MEPs ‘would welcome’ Kosovo recognition by all EU states

European deputies in Strasbourg today adopted a resolution on Kosovo which calls on all EU member states to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

The resolution was adopted with 455 votes in favour and 155 votes against.

MEPs “would welcome the recognition by all Member States of the independence of Kosovo”, the resolution says. In addition, the text recalls that Kosovo’s declaration of independence, made on February 18, 2008, has been recognized by 66 countries, and emphasizes: “22 EU Member States have recognized Kosovo as an independent country and 5 have not”.

The resolution also calls all EU member states to have a common approach towards Kosovo. It tackles as well the question of Belgrade’s behavior towards its former province.

“Whilst acknowledging that officially recognizing Kosovo is not currently a feasible political option for the Belgrade government, MEPs nonetheless call on Serbia to be pragmatic on the status issue and to refrain from blocking Kosovo’s membership of international organizations,” the resolution says.

The motion also refers to the International Court of Justice’s forthcoming opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, which is expected at the end of this month.

The text stresses that: “the forthcoming advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice, ICJ, on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence should not hinder all parties involved from clearly committing themselves to effective cross-border, regional and local co-operation in the best interest of the whole population in and around Kosovo.”

MEPs who have insisted on the inclusion of Kosovo in the visa liberalisation process for some time address the issue in this resolution as well, asking Brussels-based institutions to undertake practical steps to make the benefits of co-operating with the EU more tangible to Kosovo’s citizens.

The resolution suggests that Kosovo should also benefit from the prospect of eventual visa liberalisation, once all conditions are met. “To this end, the Commission should communicate without delay to the Kosovo authorities the steps that need to be taken before preparing the visa liberalization road map,” the resolution says.

As part of the motion members of the European Parliament call on all parties in Kosovo to make progress on key reforms such as the fight against corruption and organised crime, decentralization and public administration reform. MEPs stress their “extreme concern by the widespread corruption, which remains one of the biggest problems in Kosovo together with organised crime”.

In light of recent events in the northern part of Kosovo, European deputies said the motion would include a new amendment condemning last week’s violence in north Mitrovica. MEPs stress that the situation in northern Kosovo is cause for concern, and is an area “which suffers from severe shortcomings in the rule of law, increased pressure and intimidation of civil society by radical groups and from organized crime”.

“The EU’s EULEX rule of law mission efforts should be stepped up in the north so as to foster good inter-ethnic relations, and inform the local population about EU action,” the resolution says.

In the debate that was held on the eve of the vote, the author of the resolution, Austrian MEP Ulrike Lunatchek, stressed that the new amendment about the situation in the North warns that the recent outbreak of violence should not be used a pretext for emotions running high in the next few months.

For Lunatchek as well as many other MEPs, the ICJ opinion will be a very important moment for the region.

“I hope this will give us an opportunity and be an open window to put cooperation in the region on new footing,” Lunachek said during the debate on Wednesday evening.

European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele, who participated in Wednesday’s debate, also referred to the important moment expected after the ICJ opinion is issued and tackled the situation in the northern part of the country.

“EU Member states have condemned the violence and they made it absolutely clear that to achieve objectives in Kosovo, violence cannot be tolerated,” Fuele said in Strasbourg. “We ask for all sides to show restraint as we wait for the ICJ opinion on Kosovo,” he added.

Fuele again confirmed the EU’s commitment to a common approach towards Kosovo but warned that the authorities in Pristina should prove progress if they want to move forward with European integration.

“The timing and scope of Kosovo’s progress is determined by Kosovo itself,” Fuele said. He added that Brussels has shown already a willingness to move forward with Kosovo. He mentioned the launching of the Stabilization and Association Dialogue in January, as well as the movement on visas and trade preferences. “The ball in now in your court,” he told Pristina.

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