Despite Media Reports, EU Remains Deeply Divided on Kosovo Recognition

“All but four of the 27 EU member states have backed Kosovo’s split from Serbia.” Thus spoke the AFP in a Feb. 22 report viewable here. By its own account an “independent” news service, the AFP — or Agence France Presse — is in fact for all intents and purposes an organ of the French state: having been created by law and being largely subsidized by “subscriptions” from other state agencies. Indeed, in keeping with its quasi-public status, the French prime minister, foreign minister, and minister of finance each appoint representatives to the AFP’s governing council. This might help to explain the AFP’s exaggerating the support for Kosovo independence within the EU: it is, after all, French policy to support independence. But other news agencies have likewise tended to exaggerate the existing level of support for Kosovo independence within the EU. Thus, an Associated Press dispatch from Feb. 18 bore the precipitous title “Europe, U.S. recognize Kosovo independence.” Today, one week later, still only a handful of EU states have officially granted recognition.

The AFP appears to have made its calculation of “backers” of Kosovo independence by including all those EU countries that have not in one form or another made clear that they oppose Kosovo independence. The latter group is commonly reckoned to include Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Cyprus, and Spain: i.e. five states. Only the AFP editors can know for sure just how they managed to reduce this figure to four. (One can speculate that they were perhaps exploiting some ambiguous remarks by Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubiš — on which, see here.)

But in addition to the open opponents, there are also several EU states that have made clear that they will defer any decision on recognition. This group includes, for instance, the Czech Republic. In light of the historical experience of Czechoslovakia, which had roughly one-third of its territory forcibly severed from it under the Nazi-imposed terms of the 1938 Munich Accord, it is difficult to imagine that the political leadership of the current Czech Republic will find it easy to recognize Kosovo. (See, for instance, here on the Czech reservations.) Other countries figuring among the group of “deferrers” are Malta, Bulgaria, Portugal, and the Netherlands. Poland appears for the moment to be split between a prime minister (Donald Tusk) eager to stay in the good graces of the EU’s big powers by recognizing swiftly and a president (Lech Kaczynski) intent on withholding recognition.

Of course, any country that has not taken immediate steps to recognize Kosovo independence can be regarded as a “deferrer.” Even Slovenia — which in 1991 became the first Republic to secede from the former Yugoslavia — is reported to have postponed its decision on recognition. On the other hand, the outright opponents could always change their policy at some further date. But for the time being — and as against the AFP report — it would be more accurate to say that upwards of 10 EU member states can be presumed to have serious reservations vis-à-vis Kosovo independence.