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Kosovo PM hits out at 'conditions' to join European rights body

By AFP

May 8, 2024 09:41 PM


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Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti on Wednesday slammed a set of alleged conditions for joining Europe's top rights body, including the creation of a semi-autonomous governing structure for ethnic Serbs.

Kosovo has been closing in on membership to the Council of Europe for months despite strong protests from arch-rival Serbia, with a final accession vote set for later this month.

Kosovo's campaign to join the leading rights institution appears to have hit a snag, with Kurti saying that his government is being pressured into creating an association of 10 Serb-majority municipalities.

Kurti has long been a fierce opponent of creating such a governing structure, arguing that the association would essentially hand Kosovo's tiny Serb minority autonomy and undercut the government in Pristina.

"The government does not accept the (creation of) the association as a condition of admission to the Council of Europe," said Kurti during an address to his cabinet.

The prime minister, however, refused to name which countries of the 46-member council had called for the formation of the association to clear Kosovo's path to membership.

Kurti's ongoing refusal to create the association reverses an earlier agreement by a previous government signed in 2013.

According to the deal, the association would cover 10 municipalities where Serbs are the majority population. The association would enjoy autonomy in the fields of health, education, culture, and other sectors.

Kurti's comments come as the international spotlight was centred on Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who welcomed Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a lavish state visit to the capital Belgrade on Wednesday.

During the visit, Xi reiterated Beijing's long-standing support for Serbia's territorial claim over Kosovo.

China, along with Russia, has played a crucial role in preventing the former breakaway province from receiving recognition by the United Nations.

Animosity between Kosovo and Serbia has persisted since the war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents in the late 1990s that drew a NATO intervention against Belgrade.

Kosovo later declared independence in 2008, a move that Serbia has refused to acknowledge.

Kosovo is overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Albanians, but in the northern stretches of the territory near the border with Serbia, ethnic Serbs remain the majority in several municipalities.


AFP


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