Kosovo has officially applied for membership in the European Union after the signing of a corresponding document by President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Parliamentary Speaker Glauk Konjufca in the capital Pristina.
For Europe’s youngest state, Wednesday’s act was rather symbolic: EU membership is currently out of reach for the country, which has been independent since 2008.
Formally, Kosovo only has “potential EU candidate” status. Candidate status, which Bosnia and Herzegovina is expected to receive on Thursday, is not up for discussion.
The main obstacle is that five EU member states – Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus – do not recognise Kosovo’s independence.
The country, which today is nearly exclusively inhabited by Albanians, used to be part of Yugoslavia or Serbia.
Following repression by the Serbian security forces of the Albanian civilian population, NATO bombed targets in what was then the rump of Yugoslavia – that is Serbia and Montenegro – in the spring of 1999.
The Serbian security forces and state organs left Kosovo, and the administration and the creation of Kosovan institutions were taken over by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
In February 2008, the Kosovan parliament declared independence. More than 100 countries recognised the new state, but Russia, China, and Serbia (along with EU countries Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus) did not.
To this day, Serbia has not renounced its claim to the territory of Kosovo, and tensions remain in the northern part of the country, which is inhabited by a majority of ethnic Serbs.