June 21. 2024. 5:51

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Western allies must embrace Kosovo to prevent further instability


Over the coming months, efforts to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia will reach a critical juncture. In pursuit of a successful conclusion, the US and the EU must support Kosovo’s irreversible anchorage to the West and fend off malign interferences from Russia and China, writes Lumir Abdixhiku.

Lumir Abdixhiku is the leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the country’s main opposition partyo.

Russian aggression in Ukraine and tensions in the north of Kosovo have demonstrated the vulnerability of European security. In response, the United States of America (US) and the European Union (EU) have imposed robust sanctions on Russia; while at the same time changing their approach to enlargement, viewing the Western Balkans as a strategic priority.

Whilst I welcome efforts by our Western allies, the US and EU, to get Kosovo and Serbia to improve relations, the Republic of Kosovo needs all the support it can get from friends and allies in pursuit of integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

An independent Kosovo was born 15 years ago. Our people have earned their well-deserved nationhood after a long struggle for freedom, independence and democracy. This achievement would have never been possible without our western allies’ strong diplomatic, economic and military support.

Our nation remains forever grateful while continuously championing its place amongst the Euro-Atlantic community – as a place of shared beliefs and values long before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Kosovo has been a remarkable success story. Unfortunately, this view is not shared by our northern neighbour, Serbia, which has been continuously undermining the security perspective of the whole region.

With the ongoing war in Europe and the evidence that tensions in the north of Kosovo can escalate quickly, our allies must step in to secure the future of our nation and that of the whole region.

Whilst the EU has facilitated a Kosovo – Serbia dialogue for a dozen years now, there are concerns in Kosovo that this long, drawn-out process risks perpetuating the tense relations in the region.

To prevent this, the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia must be based on the fundamental principles of mutual recognition of the two countries, fully respecting each other’s territorial integrity.

Anything short of that will keep Kosovo in suspended motion. Beyond that, Kosovo’s membership in the NATO alliance should be a natural step that completes the country’s three decades of western engagement. After all, NATO has been in Kosovo since June of 1999; it is the right time for Kosovo to be in NATO.

Russia’s war on Ukraine demonstrated the critical importance of NATO membership for deterring aggression and opened a window of opportunity to solidify European security, particularly in the Western Balkans.

With the Biden administration supportive of Kosovo and the issue of NATO membership of Sweden and Finland in the spotlight, this is an excellent opportunity to advance the strategic interests of Kosovo and the West, demonstrate unity in the Euro-Atlantic community, and provide a powerful symbol of how a young nation can join the alliance that helped it become independent.

From the perspective of joining the EU, both Kosovo and Serbia have embarked on the road to membership. Serbia is not doing this in good faith. As an EU candidate, Serbia persists in not recognising a fellow aspirant country, Kosovo, and failing to align its foreign and security policies with the EU in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

How can the EU embrace Kosovo when five EU members have yet to recognise us as an independent nation? I hope our allies can address these questions, engaging with non-recognising countries in pursuit of a resolution benefitting Kosovo, the region, and Europe as a whole.

In the noise and drama of diplomacy, politicians can lose sight of people’s views and everyday experiences. Lack of continuous security and Euro-Atlantic perspective exacerbate the daily problems that the young population of Kosovo – half of which are under the age of 25 – experience every day.

The cost of living, economic development, healthcare and education are just some of those problems. Our young people embrace the West but must also grapple with everyday issues that affect their lives and outlook on the world.

Seeing our allies embrace Kosovo would prove to them that their faith is not unfounded.

Over the coming months, efforts to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia will reach a critical juncture. In pursuit of a successful dialogue conclusion, the US and the EU must support Kosovo’s irreversible anchorage to the West and fend off malign interferences from Russia and China.

This can be done only through a full NATO membership. To this end, Kosovo’s formal recognition by all NATO and EU members is a necessary prerequisite.

Only by reinforcing Kosovo’s security will the US and EU fulfil their regional strategic priorities, help our young nation flourish, and ensure European stability. Kosovo’s future is at stake. We should up the ante with our Western allies to secure and safeguard it.