The UN’s highest court will today begin examining the legality of Kosovo’s self-declared independence from Serbia.Fifteen judges of the International Court of Justice in the Hague will hear the Serbian argument that no territory can declare itself independent from a UN member state in peacetime. That is precisely what Kosovo’s ethnic-Albanian leadership did in February, nine years after NATO airstrikes forced out Serb troops accused of massacring ethnic-Albanians. Little by little the outward signs of a sovereign state followed: a national flag, a national anthem and the eventual recognition of 63 countries, including the United States and 22 out of the 27 EU member states. If the court rules in favour of Kosovo’s independence, more nations will be encouraged to recognise it and Kosovo can begin to look forward to UN member status. But on the other side of the argument are some 120,000 ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, Serbia itself and its influential ally Russia. They hope a ruling against Kosovo’s independence will stop international recognition of it and eventually confirm it as an autonomous province of Serbia. A verdict is not expected for months.