Entrance to CoE Parliamentary Assembly premises, Palace of Europe, Strasbourg, France. Photo: BIRN/Antigone Isufi

Vote Puts Kosovo One Step from Accession to Europe’s Chief Rights Body

Kosovo edges closer to joining the Council of Europe following a vote in the parliamentary assembly, much to the anger of Serbia.

The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, voted on Tuesday to recommend membership for Kosovo, a major milestone in the young country’s international integration since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.

The assembly, known as PACE, voted 131 to 29 in favour of Kosovo’s accession, with 11 abstains,  over the fierce opposition of Serbia.

Before the voting took place, the representative of Kosovo’s Parliament, Enis Kervan, urged PACE members to vote in favour of the report prepared by Greece’s Dora Bakoyannis.

“Membership of Kosovo in the Council of Europe is … a tangible step towards ensuring access to justice for all our citizens”, said Kervan, a Kosovo MP from the Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo.

Chief of Serbian delegation, Biljana Pantic Pilja sharply opposed the report, pointing out that the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities is still an unfulfilled obligation on the part of Kosovo.

“If you allow so-called Kosovo to join the Council of Europe without prior establishment of the Community of Serb Majority Municipalities – the Community of Serb Majority Municipalities will never be established”, Pilja, from Serbia’s ruling progressives, said.

Council of Europe rapporteur 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.

The vote of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, April 16, 2024. Photo: Screenshot/ PACE Spring Session Live on Youtube

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 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 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.

16 April 2024 - 20:31

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