In 2023, Pristina wishes to join UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the Partnership for Peace - what is possible?

Unesko, Savet Evrope, NATO i EU
Source:, Danas, Nato YouTube,

The Kosovo authorities have set an ambitious plan for this year on the international stage. They announced their application for membership in UNESCO, they hope to be admitted to the NATO Partnership for Peace program at the end of 2023, they believe they have the necessary majority for admission to the Council of Europe; they are waiting for the European Union's response to the membership application they submitted on December 15. What is achievable from this wish list?

UNESCO - A sharp diplomatic and political fight follows

The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports of Kosovo Hajrula Ceku announced in December that Kosovo would apply for membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the fall of 2023. As he explained, there would be an opportunity then, because the General Conference of UNESCO, which met every two years, would be held.

Let us remind you that Kosovo already submitted a request for membership in UNESCO in 2015, but then it did not receive enough votes to exceed the threshold of this organization.

The former ambassador of Serbia to UNESCO, Darko Tanaskovic, tells for Kosovo Online that the announcement that after an eight-year break, in 2023, Kosovo will again try to enter UNESCO is not a surprise. It is part of a wider program of "attacks" on several international organizations, the conquest of which would affirm Kosovo its more than problematic international legal subjectivity. Tanaskovic believes that there are not many chances that Kosovo will be more successful this year than in 2015.

"Pristina, with the help of its patrons from abroad, has been preparing for a new lobbying campaign for UNESCO membership for some time, which it will probably start more intensively from the spring, in order to create a favorable atmosphere for the acceptance of its candidacy at the UNESCO Executive Council, and then, if passed at the Council, at the session of the General Conference in November. The return of the experienced Besiana Kadare to the position of permanent representative of Albania in UNESCO, from the position of ambassador to the UN, was also symptomatic, because Albania will certainly be the country that will lead the action for the admission of "Kosovo" in Paris. Regardless of the fact that the composition of the Executive Council, which is chaired by our permanent representative in this convocation, is relatively favorable for Serbia, the request of "Kosovo" could, depending on the international political conjuncture at the given moment, possibly receive the consent of this body, for which a simple majority of the votes of its members is required," says Tanaskovic.

At the General Conference, Kosovo would need a two-thirds majority, which, Professor Tanaskovic reminds, was dangerously close to in 2015.

"Although it is not easy, especially from this time distance, to predict the course of voting at such a large forum of an organization from the UN system, I believe that there is not much chance that "Kosovo" will be more successful this year than in 2015. We must certainly take into account the fact that the war in Ukraine has caused a sharper polarization and realignment in the international community, which is inevitably reflected in the choice of states when voting in a multilateral diplomatic context. However, these movements are not one-way, and a lot will depend on which way the global crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and the confrontation of the so-called the "collective West" and the Russian Federation. A favorable signal is also represented by the fact that this year's decision of the World Heritage Committee to retain four of our holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija on the List of World Cultural Heritage in Danger was made unanimously, and it is well known why it is considered endangered and from whom. It is not decisive but it is undoubtedly significant as an indicator of the mood in the Organization. On the other hand, some "Kosovo"-friendly countries (for example, France) continue to try to explain that there is no point in tying our cultural and spiritual heritage to Kosovo and Serbia, when Serbia has no factual control over it," says Tanaskovic.

He adds, there will be a sharp diplomatic and political battle for which Kosovo and its tutors are seriously preparing, resorting to a refreshed argumentation about Pristina's alleged dedication to the care of cultural heritage of universal importance, regardless of its traditional and civilization importance, and that means national affiliation.

"Regarding what kind of negative consequences the possible admission of the non-state "Kosovo" into UNESCO would have on the status and condition of the Serbian spiritual and cultural heritage in Kosovo, I think that, bearing in mind the overall behavior of the official Pristina and the distinctly anti-Serb mood in the majority of the Kosovar public and society, really it is not necessary to present additional arguments. We should, as before, persistently fight to prevent this from happening," Tanaskovic points out.

Partnership for Peace and the European Union - The rule of consensus spoils Pristina's luck

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, Donika Gervalla, said last month that she is optimistic that Kosovo would join NATO's Partnership for Peace program at the end of 2023. Here, however, it should be borne in mind that out of 30 allies, as many as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, four countries, which are permanent members of the Alliance, have not recognized Kosovo's independence.

"The announcement by the Kosovo authorities that, along with the application for membership in the European Union, they would also submit an application for the Partnership for Peace is expected, but it will have the same outcome as the application for membership in the EU, that is, it will end up in a drawer because, as with the EU and in the Partnership for Peace decisions are made by consensus," Suzana Grubjesic, vice president of the Center for Foreign Policy, told for Kosovo Online.

As for the procedure, as she points out, things are clear. A country that is interested in accession submits a request to the Partnership for Peace, based on which the North Atlantic Council decides whether to formally invite that country to accede, and the invitation may be conditional on meeting certain requirements.

"However, the North Atlantic Council makes a decision by consensus and that is what spoils the happiness of the Kosovo authorities because four member states do not recognize Kosovo's independence - Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. And there is absolutely no chance that their request will be considered, just like with the EU application. The only thing that could happen, and there are no announcements, is that all these European countries, plus Cyprus, recognize Kosovo's independence and then the way will be open for candidacy in the EU and for membership in the Partnership for Peace," says Grubjesic.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti submitted the application for full membership of Kosovo in the European Union in Prague on December 15.

Council of Europe - The issue of Kosovo divides the members of the Council of Europe

On May 12, 2022, Kosovo applied for membership in the Council of Europe, and at the end of last year, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kreshnik Ahmeti said that the votes for Kosovo's admission to this organization were "confirmed at different levels".

The Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Elvira Kovac, tells for Kosovo Online that it is unrealistic for Kosovo to become a member of the Council of Europe in 2023.

The next session of the Committee of Ministers is in mid-January, and Kovac points out that on the last few occasions in this body, it was evident that Kosovo's request would not be on the agenda.

"Everything depends on how much, say, Germany or Albania will push for it, because they will probably propose to put it on the agenda. I believe that there are still a few member countries that think it is not the time. Some are vocal that Kosovo should not become a member, and even those who are not so strict on that issue say that it is not the time, because it is still a war, everyone is dealing with Russia and Ukraine, and that is why they are united, while the issue of Kosovo divides the members of the Council of Europe," says Kovac.

If, however, Pristina's application were to be on the agenda in the Committee of Ministers, where they probably have a majority, then the issue will be sent to the CE Parliamentary Assembly.

"The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe meets four times a year, but that issue needs to go through certain committees, and that continues. It is also checked whether the conditions for membership are met, what the situation is regarding the rule of law, and the like, so that it takes about two or up to two and a half years. It is certainly no coincidence that Pristina has now also submitted an application for EU membership. The Council of Europe could, for example, refer to the fact that it wants to wait for what the EU will say on the matter. And, we know that the EU has a problem putting their application on the agenda. We will see how the Swedes will position themselves on this issue," says Kovac.

Our interlocutor also notes that the CE is currently working on strengthening itself as an organization, that the CE Summit is being planned in May and that it is now "the topic of all topics", not the question of Kosovo's membership.