In the Balkans the breakaway territory of Kosovo is last in the queue to join the EU because the international community remains still split over its 2008 declaration of independence. The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo has been striving for international recognition since the 1999 conflict, in which Serb forces, accused of atrocities against civilians, pulled out after heavy Nato bombing.
Many countries have recognised Kosovo. But Serbia is among those those who did not; a group that includes Russia, China and five of the 27 EU member states: Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus.
For more than a decade the hostility between Belgrade and the Kosovan authorities in Pristina has held up consideration of a Kosovan EU bid. Belgrade supports ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo – about 50,000 people – who refuse to be governed by Pristina. But a landmark Serbia-Kosovo deal, brokered by the EU on 19 April 2013 after months of arduous negotiations, paves the way for both Serbia and Kosovo to make progress towards EU accession.
Both sides pledged that they would not try to block each other’s EU bid. The deal grants a high degree of autonomy to the Serb-majority areas in Kosovo, and allows them their own ethnic Serb police chief and ethnic Serb appeal court.
EU governments will now open talks with Kosovo aimed at reaching a Stabilisation and Association Agreement – a first step towards EU membership. The EU Commission recently proposed allowing Kosovo to participate in 22 EU programmes. The Commission praised Pristina’s co-operation with the EU law-and-order mission in Kosovo, called Eulex. It highlighted the smashing of a smuggling ring and other joint investigations into organised crime and corruption.
London, 20 Oct. 2017
Justine de Braeme