Kosovo to apply for EU membership by end of 2022
Kosovo will apply to join the European Union by the end of 2022, the country’s Foreign Minister Donika Gërvalla said on Tuesday (July 26), a a step likely to provoke the anger of neighboring Serbia, which still refuses to recognize the sovereignty of its former province.
Kosovo will be the last of the six Western Balkan countries to apply for EU membership. Serbia and Montenegro are already working on the chapters of the negotiation process, while Albania and North Macedonia opened formal talks last week. Bosnia and Herzegovina applied in 2016, but the country has yet to become an official candidate.
“We believe that Kosovo fulfills all the conditions required to be granted [le statut de candidat officiel]and therefore, by the end of the year, we will choose the appropriate time when we also officially submit this application”said Ms Gërvalla.
She said that Kosovo has already implemented most of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, the mechanism put in place by the European Union to “stabilize the region and establish a free trade area”.
EU membership has four phases — application, candidate status, negotiations, and finally, membership — and typically takes a good chunk of a decade or more. For Kosovo to obtain candidate status, the European Commission and the 27 member states of the Council must give their unanimous approval.
Difficulties could arise along the way as EU members Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia do not recognize Kosovo’s independence, declared in 2008, mainly due to disputes territorial.
During her press conference, Ms Gërvalla gave an update on Kosovo’s separate application to the Council of Europe, adding that she expected the process to be swift and successful.
“We believe that the Kosovo file will not take as long as that of other states in the region, because we believe that at this stage Kosovo fulfills all the preconditions in terms of legislation, human rights human rights, democratic standards and the rule of law”said Ms Gërvalla.
Kosovo applied to become a member of the Council of Europe last May, as recommended by the European Stability Initiative, a Berlin-based think tank.
The country has also announced its intention to apply for NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, but again it may face obstacles, as unanimity among members is required.
The enlargement of the European Union, considered to be at a standstill by many, has gained some momentum in recent weeks.
In addition to the opening of accession negotiations with Tirana and Skopje, Ukraine and Moldova have obtained candidate status with the aim of countering the influence of Russia in Europe.
The news is likely to displease Belgrade, where President Alexander Vučić has sworn never to recognize Kosovo as an independent country and has already reacted strongly to the announcement of applications for membership of the Council of Europe and the NATO.
Threatening to set up a “strong and serious response” to any such request, he added: “The day we learn that they have officially applied to join an organization, our response will be much stronger than they think and will not be limited to a simple statement to the media. Believe me, we will show our teeth”.
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