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PACE recommends that Kosovo* becomes a member of the Council of Europe

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has recommended that Kosovo* be invited to become a member of the Council of Europe – while deciding to monitor its fulfilment of an extensive list of commitments and obligations as from its accession.

Under the Council of Europe’s procedures, the Assembly must first give its opinion on any application for membership before a final decision is taken by the Committee of Ministers, the organisation’s executive body made up of Foreign Ministers.

In its statutory Opinion, based on a report by Dora Bakoyannis (Greece, EPP/CD) and passed by 131 votes in favour and 29 against with 11 abstentions, the Assembly said membership would lead to “the strengthening of human rights standards by ensuring access to the European Court of Human Rights for all those who are under Kosovo’s jurisdiction”.

It would be “the culmination of a dialogue which has developed over a span of two decades but should in no way be seen as the end of a process. On the contrary, membership should catalyse momentum for Kosovo to continue to make progress in strengthening human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.

Membership would also help Kosovo to “address outstanding challenges and matters of concern”, the parliamentarians pointed out, including the gap between normative standards and their effective implementation, the need to better protect the rights of non-majority communities, and fostering a climate conducive to trust, reconciliation and inclusion.

The Assembly welcomed as “a major breakthrough” the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s judgment in the case of the Visoki Dečani monastery, which it said was “a tangible sign of the commitment of the government to act in full accordance with the rule of law, irrespective of political considerations”.

The establishment of an Association of Serb majority municipalities would be “an important step” to ensure the protection of the rights of Kosovo Serbs, it added, and “should feature in the Committee of Ministers’ future consideration of Kosovo’s application to accede to the Council of Europe, as a post-accession commitment”.

Acknowledging the “unprecedented circumstances” of the application, given that a number of Council of Europe member states do not recognise Kosovo as a state, the Assembly called for “diplomacy, dialogue and compromise”. It invited the Committee of Ministers to ensure that Kosovo’s membership was “without prejudice to individual member states’ positions as regards the statehood of Kosovo”.

* Throughout this text, all reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, shall be understood in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.