Kosovo PM Rejects West’s Terms for CoE Membership

Prime Minister Albin Kurti rejects Western demand to push ahead with Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities as a condition for Council of Europe membership this month.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, said on Wednesday that his government will not send the Statute of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, ASMM, for review to the Constitutional Court, a step required by some states before Council of Europe membership is put on the agenda for the mid-May CoE ministers’ summit.

Insisting that Kosovo has fulfilled all the obligations for membership, Kurti said the Statute does not yet present a formal document, as it was not accepted by Serbia last year during EU-facilitated dialogue talks between the countries on normalization of relations.

“The Government does not accept the condition for Council of Europe membership with the [Serb] Association,” Kurti told his cabinet on Wednesday.

“The lack of support is unfortunate. It does not help normalisation and dialogue [with Serbia] and does not contribute to democracy, peace, and security,” he added.

Conditioning CoE membership with starting formation of an autonomous Serb municipal association became clear this week when Kurti met the “Quint” ambassadors, from France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the United States.

The Council of Europe confirmed to BIRN on Wednesday that Kosovo’s membership “is not currently on the agenda for the meeting of the Committee of Ministers next week”.

The German embassy in Pristina told BIRN on Wednesday that the Quint states and other states have 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”.

“Submitting the draft statute [of the ASMM] to the Constitutional Court 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 said.

“It is now up to Prime Minister Kurti and his government to convince the necessary number of states by other means, i.e. by taking other concrete steps towards the creation of the ASMM, which Kosovo has committed to establish and which is therefore an internationally binding obligation,” it added

Kosovo raised its hopes of CoE membership last month when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE, voted to recommend membership for Kosovo, a major milestone in the country’s international integration since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.

The 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 final decision to the Committee of Ministers, the final hurdle.

Serbia, which does not recognise Kosovo 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 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.

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.