Kosovo makes last-minute push to get its membership in Council of Europe approved in a Friday vote

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Kosovo’s government is making a last-minute effort to convince Western powers to vote on whether to admit the country as a new member in the Council of Europe, the continent’s top human rights body

ByZENEL ZHINIPOTOKU Associated Press and LLAZAR SEMINI Associated Press

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- The government of Kosovo is making a last-minute effort to convince Western powers to vote on whether to admit the country as a new member in the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights body.

Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla-Schwarz in a letter Thursday to Theodoros Rousopoulos, the head of the Council of Europe’s Parliament Assembly, said the government would send a draft bill it is working on, outlining its proposal on Serb-majority municipalities, to Kosovo's Constitutional Court by the end of May.

Foreign ministers of the member countries of the Council of Europe were to convene on Friday but it was unclear whether Kosovo's admission would be on the agenda — and whether the letter from Gervalla-Schwarz could make that happen.

Kosovo needs at least a two-thirds' yes vote from 46 member countries for council membership.

Media in Kosovo said the vote on the country's membership was not included in Friday’s agenda, apparently because France and Germany were not convinced that Kosovo had taken sufficient steps to establish a so-called association with its Serb-majority municipalities in the north — a condition that has been decried by Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

The association would coordinate work on education, health care, land planning and economic development in the Serb-majority cities and towns and serve as a bridge with the Kosovo government.

Despite assurances from the United States and the European Union, Kosovo fears such an association would be a step toward creating a Serb mini-state with wide autonomy, similar to the Republika Srpska in Bosnia.

The establishment of the association was first agreed on in Brussels in 2013 and approved by the Kosovo parliament. But Kosovo’s Constitutional Court later deemed it unconstitutional, saying it was not inclusive of other ethnicities and could entail executive powers.

The Constitutional Court will now have to decide on whether the new draft is in line with Kosovo's constitution.

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic described Kosovo’s move as a “trick rather than a serious attempt to do anything regarding the implementation of the agreement from Brussels.”

The foreign ministers’ vote is the last step before Kosovo can be invited to join the Council of Europe.

The EU-facilitated normalization talks between Kosovo and Serbia have failed to make progress and Brussels has warned both that refusal to compromise jeopardizes their chances of joining the bloc. Serbia doesn’t recognize its former province of Kosovo’s formal declaration of independence in 2008.

The 1998-1999 war between Serbian government forces and ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo killed about 13,000 people, mostly Kosovo Albanians. In 1999, a 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended the war and Serbian forces were pushed out.


Semini reported from Tirana, Albania. Associated Press writer Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this report.


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