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Has France's attitude towards Kosovo changed over the years?

2024-04-25 13:42:00, Kosova & Bota CNA
Has France's attitude towards Kosovo changed over the years?
Vjosa Osmani, Albin Kurti and Emmanuel Macron

France's recent request that new elections be held as soon as possible in the north of Kosovo and Paris' call for Prishtina to take steps towards the establishment of the Association of municipalities with a Serbian majority as part of the path to membership in the Council of Europe have raised voices that the French are against Kosovo, or that they are siding with Serbia.

Some have also recalled the request made by France to link the liberalization of visas for citizens of Kosovo by the European Union, with the entry into force of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).

The first ambassador of Kosovo in France, Muhamedin Kullashi, does not agree with these views.

But the editor for Europe of Radio Free Europe, Rikard Jozwiak, believes that France is not using all the capacities it has to help Kosovo.

France's "big turn" towards Kosovo

Through a communique, on April 23, the Presidency of France emphasized that Paris's support for Kosovo's independence and for the country's European integration remains unwavering.

Even Kullashi, once a professor of Philosophy at the University of Pristina and then at the Parisi 8 University, told Radio Evropa e Lire that small nuances, unlike other western countries, for any specific problem, do not mean a change in the state's attitude .

"Both the Americans and the British have roughly the same requirements regarding the solution to the problems that Kosovo has", he said, insisting that Western countries coordinate before any major action.

Commenting on the voices that bring France closer to Serbia, Kullashi said that although both countries have traditionally cultivated good relations, the big turn was made when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervened against the objectives of the Yugoslav army. in 1999.

Kullashi has said that since the meetings he had in 1999 with the then French president, Jacques Chirac, he has seen the determination of France to help Kosovo, as he affirmed that the same atmosphere continued in Paris during the years 2008- 2016, when he served as ambassador to France.

France was among the first countries to recognize Kosovo's independence, while, according to Kullash, the French diplomatic network has helped Kosovo a lot with recognition and membership in international organizations.

As a concrete example, he mentioned France's help in integrating Kosovo into the International Organization of La Francophonie.

"French diplomats have understood the pressure that Russia has put on 10 African countries not to vote for Kosovo's membership. After a request that President François Hollande sent to the heads of states who expressed reservations, they all agreed on Kosovo's membership", said Kullashi, author of two books on Kosovo's relations with France.

As a great support for Kosovo, Kullashi also mentioned France's contribution to the International Court of Justice, which in 2010 found that Kosovo's declaration of independence was not in violation of international law. He said that senior French legal experts prepared a 70-page report to defend the case of Kosovo.

What about the situation today?

From many contacts with its own sources in Brussels, Jozwiak believes that France can do more.

According to him, she can be more vocal about the removal of the restrictive measures that the EU has imposed on Kosovo after the tensions in the north, as well as not blocking the imposition of punitive measures against Serbia for the attack that took place in Banjska i Zvecani, on 2023.

The responsibility for the attack has been taken by Millan Radoicic, former vice-president of Lista Serbe, the largest party of Serbs in Kosovo, which enjoys the support of Belgrade - but Kosovo holds the Serbian state responsible, even though it denies involvement.

"I don't think that France is naturally against Kosovo, but it is not an honest mediator", said Jozwiak, mentioning that France is not the only one with such an approach, as a pro-Serbia atmosphere is dominant throughout the European bloc.

Commenting on the criticism of France after the agreement to sell arms to Serbia, the editor of REL assesses that not everything is political: "The economy in Europe, in general, is not good. States are not allowed to sell arms to Russia - a major market that has disappeared - while trade in what can be sold to China is also being restricted. They are looking for new markets, and Serbia is a good market in that respect. It is an economic calculation".

Even a Radio Free Europe source in Brussels believes that not everything is political. Taking the example of visas, this source said that France was not against their removal for Kosovo, but the "extremely bad" experience with asylum seekers, after the removal of visas for other Western Balkan countries before, has made Paris more careful for the future.

The REL source suggested that the individual character of the diplomats should also be taken into account. According to him, while the Germans are more restrained in their emotions, the French know how to publicly express their bitterness./ REL 

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