Balkans Group’s new policy report Kosovo and the Council of Europe: An Accession Roadmap, provides an analysis of Kosovo’s path towards membership in the Council of Europe (CoE), the criteria, the procedural steps, and potential challenges.
Kosovo’s application to join the CoE is a significant step towards integrating into the European community. Membership requires the fulfillment of five (5) broad criteria that the CoE bodies assess on a case-by-case basis, in three important rounds of voting in the Committee of Ministers and the PACE. Currently, the matter sits with the Committee of Ministers which is expected to refer the matter to the PACE for an opinion. Once the PACE adopts an opinion and recommends accession to the CoE, the Committee of Ministers takes a final vote to invite Kosovo to become a member.
Since its independence, Kosovo has demonstrated the ability and willingness to adhere to the CoE principles. Its constitutional framework already provides for the direct applicability of several CoE conventions, and international reports note progress in implementing constitutional guarantees. The Constitutional Court refers to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) or the case law of the Strasbourg Court in 95% of the cases. Thus, there are no constitutional gaps that would need to be addressed before the membership.
Despite the progress, Kosovo remains the only Western Balkans country outside the CoE and the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg Court. There are no legal barriers for Kosovo to join the CoE and the membership battle will mostly lie in the domain of politics. Twelve (12) out of forty-six (46) member states do not recognise Kosovo as an independent state, which further complicates things. The normalisation of relations with Serbia highly affects the position of the non-recognisers and other CoE member states. The different views on whether Kosovo is a “European State” will therefore be the most controversial issue. Kosovo faces other challenges that derive from the ongoing dialogue with Serbia, implementation of the agreements reached and implementation of its courts’ decisions, along with other improvements in the judiciary and in other areas of human rights, anti-corruption, transitional justice, and gender equality.
Accession to the CoE will come with major benefits. Kosovo will sit in the Committee of Ministers and the PACE, accede more than 200 CoE instruments, and join several CoE monitoring mechanisms. It will even help Kosovo to pave its way toward EU membership. With the inclusion of Kosovo within its realm, the CoE will cover – for the first time in its history – the whole Western Balkans region and continental Europe. Kosovo’s accession will also serve CoE’s mission to develop common and democratic principles throughout Europe.
Although the decision to invite Kosovo is ultimately a political one, institutions should take concrete steps to prove that Kosovo is ready and able to join the CoE, by creating adequate programs and responsive plans to address potential requirements. The CoE shall acknowledge that Kosovo deserves to become a member state and enjoy the advantages of having access to its mechanisms.
Read the full report HERE.
This publication is supported by the Norwegian Embassy in Prishtina. The views and analysis in this publication are solely of the Balkans Group and do not reflect the views of the donor.