Kosovo officials and experts said charter membership will make the NATO accession process easier.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 21/01/13
Kosovo participated as observer in the US-Adriatic Charter's meeting in Budva, Montenegro, in 2011.[Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
Kosovo is increasing efforts to become a member of the US-Adriatic Charter and views membership in this organisation as an opportunity to get closer to NATO, according to experts.
Last month, the US-Adriatic Charter Partnership Commission adopted a declaration in Zagreb during its meeting of foreign ministers, opening the doors for Kosovo to become a full member.
Since then, the Kosovo government has been strengthening efforts to complete the security sector review and make its security forces fully operational by year's end, as requested by NATO.
"Kosovo even needs to use the road to the charter to address the difficult path to NATO," Florian Qehaja, executive director of the Pristina-based Centre for Security Studies, told SETimes.
Kosovo has not been able to join NATO's Partnership for Peace programme because Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia -- all of which do not recognise Kosovo -- have threatened to veto any such attempt.
The alliance still requires a political consensus of all member states, which has influenced Kosovo's NATO prospects as well as relations with other regional security mechanisms and countries.
Qehaja argued membership in the charter is the way to help integrate the Kosovo Security Force in the charter's regional defence and security mechanism, making the path to NATO easier.
Kosovo has so far participated in the charter meetings as an observer on a ministerial level or the level of military chief-of-staff, but has not participated in any military drills.
In response to Kosovo's presence, Serbia has canceled its participation at several charter meetings. At the meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Zagreb last month, Serbia sent a low-level diplomat.
In light of the charter membership, Kosovo officials said regional military and security co-operation will remain a key priority.
Officials view Albania and Croatia, two founding charter members and the latest NATO members, as key regional partners that will ultimately help advance Kosovo's NATO membership.
"Co-operation is in place in the military sector for all of these countries. As NATO members, Croatia and Albania have the capacity and willingness to support our force to facilitate the path to membership in NATO and in regional initiatives, which has consistently been our aspiration," Remzie Zeqiraj, public relations officer at the Ministry for Security Forces, told SETimes.
Linguistic and cultural closeness with Albania, Qehaja said, has facilitated interoperability of the two countries' militaries.
"Interoperability in the army is very important and this is proven in the context of many co-operation initiatives in Europe ... Croatia has developed several military genres (such as military diplomacy and aviation) and their experiences are very useful for the Kosovo Security Forces," Qehaja said.
Moreover, the government said it views bilateral co-operation with Macedonia and Montenegro in the defence field as a priority.
"Regional co-operation is a key to Kosovo's progress in the European integration process and therefore the Adriatic Charter partnership is a very important initiative," Ramadan Ilazi, executive director of the Pristina-based Institute of Peace, told SETimes.
Qehaja said he expects the US presence will make the charter membership process less politically difficult, especially with regards to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which also does not recognise Kosovo.
The charter last expanded in 2008, when BiH and Montenegro joined as full members.