Kosovo and the European Union
- Spyros EconomidesSpyros EconomidesEuropean Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science
The European Union’s involvement with and in Kosovo is of three main types. First, it participated in war diplomacy in the late 1990s in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the Kosovo conflict between Kosovar Albanians and the Serb forces of the former Yugoslavia. This demonstrated of the Union’s limited ability to influence less powerful actors in its backyard through its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). This resulted from the difficulty the EU found in attempting to forge a consensus among its member states on a significant matter of regional security with humanitarian implications, the limitations in effectiveness of the EU’s civilian instruments of foreign policy, and the low credibility and influence stemming from the lack of an EU military capability. Second, the EU took a leading role in economic reconstruction and state-building in Kosovo following the end of the conflict. Initially, this was in tandem with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Subsequently, the EU became the lead organization, focusing its efforts not only on the physical and economic reconstruction of the territory but also on building human and administrative capacity and democratic institutions and establishing good governance and the rule of law, especially through its EULEX mission. Third, the EU attempted to help transform Kosovo beyond democratization toward EU integration through instruments such as the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP). A significant part of this process has also been linked with EU-led mediation attempts at resolving outstanding issues between Kosovo and Serbia through a process of normalization of relations without which EU accession cannot be envisaged.
Throughout the post-war phases of the EU’s involvement in Kosovo, its efforts have been undermined by the most important outstanding issue, the disputed status of Kosovo. Kosovo was set on the path to increasing self-government and autonomy at the end of the conflict in 1999, but it was still legally part of sovereign Yugoslavia. In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence. While over 100 states recognized Kosovo, it never acquired enough recognitions to be eligible for UN membership: Serbia does not recognize it and, most importantly, neither do five EU member states. This status issue has seriously complicated the EU–Kosovo relationship in all its aspects and slowed down the prospect of “Euro-Atlantic integration” for Kosovo.