Serbia Not Allowing Kosovo to Participate in EUSAIR as an Independent Country

Serbia said on Monday (30.05) that it would not allow Kosovo to be part of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region (EUSAIR) as an independent country.

EUSAIR is a forum bringing together Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, and San Marino, launched in 2014 by the European Commission to help candidate countries and potential candidates draw closer to EU membership.

The ten countries are Adriatic or Ionian countries or are in the hinterland of the two seas, and they gathered in Tirana for an annual conference on 16-18 May. A Kosovo delegation led by Local Government Minister Elbert Krasniqi visited Tirana but did not attend the conference, however, the delegation met with European Commission officials, requesting accession to EUSAIR.

For a country to be admitted to EUSAIR it needs to have the consent of all ten member countries. “Under international law and the UN Charter, Kosovo and Metohija are an integral part of the Republic of Serbia, a member of the United Nations”, the Serbian Foreign Ministry said in an e-mail sent to the Croatian state news agency Hina, noting that parts of EUSAIR member countries cannot participate in EUSAIR because the countries of which they are part of, are already members. In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia and its independence has been recognized by 22 of the 27 EU member countries.

This month Bosnia and Herzegovina took over the presidency of EUSAIR, to last until 31 May 2023, when the chairmanship will be taken over by Croatia. Krasniqi told Hina on Sunday (29.05) he believed that Croatia would support Kosovo’s bid and that during its chairmanship Kosovo could become a member. Croatian state secretary Andreja Metelko-Zgombic, who attended the meeting in Tirana, told Croatian reporters that Kosovo “should certainly be included in all initiatives, including international organizations.”

The EC, the EU’s executive body, said that EUSAIR could further expand but that the admission of new members did not depend on it but on the consent of all ten members, and that Serbia was blocking Kosovo’s entry. In its reply to Hina, the Serbian Foreign Ministry notes that among the EUSAIR member countries are also countries that have not recognized Kosovo’s independence, such as Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina. EUSAIR member-states local and regional authorities, universities, associations, and companies apply jointly for projects financed with money from EU funds.

Kosovo participates only in cross-border cooperation with North Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro as part of the IPA program, which enables potential candidates and candidates to use money from EU funds. Krasniqi said that those projects were excellent and that it was a pity Kosovo did not have such projects with Serbia or EU countries like Italy”, as it would provide citizens with additional opportunities. “The Kosovo and Serbian delegations did not meet or talk in Tirana. The Serbian ministry said Krasniqi had not been invited to the forum itself and only attended events on the margins of the conference.

The last country to join EUSAIR was San Marino, in February 2022 while North Macedonia joined in 2021.

“Serbia has good cooperation with the member countries of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative and EUSAIR, and the latest work results of all four pillars show that EUSAIR has a future that will benefit all participating countries”, the Serbian ministry said. EUSAIR builds on the former Adriatic-Ionian Initiative adopted in Ancona in 2000 to promote regional cooperation and political stability as a foundation for the process of European integration.

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