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18 May, 2022 22:23

Disputed territory seeks NATO and EU membership

Kosovo wants to be part of the EU and NATO, the leader of the breakaway province has said in Washington
Disputed territory seeks NATO and EU membership

Kosovo wishes to become a member of NATO and the European Union, the self-proclaimed republic’s prime minister, Albin Kurti, said on Wednesday, while visiting the US. Serbia’s breakaway province, backed by the US, declared independence in 2008 but has not been recognized by Belgrade, the UN, nor all EU member states.

Kurti made the announcement during an event hosted by the Atlantic Council on Wednesday afternoon. Earlier in the day, he met with officials of the Biden administration – including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and USAID chief Samantha Power.

According to Kurti, one of several members of congress he met, Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan), expressed “unequivocal support” for Kosovo’s aspirations to join “international and regional organizations, especially NATO,” he said on Twitter.

Kosovo is a province of Serbia which was occupied by NATO after the bloc’s 78-day air war in 1999. Its provisional government declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by the US and many of its allies, but not Russia, China, nor Belgrade itself. Five EU members – Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain – also regard it as part of Serbia, making Kurti’s bid a tall order.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has publicly revealed that Belgrade is under tremendous pressure from the EU to join the anti-Russian sanctions regime and recognize Kosovo, in exchange for vague promises about joining the bloc.

Kurti is the leader of Vetevendosje, a nationalist ethnic Albanian party opposed to any negotiations with Serbia, whose platform at one point sought unification with Albania proper. The US backed his ouster in March 2020 after just six months as PM, but he came back to win the February 2021 election in a landslide.

Wednesday’s announcement is actually the second time Kurti has publicly articulated joining the EU and NATO as Pristina’s political objectives. He first did so on Saturday, at a lecture sponsored by the Albanian Studies program at DePaul University in Chicago.

“Kosovo is a democratic success story in the region, which is why it needs support to become a member of NATO, EU and other regional and international organizations without further delay,” Kurti told his audience, according to Albanian media.

Noting that Kosovo was the first to join the US and EU in imposing sanctions on Russia, Kurti argued that it would be a “great victory” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to see Kosovo’s “progress” reversed.

Putin had brought up Kosovo’s declaration of independence in last month’s meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Moscow, pointing out that the US and its allies created a precedent in international law which Russia then applied to the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.