No sooner had the IMF welcomed
Kosovo as its newest member on May 8, than Serbia announced
that the fledgling state would have to assume the servicing of
more than $1 billion in foreign debt.
The demand likely to be
shunned by Kosovo would cover its share in Serbias
debt to the Paris and London Club, said deputy prime minister
But Serbian officials deny the
suggestion that if Kosovo takes over its debt, it would mean
Serbias acknowledgement of its sovereignty.
The suggestions far from
trivial: Serbia is locked in a legal effort to invalidate
Kosovos declaration of independence last year, in a case
currently pending before the International Court of Justice
(ICJ). This case is of paramount importance, not only for
Serbia but for international law and order, because the ICJ
will essentially have to consider whether an illegal and
ethnically motivated act of secession is acceptable, says
a Serbian official at the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohia.
Therefore, the opinion ICJ gives will set a precedent for
any future attempt for secession.
Kosovos ambassador to the
UK, Muhamet Hamiti, argues that on the political side,
Kosovos stature as an international actor will be
enhanced with the IMF membership.
But Serbian authorities, perhaps
predictably, maintain that Kosovos IMF membership is of
limited significance: This will not have any impact on
the other aspects of Serbian efforts to preserve Kosovo within
Serbia, an official at Serbias Ministry for Kosovo
and Metohia told Emerging Markets.
This membership is not an
affirmation of a countrys sovereignty, but shows the
relation of leading economic countries towards Kosovo. Serbia
will continue to fight for the preservation of its sovereignty
and territorial integrity with all diplomatic and legal
Kosovo will become the
Funds 186th member, with an initial quota of SDR 59
million. The requirement for membership was a simple majority
vote, but 96 IMF members plumped in Kosovos favour, with
10 against and 32 recorded abstentions. An exceedingly
good result, Hamiti says.
The ambassador says the vote is
significant because it will grant the government access to
international funds for the first time. We are striving
to rebuild Kosovo after a long period of disinvestment (because
of the Serbian occupation) and the devastation of the
199899 war. We will be able to access international
finances in a way that we have been unable to do for lack of
status in the past. Kosovo will be able to benefit from IMF
membership just like any other country.
The move also opens the way for
membership of the World Bank for which IMF membership is a
prerequisite. The 185 members of the World Bank are identical
to those of the IMF, but Kosovo will be the only member of the
IMF that is not also a member of the United Nations.
Serbian diplomacy is mainly
interested in preventing Kosovo from becoming a member of
international bodies that imply sovereignty of their members.
The IMF is not that kind of organization, an
official at the Serbian Kosovo ministry says.
But the diplomat suggests Serbias continued attempts to
deny its independence are wrongheaded: Kosovo has been
free for almost a decade now. Kosovo has been independent for
15 months now, he says. Serbia needs to extract
itself from the hole of denial it has dug itself in for so
Kosovo and Serbia, as
independent and sovereign nations, should aspire to
Euro-Atlantic integrations, and leave the tragic legacy of the
Kosovo will continue to lobby
for inclusion into other international bodies, says Hamiti:
We are committed to becoming a full member of the
international community, integrating into the EU and Nato, and
last but not least, membership in the UN. There are challenges
ahead, but also a lot of opportunities for our new
But Tomas Valasek, director of
foreign policy and defence at the Centre for European Reform,
predicts difficulties ahead for Kosovo. For one, there are some
international organizations which Kosovo will not join in
the foreseeable future for the simple reason that
unanimity is required for membership.
If either Russia or Serbia
or any of the other countries that are against its independence
including five members of the European Union, Spain,
Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus if any of those
have a say, they will block it.
EU membership is an even more
remote possibility. Valasek says that Kosovo will have to
overcome three massive hurdles aside from the
opposition of five current members. He cites resistance within
the EU to further enlargement and the great reluctance,
following the EUs experience with Cyprus, to admit
members who are engaged in a dispute in the way Serbia and
Valasek argues that
Kosovos membership in the IMF is just one move in
what is likely to be a very long chess game in which Serbia,
Russia and other opponents will try to thwart Kosovos
inclusion in international institutions while Kosovo with
its allies will try and join as many as it can.
But this is not a game
which is going to end any time soon, says Valasek.
The EU is about as complicated as it gets in terms of
accession, and the IMF inclusion is going to have very little
impact on Kosovos ability to join the EU.