which claims that once a political community fulfills some substantial criteria, mostly referred as the classical or Montevideo criteria, it becomes a state independently of its recognition, or non-recognition, by other states.30 As he argues, recognition does not affect statehood or international obligations and rights of a state, but it is a special formal action: a condition for establishing diplomatic ties.31

The Montevideo criteria are taken to be ‘the state-defining criteria’, which were formulated in the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States. It was held on December 26th, 1933 and according to its Art. 1, “the state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) a government; and d) the capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”32 Some authors suggest that all the secessionist entities that meet those criteria should be granted recognition.33 What is important regarding these criteria is that even though they are not legally binding for states, since the Montevideo Convention was signed by nineteen states but ratified only by five,34 many states have agreed to them. As one of the examples is the Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States that defines the state as “an entity that has a defined territory and a permanent population, under the control of its own government, and that engages in, or has the capacity to engage in, formal relations with other such entities.”35 The Restatement, according to Berlin, gives credit to the Montevideo Convention for the origin of these requirements and also points out that these requirements are generally accepted in international law.36

As Fabry observes, these criteria of the modern statehood are rather ‘taken as given’ than problematized by different schools of thought, like classical realism, classical liberalism, neoliberalism, or historical sociology. As he argues, for the most eminent names regarding the foundation of the modern state, as Montesquieu, Saint-Pierre, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Machiavelli, Bodin, Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, Bentham, Hegel, Austin, Weber, Morgenthau, Carr, Aron, Tilly, or Waltz, states are self-constituted and self contained-bodies.37 States are assumed to exist because they have been able to build a functioning government and domestic order. As it can clearly be seen, these authors also represent the idea of the declaratory theory of recognition. When it comes to new states, there are no differences, since they come into being after having established structures of authority supported by a coercive apparatus of power, which should be able to manage internal and external challenges to the state authority.38 Some other authors have added other criteria that should be met before a secessionist entity is recognized as a state, which are mainly related to some international ideological norms like “the secessionist entities should be recognized as states if they meet the requirements of statehood and have democratic institutions, or promote self-determination, or do not have illegal origins, or meet some other criterion.”39

The European Community set another significant precedent for the practice of the recognition of new states in 1991 in its Declaration on the Guidelines on Recognition of new States in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It was somehow implied that recognition does not have any effect on statehood, but however, in order to be considered for the recognition by the European Community, the new states should meet a new set of criteria that were not used before.40 These criteria stated that the new states would qualify for recognition if they “have constituted themselves on a democratic basis, have accepted the appropriate international obligations and have committed themselves in good faith to a peaceful process and to negotiations.”41

The last two decades, as also Fabry points out, have witnessed the requirements of separatist movements for the creation of the new states all around the world, some of which have turned into violent conflicts with international dimensions. Some claims of independence, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Eritrea, Moldova, Timor-Leste, and Georgia have succeeded to achieve general recognition, while some others, such as Palestine, Kosovo, Abkhazia, Tamil Elam, Krajina, Bougainville and Somaliland have not.42

The question, raised also by Fabry, is what were the criteria that evaluated if states that succeeded to gain general recognition fulfilled the criteria for statehood, and others did not? It should be mentioned that there is no official authority to evaluate the fulfillment of the statehood criteria, which would lead to recognition by existing independent and sovereign states, but it is always within each state’s discretion to individually evaluate and decide for recognition or non-recognition of the new entity proclaiming to be a state.

While the declaratory theory has been the dominant idea of recognition in that time, as Fabry argues, how could countries that didn’t meet the postulated criteria in the Montevideo Convention achieve recognition, he was talking here about Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, or Georgia.43 However, as Berlin observes, the Montevideo criteria, despite being the most mentioned criteria by intellectuals and politicians, are not required by the international law as firmly as their supporters suggest.44 According to him, the practice has proven that “numerous entities are or have been regarded as states by the international community without meeting the Montevideo requirements.”45 As examples brought to support this argument, Berlin mentions the minimal populations of states like Andorra, Liechtenstein, Nauru and some others that are still considered states. Regarding the requirement of the defined territory, he mentions states like Yemen, Albania, Congo, Israel, Kuwait and Mauritania as entities that have been accepted as states without delimited and defined boundaries or even worse with some secessionist movements going on.46 The same applies to the requirement of effective government, as the case of Congo and Angola, for example, that were acknowledged as states at the time they were undergoing civil wars or the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina that was recognized at a time when the government had almost no control over the territory and also the territory was seriously contested by other states.47

2.2.2 The constitutive theory of recognition

The constitutive theory of recognition considers recognition to be the key determinant on the state creation, as Oppenheim stated, “a State is, and becomes, an International Person through recognition only and exclusively.”48 Crawford argues that, based on the previously mentioned assumption, the constitutive theory excludes the rules that give a ‘right to statehood’ to an unrecognized community,49 which does not explain the reality of the states’ practice. One of the main arguments of the constitutive theory of recognition is that states have agreed to obey the international law by their individual consent, and if a new state emerges as a subject to the international law, the legal arrangement of the system will change, and the existing states would have new obligations.50 In this sense, based on the constitutive theory, the existence of a new state should be based on the consent by other states that could happen through recognition, which in this context would have a constitutive effect. Moreover, Lauterpacht, another prominent supporter of the constitutive theory, supports the idea that “the full international personality of rising communities … cannot be automatic …”51 As a consequence, according to him, since there is no impartial international organ to have legally binding authority to determine the international personality of the new state, this duty should be carried out by other existing states.52

As Kelsen observes, according to the constitutive theory “…the legal existence of a state … has relative character. A state exists legally only in its relations to other states. There is no such thing as absolute existence.”53 Beside these arguments, as Crawford puts forward, the constitutive theory does not offer answers to many questions in the international relations practice. For example, what happens if one state but not others recognize a state? Is it a state? Alternatively, if all states, except one, recognize a new state. Isn’t it yet a state? Crawford mentions the cases of Macedonia not being recognized by Greece, or Liechtenstein not recognized by Czechoslovakia and its successors54 as arguments that prove that the constitutive theory fails to provide an explanation for a lot of significant developments in the international politics. All the above-mentioned cases are recognized states, have legal international personality and are also members of the United Nations and other international organizations.

2.2.3 A middle ground theory on recognition

One of the most significant differences between the constitutive and declaratory theory of recognition, despite the role of recognition in state-formation, is the freedom of states in making the decision to extend recognition or not to an entity trying to achieve statehood. The declaratory theory considers that existing independent states have an ‘automatic duty’ to recognize an entity whenever the statehood requirements have been fulfilled while the constitutive theory allows the possibility for the recognizing states to make such a decision in full discretion.55

Despite the fact that in the current doctrine and jurisprudence, the declaratory theory is the dominant theory,56 none of the recognition theories discussed above can completely explain the international politics regarding recognition.57 In this position, we should think of a version that conciliates these two theories and offers a more realistic explanation of the states’ practice. On one hand, the declaratory theory of recognition considers recognition to be only a political act with no effect on statehood or the legal personality of a new state, and assumes that territorial entities, by the fact of their existence, can readily be classified as having a legal status, something that is considered a confusion of ‘fact’ with ‘law’.58 However, considering the development and the evolution of the international politics we can easily argue that recognition is very important for the new states, especially when it comes to their interaction with other independent states and international organizations,59 since, member states usually are supposed to decide who is going to participate and who is not. In this sense, if recognition was not that important, why would new states struggle that much and spend all that energy to gain it? This is an indicator that recognition is a very important thing for the new states, in order to give them the possibility to act and fulfill their duties and also gain the privileges as sovereign and independent states.

On the other hand, as discussed earlier, the constitutive theory does not give a reasonable explanation towards the states’ practice regarding recognition either. As Crawford argues, the constitutive theory despite putting attention on the need for cognition of the subjects of international law, it incorrectly identifies cognition with diplomatic recognition and does not accept the possibility that the cognition of new subjects can be achieved in accordance with general rules rather than in discretionary basis.60 It gives recognition a constitutive effect for a new state, but the practice has shown that also the states that do not have full international recognition are subjects to the international law and are treated as independent and sovereign countries. We can take the example of Israel that is not recognized by about 30 member states of the UN and still is treated as a sovereign and independent state. In this situation, it seems reasonable to think of a theory that includes parts of both these theories, and explains more realistically the importance of recognition and the states’ behavior toward changes in the international system of states when a new member is occurring.

Considering this wide gap between these two schools of thought, the declaratory one seeing recognition as a purely normative act and the constitutive one seeing recognition with no normative value at all,61 a connection between these two seems almost impossible. Some authors have offered a ‘third theory’ in which recognition is neither completely declaratory nor completely declarative.62 According to this ‘third theory,’ statehood is seen more in terms of effectiveness of an entity. In this regard “recognition is both constitutive – since it creates stately relations between the recognizing and the recognized state – and declaratory – since it does not, by itself, bestow statehood on the entity.”63

Given the importance of recognition, which was highlighted through the discussions developed above in this section, I go further considering recognition in the same way as the ‘third theory.’ Based on these discussions I consider statehood to be factual and based on effectiveness, which argument goes in line with the Montevideo criteria and the declaratory theory, and, recognition, as a precondition to fulfill the last Montevideo criteria, which is the ability of the new state to enter into relations with the other existing states.

As it is the main intention of my thesis to find out why Palestine and Kosovo remain as not fully recognized countries, and what has driven states’ decisions to not extend recognition towards these two countries, the discussion of recognition theories is helpful to classify the decisions of ‘unrecognizers’ and see if they have some characteristics that can be explained by the recognition discussion or they have some (neo)realist motives. The next section brings a discussion of classical realism and neorealism (structural realism) as theories of international relations and develops a (neo)realist way of state action in foreign policy, which field also includes the decision-making process for extending recognition to an entity proclaiming to be a new state.

After these two sections, a framework is build, which helps to classify the reasons for non-recognition of Palestine and Kosovo by countries that have not done so, and decide if the ‘unrecognizers’ have (neo)realist motives or they consider that Palestine and Kosovo do not meet the statehood requirements.

2.3 Realism

The way how the international system of states functions and the share of power between states, as well as their reasons for acting in certain ways, have continuously been a concern of political theorists. Through different approaches, they have tried to offer answers and create theories that explain the states’ behavior in the international system. Realism is one of the competing worldviews that tries to provide answers why the international system is in the form that it is and what are the basis for the decision making in the states’ domestic policies and also their foreign affairs. The main concern of realists is national security and state survival. Consequently, based on realism, all states’ actions are calculated to bring the better of those two. The main theorists that have written about realism are, among others, Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Morgenthau, Mearsheimer and Waltz. Realism is mainly divided into classical realism (Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes), neoclassical realism (Morgenthau), and neorealism or structural realism (Waltz). This section concentrates mostly on classical realism and neorealism as theories of significant importance in international relations. I try to describe both of them and emphasize the changes that neorealism has caused to its predecessor – classical realism. Neither classical realism nor neorealism talk about the issue of the recognition of new states, but at the end, this section emphasizes the (neo)realist way of state action in foreign policy. Since the decision to recognize or not a new entity as a state is part of the foreign policy, a reasonable framework to analyze the statements of states in regard to the issue of recognition of Palestine and Kosovo is formulated. It helps to classify whether their statements can be explained by the (neo)realist theory of international relations or not.

2.3.1 Classical realism

Classical realism is one of the traditional approaches to international relations that were dominant before the behavioralist revolution of the 1950s and 1960s.64 It is more a normative approach and emphasizes the core political values of national security and state survival. It has a long history starting from ancient Greece until the present time.65 The most eminent authors of classical realism are Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes, who despite the differences in their views of the state and the world, there are some common observations on which they all have agreed. They all support that the human condition is an insecurity and conflict state that scientists must address and deal with it. They also agree that there is a possibility to theoretically tackle the problem of insecurity, and all of these authors try to identify the ‘keys’ to finding it.66 Finally, they all agree that there is no escape from this human condition because it is a permanent characteristic of human life.67

Colin Elman, in his work Realism, discusses the realist theory form the beginning of its development, where the idea of realism is seen as an ancient one, starting from the Greek city-states, which behaved based on their power relations. It was based on the fact that the growth of Athens’s power and its alarm, which inspired Sparta, made the Peloponnesian war between them unavoidable.68 According to him, the classical realism as a defined worldview in international relations dates from 1939 with the publication of Edward Hallet Carr’s The 20 Year’s Crisis.69 It was usually considered as a response to the then-dominant liberal approaches to international politics. Other authors who contributed to building the realist canon through their work are Shuman (1933), Nicolson (1939), Schwarzenberger (1941), Wight (1946), Morgenthau (1948), and Butterfield (1953).70

Classical realism links the constant need for more power ‘implanted’ in human beings with the continuous engagement of states in struggles to increase their capabilities.71 Simply put, the classical realism explains the conflict situations and behaviors through the human failures. Based on this approach, particular wars are explained by aggressive statesmen or domestic political systems that give certain groups the opportunity to pursue expansionist, self-serving foreign policies.72

The ‘evil spirit’ of the international politics, as perceived by classical realists, explains why bad things happen in international politics, and their answer is that sometimes there are bad people making the foreign policy.73 As supported from Elman, for classical realists states are rational actors, and consequently, states’ strategies are always decided rationally, with costs and benefits taken into account carefully.74

In Richard Ned Lebow’s opinion, classical realists concentrate more on the similarities and not the differences between internal and external politics, and also put emphasis on the relevance of ethics to promote stability in both domains.75 Regarding order, Lebow argues that the best way to address and ensure it is having an effective central authority.76 Accordingly, governments that defend borders, enforce laws and protect citizens make domestic politics more peaceful and different from politics on the international level. It happens because the international arena remains a self-help system where states constantly look for possibilities to take advantage of each other.77

Hans Morgenthau, known as a neoclassical realist, in his book Politics Among Nations, has set out six fundamental principles of political realism. First, he argued that objective laws govern politics with their roots in unchanging human nature. Second, he argued that realism grasps the world through the concept of ‘interest,’ understood in terms of power. Third, while interest is to be universally defined as power, the meaning and content of interest may shift and change. Fourth, realism was a perspective aware of the moral significance of political action. Fifth, moral aspirations of a single community or a state may not be universally valid or shared. Sixth, realism as a tradition of thought was distinguishable in its focus on the independence of the political realm and decisions made within it.78

All the so-called classical realists, as Morgenthau, Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes, share in broad lines the same view about human nature and the international system. Jack Donnelly argues that they all see human nature as egoistic, and this egoism is the central problem of politics, so the statesmen feel like they have the need to control this core of egoistic passions.79 As Jackson and Sorensen put forward, the international politics is perceived as ‘power politics’: an arena where states see each other as rivals, and “in which the same basic problems of defending the national interest and ensuring the survival of the state repeat themselves over and over again.”80

As mentioned above, the normative bases of realism are national security and state survival, and consequently these values drive the realist doctrine and realist foreign policy. In this view, as Jackson and Sørensen argue, the state is considered to be crucial for the good life of its people, and without a state to guarantee the means of security human life is bound to be, as Hobbes said, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”81 In this regard, the state’s duty is to protect its territory, its population, and their distinctive way of life.

In conclusion, as was discussed in this section, the basic ideas of classical realism are the international anarchy, state survival, national security, states as rational actors, and power maximization as the best means for ensuring survival. However, after 1970, there were voices opposing such statements and calling for an increased focus on the interdependence between states and also on the popularity and prominence of non-state actors. The new version of realism will be discussed in the next section of this chapter.

2.3.2 Structural realism (Neorealism)

Contemporary realism or structural realism is a recent international relations doctrine, fundamentally scientific in approach and focuses on the international system or its structure. The main author is Keneth Waltz. As Elman argues, the revision of the classical realist worldview from Keneth Waltz’s (1979) Theory of International Politics replaced the Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations. 82 Waltz suggested that the international system is composed of one structure and its interacting units. According to him, political structures contain at least three elements: 1) an ordering principle (anarchic or hierarchic); 2) the character of the units (functionally alike or differentiated); and 3) the distribution of capabilities.83 Waltz supports that only two elements of the international system’s structure are constant: the absence of an overarching authority, which means that its ordering principle is anarchy, and the self-help principle, which means that all the units remain functionally alike.84 As he puts forward, the only variable that is structural is the share of capabilities, with the main difference falling between multipolar and bipolar systems. Based on Waltz’s theory, the survival of states depends on their material capabilities and their alliances with other states. For the balance of power, contemporary realists see military capability and alliances as the two key founders of security.85 Jack Donnelly goes as far as saying that “weak states may have no alternative but to guess right and hope that early alignment with the victor will ensure their survival and (at least some) other vital interests.”86 However in the Thucydides’ view, and also generally in the classical realists’ view, military power and alliances can have two contrary effects: they are as likely to provoke as to prevent conflicts.87

According to Lebow, for modern realists, the international system’s classification is based on polarity (uni-, bi-, or multi-), and the system faces changes when the number of poles changes. The rising powers may go to war to remake the system in their interest, and the ‘status quo’ powers would go to war to stop such a change.88 As he argues, for some realists, this cycle continues without time frames and independently from the technological revolutions, while for others, nuclear weapons have changed the international relations and have made war to be very destructive to be rational.89 They justify this assumption with the peaceful transformation from bipolar to a multipolar system at the end of the Cold War.

Waltz wanted to make a scientific theory to explain the international politics. In his view, the best international relations theory is one that focuses mainly on the structure of the international system, on its interacting units (states) and the continuities and changes of the system.90 Differently form the classical realism, where state leaders and their decisions and actions in the international politics are at the center of attention, in neorealism the structure of the system that is external to the actors, specifically the relative distribution of power is the central analytical focus.91 According to Waltz, actors are relatively unimportant because structures compel them to act in certain ways. They are a very decisive determinant of actions. A basic feature of international relations, according to him, is the decentralized structure of anarchy between states. Waltz sees states as similar due to the functions they play, like collecting taxes, conducting foreign policy and so on. In his view, they differ only in regard to their greatly varying capabilities.92 As Waltz puts it, “the state units of an international system are distinguished primarily by their greater or lesser capabilities for performing similar tasks… the structure of a system changes with the changes in the distribution of capabilities across the system’s units.”93 Saying it simply, international system’s change happens when great powers rise or fall and consequently, the balance of power shifts. A typical means of such change is a great powers war since great powers are an important determinant of changes in the structure of the international system. The balance of power is seen as possible, but however, war remains as a possibility in an anarchical system.

Regarding the bipolar or multipolar international system, Waltz thinks that a bipolar system of powers is better and offers greater stability and security than a multipolar system. He mentions the example of the Cold War and the bipolar system of power, where the United States and the Soviet Union happened to be the main powers, and according to him, this was a period of peace and stability in the international system compared to the periods before and after the Cold War. The idea behind this is that in a bipolar system both of the great powers are interested to maintain the system because by doing so they contribute to maintaining themselves as great powers.94

Waltz excludes the human nature as a point of analysis because he argues that state leaders are ‘prisoners’ of the system. For him, states are equal only in a formal-legal sense, but they are often profoundly unequal in a substantive or material sense95 since they should always count on their sources to achieve their goals.96

Regarding foreign policy, differently from Morgenthau, who sees states as organizations guided by leaders, whose foreign policies are successful or not depending on their decisions’ wisdom, Waltz perceives states as structures that respond to the impersonal constrains and dictates of the international system.97

Oliver Daddow in his book International Relations Theory, when discussing the Waltz’s contribution to the international relations theory and his approach stating that is not the ideology or the human nature, but the system itself, that makes countries act in certain ways, like the other authors mentioned above, brings the example of the United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War time. He emphasizes that at that time both of them (US and USSR) were somehow competing based on their military capabilities, which makes the competition done through the same means (military capabilities).98 Waltz’s theory comes into play here because these countries were using the same strategies to gain power or to remain as great powers even though they were totally different regarding their ideologies and the political systems, with the United States being a democratic country and the Soviet Union being a communist country.99

Basically, in this section we could see that the main difference between classical realism and neorealism analyses of the international politics is that for classical realists everything that happens in international politics is because of the human nature and the leaders’ decisions, while for structural realists system itself is the one that causes every move of states within the international system. In the next section, these differences will be elaborated in a longer extent.

2.3.3 Classical Realism vs. Structural Realism

Classical realism and neorealism have different views regarding the sources and the content of states’ preferences. Differently from classical realism, neorealism does not include the internal makeup of different states. Morgenthau’s statement on classical realism was based on the assumption that states’ leaders are motivated by their lust for power. Waltz’s theory, differently from Morgenthau’s one, excludes leader’s motivation and state characteristics as causal variables for international outcomes, except the minimal assumption that states seek to survive.100

As classical realism considers states’ strategies to be rationally selected, Waltz argues that state behavior can occur as a result of the competition among states, which can be an outcome of a calculation to act in a way that ensures their advantage or just to join such a behavior in order to avoid being selected as ‘out of the system.’101 Other alternatives suggest that states’ behavior can be a result of socialization, meaning that states may follow certain norms either because they bring profit, or because those norms are internalized.102


1 Mikulas Fabry, Recognising States - International society and the Establishment of New States Since 1776, (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2010): 4.

2 I use “Palestine” instead of the original name “State of Palestine” or “Palestinian National Authority.”

3 I use “Kosovo” instead of the original name “Republic of Kosovo.”

4 I use “Timor-Leste” or “East Timor” instead of the original name “Democratic Republic of East Timor.”

5 Lise Morje Howard“Kosovo and Timor-Leste: Neotrusteeship, Neighbours, and the United Nations” ANNALS, AAPSS, 656 (November 2014).

6 Zohar Nevo and Tamar Megiddo, “Lessons from Kosovo: The Law of Statehood and Palestinian Unilateral Independence,” Journal of International Law and International Relations, Vol. 5, No. 2, (2009): 89-115.

7 Pal Kolsto, “The Sustainability and Future of Unrecognized Quasi-States” Journal of Peace Research, vol. 43, no. 6, (2006): 723-740.

8 I will be using the term “(neo)realism” to include both classical realism and neorealism (structural realism) since the framework of the state action in foreign policy that is described build later in this chapter is a combination of the classical realist and neorealist theories of international relations.

9 Fabry, Recognising States - International society and the Establishment of New States Since 1776, p. 4.

10 Alexander H. Berlin, “Recognition as Sanction: Using International Recognition of new States to Deter, Punish, and Contain bad Actors”, U. Pa. J. Int’l L., Vol. 31, no. 2 (2009): 532.

11 Berlin, “Recognition as Sanction,” p. 532.

12 Ibid. p. 555.

13 Christian Hillgruber, "The Admission of New States to the International Community”, European Journal of International Law, Vol. 9 (1998): 492.

14 Hillgruber, “The Admission of New States to the International Community,” p. 492.

15 Ibid. p. 500.

16 Berlin, “Recognition as Sanction,” p. 555.

17 Ti-Chiang Chen, The international Law of Recognition (New York: Frederic A. Praeger, Inc. 1951): 14.

18 Ti-Chiang Chen, The International Law of Recognition, p. 14.

19 Ibid.

20 Mikulas Fabry, “The contemporary practice of state recognition: Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and their aftermath”, Nationalities Papers: The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity, Vol. 40, no.5 (2012): 662.

21 Fabry, “The contemporary practice of state recognition: Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and their aftermath,” p. 663.

22 Fabry, “The contemporary practice of state recognition: Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and their aftermath,” p. 663.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 Fabry, Recognising States - International society and the Establishment of New States Since 1776, p. 3.

27 James R. Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, 2nd ed. (USA: Oxford University Press: 2007): 4.

28 Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, p. 4.

29 Ibid.

30 Fabry, Recognising States - International Society and the Establishment of New States Since 1776, p. 2.

31 Ibid.

32 Council on Foreign Relations, “Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States.” (December 31, 1969), accessed on 06.01.2016 at:

33 Berlin, “Recognition as Sanction,” p. 532.

34 Ibid. p. 549

35 Ibid.

36 Ibid.

37 Fabry, Recognising States - International Society and the Establishment of New States Since 1776, p. 2.

38 Ibid.

39 Berlin, ‘Recognition as Sanction,’ p. 532.

40 Ibid. p. 560.

41 Ibid.

42 Fabry, Recognising States - International society and the Establishment of New States Since 1776, p. 4.

43 Ibid. p. 4-5.

44 Berlin, ‘Recognition as Sanction,’ p. 549.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid. p. 550.

47 Ibid. p. 550-551.

48 Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, p. 4-5.

49 Ibid. p. 5.

50 Ibid. p. 13.

51 Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, p. 20.

52 Ibid.

53 Ibid. p. 21.

54 Ibid. p. 20-21.

55 Berlin, “Recognition as Sanction, p. 556.

56 Cedric Ryngaert and Sven Sobrie, “Recognition of States: International Law or Realpolitik? The Practice of Recognition in the Wake of Kosovo, South Ossetia and Abkhazia”, Leiden Journal of International Law, Vol. 24, (2011): 470.

57 Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, p. 4.

58 Ibid. p. 5.

59 Fabry, Recognising States - International society and the Establishment of New States Since 1776, p. 2.

60 Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, p. 4.

61 Ryngaert & Sobrie, “Recognition of States: International Law or Realpolitik,” p. 470.

62 Ibid. p. 471.

63 Ibid.

64 Robert H. Jackson and G. Sørensen, Introduction to International Relations – Theories and Approaches (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010): 60.

65 Jackson and Sørensen, Introduction to International Relations – Theories and Approaches, p. 60.

66 Ibid. p. 66.

67 Ibid.

68 Colin Elman, “Realism” in International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century – An Introduction, Martin Griffiths, Eds. (London: Routledge, 2007): 11.

69 Elman, “Realism,” p. 12.

70 Ibid.

71 Ibid.

72 Ibid.

73 Elman, “Realism,” p. 12.

74 Ibid.

75 Richard Ned Lebow, “Classical Realism” in International Relations Theories – Discipline and Diversity, T. Dunne, M. Kurki and S. Smith, eds. (London & New York: Oxford University Press, 2013): 60.

76 Lebow, “Classical Realism,” p. 61.

77 Ibid.

78 Lebow, “Classical Realism,” p. 63.

79 Jack Donnelly, Realism and International Relations, (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2000): 10.

80 Jackson and Sørensen, Introduction to International Relations – Theories and Approaches, p. 59.

81 Ibid.

82 Elman, “Realism,” p. 13.

83 Ibid.

84 Elman, “Realism,” p. 12.

85 Lebow, “Classical Realism,” p. 62.

86 Donnelly, Realism and International Relations, p. 17.

87 Lebow, “Classical Realism,” p. 62.

88 Ibid. p. 67.

89 Ibid.

90 Jackson and Sørensen, I ntroduction to International Relations – Theories and Approaches, p. 74.

91 Ibid.

92 Jackson and Sørensen, I ntroduction to International Relations – Theories and Approaches, p. 74.

93 Ibid.

94 Ibid. p. 75

95 Ibid. p. 76.

96 Donnelly, Realism and International Relations, p. 17.

97 Jackson and Sørensen, Introduction to International Relations – Theories and Approaches, p. 76.

98 Oliver Daddow, International Relations Theory (London: Sage Publications Ltd, 2009): 93.

99 Daddow, International Relations Theory, p. 93-94.

100 Elman, “Realism,” p. 13.

101 Elman, “Realism,” p. 13.

102 Ibid.

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State Creation and the International Recognition of New States. The Examples of Palestine, Kosovo and Timor-Leste
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Tahir Lushi (Author), 2016, State Creation and the International Recognition of New States. The Examples of Palestine, Kosovo and Timor-Leste, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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