Kosovo Hopes Croatia Will Support its Bid to Join EUSAIR

By 29 May 2022
Kosovo Hopes Croatia Will Support its Bid to Join EUSAIR
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ZAGREB, 29 May 2022 - Kosovo wishes to join the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), a forum in which ten countries cooperate in transport, tourism, and environmental protection projects, and hopes Croatia, which over the presidency next year, will support it.

The ten countries - Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, and San Marino - met in Tirana on 16-18 May, where they adopted a joint declaration calling for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.

A Kosovo delegation led by Local Government Minister Elbert Krasniqi was in Tirana at the time and did not attend the meeting, but did meet with European Commission representatives.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and participates in cross-border cooperation projects only with North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro as part of the EU's IPA programme.

Speaking to Hina, Krasniqi said "the Adriatic-Ionian initiative can be complete only when all countries have joined."

"This initiative offers possibilities of exchange and common benefits in tourism, the green agenda and mobility, which is important to all countries. It also offers the European perspective," he said. "It's legitimate that we are part of that (EUSAIR). Thereby, our citizens too would get additional opportunities."

For Kosovo to join EUSAIR, the consent of all of its member states is required, but Serbia is blocking it.

A European Commission official who took part in the Tirana talks said on condition of anonymity that Kosovo had requested to join, but that its government understood that it would have to wait for the situation to normalise. EUSAIR could expand, the official added.

EUSAIR is currently chaired by Bosnia and Herzegovina, from which Croatia will take over the presidency on 31 May 2023.

"It will be difficult during BiH's presidency, but after that our becoming a member state will be realistic," Krasniqi said. "The EUSAIR accession process is clear, it's the consensus of all countries, and Serbia is one of them. We must keep meeting and find the right solution."

In Tirana, the Kosovo and Serb delegations did not meet.

"We will once again put our wish to join EUSAIR in the centre of our agenda. We will try to negotiate it. Kosovo should not be denied the right to be part of that. This initiative's idea is inclusion, not exclusion and isolation," Krasniqi said.

Kosovo has excellent projects with neighbours such as Albania and Montenegro, and it is a pity it does not have them with Serbia and EU member states like Italy, he added.

"We are confident that Croatia will support Kosovo's aspiration. We hope to officially become a partner during the Croatian presidency," Krasniqi said.

The Tirana meeting was attended by Croatian Foreign Ministry state secretary Andreja Metelko-Zgombić. She said the meeting did not discuss Kosovo's EUSAIR membership.

Speaking to Croatian reporters, she said Croatia's interest and position were that Kosovo should be included in all initiatives, including international organisations. "I hope that in the near future Kosovo will be able to make a step in that direction."

Kosovo's independence has been recognised by all but five EU member states, including Greece.

"This is about really important and concrete projects for citizens which raise standards. These projects are in everyone's interest," Metelko-Zgombić said about EUSAIR.

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