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Slađana Prica, retired ambassador, member of the Forum for International Relations and honorary president of the United Nations Association of Serbia

Diplomatic Response Overdue

The issue of the so-called ‘self-proclaimed’ Kosovo joining Europe’s oldest political organisation has long been an open question. Attempts have been made and lobbying carried out, but admission itself has not been accepted

This was preceded by analyses carried out by so-called ‘preeminent lawyers’, who are mandated to visit and provide a legal opinion on whether a European country has satisfied the standards and norms of the organisation itself.

Their formal opinion was submitted to the legal and political committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in December 2023, when a decision was taken to appoint a rapporteur on behalf of the CoE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. Alongside two rapporteurs from other committees, Greece’s Dora Bakoyannis was appointed the CoE’s main rapporteur for Kosovo. She has visited Kosovo on multiple occasions and held talks with leaders at all levels and with representatives of institutions operating in Kosovo, but also with the Serbian community. Our mission to the Council of Europe didn’t monitor the progress of reporting in an adequate diplomatic manner. Moreover, it is also our fault that Bakoyannis didn’t visit Belgrade to hold talks while she was in the process of compiling her report.

Pristina’s unwillingness to fulfil its obligations is obvious. The report partly set aside attacks on Serbs and their persecution and departure, as well as the violating or insufficient meeting of basic human rights and freedoms, to be resolved in the so-called post-monitoring period. Knowing the balance of power within the Committee of Ministers, which received the positive opinion of the parliamentary assembly, I am aware that they will vote to recognise or not in accordance with the decisions of their governments, which are decisions based on the opinions of political parties.

I think we ought to have responded to the whole procedure much earlier, and that we should have refrained from making inappropriate and unacceptable addresses in the CoE Parliamentary Assembly

The possibility exists that the Council of Europe and its Committee of Ministers will gain the required two-thirds majority at the 16th-17th May session, which would set a precedent given that states have previously gained membership in this organisation by consensus. This is the first time that this consensus has been breached, which isn’t good for the organisation or its reputation and credibility. According to all available information, the Committee of Ministers is itself strongly divided at this juncture. The leading states primarily lobbying for Kosovo’s admission are Germany and Turkey, as well as a few other countries. Greece has made it clear that it will show restraint, which is a major backward step compared to the Greek policy to date. There are also threats that Serbia will withdraw its own membership. No one is expelling Serbia from this organisation. That isn’t being done with this report or by the Committee of Ministers with its decision. It is my consideration that we mustn’t withdraw from this organisation, as we still cooperate with all its bodies and organs, and particularly as this would also mean giving up on European integration. There has been lots of wrangling over whether this membership would imply some additional protection of human rights for Serbs, but also for the Albanian, Roma, Ashkali and other peoples who live there.

My personal opinion is that no territory in Europe should be excluded from all democratic European processes, through which every citizen has the right to address a higher supranational body, which is the European Court of Human Rights that represents a binding convention.

Kosovo is attempting to use a political manoeuvre to avoid its obligation to establish a community of Serb-majority municipalities, by allegedly submitting a draft of the associated statute to the Constitutional Court by 10th May. I think we ought to have responded to the whole procedure much earlier, and that we should have refrained from making inappropriate and unacceptable addresses in the CoE Parliamentary Assembly.

When it comes to the threat that Kosovo will gain the possibility to sue Serbia for genocide, via the Council of Europe and by addressing the European Court of Human Rights, I am certain that the Court will declare itself as having no jurisdiction in this matter, in accordance with its own rules.

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