UNESCO Rejects Kosovo Membership

UNESCO has rejected Kosovo’s bid for membership yesterday after Kosovo failed to receive the support of two-thirds of the body’s member nations.

Out of 142 votes, 92 were in favour of Kosovo’s UNESCO membership, just three votes short of the 95 needed.

Fifty countries voted no while 22 others abstained from voting. The vote had been fiercely opposed by Russia and Serbia which attempted to get it postponed earlier in the day.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and has been recognized by more than 110 countries.

UNESCO membership would have unlocked millions in funds for culture and education in the impoverished former Serbian province.

Russia, which backed Serbia in Kosovo’s 1998-99 separatist war, has used its Security Council veto to block Kosovo from becoming a full U.N. member.

Kosovo has won membership in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Kosovo’s predominantly ethnic Albanian leadership had promised that if it became a UNESCO member, it would protect the cultural heritage of Serbs, despite tensions that have lingered since the war.

Serbia had warned that allowing Kosovo into UNESCO would fuel those tensions and hurt an EU-brokered dialogue aimed at normalizing ties between the former foes.

The U.S. delegation supported Kosovo’s bid, but no longer has voting rights in UNESCO because of a funding flap.

Kosovo applied for UNESCO membership in September, and last month the UNESCO Executive Board recommended that it be admitted during the body’s General Conference from Nov. 3 to 18.

The Serbian and Russian delegations to UNESCO, apparently expecting the bid to win approval, argued Monday for the vote to be delayed. The request was rejected.

Spain, which has concerns about separatists in its northeastern region of Catalonia, voted no. Ukraine, in a territorial conflict with Russia, abstained.

Kosovo came under U.N. and NATO administration after a 1999 NATO-led air war halted a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.