Germany Snubs Kosovo’s Last Push for Council of Europe Membership

Germany has described Kosovo’s latest move to secure Council of Europe membership this week as insufficient, saying the ‘heavy lifting’ it had expected ‘has still not happened’

Kosovo’s government made a final push on Thursday to convince Western countries to include its Council of Europe application on the agenda for the organisation’s ministerial meeting on May 16 and 17 in Strasbourg.

In a letter that Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla- Schwarz sent to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President, PACE, Theodoros Rousopoulos, she pledged that a draft-statute for the long-delayed Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, ASMM, will be sent to the Constitutional Court for review “by the end of May”.

But the German embassy in Kosovo, a country which together with France has insisted on this, said the latest stop was not enough.

The embassy told BIRN on Thursday that the so called Quint countries and others have repeatedly pointed out that Kosovo “is expected to take tangible steps to establish the ASMM in order to achieve the required two-thirds majority in the Committee of Ministers for the application for membership to be successful”.

“In our view, submitting the draft statute to the Constitutional Court prior to the Committee’s meeting would have been such a step. As Ambassador Rohde said in his tweet following the vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: ‘Kosovo now needs to do the heavy lifting.’ This has still not happened,” the embassy told BIRN via email.

Gervalla-Schwarz said the draft, which is being prepared, serves the government’s goal “to integrate non-majority communities and implementation of Kosovo legislation in all municipalities”.

“The draft ensures not only the respect of Kosovo Constitution and laws, but also prevents impermissible interferences from outside in municipalities but also all over Kosovo,” she said.

Many in Kosovo considered membership of the Council of Europe a job done when last month PACE voted in favour of a report which recommended membership.

Council of Europe rapporteur Dora Bakoyannis drafted a “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 final decision to the Committee of Ministers, the final hurdle before membership.

But Serbia, which does not recognise Kosovo as independent, has warned it may quit the Council of Europe if Kosovo becomes a member.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called Kosovo’s newest move “a trick”.

“In the [2013] Brussels agreement it is quite clear that this [statute draft proposal] should be done by the management of Serbia or if we agree, as we agreed contextually, conceptually and in principle, that it should be the text submitted by the EU,”  Vucic said on Wednesday.

Kosovo applied to join in May 2022 after Russia was expelled following its 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 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.

Kosovo would need two-thirds of the votes at the committee of ministers, a total of 31 votes, in order to join.

The Council of Europe has 46 member states, including all of the EU’s own 27 members. Kosovo has been under EU measures for its failure to restore calm in the Serb-majority north since June 2023. On May 7, EU spokesperson Peter Stano said a report on whether to lift the measures or not is being finalised.

Last week, German ambassador Jorn Rohde told BIRN that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti should not have been surprised that Germany and France had asked Kosovo to send the draft statute of the Serb municipality body to the Constitutional Court for approval as a prerequisite for membership of the Council of Europe.

“I am surprised that he was surprised,” Rohde told BIRN. His comments came a day after Kurti said that he would not accept the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities as a condition for Kosovo to join the Council of Europe, describing the request as “absurd”.

He insisted that Kosovo had fulfilled all the obligations for membership of the Council of Europe. He also said that the draft statute for the Association does not yet represent a formal document, as it was not accepted by Serbia last year during EU-facilitated talks between the two countries.

Source @Prishtina Insight: Read more : Kosovo Kosovo News