- Category: Politics
- Published on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 13:16
Kosovo’s application to join the UN cultural body did not attract enough votes from UNESCO member states, amid strong opposition from Serbia and its allies.
Kosovo failed to secure enough support in a vote at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s general conference in Paris on Monday (09.11.2015) for its bid to become a member of UNESCO to be approved.
Kosovo needed to attract 95 votes - two-thirds of the total UNESCO membership - in order to win approval.
But only 92 voted to accept its bid, with 50 voting against and 29 abstentions.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic described the vote as a triumph for his country.
“This is a justified and moral victory in almost impossible conditions,” Nikolic said.
“This victory was not achieved with money, but through the appreciation Serbia has in the world. This is also a clear sign that we will not give up our southern province,” he added.
Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci said after the vote that Pristina will continue its efforts to join international organisations including UNESCO.
“Unfortunately, we did not win three [more] votes to get the necessary absolute majority,” Thaci wrote on Facebook.
Kosovo’s European Integration Minister Bekim Collaku said that despite the disappointment, he was pleased that so many countries voted to back Pristina’s bid.
“That’s OK - we’re just getting started! Encouraged by the overwhelming support: 92 countries for,” Collaku wrote on Twitter.
Belgrade’s ambassador to UNESCO, Darko Tanaskovic, argued however that Kosovo should not be allowed to apply for membership because it is part of Serbia.
“Kosovo is not a state,” Tanaskovic said in a speech to the UNESCO general conference.
Both Pristina and Belgrade had lobbied hard for and against Kosovo’s membership in the weeks leading up to the UNESCO vote.
Belgrade does not want its former province’s claims to independence to be accepted by international organisations.
Many of the most significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches are situated in Kosovo, including the monastery churches of Gracanica and Decani and the patriarchal complex in Pec/Peje, which are already on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
Belgrade accuses Pristina of not looking after them properly and of colluding in the destruction of some sites after the war.
Ahead of the vote, Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa promised that Pristina would protect Serbian Orthodox heritage.
“We had concerns from Serbia in relation to the Serb Orthodox churches. We have given all our guarantees that we will protect and cultivate the Serb Orthodox churches both with regard to property but also religious activities,” Mustafa said on Monday in comments reported by AFP news agency.
Serbia’s ally Russia however warned that accepting Kosovo into UNESCO would be a political move that effectively endorsed its claims to independence.
“It’s important to avoid politicising UNESCO’s activities, which we are currently witnessing in relation to attempts to grant Kosovo membership,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told media on Friday.
Serbia had no right to veto Pristina’s UNESCO membership bid, so Kosovo was theoretically able to join even though it is not a UN member state.