Plenary chamber of the Council of Europe’s Palace. Photo: Wikipedia

Council of Europe Rapporteur Backs Kosovo’s Membership Bid

Report by rapporteur Dora Bakoyannis advises positive response to Kosovo's Council of Europe membership bid, after it met key criterion when it granted disputed land to a Serb Orthodox monastery last week.

The Council of Europe rapporteur Dora Bakoyannis recommended a “positive response” to Kosovo’s application to join the human rights organisation in a March 22 report.

In the draft report, that BIRN has seen, Bakoyannis wrote that Kosovo’s membership “would lead to the strengthening of human rights standards by ensuring access to the European Court of Human Rights to all those who are under Kosovo’s jurisdiction”.

“Welcoming Kosovo into the Council of Europe’s fold, however, is not the end but the beginning of a process,” Bakoyannis said. The report is expected to be debated among CoE members this week.

“I hope that … Kosovo will use the opportunity of membership to consolidate its democracy and democratic culture, to gain the trust and allegiance of all communities, and to become an agent of stability in the region,” she added.

Kosovo’s membership chances increased last week when the government ended an eight-year stalemate and granted 24 disputed hectares of land to the Serbian Orthodox Decani monastery.

“The implementation is a tangible sign of the commitment of the government to act in full accordance with the rule of law, irrespective of political considerations,” the report said.

Speaking about another area of dispute, the planned Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, which Kosovo has not yet implemented, the report deemed it “an important step and a way to enhance the democratic participation and empowerment of Kosovo Serbs and ensure the protection of their rights.” But it added that “establishment of an inter-municipal association is not a requirement under Council of Europe standards”.

The Assembly believes it should become “a post-accession commitment for Kosovo”, the report said.

Another post-accession obligation is to address controversial expropriations in some Serb-majority municipalities in the north, including Serbian Orthodox Church property, which have drawn angry reactions from local residents.

“During my visit to Kosovo, I also raised concerns about a new draft law on expropriation of immovable properties proposed by the government. This draft law leaves out the provision set out in Article 3.1 of the current law13, which reads: “Movable and immovable property and other assets of the Serbian Orthodox Church shall be inviolable and shall not be subject to expropriation,” Bakoyannis said in the report. 

Kosovo applied to join the Council of Europe in May 2022. The decision was taken after, on March 16, 2022, Russia was expelled following its invasion of Ukraine. This provided an opportunity for Kosovo to join as, without Russia, two-thirds of the member states recognize Kosovo, the number required for approval of membership.

In March 2023, the Council of Europe voted to send Kosovo’s application to the organisation’s Parliamentary Assembly.

The main human rights organization in Europe has 46 member states, including all European Union states.

Two-thirds of the votes are needed for a country to join. All members of the CoE have signed the European Convention on Human Rights whose implementation is overseen by the European Court of Human Rights. Kosovo has the convention included in its Constitution, however, its citizens cannot yet send complaints to the Court.

Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, voted against Kosovo’s membership.

25/03/2024 - 20:42

25 March 2024 - 20:42

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