European Western Balkans

Kosovo leaders signed application for EU membership

Photo: Twitter/Vjosa Osmani

PRISTINA — Kosovo’s formal application to join the European Union was signed on 14 December by the President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti and the President of the Parliament Glauk Konjufca. The bid will be officially submitted to the Czech Presidency of the EU.

Osmani called the signing of the application a “historic moment” and that for Kosovo there is no alternative to joining the EU.

“Today we are taking the first step towards EU membership… It is a historic moment with which we want to open a new chapter,” Prime Minister Kurti said after signing the document, as N1 reported. He added that the pace of Kosovo’s EU integration will depend on its commitment to adopting and implementing necessary reforms in the fields of democratization, rule of law and economic development.

Konjufca called upon the leaders of Member States and the European Commission to approve the application of Kosovo and said that the EU will not be complete without the all European nations.

“This is the first official step towards Kosovo’s EU membership. This journey goes through the European Commission… The application now belongs to the governments of the member countries, which we invite to vote unanimously,” stated Konjufca acording to N1.

In an interview for POLITICO before signing of the application, Kosovo’s First Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European integration Besnik Bislimi stated that Kosovo is targeting 2030 as a possible accession date, even though he is aware of the accession process length. Bislimi added that the enthusiasm to join the EU expressed by Kosovo’s young population is an advantage, but he also acknowledged that the reforms in the rule of law will be challenging after “a long period of stagnation.”

Kosovo is the last Western Balkan country to apply for EU membership and the only one not enjoying visa liberalization yet. It has been considered a potential candidate along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is expected to be granted candidacy on 15 December after submitting the application back in 2016.

In order for Kosovo to become a candidate country, the European Commission should give it’s recommendation and all 27 Member States must approve it. After eventually being granted candidate status, Kosovo will need the approval of all Member States to start the negotiations as well. The European Commission has been including Kosovo in its annual progress reports on enlargement since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

However, not all EU Member States recognize Kosovo as an independent state, which might cause issues on its path towards EU membership considering many steps of the process which require a consensus. Five non-recognizers in the EU include Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Cyprus and Romania.

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