Kosovo could become the next UNESCO member. The UN cultural body has indicated its support, despite hostility from Serbia. The tiny Balkan country is home to four World Heritage sites.
In a 27 to 14 vote on Wednesday (21.10.2015), UNESCO's executive committee recommended that Kosovo join its ranks. Fourteen member states abstained from voting.
The UN Assembly, comprised of 195 members, will make the final decision on the membership of the small, war-torn Balkan state. Inclusion in the UN's organization for sport, culture and education could be a major step toward joining the UN itself. Kosovo is already a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and has applied for membership in the EU.
Kosovo's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, 36-year-old Petrit Selimi, who is known for initiating Kosovo's Digital Diplomacy program, tweeted his relief over UNESCO's decision.
Serbia and Kosovo, which is predominantly made up of ethnic Albanians, fought a war in 1998-1999, and Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Since then, well over 100 states have recognized Kosovo's statehood, though Serbia continues to regard it as its own autonomous province.
In August, Kosovo's Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci said that Serbia was attempting to "keep us isolated from opportunities in education, science and culture" by denying Kosovo membership in UNESCO.
Last week, ahead of the UNESCO decision, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic warned a group of 80 international ambassadors that permitting Kosovo to join UNESCO would have a negative impact on negotiations between the two countries, which have been brokered by the EU. Its refusal to recognize Kosovo's statehood is a point of conflict in Serbia's bid to join the EU.
Resistance in Serbia to Kosovo's UNESCO bid is so strong that a Facebook page for the cause has garnered over 25,000 followers.
Two monasteries and two churches in Kosovo are on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
kbm/eg (AP, AFP)