Saturday

3rd Jun 2023

Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal

  • Spain had been one of the most 'dogmatic' non-recognisers of Kosovo, in an EU group that also includes Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Slovakia (Photo: Yu Ju Chiu)

Spain would be prepared to recognise Kosovo if it clinched a deal with Serbia, Madrid has said, in the first positive signal of its kind since EU-brokered talks resumed.

"Our position is not obstructionist. It is, on the contrary, a constructive one," the Spanish foreign ministry told EUobserver.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 1990s wars and declared independence in 2008 (Photo: Marco Fieber)

"The Spanish position can be synthesised in the following sentence: 'nothing without an agreement, everything with it', including political recognition [of Kosovo] and the establishment of diplomatic relations," it noted.

Spain has not recognised Kosovo because it deemed its 2008 unilateral declaration of independence to be "contrary to the rule of law and to our idea of a diverse and tolerant Europe", the ministry noted.

But Spain believed in the "inevitability of an agreement [between Kosovo and Serbia], even with the difficult concessions it will imply," the Spanish ministry added.

The statement more-or-less repeated Spain's previous position on the issue, as well as those of the other four EU non-recognisers - Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Slovakia.

But the Spanish statement's timing coincided with the recent restart of EU-brokered talks on normalisation of Kosovo-Serbia ties after an almost two-year pause.

It showed that Spain's left-wing government was more open to the move.

And it carried extra significance because Spain is the largest and was, up to now, one of the most hawkish of the non-recognisers.

"According to our information, the current Spanish government compared to the previous ones is a bit more flexible regarding attending meetings together with representatives of Kosovo," a German Green MEP who is the Kosovo rapporteur, Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, told this website.

"This shows exactly the importance of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. It is worth proceeding with the talks," she added.

"Spain has been more dogmatic than other non-recognisers, so a signal in this direction is encouraging," Florian Bieber, a politics professor at the University of Graz in Austria, also said.

Madrid's decision might depend on the small print of any Kosovo-Serbia accord, he added.

But Spain's socialist government was more "pragmatic" on the issue than the country's centre-right establishment, Bieber also said.

For their parts, the foreign ministries of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Slovakia declined to clarify their position at this time when asked by EUobserver.

Spanish example

But von Cramon-Taubadel said that if Spain changed its mind, the others would probably do so too.

"I believe other non-recognisers will follow suit in case there is an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo," she said.

"Spain can give a good example in this process, and their standpoint can be a good 'motivation' for continuing the [Kosovo-Serbia] dialogue," she said.

Bieber broadly agreed.

"I think Greece, Romania, and Slovakia are likely to recognise Kosovo if the situation is ripe. Cyprus has been the most hardline on the issue, but the question is whether it would be able to hold out on its own, especially if Greece recognises," he said.

There is no Kosovo-Serbia deal in sight for now.

The US recently brokered a mini-deal on Kosovo-Serbia economic ties.

But in the more weighty EU talks, Belgrade and Pristina have reached a new impasse on how to devolve powers to the Association of Serb Municipalities, a bloc of majority ethnic-Serbian enclaves in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, one reason why Spain did not recognise Kosovo's secession was out of fear of emboldening separatists in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

And much might yet change in the five EU non-recognisers - both in terms of who was in power there and in their domestic situations - before Belgrade and Pristina saw eye-to-eye.

EU promises

But for the German MEP, if the non-recognisers refused to budge even if there was a Kosovo-Serbia accord, it would make a mockery of the EU process.

"Without agreement and reconciliation there is no real European prospect. However, if they can move forward, the EU should be open to them," she said.

"Without recognition from member states, the European perspective remains a dream for Kosovo. It is hard to imagine an EU Council meeting where some countries do not recognise one of the participating members," she added.

"The whole dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo only makes sense if a normalisation agreement unlocks recognition for Kosovo. This would allow Kosovo to join the enlargement process in earnest," Bieber also said.

And Kosovo-Serbia reconciliation under an EU aegis was important for the wider Western Balkans, the German MEP added.

"There are still serious scars in the societies of the region in the aftermath of the wars. If they want to join the EU, societies need to face this and there is a long and hard process which will need to happen," the MEP noted.

"The EU needs to be ready to accept those candidates who are ready to join," she said.

But for its part, Kosovo has already had a bad experience with EU promises, after member states failed to grant it visa-free travel for political reasons, even though it met technical criteria two years ago.

Author bio

Ekrem Krasniqi is a Brussels-based journalist and director of the dtt-net.com news agency

Kosovo to restart EU/US-led Serbia talks

Restarting talks on Serbia relations will be the new Kosovo prime minister's top priority, he said, but will the EU or the US lead the process?

Spain fears tourism blow amid 'second wave' measures

Several European countries are now warning citizens not to visit Spain, after an increase in Covid-19 cases this month. However, Spanish foreign minister Arancha González Laya has insisted that Spain is still "a safe country".

Interview

EU enlargement is 'only real solution to Balkan conflicts'

Taking in the Western Balkans and tackling climate change to deprive Russia of oil and gas revenues were the most powerful steps the EU could take to keep order in Europe, Robert Cooper, a retired British diplomat has said.

Column

What a Spanish novelist can teach us about communality

In a world where cultural clashes and sectarianism seems to be on the increase, Spanish novelist Javier Cercas (b.1962) takes the opposite approach. He cherishes both life in the big city and in the countryside.

Opinion

Poland and Hungary's ugly divorce over Ukraine

What started in 2015 as a 'friends-with-benefits' relationship between Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński, for Hungary and Poland, is ending in disgust and enmity — which will not be overcome until both leaders leave.

Latest News

  1. Spanish PM to delay EU presidency speech due to snap election
  2. EU data protection chief launches Frontex investigation
  3. Madrid steps up bid to host EU anti-money laundering hub
  4. How EU leaders should deal with Chinese government repression
  5. MEPs pile on pressure for EU to delay Hungary's presidency
  6. IEA: World 'comfortably' on track for renewables target
  7. Europe's TV union wooing Lavrov for splashy interview
  8. ECB: eurozone home prices could see 'disorderly' fall

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us