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German Ambassador: Kosovo Must Set Up Serb Body to Join Council of Europe

german ambassador kosovo must set up serb body to join council of europe
german ambassador kosovo must set up serb body to join council of europe

German ambassador Jorn Rohde told BIRN in an interview on Thursday that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti should not have been surprised that Germany and France asked Kosovo to send the draft statute of the long-delayed 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, Germany’s top diplomatic envoy to Prishtina, told BIRN.

 

He explained that Kurti “talked to the French president [Emmanuel] Macron, he talked to my chancellor [Olaf Scholz], he met my foreign minister [Annalena Baerbock] ten days ago in Berlin, and we had the same message for him” – take action that will convince the committee of ministers of Council of Europe member states to vote in favour of Kosovo joining the continent’s largest rights body.

 

Rohde added that “a failed vote would be a disaster”.On May 8, 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 has fulfilled all the obligations for membership of the Council of Europe. He also said that the draft statute for the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities does not yet re resent a formal document, as it was not accepted by Serbia last year during EU-facilitated talks between the two countries.

Rohde said he hoped Kurti will change his mind before a meeting of the committee of ministers of Council of Europe member states of the, which is expected to be held on May 16 or 17.

The conditioning of Kosovo’s Council of Europe membership on concrete moves to establish the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, which will represent Serbs’ interests in four northern Kosovo municipalities, became clear this week when Kurti met ambassadors from France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States.

The Council of Europe confirmed to BIRN on May 8, that Kosovo’s membership “is not currently on the agenda for the meeting of the Committee of Ministers next week”.

Kosovo’s hopes of Council of Europe membership grew 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.

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.

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.

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 that a report on whether to lift the measures or not is being finalised.

“I think we will see lifting soon,” Rohde said, noting that Kosovo, as the EU had urged, held elections for the removal of mayors elected in controversial circumstances in four Serb-majority municipalities in April. “[The elections] were boycotted [by Serbs] but that is not Kosovo’s fault… boycott is never the way forward,” Rohde said.

Rohde argued that Kosovo “has a unique chance to join [the Council of Europe] soon. And what we would like is for Kosovo to make the right decision, so I would prefer not to have a decision now if Kosovo is not taking the expected step that we expect from them.”

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