Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti, and Parliament Speaker Glauk Konjufca will jointly sign the application for EU membership on  Wednesday, marking the first formal step on the country’s membership path.

With Bosnia and Herzegovina expected to be granted EU potential candidate status in the coming days, Kosovo remains the only country in the Western Balkans that has not taken any steps towards joining the bloc.

On Wednesday night, Osmani’s office made the official announcement that “The Republic of Kosovo will formally apply for European Union membership.”

At a government meeting in Pristina earlier in the day, Kurti said the application would be filed in the coming days.

“As you know, we are the last country in the Western Balkans that is applying for the European Union, even though we are the first country in this region for the rule of law, freedom and democracy,” declared Kurti.

According to him, the time has come for the potential candidate status, “which was known to us a long time ago, to officially turn it into a candidate status, moving to a new phase of relations with the European Union”.

But the road to the EU is not expected to be smooth for the region’s youngest country. A total of five EU member states – Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Romania and Slovenia – do not accept its independence, declared in 2008 from Serbia. 

Other member states may harbour concerns over granting the status due to close relations with Serbia, but also due to issues relating to ongoing tensions between the two countries.

Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008, a decade after the bloody Kosovo War. Despite over a decade of EU and US facilitated dialogue and negotiations aimed at mutual recognition, relations remain tense and have escalated in recent weeks.

Since the weekend, Serbs have set up blockades on key roads leading to the Serbian border. Kosovo police have been attacked and shot at and other attacks have been launched on EULEX, an electoral commission site, and journalists. Belgrade denies it is behind the blockades and says it is trying to defuse the situation.

However, President Aleksander Vucic has said he will ask NATO on Thursday to send in 1000 Serbian police and military to Kosovo to assist the ethnic Serbs living there.

The EU’s Special Envoy for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak met with Kurti on Wednesday and will continue to Belgrade on Thursday.

“I had a long discussion with the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti. I will not make the details public, because I am in the middle of the mission and will continue the visit tomorrow in Belgrade. I will meet with the commander of KFOR and EULEX tonight, to see their assessment of the situation on the ground, and then we will try to find possible solutions, because this is not good. I don’t think we can afford to wait for something bad to happen. Tensions don’t help anyone, and I don’t think any normal person is happy with this situation in the north,” he said.