Serbia reacts strongly to Kosovo Council of Europe application

Kosovo has applied for membership of the Council of Europe, sparking a strong reaction from Belgrade. Photo: Shutterstock, MDart10

Following Kosovo’s submission of an application to the Council of Europe (CoE) on Thursday (12 May), Serbian President Aleksander Vučić called an urgent meeting of the National Security Council for Friday, claiming Pristina has violated a number of agreements.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after a NATO bombing campaign against Belgrade put an end to a brutal war waged on Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians by the regime of Slobodan Milošević between 1998 and 1999.

Belgrade still refuses to recognise Pristina’s independence and has sought to put obstacles to Kosovo becoming an EU candidate, joining UNESCO, and becoming a member of NATO. 

‘Cause problems in the region’

The filing of the application was confirmed by Sharr Jakupi, the chief of cabinet of Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla.

“I can confirm the government of the Republic of Kosova officially applied for full membership in the Council of Europe,” he wrote on Twitter.

Vučić responded shortly after, stating that Kosovo had “brutally trampled on” agreements and that recognising Kosovo is not going to happen.

“We will not recognise Kosovo’s independence, but our response must be smart and wise, to preserve peace and stability, to be firm, strong and persistent in protecting our interests in the desire to reach a solution by compromise and respect what was signed,” Vučić said, as reported by state-affiliated news agency Tanjug.

He said the application would cause problems in the region and questioned who had persuaded Kosovo to submit a request at this particular moment.

Still, this response was more measured than a stark warning issued earlier this week, when Vučić threatened a response that would be “much stronger than they think” and would not be “just a statement to the media”.

‘We meet all the criteria’

The decision to formally apply was taken on Thursday morning with the application being handed over a short time later.

Former Kosovo Ambassador to the US, Vlora Citaku tweeted that “we meet all the criteria, and now, with Russia ousted from the organisation, our path should be clear”.

On 25 February, Russia saw its representation rights at the CoE suspended due to its invasion of Ukraine. On 15 March, Russia announced it was withdrawing entirely, and on the same day, the Parliamentary Assembly unanimously adopted an opinion stating the country could no longer be a member state.

Serbia is one of Russia’s few allies in Europe, and Moscow would have vetoed any attempt for Kosovo to join the international human rights body.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti had already announced the plan to apply for membership of the council after meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin last week.

Sources told Kosovo news agency RTK that a powerful member of the CoE is ready to extend Kosovo an invitation to the Council, and they expect Kosovo to receive membership swiftly.

On May 4, German parliament member Knut Abraham tweeted that he had received confirmation from his superiors that Germany is ready to support Kosovo’s membership bid.

In March, the European Stability Initiative (ESU), a Berlin-based think tank, urged Kosovo to apply for membership following Russia’s suspension and argued that Kosovo has all the votes it needs to join the organisation, given that 34 of its 46 members recognise Kosovo’s independence.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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