Will Kosovo join the Council of Europe?
    Two points of view on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  15 May 2023 - 13:25

    Samir Ibrahimov

    Following the vote in the Council of Europe on the issue of Kosovo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said that Azerbaijan, Georgia, Cyprus, Hungary, Romania, and Spain will become his country's best friends in the future. Belgrade has demanded that the Council of Europe resolution on supporting the territorial integrity of Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova be changed. In particular, Serbia demands that the line "and all other member states of the Council of Europe" be added to the text of the resolution.

    "They say they defend the integrity of Moldova, Georgia, and we have added an amendment respecting the territorial integrity of all other Council of Europe countries. If they do not agree, I will not go to Reykjavik for the summit. Obviously, there are no principles. I say to their face that we have been deceived," the Serbian President said.

    Last month, the Council of Europe decided to start the procedure for Kosovo's application for membership. Azerbaijan, Georgia, Cyprus, Romania, and Spain did not support the resolution. Hungary, which formally recognised Kosovo, also opposed it. Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina abstained from the vote.

    The 4th summit in the history of the Council of Europe will be held on May 16-17 in Reykjavik.

    But the question posed by Vucic is fundamentally interesting. And it is no accident that his initiative was supported by such countries as Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Spain - that is, precisely those who have suffered and are suffering from encroachments of the separatists on their territories. After all, why would the CoE, which advocates the territorial integrity of some European countries, deny the same right to others? Why is Serbia worse than others? After all, in the same way, like in Kosovo, the question of admission of Catalonia (part of Spain) or Abkhazia (part of Georgia) to the CoE can be raised. And what is this but direct encouragement of separatism? How is Kosovo better than the separatist regions of other countries? Do Albanians there want to exercise the right to self-determination of nations? But Albanians have their own separate state, and those who do not like living in the Serbian region of Kosovo can easily move to the nearby independent Republic of Albania. Otherwise, we get a kind of phenomenon and the same notorious double standards. Isn't it?

    Experts from countries with first-hand knowledge of the separatist issue expressed their views on the matter to Caliber.Az.

    Tengiz Pkhaladze, the former foreign policy advisor to the President of Georgia, noted that the Kosovo issue is very complicated and there are still disagreements over it.

    "However, we should not identify Kosovo with those problems and those separatists that exist in the territory of Georgia and on the territory of Azerbaijan. The case of Kosovo is really different. The original issue there was not about secession, but the protection of rights of the population. When we are talking about Kosovo, Albanians were the majority there. If you take for example the situation in Abkhazia, the Abkhazians have never been in the majority, and even on the contrary, the minority has ruled the majority. In Kosovo, there was a very acute problem of violation of people's rights, which was not the case in the separatist regions of other states. If we look at our Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia, even today their population cannot enjoy those rights that they had in the period of subordination to Tbilisi. That is, the pseudo-independence that they allegedly gained, in fact, turned out to be no more than Russification, and those opportunities that they had as part of Georgia (education in their native language, at least) are physically absent there now. And in reality, if anything is dying today, it's the Abkhazian language that is under threat," said the analyst.

    Ethnic cleansing is probably the hardest topic, and it really happened in Kosovo against Kosovars, said Pkhaladze.

    "These were quite brutal events. Whereas in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, it was exactly the opposite. That is, ethnic cleansing was carried out against Georgians there and accordingly, the cases here are different from each other".

    The issue of Kosovo is complex in nature. Again, there is no consensus among the different states. And it is not possible to identify this situation with others. And by the way, there are differences in the dynamics of dealing with such conflict situations. When UN-mandated forces, and representative offices of other international structures operated in Kosovo, in our region, despite the fact that there also seemed to be observers, peacekeepers, etc., in fact, everything was controlled by one state – the Russian Federation. So there are very many differences, though I must stress that all countries have to be very, very careful when it comes to the territorial integrity of this or that country. But again, the main issue there that pushed for a number of decisions to recognise Kosovo was ethnic cleansing and accusations of genocide against Kosovars. In contrast to the separatist regions in other countries," said the Georgian political analyst.

    Ukrainian expert, and political technologist Taras Zagorodnyy also noted first of all that "the Kosovo case is quite complicated".

    "Because it is atypical for the breakup of Yugoslavia. When the war started there in the 1990s, its division into several states was logical, because there were formed nations that had different religious affiliations. From the very beginning of the creation of Yugoslavia after the First World War, it was a rather unstable state. This was at the initiative of the then great powers, Britain and France, in order to have some stability in the Balkans. But given the very complicated history of the Balkan countries, this entity was effectively doomed. It somehow kept up after Josip Broz Tito came to power, due to his authority. The country was highly decentralised, there was a real federal structure. When the war broke out at the end of the twentieth century, everyone immediately began to recognize the new states that emerged after the collapse of Yugoslavia within the same borders as they existed in the federation. These were Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia (now Northern), and later Montenegro.

    As for Kosovo, the situation is much more complicated. Albania has long existed in the neighbourhood. How Albanians ended up in Kosovo is also the result of the policy of Tito, who settled them in the historical Serbian area. And this is Kosovo field, the long-standing mythology of the Serbs, where they fought for their independence. But because there was a high birthrate among the Albanian newcomers (which was stimulated from Albania under Enver Hoxha), Serbs quickly became a minority in Kosovo province.

    Why was it decided to create a separate Kosovar state after all? Because the West followed a familiar case study from the break-up of Yugoslavia. The task of the West, as the present head of the CIA William Burns wrote in his book, is not to solve problems, but to control them. Accordingly, Kosovo became a partially recognised state. It was such a precedent, which from the very beginning did not look, to put it mildly, very right. Because it is indeed a historical territory of Serbia, not at all disputed. And that is why countries that face the problem of separatism do not recognize Kosovo. This also applies to Ukraine," the political technologist said.

    Serbia is now trying by all means to stop the integration of Kosovo into the Council of Europe.

    "And Belgrade's aim is to unite the positions of Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, which support it in these matters, and to show that in this case, it is about injustice.

    But here I also see a cunning game of Moscow, which is trying to bring the Kosovo issue back up to date through Serbia. That is, Serbia is trying to resolve its issues and play in Russia's favour at the same time. Moscow wants to use Belgrade to show the West, saying 'What complaints do you have towards us? We are tearing Ukraine apart as we want because you did the same with Kosovo'. Though this is a far-fetched argument, because after all Serbian troops conducted military operations in the territory of Kosovo, and the West chose the easiest way and said it would be better to divide Christian Serbs and Muslim Kosovars.

    But of course, it is clear that the countries suffering from separatism - Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia - will not support this for obvious reasons. Because it would be a contradiction to themselves. Which, again, Russia can take advantage of.

    Interestingly, there is also a contradiction in the positions of the European bureaucracy and the national states of Europe. The European bureaucracy benefits from the fragmentation of more or less large states - it is easier to manage and deal with small regions (like Spanish Catalonia). After all, they have less power and less weight.

    Nevertheless, we see that since the emergence of Kosovo, which caused many questions including in Europe, there has been no visible movement to continue such a scenario. Yes, there was a problem with Catalonia, but it was somehow hushed up. Apparently, the major EU countries have also realized that this is not the right way and the precedent of Kosovo is a single exception, on which they want to stop and close this subject once and for all. Because in Europe itself there are plenty of such small problematic regions - Basque Country, Corsica, German north of Italy, etc.

    Whether such tendencies will stop in the future is still a big question, because it is not yet known how the supra-European bureaucracy will behave," Zagorodnyy concluded.


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