Kosovo Optimistic About Becoming Newest Member of Council of Europe, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister

The Kosovo deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Kreshnik Ahmeti, told Kallxo Përnime TV programme that the implementation of the Constitutional Court ruling which awarded land to the Decani Monastery will lead to Kosovo becoming the newest member of the Council of Europe very soon.

“We will become the 47th member of the Council of Europe,” Kosovo deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kreshnik Ahmeti, who also leads the Inter-institutional Group for Council of Europe Membership, told Kallxo Përnime TV programme.  

Kosovo Government’s decision to implement a Constitutional Court ruling that awarded 24 hectares of land to the Serbian Orthodox Decani Monastery has led to increased optimism that Kosovo will join the Council of Europe, CoE, by the end of May, precisely two years after applying.

After eight years of successive governments delaying the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s verdict—a matter that Kosovo legally had no grounds to contest– the Albin Kurti led government shifted its stance towards the court’s decision, claiming that fulfilling this requirement was the final hurdle to gaining entry into the Council of Europe.

Ahmeti acknowledges that, despite their disagreement with the verdict, Kosovo’s government felt compelled to act.

In an interview for the Kallxo Përnime TV programme, Ahmeti echoed  PM Kurti’s comments from March 13, 2024. Announcing that the government had asked the Cadastral Agency to implement the Constitutional Court decision, Kurti then had claimed that “we find the decision strange and unfair”. 

“Other matters are non-urgent recommendations, typical of the nature of the Council of Europe as an organisation. Some issues can be addressed after becoming a member, but the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s decision was the only immediate requirement,” Ahmeti asserts.

Association of Serb Majority Municipalities Not an Obstacle

The Kosovo Government asserts that establishing the Association of the Serb Majority Municipalities is not a prerequisite for membership in the Council of Europe. Gabriel Escobar, the US special envoy for the Western Balkans, has claimed the opposite.

During an interview with Radio Free Europe on March 15, 2024, Escobar stressed that Kosovo’s admission to the Council of Europe relied on establishing the Serb Majority Municipalities Association. Ahmeti disagrees, arguing that, “the Association issue should not be an obstacle as it belongs to a separate process currently underway in Brussels, mediated by the European Union.” 

Established in 1949, the Council of Europe is an international organisation dedicated to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe. 

Kosovo submitted its membership application to the Council on May 12, 2022.

The Association of Serb Majority Municipalities is one of the recommendations outlined in the report by Eminent Jurists, published in December 2023. The expert report forms part of the analysis that will be reviewed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe before Kosovo’s membership request is subjected to a vote.

Kosovo’s accession to the Council of Europe is included as a requirement of the Brussels agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, reached on February 27, 2023, and the implementation annex agreed to in Ohrid, North Macedonia on March 18.

Illustration. Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. Photo: EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER

The ballots that shape Kosovo’s destiny

In order to join the Council of Europe, Kosovo’s application must be supported by two-thirds of the Council’s 46 member states. Among the nations with a say in Kosovo’s future are those that do not officially recognize Kosovo’s independence, including Serbia, Ukraine, Spain, Cyprus, Slovakia, Moldova, and Greece.

Nevertheless, Deputy Minister Ahmeti expressed confidence that Kosovo will receive more than 33 ‘yes’ votes, as they have been able to improve relations with some of the non-recognizing countries over time.

“I am optimistic that Hungary will also vote in favour at the Committee of Ministers, contrary to the stance taken by ambassadors,” Ahmeti remarked, noting that Hungary had voted against  Kosovo’s membership during the last meeting held on April 24, 2023.

Ahmeti was also unconcerned about Serbian opposition, despite Belgrade’s vigorous lobbying against Kosovo’s accession to the Council of Europe since Kosovo’s application. According to Ahmeti, Serbia’s efforts have waned over the years.

“In September 2022, the Legal Department of the Council of Europe affirmed that Kosovo is eligible to become a full member, encountering no legal impediments. At this precise juncture, Serbia recognized its inability to impede Kosovo’s progression,” stated Ahmeti.

Nonetheless, he noted that Serbia continues to spread disinformation about Kosovo, despite Serbia’s commitment to not disseminate such misleading narratives.

The 11 provisions outlined in the Basic Agreement negotiated in Brussels on February 27, 2023,  include a stipulation that Serbia will not obstruct Kosovo’s membership in international organisations.