The Conundrum Of Kosovo’s EU Software And The Broader Results Of Qatar-Gate


Welcome to Wider Europe, RFE/RL’s publication specializing in the important thing points in regards to the European Union, NATO, and different establishments and their relationships with the Western Balkans and Europe’s Jap neighborhoods.

I am RFE/RL Europe Editor Rikard Jozwiak, and this week I am drilling down on two main points: How Brussels will take care of Kosovo’s EU utility and the way lobbying in Brussels will change for EU hopefuls within the wake of Qatar-gate.

Transient #1: Kosovo’s EU Membership Software Is A First For Brussels

What You Want To Know: Kosovo formally utilized to affix the European Union on December 15. Pristina has lengthy sought eventual membership in Western organizations, however the transfer was sped up by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February final yr and the next renewed impetus of the EU enlargement course of with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldova, and Ukraine. These three international locations have all change into official EU candidates in current months.

With even Georgia making use of for membership final yr and getting potential candidate standing, Kosovo was abruptly the one nation left in Europe that had beforehand expressed hopes of someday becoming a member of the bloc however that also hadn’t formally utilized to take action.

Deep Background: Kosovo’s utility is an actual head-scratcher in Brussels. Usually, when a rustic applies for membership, EU member states within the European Council merely ship over the request to the European Fee, normally with minimal fuss, in order that it could possibly put together an opinion. That course of can generally take years. Not so in Kosovo’s case.

That’s as a result of that is the primary time ever {that a} nation that is not acknowledged by all EU member states is formally asking to change into part of the membership. It’s, in different phrases, a authorized sui generis that Brussels should grapple with.

And it’s not solely the 5 non-recognizers of Kosovo — Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain — that may have potential points. Due to the naysaying quintet, the European Union, as a global group, additionally doesn’t regard Kosovo as a sovereign state. The bloc merely refers back to the nation as “Kosovo,” with an asterisked footnote containing textual content agreed within the ongoing EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina that reads: “This designation is with out prejudice to the place of standing and is in keeping with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.”

Drilling Down

  • Sweden, which at present chairs the rotating six-month European Council presidency, formally briefed EU ambassadors in Brussels on the difficulty for the primary time on January 11. It was a really quick dialogue wherein solely the Swedish ambassador spoke, informing his colleagues that each one member states will probably be consulted within the upcoming two weeks and that they may reconvene towards the top of the month for a extra thorough dialogue and to doubtlessly resolve on a plan of action.
  • It’s already clear that will probably be very tough to maneuver ahead. Not solely will the 5 non-recognizers be reluctant to vary their minds, Hungary lately signaled that it’s towards any strikes that will point out future EU membership for Kosovo, as Budapest claims it will jeopardize the possibilities of Kosovo and Serbia reaching a deal. Belgrade and Pristina have been locked in talks about normalizing mutual relations since 2011.
  • There may be, nevertheless, stress for Sweden to do one thing with this subject earlier than the top of its presidency, which concludes on July 1. Firstly, it’s Spain, maybe essentially the most militant non-recognizer, that takes over the EU presidency subsequent. And Madrid, with loads of its personal separatist quandaries, will virtually definitely not need to take care of this query. Secondly, there’s a severe danger that the difficulty will probably be buried subsequent yr. In 2024, Brussels will probably be consumed by a “altering of the guard,” with European Parliament elections and the number of new presidents for the European Council and European Fee.
  • To only sit on the difficulty, although, would injury the EU’s credibility. It may very well be solved within the European Council utilizing Certified Majority Voting (QVM). As a substitute of unanimity, in QVM solely 55 p.c of member states (representing at the very least 65 p.c of the entire EU inhabitants) have to vote in favor for a movement to move — which means Kosovo would move the muster. However there’s a reluctance to make use of QVM, with a desire for reaching some form of consensus among the many 27 member states.
  • The reply is perhaps present in semantics, particularly the distinction between “unanimity” and “consensus.” The previous signifies that everybody actively says sure — in a vote or in any other case. The latter signifies that nobody opposes. This affords the chance for international locations like Spain to “look the opposite manner” and to agree with out being seen as endorsing the view that Kosovo is a sovereign state.
  • It might additionally assist if Serbia and Kosovo struck some kind of deal this spring. A draft proposal is on the desk, and even when that would not lead to Serbian recognition of Kosovo’s statehood, it may imply mutual recognition of nationwide symbols akin to passports, and that alone may go a great distance in allaying the fears of the non-recognizers.

Transient #2: What Qatar-Gate Means For Lobbying

What You Want To Know: Brussels was rocked in December with the arrest of European Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili; her companion; a former Italian member of the European Parliament (MEP); and the boss of an NGO, maybe satirically named Battle Impunity. They’re now dealing with preliminary expenses of corruption, cash laundering, and participation in a legal group that may very well be associated to an alleged bribery marketing campaign organized by Qatar.

Kaili, who earlier than the scandal was a rising star in each Greek and European politics, was instantly stripped of her immunity and vp title, with the Belgian prosecutor reportedly discovering 150,000 euros ($163,000) in money at her Brussels condominium — cash she claimed she discovered about on the day of her companion’s arrest.

For now, the scandal is usually confined to the European Parliament, with two extra MEPs set to have their immunities revoked when the European Parliament plenary reconvenes on January 16.

Deep Background: The European Parliament is now busy arising with new guidelines and laws to stop one other Qatar-gate. On January 12, the home’s highly effective Convention of Presidents, which consists of the European Parliament president and the leaders of the chamber’s political groupings, mentioned plenty of measures that they may now begin to implement.

The measures will possible have an effect on how international locations within the Western Balkans and the EU’s Jap Neighborhood foyer the chamber sooner or later. Brussels has all the time been one thing of a lobbyists’ paradise, with hundreds of politicians, officers, and diplomats in the identical place with very lenient guidelines. However that is perhaps about to vary quickly.

Drilling Down

  • Beneath proposed new reforms, whistle-blowers will probably be higher protected, despite the fact that particulars nonetheless should be labored out and can take time to implement. One suggestion is a brand new, unbiased ethics fee that will oversee all EU establishments and have punitive energy to effective and even droop EU officers. It is formidable and well-meaning, but additionally unlikely to get off the bottom.
  • Different concepts embody a “cooling off interval” for former MEPs who want to work as lobbyists; a requirement that those that need to seem at European Parliament occasions be listed within the EU’s transparency register; and a rule making it obligatory for MEPs to make public all scheduled conferences with third events associated to a report or decision the European Parliament is engaged on.
  • Whereas EU candidate international locations akin to Ukraine and North Macedonia take pleasure in widespread help within the chamber, and the European Parliament is the EU establishment keenest on fast membership for these international locations (despite the fact that they solely have a restricted say on this and different international coverage fields), lobbying remains to be happening, particularly across the varied stories and resolutions that concern these aspiring candidates.
  • European Parliament resolutions is perhaps nonbinding and have little bearing on EU coverage on the whole, however international locations affected are inclined to get rattled by them, and so they garner a good bit of media consideration. The European Parliament’s current name to the Georgian authorities to launch former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili from jail and to impose sanctions on oligarch and political kingpin Bidzina Ivanishvili definitely did not go unnoticed in Tbilisi. The chamber’s decision to categorise Russia as a “terrorist state” in November made fairly the media splash and apparently triggered a Kremlin-linked cyberattack on the parliament.
  • There are different concepts being proposed that immediately concern the Western Balkans and the bloc’s Jap companions. One is the banning of any unofficial groupings of MEPs, akin to so-called Friendship Teams with third international locations. One other concept is that international locations’ official interactions with the European Parliament would solely be allowed via the Committee on International Affairs, official parliamentary delegations to the nation or area, or the European Parliament president.
  • One other proposal prone to fly is that resolutions tabled with urgency, normally coping with present human rights points, should first be permitted by the parliament’s Committee on International Affairs. That is as a result of there have been complaints that earlier pressing resolutions have been the goal of improper affect.

Trying Forward

There have been fairly a number of bulletins lately about extra Western weapons deliveries to Ukraine. Anticipate extra this week because the Ukraine Protection Contact Group will convene on January 20. The group, normally known as “the Ramstein Format” after the U.S army base in Germany the place its first assembly was held final April, is a U.S.-led group of greater than 40 international locations. It consists of all 30 NATO allies, the 2 NATO invitees, Finland and Sweden, and in addition different non-NATO international locations akin to Australia, Israel, Japan, Morocco, Qatar, and New Zealand.

Earlier than the subsequent assembly in Ramstein, the protection chiefs of all 30 NATO allies will convene in Brussels on January 18-19 for a gathering of the Navy Committee, NATO’s highest army authority. The conflict in Ukraine is predicted to dominate proceedings there, as effectively.

The European Parliament will maintain its first plenary of the yr in Strasbourg this week. Ukraine will, after all, characteristic prominently all through the four-day session. Maybe essentially the most attention-grabbing debate is happening on January 17: “the institution of a tribunal on the crime of aggression towards Ukraine.” Whereas no such tribunal is predicted below the auspices of the United Nations — Safety Council member Russia may simply veto it — the EU is trying into methods to ascertain such a physique.

That is all for this week. Be at liberty to succeed in out to me on any of those points on Twitter @RikardJozwiak or on e-mail at [email protected].

Till subsequent time,

Rikard Jozwiak

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