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Kosovo to seek EU membership by the end of 2022

Kosovo will formally apply to join the European Union at the end of the year, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said Friday during German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s first visit to the Western Balkans.

“We still aspire to the status of EU candidate and we plan to apply at the end of this year,” Kurti said after meeting Scholz. “Europe is our destiny. Europe is our future.”

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for its EU ambition is tensions with neighbouring Serbia, from which Kosovo broke away in 2008.

Most EU countries recognise its independence, but Serbia and its allies Russia and China do not, effectively blocking Pristina from a seat at the United Nations.

EU-brokered dialogue between the two Balkans neighbours, launched over a decade ago, has so far failed to achieve normalisation of their ties.

Scholz called for progress in negotiations between the former foes.

Kosovo and Serbia must “find a political solution with a comprehensive, sustainable agreement that also contributes to regional stability”, Scholz said after his talks with Kurti.

It is Scholz’s first visit since he became chancellor in December.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, Kosovar officials have emphasised the need for closer ties with the West and have sought membership of the NATO military alliance.

Meanwhile, Serbia has condemned the war at the UN but has refused to align itself with Western sanctions against Russia.

Scholz stressed the importance of fending off Russian influence in the region, praising Kosovo for its stance on Kremlin’s war.

“Through their support of all measures and sanctions, Albin Kurti and the government of Kosovo have shown that Kosovo, as a reliable partner, stands closely by our side, and by the side of the European and international community,” Scholz added.

On a “blitz tour” through the Balkans, Scholz will also visit Belgrade and Thessaloniki Friday, followed by trips to North Macedonia and Bulgaria the next day.