Council of Europe committee gives the nod for Kosovo's admission, angering Serbia

Council of Europe committee gives the nod for Kosovo's admission, angering Serbia
/ CoE
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje March 27, 2024

The Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a recommendation on March 27 to invite Kosovo to join the organisation, despite Serbia's strong opposition to the move.

The decision was reached during a meeting held in Paris, where the committee voted on the recommendation put forth by Greek rapporteur Dora Bakoyannis. In her report, Bakoyannis urged Pristina to meet three conditions, with one of these conditions, the return of property to the Visoki Decani Serbian Orthodox monastery, already being fulfilled.

A few days ago, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbia may quit the Council of Europe (CoE) if Kosovo gains membership. Belgrade does not recognise the independence of its former province Kosovo and has lobbied intensively to keep the new country out of international organisations.

According to a statement released on the CoE's official social network, the next procedural step regarding Kosovo's admission involves a plenary debate scheduled for April 18. During this session, the Parliamentary Assembly will cast its statutory opinion on the matter.

The recommendation received substantial support, with 31 country representatives voting in favour, four against and one abstention, Serbian broadcaster RTS reported. Opposition was voiced by representatives from Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina, as well as two Serbian delegates, who voted against Kosovo's prospective membership. The Council of Europe has 46 member countries.

The decision has sparked controversy, drawing contrasting reactions from various stakeholders.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic denounced the decision made by the Political Committee of PACE regarding the recommendation for Kosovo's membership as "shameful and scandalous".

Dacic said the decision undermines the fundamental principles upon which the Council of Europe is built, as it marks the first instance where admission of a territory not recognised by the United Nations nor internationally acknowledged has been proposed, Tanjug reported.

Dacic asserted that the decision poses a threat to Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Serbian Minister of Defense Milos Vucevic also criticised the move, alleging a breach of established international law principles. 

Similarly, Maja Vukicevic, head of the Montenegrin delegation in the PA, reiterated her opposition to Kosovo's admission. She that the decision could set a precedent that could embolden other disputed territories to seek membership in international institutions.

Kosovan officials and representatives of various political parties praised the decision.

"Victory ... The first step has been completed, two more steps are to be done and it will be completed finally," an MP from the Kosovo's opposition LDK party, Arben Gashi, said, RTK reported.

The President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani stated that Kosovo committed itself to form the Union of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo — one of the main stumbling blocks in Belgrade-Pristina relations — but said that fulfilling this obligation will happen once Kosovo gains fulll membership in the Council of Europe.