Kosovo’s government says it will apply for membership in the European rights watchdog the Council of Europe, seizing an opportunity after Russia quit the body.
The announcement came on Thursday, about two months after Russia left the body hours before a vote on its expulsion in the Council of Europe’s assembly on March 15, three weeks after it started its war on Ukraine.
Being accepted into the organisation requires that two-thirds of the members approve, and with Russia not recognising Kosovo as an independent state, there was a risk in the past that any previous application would fail.
Kosovo says it now has enough backing from the 46-member body and the government said it had ordered the foreign ministry to start membership procedures.
Backed by Western countries, Kosovo declared independence in 2008, nearly a decade after the war between ethnic Albanians and Serb forces ended in 1999.
Kosovo is recognised by more than 110 countries but it is still not a UN member, facing objections from Serbia and veto holder Russia.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said his country would strongly react if Kosovo applied for Council of Europe membership and called an urgent meeting of the national security council.
The Council of Europe created the European Convention on Human Rights and helped Eastern European nations democratise their political systems after the collapse of Communism.
It advocates freedom of expression and of the media, freedom of assembly, equality, and the protection of minorities.