Kosovo applies for EU membership

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti on Thursday delivered his country’s official request for EU candidate status in Prague, formally launching a laborious process complicated by conflicting relations between Pristina and Belgrade .

Albin Kurti handed the request to Mikulas Bek, Czech Minister for European Affairs, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

“This is a historic day for the people of Kosovo and a great day for democracy in Europe,” Kurti told reporters.

“The letter I am carrying contains the hopes and dreams of our citizens who have worked so hard to get to this day,” he added.

The document was signed on Wednesday by Mr. Kurti, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani and Speaker of Parliament Glauk Konjufca.

Kosovo is the latest Western Balkan country to apply for future membership of the EU, which on Tuesday recognized Bosnia’s bid for candidate status.

A possible recognition of Kosovo’s candidate status would only be the start of a long process, complicated by the fact that the territory’s independence proclaimed by Pristina in 2008 is still not recognized by Belgrade.

Five EU countries, Greece, Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus, still do not recognize Kosovo’s independence.

Serbia, along with its allies Russia and China, still considers Kosovo part of its territory.

“I believe that with our determination and our goodwill we will also change the mindset of potential skeptics,” assured Mr. Kurti.

A normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia will be imperative for the future European integration of the two countries. But despite attempts at dialogue under the aegis of the EU, relations between Pristina and Belgrade have been going from crisis to crisis for years.

Belgrade supports Serbs in northern Kosovo who are challenging the authorities in Pristina, this region bordering Serbia having been the scene of an escalation marked by shootings and explosions in recent days.

The EU recently reaffirmed at a summit in Tirana its commitment to the process of enlargement in favor of the Western Balkans, while the war waged by Russia in Ukraine underlines the importance for Europeans of stabilizing this fragile region.

However, the effective membership of these countries remains a distant prospect.

Kosovo has already applied for membership of the Council of Europe.

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