Prime Minister Albin Kurti has announced Kosovo will apply for membership in the Council of Europe and NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.
During their joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Wednesday, Kurti stressed that Kosovo relied on Germany’s support in these initiatives.
The Partnership for Peace is a program of cooperation between NATO and partner countries. For many countries it has been a precursor to NATO membership, which is also the aim of Kosovo.
Kosovo’s membership in the CoE is widely considered possible now, after its members suspended Russia’s voting rights in the organization. With Serbia’s main ally out of the scene, it appears possible for Kosovo to have enough votes for membership.
A two third majority at the CoE Committee of Ministers is required to approve new memberships. The committee currently has 46 voting-members, of which 34 recognize Kosovo, amounting to more than two-third of the total.
While the required majority was not very different before Russia’s suspension, its evasion of Ukraine has urged calls for CoE to show strong commitment to human rights, democracy and rule of law by accepting Kosovo right away.
CoE members that do not recognize Kosovo can be classified in three groups:
Serbia, who considers Kosovo its integral territory, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Serbs hold a veto in federal decisions.
Former USSR states who have territorial disputes within them: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine.
EU member states – Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Romania and Slovakia – roughly because of fears of secession of ethnic minorities within their states.
However, their vote against cannot stop the remaining 34 countries from opening the CoE for Kosovo.
During Kurti’s visit in Berlin, Scholz praised Kosovo’s swift condemnation of Russian invasion and their full support to Ukraine.
“Kosovo was positioned very early, clearly, in alignment with the EU, and it supports sanctions,” he said, stressing that “this deserves very high appreciation”.
The country has opened doors for up to 5 thousand Ukrainian refugees, it has vowed to welcome and provide jobs for 20 journalists, and has lifted visa requirements for Ukrainians, in addition to joining EU sanctions against Russia.
“The images of bombardments and flames, massacres and rapes bu Russian troops in Ukraine are grave for our people because 23 years ago they have experienced these on their own under the genocidial regime of [Serbia’s President] Slobodan Milosevic, who was stopped only thanks to the unity of the democratic world and NATO’s intervention,” Kurti noted.
Both leaders called for the lifting of the visa regime in the Schengen area for Kosovo, with Kurti stresing that four years have passed since the country met all requirements, and Scholz promising to prioritize the issue at the Council of the EU.
Kurti also asked for Scholz’s support for the remaining five EU member states to recognize Kosovo, which he said would result in the strengthening of security in the Western Balkans.