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Spain might deny Kosovo visas in Mediterranean Games, say reports

The International Olympic Committee asked the Spanish government twice about the issue, and is still waiting for a response

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13 February 2018 02:45 PM

by

Nazaret Romero | Barcelona

There are only four months left before the Mediterranean Games Tarragona kick off, and the participation of Kosovar athletes is still unclear. Spain could challenge the attendance of athletes coming from the Balkan country to the sporting event, to be held in southern Catalonia. So far, Spain has not yet confirmed whether it will issue visas for the participants in question or not, according to the Catalan broadcaster RAC1.

Paradoxically, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and subsequently the Spanish Olympic Committee, both recognize the Kosovar Olympic Committee. Yet, Kosovo has been an uncomfortable issue for Spain over the last decade, ever since the former declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Ten years later, Spain does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. As a consequence, the Kosovar passport is not accepted, and Kosovars need a visa to enter Spain.

Spain gives no response

There are 26 National Olympic Committees expected to attend the Mediterranean Games Tarragona, including Kosovo. The Balkan country has been registered; however, its athletes cannot enter Spain freely, and need the permission of Spanish authorities.

The International Olympic Committee Deputy General Director, Pere Miró, said in the interview with RAC1 that they sent two letters to the Spanish government, asking whether the Kosovar athletes’ visas would be processed. They have received no response so far, and consequently, its athletes' participation remains unclear.

State law below International Olympic Committee’s authority

International sports laws are clear: the International Olympic Committee has authority over state laws. Still, Spain’s stand towards Kosovo has been unyielding throughout years. Even the International Olympic Committee admitted its concern, describing the current situation as a “tricky” one.

In November, the circumstances might be repeated, as the General Assembly of all European Olympic Committees will be held in Spain, and the authorities will have to decide whether or not to issue visas for Kosovar representatives.  

EU countries mostly recognize Kosovo, but Spain does not give in

Spain is the only big country in the European Union that has not recognized Kosovo’s’ independence from Serbia. Throughout these ten years, most countries in Europe have done so; however, Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Cyprus do not yet recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Currently, Kosovars are the only Balkan citizens that are not allowed to travel freely through Europe for a period of three months.

In fact, Spain’s stand towards Kosovo does not sit well with the EU. The European Parliament urged Spain to recognize the Balkan country, since Brussels considered that it might contribute to improving the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia, as well as the stabilization of the Balkan region.

Despite the EU’s claims, Spain seems not to give in and is not expected to recognize Kosovo’s independence in the near future. The row over the participation of Kosovar athletes in the Mediterranean Games Tarragona is only the last chapter of a difficult relationship between the two countries.

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  • Kosovar athletes carry the national flag during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics (by Reuters)

  • Kosovar athletes carry the national flag during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics (by Reuters)