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May 6, 2009 | 20:13 GMT

5 mins read

Kosovo: Seeking Recognition and Funds From the IMF

Kosovar officials said May 5 that their country has secured membership in the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Although the Kosovar government said the membership is a step toward full recognition from the global community, as long as Serbia and Russia oppose Kosovo's independence, recognition will not be possible in international organizations requiring unanimity. However, membership in the IMF puts Kosovo in line for a much-needed loan package.
Kosovar government officials announced May 5 that they have managed to secure their country's membership in the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Russia and Serbia opposed the bid, but the IMF's voting rules — which distribute voting rights based on monetary contributions to the fund — favor Western nations, which have overwhelmingly supported Kosovo's independence. Kosovo's government has hailed the IMF's decision as an important step on the long road to full recognition by the international community. However, the membership is more likely a step toward an IMF loan package and, at best, a World Bank seat — something Kosovo's government has said it would like to achieve in June. Wider recognition will be impossible in international organizations which require unanimity as long as Serbia and its ally Russia adamantly oppose Kosovo's independence, and as long as crucial EU and NATO states (Spain, Romania and Greece in particular) also oppose Kosovo's independence. Ever since Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in February 2008, Belgrade and Pristina have engaged in intensive diplomatic maneuverings to undermine each other's sovereignty over the territory. Kosovo can claim as its success a near-clean sweep of the Western world, save for Greece (although Greece supported Kosovo's IMF bid despite opposing its independence), New Zealand, Romania, Spain and Slovakia. Serbia, however, points to the fact that 134 out of 192 U.N. member states have not recognized Kosovo. Furthermore, Serbia brought the question of the legality of Kosovo's independence before the United Nations' International Court of Justice — not an insignificant diplomatic success, considering the proposal first had to pass the U.N. General Assembly vote. Membership in the IMF, however, is as much about the current economic crisis as it is about Kosovo's drive for wider recognition. IMF member states — particularly those in the EU — are concerned that if Kosovo were left outside the IMF's purview, it would be up to the EU alone to rescue the Kosovar economy. The decision is therefore motivated as much by the current economic crisis affecting Europe — and by extension the Western Balkans — as by the West's desire to see greater diplomatic recognition for Kosovo's independence. Kosovo's neighbors Serbia and Bosnia have already applied for IMF loans, and it is very likely that Pristina will also be in line for a loan. European member states do not want to bail out Kosovo without the IMF's help — and particularly without the IMF's loan conditions that would put Kosovo's government on a path of fiscal austerity, which will be important if the EU is ever to let go of Pristina's hand. Kosovo's admission to the IMF now brings into question whether Pristina can attain membership in other international institutions. The United Nations is of course out of the question, due to Russia's veto in the U.N. Security Council (although it is unclear whether Pristina could even eke out a vote in the General Assembly, with only 58 states officially recognizing Kosovo). But U.N. recognition is largely a symbolic gesture of acceptance by the world community; it comes with few actual benefits. For a new country struggling to get its feet squarely on the ground in everything from macroeconomic policy, financial regulation, privatization of nationalized industries, security and law enforcement policy, there are a lot of benefits that membership in the IMF and World Bank — both of which Kosovo now seems set to join — could bring. Membership in INTERPOL, an organization that supports cross-border police cooperation (something that Kosovo sorely needs due to its exposure to organized crime), could also be secured with support of two-thirds of the organization's 187 members, but again that support would be difficult to secure since only 58 countries officially recognize Kosovo. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a security-oriented international organization that deals with issues of arms control, human rights and election monitoring — again, an organization in which membership would benefit Kosovo — is also out of reach because it requires unanimity among its 56 member states, and Serbia is a member. Similarly, Kosovo would not be able to join the Council of Europe due to Serbia's veto, but then it is unclear how Pristina would benefit from membership in what is essentially a talk shop with little power. Ultimately, the accession that Kosovo really desires is to NATO, the one organization that would assure it safety from any potential territorial designs by Serbia. However, as long as NATO member states Spain, Romania, Greece and Slovakia oppose its membership, NATO will remain out of Pristina's reach due to its requirement for unanimity on new members.

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