The Political Affairs Committee meeting on Wednesday. Photo: X/@PACE_News

Kosovo Edges Closer to Council of Europe Membership

The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy voted to recommend that Kosovo joins the international human rights organisation, despite Serbia’s strong opposition.

The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy voted on Wednesday to adopt a ‘statutory opinion’ recommending that Kosovo’s application for membership of the human rights organisation should be accepted.

Kosovo delegation members confirmed that 31 Council of Europe states voted in favour, four against and one abstained.

Serbian public broadcaster, RTS, reported that two members of Serbian delegation and members from Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina voted against while one Greek representative abstained.

“The opinion recommends Kosovo’s membership to the Council of Europe without any additional condition,” said Perparim Kryeziu, a spokesperson for Kosovo government.

The vote on Wednesday brings Kosovo closer to eventual membership despite Serbia’s strong opposition.

“Victory… First step is done, two others to follow before it’s finally done,” Arben Gashi, head of the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo party’s parliamentary group, wrote on Facebook.

PACE committee said that membership of the Council of Europe would “catalyse momentum for Kosovo to continue to make progress in strengthening human rights, democracy and the rule of law and address outstanding challenges and matters of concern”.

The author of the statutory opinion that was adopted, Council of Europe rapporteur Dora Bakoyannis, recommended a “positive response” to Kosovo’s application.

In her draft report, which 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”.

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.

Serbia, which does not recognise Kosovo’s independence, was one of the four countries that voted against admitting its former province as a member.

On March 22, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbia leaving the Council of Europe is “one of the possibilities” if Kosovo is allowed to join.

Kosovo applied to join the Council of Europe in May 2022. The decision was taken after Russia was expelled following its invasion of Ukraine. This provided an opportunity for Kosovo to join as, without Russia, two-thirds of the organisation’s member states recognise 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 Council of Europe is the main human rights organisation in Europe and has 46 member states, including all European Union states.

Besides Serbia, 11 more Council of Europe countries, five of them EU members, do not recognise Kosovo.

In her report, Bakoyannis mentioned what she called these “unprecedented circumstances” and urged the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe’s decision-making body, to ensure that if Kosovo joins, individual member states should “respect the decision made by the Committee of Ministers and collaborate sincerely and effectively in its implementation”, whatever their stance on the recognition issue.

In April last year, 33 member states voted in favour of accepting Kosovo’s membership application and initiating the accession procedure.

Kosovo’s next step towards membership is a vote at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly meeting in April.

and 27/03/2024 - 18:24

27 March 2024 - 18:24

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