Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci announced on his Facebook page late last week that he expects Pristina’s application to join the organization will be voted on in November though no formal application has been submitted yet, according to UNESCO.
The move to join UNESCO, which is responsible for promoting press freedom, defending freedom of expression, and preserving cultural artifacts, is reminiscent of Palestine’s 2011 successful bid to join the organization.
Like Palestine, Kosovo is not a UN member state and veto-wielding Russia is sure to block any future bid, but the country is recognized by 108 United Nations member states. To join UNESCO it will need the support of a simple majority of the Paris-based organization’s 195 member states (besides Palestine, Niue is also UNESCO member but not a UN member state). Palestine’s bid to join UNESCO received 107 votes in support.
As it stands, representatives from Kosovo are allowed speak at UN Security Council meetings on Kosovo but behind a nameplate that lists the speaker’s name, not the country – as it is not a recognized UN member state.
Belgrade says an application by Kosovo to join UNESCO violates Resolution 1244 and the move will also likely provoke debate over the protection of Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo. Some 150 of these churches were destroyed from 1999-2004 and several more were reportedly destroyed in 2008 unrest.
In 2012, the government of Kosovo announced that it was forming a special police force consisting of Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs to protect Serbian Orthodox churches.
Two of Kosovo’s Orthodox monasteries are on UNESCO’s world heritage list. The monasteries are protected by troops from KFOR, the international security force in Kosovo.
Kosovo has also been fighting for the return of 1,200 artifacts, some dating from the Neolithic period, that it says were appropriated by Belgrade after 1999.
– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz