Accession of Kosovo to the European Union
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The Republic of Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia was enacted on 17 February 2008 by a vote of members of the Assembly of Kosovo. The declaration was not recognised by Serbia, or five out of 28 EU member states, and as a result the European Union itself refers only to "Kosovo*", with an asterisked footnote containing the text agreed to by the Belgrade–Pristina negotiations: "This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence." This has not prevented the country from continuing its EU enacted Stabilisation Tracking Mechanism (STM) programme, aiming to gradually integrate its national policies on legal, economic and social matters with EU, so that at some point in the future they could qualify for EU membership.
To ensure stability at the territory and neutral rule of law enforcement, the EU is operating in Kosovo under the umbrella of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), deploying police and civilian resources under the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX).
Negotiations for EU membership will only start once the country becomes an official candidate for membership. On 10 October 2012 the European Commission found that there were no legal obstacles to Kosovo signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU, as full sovereignty is not required for such an agreement, and recommended for SAA negotiations to start as soon as Kosovo had made further progress on issues in the four areas: Rule of law, Public administration, Protection of minorities, and Trade. On 28 June 2013, the European Council endorsed this recommendations, and negotiations were launched in the fall of 2013.
As of July 2013[update], 23 of the 28 member states recognise the Republic of Kosovo as an independent state. The EU states that do not recognise Kosovo's independence are Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania, and Greece. As a result, European Union itself refers only to "Kosovo*", with an asterisked footnote containing the text agreed to by the Belgrade–Pristina negotiations: "This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence."
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 8 July 2010 calling on all member states to recognise Kosovo. In October 2010, an envoy of the European Parliament suggested that lack of recognition by some countries would not be an obstacle to Kosovo joining the Schengen area's visa-free regime.
The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) is based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, which introduced the international rule of Kosovo in 1999. However, the EU force, which was previously planned to be convered by Security council's approval of Ahtisaari proposal, has not received a new UN Security Council mandate due to the opposition from Russia. Russia specifically blocked transfer of UN facility to the EU mission. Serbia also views the mission as an EU recognition of an independent Kosovo.
A 1,800 to 1,900 strong mission was approved by The European Council on 14 December 2007. This was later increased to 2,000 personnel due to an increase in expected instability due to a lack of an agreement with Serbia. It consists of police officers (including four anti-riot units), prosecutors and judges - hence focusing on issues on the rule of law, including democratic standards. The size of the mission means Kosovo is home to the largest number of EU civil servants outside of Brussels. Chief of the mission is French General Xavier Bout de Marnhac, who replaced Yves de Kermabon on 15 October 2010. He is accountable to the European Union member states.
The EU also appoints the International Civilian Representative for Kosovo (also the European Union Special Representative). The level of EU influence in Kosovo has led some to term it an EU protectorate.
On 25 August 2009, the EULEX mission was subject to violent protests, resulting in the damaging of 28 EU vehicles Three Kosovo police officers were injured in the clashes which resulted in 21 arrests by the Kosovo police. The attack was organised by a group called "Vetëvendosje!" ("Self-Determination") in reaction to EULEX's police cooperation with Serbia and its actions in Kosovo. There is resentment towards the EU mission for exercising its powers over Kosovo while mediating between the state and Serbia. Policies concentrating on crisis management, rather than resolution, as well as the pursuit of ethnic autonomy and its overly broad mandate over Kosovo's governance is at the stem of the discontent with the EU mission.
Stabilisation Tracking Mechanism
A Stabilisation Tracking Mechanism (STM), established for Kosovo on 6 November 2002, is an association process specially devised to promote policy dialogue between the EU and the Kosovan authorities on EU approximation matters. In addition, in March 2007, a new structure of sectoral meetings under the umbrella of the STM was established in the areas of: good governance, economy, internal market, innovation and infrastructure.
The EU is divided on their policy towards Kosovo, with 5 of 28 EU member states (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Spain) not recognising their sovereignty. Kosovo is officially considered a potential candidate for membership by the European Union, and it has been given a clear "European perspective" by the Council of the European Union. As confirmed by the Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003, Kosovo is firmly anchored in the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP), the EU policy which applies to the Western Balkans which is designed to prepare potential candidates for membership.
On 20 April 2005 the European Commission adopted the Communication on Kosovo to the Council "A European Future for Kosovo" which reinforced the Commission’s commitment to Kosovo. On 20 January 2006, the Council adopted a European Partnership for Serbia and Montenegro including Kosovo as defined by UNSCR1244. The European Partnership is a means to materialise the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries within the framework of the SAP. The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) adopted an Action Plan for the Implementation of the European Partnership in August 2006 and this document formed the current working basis between the EU and the PISG. The PISG regularly reported on the implementation of this action plan.
The Republic of Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia was enacted on 17 February 2008 by a vote of members of the Assembly of Kosovo. The fact that the declaration was not recognised by Serbia and several EU member states did not prevent the country from continuing its STM programme, which aimed to gradually integrate its national policies on legal, economic and social matters with EU so that at some point in the future they would qualify for EU membership. As of December 2008[update], fifteen meetings of the STM have taken place. In addition, in March 2007 a new structure of sectoral meetings under the umbrella of the STM was established in the areas of: good governance, economy, internal market, innovation and infrastructure.
In October 2009, the European Commission noted in its annual report on the progress of the candidates and potential candidates for EU accession that Kosovo faced major challenges including ensuring the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime, the strengthening of administrative capacity, and the protection of the Serb and other minorities.
Negotiations for EU membership would only start after the country submitted an application and was made an official candidate for membership. Enver Hoxhaj, Kosovo's Minister of Foreign Affairs, has suggested that the EU should enlarge to Serbia and Kosovo simultaneously due to concerns that if Serbia was admitted first they could veto Kosovo's membership.
In May 2014, Hoxhaj said that Kosovo's goal was for EU membership within a decade.
Stabilisation and Association Agreement
Prior becoming a candidate for membership, Kosovo may sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU, which according to the European Parliament "defines rights and obligations of both parties until the EU membership." A feasibility study on the prospects for a SAA with Kosovo was launched by the European Commission on March 2012. On 10 October 2012 the results were published. It found that there were no legal obstacles to this, as full sovereignty is not required for such an agreement, and recommended that negotiations start as soon as Kosovo had made further progress in the four areas: "Rule of law, Public administration, Protection of minorities, and Trade". On 15 October 2012 the Prime Minister of Kosovo, together with the Ministerial Council on European Integration, agreed on the following to-do list to fulfill "the technical criteria for the start of negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement":
- "Police, prosecutors and judges shall demonstrate a clear commitment to achieve concrete results in the fight against organised crime and corruption."
- "The Ministry of Justice shall continue its coordination and close cooperation with EULEX and the Special Investigative Task Force."
- "The Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with the Prosecutorial and Judicial Council of Kosovo must ensure that during the implementation of the new court structure, the competences of Special Prosecutors for cases of organised crime, war crimes and corruption, remain unchanged."
- "The Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with the Kosovo Assembly, must work to approve as soon as possible the Law on the Confiscation of Assets."
- "The Ministry of Finance must review the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism in order to ensure its alignment with European Union legislation and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force."
- "The Anti-Corruption Agency shall approve a Strategy for the fight against Corruption in the Government and Parliament."
- "The Ministry of Public Administration shall finalise necessary secondary legislation on Laws on the Civil Service and Wages."
- "The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Administration shall work closely with the Ombudsperson Institution in order to clarify budgetary issues and space for the work of the Ombudsperson."
- "The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport shall coordinate the establishment of a body that facilitates direct consultation with religious communities for the promotion and protection of cultural and religious heritage, especially with the Serbian Orthodox Church."
- "The Ministry of Trade and Industry shall continue finalising the restructuring of the ministry and making functional coordinating structures for trade negotiations between Kosovo and the EU."
- "The Ministry of Trade and Industry shall conclude the analysis of the impact of trade aspects, in the scenario if Kosovo signs a Stabilisation and Association Agreement."
On 19 April 2013, the governments of Kosovo and Serbia completed an agreement that was hailed as a major step towards normalising relations, and would allow both Serbia and Kosovo to advance in European integration. The agreement is reported to commit both states not to "block, or encourage others to block, the other side's progress in the respective EU paths." Though it does not amount to a recognition of Kosovo's independence by Belgrade, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton was quoted as saying, "What we are seeing is a step away from the past and, for both of them, a step closer to Europe", whilst Thaçi declared "This agreement will help us heal the wounds of the past if we have the wisdom and the knowledge to implement it in practice." The accord was ratified by the Kosovo assembly on 28 June 2013.
Several days after the agreement was reached, the European Commission recommended authorising the launch of negotiations on a SAA between the EU and Kosovo, as well as starting EU membership negotiations with Serbia. On 28 June 2013 the European Council endorsed the Council of the European Union's conclusions on negotiations with both Kosovo and Serbia.
In July 2013, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle stated that SAA negotiations with Kosovo would start after the summer. Negotiations were formally launched on 28 October, and were completed on 2 May 2014. The agreement was initialled on 25 July 2014. Enver Hoxhaj, Kosovo's Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed hope that the SAA could be signed by the end of the year, though Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, had said in June 2014 that the treaty could be signed by the following spring if progress is made by authorities in Kosovo in enacting reforms and normalizing relations with Serbia. In December 2014, Kosovo's Minister of European Integration, Bekim Çollaku, said that "we're expecting this to happen in the first half of 2015".
Kosovo's SAA would be the first signed after the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, which conferred a legal personality to the EU. As a result, the EU representative in Kosovo has said that "unlike SAA with other countries of the region, this one will be exclusively the EU agreement. The EU will co-sign it as a legal entity." The agreement will not need to be individually ratified by each member state. The representative went on to say that "since Kosovo is not recognised by the five member states, we had to issue a directive saying that the signing of the agreement will not signify that the EU or any of the countries recognise Kosovo as a state."
Unilateral euro adoption
Prior to 2002, Kosovo's economy had undergone a currency substitution, with the Deutsche Mark being the most used currency. As a result, like Germany, Kosovo switched to the euro on 1 January 2002. The change to the euro was achieved in cooperation with the European Central Bank, and several national banks in the Eurozone. Kosovo does not mint any coins of its own.
It is unclear how Kosovo's unilateral use of the euro will impact their aspirations for further integration into the EU, which requires that states meet several convergence criteria before being allowed to join the eurozone. Montenegro, like Kosovo, has unilaterally adopted the euro and is currently conducting membership negotiations with the EU. Since their application for membership, the European Commission and the ECB have voiced their discontent over Montenegro's use of the euro on several occasions. A statement attached to their Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU read: "unilateral introduction of the euro was not compatible with the Treaty." The issue is expected to be resolved through the negotiations process. The ECB has stated that the implications of unilateral euro adoption "would be spelled out at the latest in the event of possible negotiations on EU accession." Diplomats have suggested that it's unlikely Montenegro will be forced to withdraw the euro from circulation in their country.
Kosovo is the only potential candidate for membership in the Balkans that does not have visa free access for the Schengen Area. The EU and Kosovo launched a visa liberalisation dialogue on 19 January 2012. On 14 June 2012, Kosovo received a roadmap for visa liberalisation with the EU, detailing the necessary reforms. A progress report on Kosovo's implementation of the plan, which was presented by the EU on 12 February 2013, found that "Kosovo’s current capacity to fight organised crime and corruption remains limited, with a potentially severe impact on the EU’s internal security." Hoxhaj stated in May 2014 that he expected to get a date for the liberalization of visa policies by the EU within a few weeks. In July 2014 he said that he had been assured that a decision would be taken to grant visa free status to Kosovo citizens by the end of the year.
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