Peace, security and geopolitics dominates agenda as MPs visit Kosovo
Most Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom think of the countries on the NATO front line as those in the Baltic states like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Not as many would be aware of the front line which is not even recognised as an international border – the “administrative boundary line” between Kosovo and Serbia. NATO countries including UK troops are based in Kosovo as KFOR under UN Resolution 1244 to maintain the calm but fragile peace.
Serbia has not recognised Kosovo’s independence, still regarding this predominantly Albanian-speaking part of the Western Balkans as a breakaway province. Even some NATO countries like Spain and Slovakia have yet to recognise Kosovo as an independent nation, something the UK did back in 2008. Needless to say, Russia would also veto recognition of Kosovo as an independent state.
Our British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary MPs’ delegation from 11 to 15 July 2022 – consisting of myself as Chair, Martin Vickers, Stephen Doughty, Luke Pollard and Alex Sobel – were welcomed extremely warmly in a country which is one of our truest friends in the world. Over the course of our visit our delegation met the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, the President’s cabinet, the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Mayor of the capital city Pristina as well as other senior dignitaries.
What was very striking was how close the ties of all these leaders are to the UK. Many have dual citizenship as they or their parents had claimed asylum in the UK as children. Others had been medically airlifted to the UK after wartime injuries. Others had been born and raised in the UK and had returned to their ancestral homeland. In a country where children are named “TonyBlair”, there are statues of Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright and a clothes shop dedicated to Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits, it was apparent how powerful a successful NATO intervention has been for the whole country.
As a delegation we also met with the Chamber of Commerce and the British Council. There is huge scope to increase economic ties and the strong demand for English language and English university and vocational courses is an opportunity for the British Council to expand. We were frustrated to hear that the British Council’s physical presence in Kosovo is being reduced for the sake of £100,000 a year, something that we all plan to raise in Parliament.
Martin Vickers is the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to the Western Balkans and will continue to work hard to develop economic ties, as the opportunities are significant. All of us will back Kosovo’s campaign to join the Council of Europe and will lobby non-recognisers to treat this new democratic bastion in our near neighbourhood as a vital, independent nation on the NATO front line.