Serbia threatens to quit Council of Europe if Kosovo is allowed to join

Serbia threatens to quit Council of Europe if Kosovo is allowed to join
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers holds its quarterly meeting in March 2024. /
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje March 24, 2024

With Kosovo edging closer to membership in the Council of Europe (CoE), Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has hinted at the possibility for Serbia to withdraw from the organisation if Kosovo gains membership.

Belgrade does not recognise Kosovo's independence and has lobbied intensively to keep the new country out out international organisations. Despite this, Kosovo's candidacy for CoE membership was accepted last year, and a decision on whether to admit Kosovo is due to be made in May. 

In an interview with Prva TV on March 22, Vucic expressed Serbia's discontent with the prospect of Kosovo's acceptance into the CoE, hinting at severe consequences for the region's geopolitical landscape.

"You go with that and then we'll see if Serbia stays in the Council of Europe or not," Vucic said in an interview.

The CoE, an intergovernmental organisation comprising 47 member states, is tasked with upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law across Europe.

Vucic's sentiments were echoed by Ana Brnabic, the speaker of the Serbian parliament, who said that Serbia is not bluffing in its stance. Brnabic said that if the CoE were to compromise its principles by admitting Kosovo, Serbia shouldn't be part of such “hypocrisy and charade”. 

She made this statement after Viola von Cramon, the permanent rapporteur for Kosovo, stated on social networking platform X that the claims suggesting Serbia's withdrawal from the CoE if Kosovo were admitted were a “bluff”.

“A bluff of course. Of course Serbia will not leave. The talk shouldn't impress anyone. The members of the Council of Europe will decide for themselves who they will accept,” von Cramon said.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti recently made a surprising move, allowing the implementation of a constitutional court ruling granting 24 hectares of land to the Serbian Orthodox monastery Visoki Decani, which is seen as a crucial step towards Kosovo's possible accession to the CoE.

Kosovo submitted its application for membership in May 2022, and the Ministerial Committee of the CoE approved Kosovo's application for membership in the organisation at an extraordinary meeting held on April 24, 2023.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is slated for mid-April, while the Council of Ministers meeting, where Kosovo's membership will be decided, is scheduled for late May.

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kosovo has intensified its endeavours to join international organisations and urged expedited procedures for its Nato and EU membership, despite Serbia and its allies long blocking its entry into international organisations. Concerned about the potential for Belgrade to destabilise Kosovo due to its close ties with Russia, Kosovo has sought to bolster its international affiliations.