PACE recommends that Kosovo become a member of the Council of Europe

Council of Europe

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has recommended that the Council of Europe (CoE) invite Kosovo to become a member. However, PACE has also decided to monitor Kosovo’s fulfilment of commitments and obligations from its accession. All references to Kosovo in this text are made in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to Kosovo’s status.

According to the CoE’s procedures, the Assembly must first give its opinion on any application for membership before the Committee of Ministers, the organisation’s executive body made up of Foreign Ministers, takes a final decision. In its statutory opinion, based on a report by Dora Bakoyannis from Greece, and passed by 131 votes in favour, 29 against, and 11 abstentions, the Assembly said that membership would lead to “the strengthening of human rights standards by ensuring access to the European Court of Human Rights for all those who are under Kosovo’s jurisdiction.”

“Since the very beginning, I have been adamant that the report will take no stand on statehood. The recognition or non-recognition is and shall remain a prerogative of states,” said Mrs. Bakoyannis while addressing the Assembly.

The Assembly believes that Kosovo’s membership would not only be the culmination of a dialogue that has developed over a span of two decades but also a significant step towards a brighter future. Membership should catalyse momentum for Kosovo to continue progressing in strengthening human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. According to the parliamentarians, membership would also help Kosovo to address outstanding challenges and matters of concern, including the gap between normative standards and their effective implementation, the need to better protect the rights of non-majority communities, and fostering a climate conducive to trust, reconciliation, and inclusion.

The Assembly welcomed as a major breakthrough the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s judgment in the case of the Visoki Decani monastery. This was seen as a tangible sign of the commitment of the government to act in full accordance with the rule of law, irrespective of political considerations. The establishment of an Association of Serb majority municipalities would be an important step to ensure the protection of the rights of Kosovo Serbs, it added, and should feature in the Committee of Ministers’ future consideration of Kosovo’s application to accede to the Council of Europe, as a post-accession commitment.

Given that several Council of Europe member states do not recognise Kosovo as a state, the Assembly called for “diplomacy, dialogue, and compromise.” It invited the Committee of Ministers to ensure that Kosovo’s membership was “without prejudice to individual member states’ positions as regards the statehood of Kosovo.”

It is important to note that Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain are among the EU countries that do not recognise Kosovo’s independent statehood. 

The Council of Europe’s Assembly has a watchdog function that would allow Kosovo to address “significant shortcomings in the implementation of the legal rules” within the political and legal watchdog of Democracy, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law in Europe. Admission into the Assembly would extend the European Court of Human Rights protection to Kosovo, which has faced criticism over its ability to uphold the rights of minorities.

However, Serbian MPs were critical of the recommendation. Serbia refuses to recognise Kosovo and has long been critical of steps taken by the international community to include Kosovo within international organisations, fearing that membership risks recognition of the self-declared independent country.

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