European Politics and Institutions

Balkans Forum

Kosovo's EU candidate status: a goal within reach?

28 June 2017
Zephyr Dessus (Student, Master of International Affairs, Sciences Po Lille), Albana Merja (Research Fellow, Group for Legal and Political Studies, Kosovo), Albana Rexha (Research Fellow, Group for Legal and Political Studies, Kosovo) and Corina Stratulat (Head of European Politics and Institutions programme and Senior Policy Analyst)

Ever since its independence in 2008, Kosovo has made headway in drawing nearer to the European Union (EU) – most recently by signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) in 2015 with the EU.

However, with five member states still unwilling to recognise its statehood, Kosovo finds itself in a uniquely difficult position regarding its eligibility to accede to the EU. Yet, this paper argues that the absence of a common position among the member states on Kosovo’s status is not insurmountable.

More specifically, this paper argues that:

  • If Article 49 (TEU) seems to impose prima facie that Kosovo is qualified as a “state”, it does not de facto require Kosovo’s recognition as a state by the EU itself, since the Treaties do not foresee such a competence for the EU.
  • The statehood issue could be discussed at a later phase of the European integration process, during the accession negotiations. Besides, the SAA may have already set a legal precedent that Kosovo could invoke to continue its path towards candidate status.
  • The problem of Kosovo’s European integration is therefore less of a legal and more of a political nature. The five non-recognisers may veto its attempt to move forward due to their own domestic concerns. At present, member states are not prone to further expansion.
  • To overcome such political hurdles, Kosovo should first do its utmost in the next couple of years to deliver on its reforms commitments. It should also use all diplomatic channels to emphasise that the candidate status does not imply state recognition.
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