Searching For Consensus


Sir, - Will Kosovo be the next place to have a referendum on its constitutional future? And if that which was autonomous from 1974 to 1989 is now to have the right of self-determination, will something else - Bosnia's Dayton Agreement calls it "an entity" - also claim that right? In other words, will Republika Srbska hold a majority vote? Its people have already said they want to.

By allowing peoples to determine themselves on a basis of only a majority of themselves, the international body politic has in effect posed a threat to every multi-ethnic state. One by one - Croatia, Republika Srbska, Quebec, Nagorno-Karabakh and so on - countries, or groups within countries, or extremists within those groups, will seek their real or imagined ethnic states.

The time has come to suggest that constitutional status should be neither perpetuated nor changed until those concerned have achieved a consensus - a consensus within both the old and the new borders. Yugoslavia, for example, should never have been changed until everything had been agreed, to quote our own talks process. In similar vein, we should also insist that any Northern Ireland constitutional status will need, not just the wish of a majority, but the consensus of the whole. - Yours, etc., P. J. Emerson,

The de Borda Institute, Ballysillan Road, Belfast 14.