Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti is continuing to make the case for NATO accession, given the ongoing war waged against Ukraine by Russia and potential instability in the region, but NATO and some members remain resolute that for now, it is not on the table.
Kurti told AFP that NATO and EU members should make it easier and faster for countries to join.
“In this extraordinary situation, we cannot behave normally. Therefore both EU membership and NATO membership cannot be done in the old ways,” he said, adding that “It is imperative that Brussels, as the capital of both NATO and the EU, rethink a new way of enlarging in the Western Balkans.”
Unfortunately, NATO does not agree. Responding to questions from Exit, a NATO official was clear that Kosovo’s membership must be subject to a unanimous vote.
“All decisions by NATO, including those related to membership, are taken by the North Atlantic Council, by a unanimous vote.”
Kosovo is recognised by 26 out of 30 NATO members, meaning it would be impossible for them to get the needed unanimous vote. After a bloody war with Serbia that ended after NATO intervention, Kosovo declared its independence from Belgrade in 2008.
Yet, there are a number of states that do not recognise its sovereignty include Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia. All four are members of NATO.
Furthermore, the NATO official said that the accession criteria is as per Article 10 of the Washington Treaty and the process of accession remains unchanged.
The official added “NATO’s engagement in Kosovo has not changed. We remain strongly committed through the NATO mandated Kosovo Force (KFOR) which contributes to a safe and secure environment and to wider stability in the Western Balkans.”
KFOR is a NATO-led international peacekeeping force stationed in Kosovo since the end of the war and that will remain in place until Kosovo’s Security Force becomes self-sufficient.
Any changes to the position of NATO and KFOR remain conditions-based and not calendar-driven, the official summarised.
Exit contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Spain.
Romania and Spain did not respond.
Slovakia dodged the question of NATO and said that “The Slovak Republic supports EU membership for all countries of the Western Balkans. However, many preconditions need to be met for this, including resolving political issues. One of them is the constructive dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, which the European Union is trying to mediate.”
The dialogue between the two countries has long been stagnant as Kosovo demands recognition while Serbia says this will never happen.
In Greece’s curt response, a spokesperson said, “please also check article 10 of the Washington Treaty establishing NATO. Greece’s position on Kosovo remains unchanged.”
Article 10 refers to the requirement that all states vote unanimously in favour of accession to the alliance.
While Kurti calls for new methods for accession, NATOs response was clear that this is not on the table, for now at least.
On the topic of Russia’s war and President Vladimir Putin, Kurti stated that “the president of Russia is unpredictable. He is the leader of war and not the leader of peace.”
Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine on 24 February, Kosovo and other countries in the region such as Bosnia and Herzegovina have been fearful of the already tense security situation being further destabilised. Serbia, a staunch ally of Russia that has refused to enact EU sanctions, remains a driving force in both countries, leading to fears of influence or retaliation for pro-EU and NATO sentiments.
Putin, Kurti said, “will use the factors and actors he controls also in the Western Balkans. As they will target new conflicts, the Western Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular are at risk.”
“In the past, the Russian president mentioned us once a month. Now he mentions us several times a week.”
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