Council of Europe. Photo: BIRN/Denis Sllovinja

Mixed Reactions from Kosovo and Serbia as Kosovo Moves Closer to CoE Accession

The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly recommendation of Kosovo's membership has drawn praise from Kosovo and criticism from Serbia.

The recommendation of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE, that Kosovo be invited to become a member has been met with praise from Kosovo and condemnation from Serbia. The leaders of Kosovo claim that the recommendation is a human rights victory, while leaders from Serbia argue that it represents an acceptance of human rights violations. 

Shortly after the vote on Tuesday evening, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said that the voice of Europeans has been heard, thanking every PACE Assembly member who voted in favor of Kosovo.

“A big thank you to our delegation and all those continuously supporting the people of Kosovo”, Osmani wrote on social media X. 

PACE adopted the statutory Opinion by 131 votes to 29, with 11 abstentions, on Tuesday, April 16.

Osmani’s post was shortly followed by one from Kosovo PM Albin Kurti, who also welcomed the PACE decision.

“This is a ringing endorsement of our state’s record on human rights, democracy & rule of law, bringing the Republic of Kosova one step closer to full membership. One more step!”, Kurti wrote on X.

PACE’s recommendation was not well received by Serbian officials.

Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic stated on Tuesday that it was “a day of shame” at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe because, according to him, for the first time in history membership was recommended for  an entity “which is not a state”, Serbian media reported.

He emphasized that Kosovo has been refusing to form the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities for 11 years, and is implementing “the policy of terror against the Serbian people and ethnic cleansing”.

Meanwhile, before the PACE vote to recommend Kosovo’s admission, Serbian Parliament Speaker Ana Brnabic stated that Serbia’s space of maneuver  regarding the proposal to admit Kosovo to CoE was very small, adding that “the truth and justice are on our side”.

“What human rights are there for Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija? They do not even have the right to vote, or the right to receive pensions in dinars, they have no right to legal assistance when they are detained illegally by someone”, she added.

Council of Europe representative Dora Bakoyannis, whose own country, Greece, is one of five members of the European Union that do not recognise Kosovo as independent, drafted the ‘statutory opinion’ recommending Kosovo’s accession, arguing it 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”.

In adopting the opinion, PACE effectively forwarded the decision on accession to the Committee of Ministers, the final hurdle.

Serbia, which does not recognise its majority-Albanian former province as independent, has warned it may quit the Council of Europe if Kosovo becomes a member.

Kosovo applied to join the council in May 2022 after Russia was expelled following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, increasing Pristina’s chances of securing the two-thirds majority necessary for accession. Kosovo’s chances of acceding further improved in March, when the government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti granted 24 hectares of disputed land in western Kosovo to a Serbian Orthodox monastery, ending an eight-year stalemate that had harmed the country’s reputation for protecting minority rights.

The Council of Europe has 46 member states, including all of the EU’s own 27 members.

In her report, Bakoyannis noted the “unprecedented circumstances” surrounding Kosovo’s accession – a reference to the fact that a number of the Council of Europe’s members do not recognise it as a state.

The former Greek foreign minister 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 recognition.

17/04/2024 - 16:47

17 April 2024 - 16:47

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.