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15th Jul 2018

Spain tells EU to cut Kosovo from enlargement plan

  • Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 (Photo: A Taste of Kosova)

Spain has said Kosovo should be excluded from an EU plan to accelerate Western Balkans enlargement.

"The concept of 'WB6' does not fit the enlargement dynamic. Kosovo is not part of the enlargement process and has its own differentiated framework," the Spanish foreign ministry said in an informal paper sent to the European Commission and seen by EUobserver.

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  • Catalans voted to leave Spain in a referendum last year (Photo: Sasha Popovic)

WB6 is Brussels jargon for the six Western Balkans EU aspirants - Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

They have all been promised EU membership one day, but Kosovo cannot make normal progress because Spain as well as Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Slovakia do not recognise it as a sovereign country.

Spain drew its line in the sand ahead of commission plans to adopt a new Western Balkans policy next Tuesday (6 February).

The Spanish ministry said the commission ought to "draw a clear distinction between the enlargement process" and the EU's broader "political strategy" for the region.

It also warned, in a nod to Serbia's non-recognition of Kosovo, that "enlargement is not a conflict-prevention instrument".

"In the case of the Balkans, the political logic of enlargement should not be distorted by tactical considerations," Spain said.

The commission's upcoming Western Balkans policy is meant to apply to all of what it calls the EU's "six Western Balkans partners".

It dangles Serbia the prospect of EU entry by 2025 if it normalises relations with Kosovo, according to a draft of the 12-page document seen by EUobserver.

It says all six partners should take part in EU ministerial meetings and should go to an enlargement summit in Bulgaria in May, among other ideas.

It also says that a "credible accession perspective" is a "key driver of transformation" in a region of "geostrategic" importance.

Catalonia shadow

Madrid's intervention came in the shadow of the Catalonia crisis, in which separatists from the Spanish region tried to make political gain out of EU support for people's self-determination in Kosovo.

By contrast, Slovakia, one of the other EU states not to recognise Kosovo, felt comfortable enough to endorse the commission's plan.

The commission strategy was "a fundamental tool to shape an upgraded enlargement policy for the WB6", the Slovak foreign ministry said in an informal paper that was also signed by 11 other EU countries - Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, and Slovenia.

Spain's line on Kosovo will be unpopular in Pristina, even as the 12 other member states urged the EU to send "bold, positive, and constructive political messages" using "powerful political language" in order to "encourage" the WB6 to stay on the EU path.

A third informal paper on the subject, from Finland and Sweden, emphasised the importance of rule of law in the Western Balkans.

The Nordic paper, also seen by EUobserver, came amid Pristina's threat to boycott an EU-funded court in The Hague on war crimes allegations.

Kosovo's line on the court is unpopular in Brussels, but the Nordic states still spoke of full "WB6" participation in the commission's new policy.

Echoing the group-of-12 paper on "political messages", Finland and Sweden also warned of the need for EU "strategic communication" in Kosovo and beyond in the face of Russia's anti-Western "disinformation" campaign.

Imprimatur

A commission spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said on Tuesday that lobbying by EU governments was normal in the run-up to a new policy paper.

A spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, indicated that Spain's informal paper would not make much difference to the commission document, but said Madrid and the other 27 EU capitals were free to suggest changes to the Western Balkans strategy after 6 February.

The new policy would "cover the entire region", Kocijancic said.

"There are … inputs that are coming in, but this is a document that will be adopted by the European Commission," she said.

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