UEFA votes to admit Kosovo without changing its statute

Kosovo has been admitted to UEFA in a secret vote, receiving a simple majority of 28 in favor, with 24 against, and two abstentions.

Source: B92
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The Budapest congress of the Union of European Football Associations (Tanjug/AP)
The Budapest congress of the Union of European Football Associations (Tanjug/AP)

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) made this decision on Tuesday without previously changing its statute.

During the UEFA congress in Budapest, Pristina first proposed to change the part of the statute which states that "only a country whose independence is recognized by the United Nations" can become a member. The proposal had intended to change the wording to "(recognized) by most of the international community in Europe."

33 out of UEFA's 54 members voted in favor of this change - three short of the necessary two-thirds majority. The change of the statute would have paved the way for a vote to accept the Football Federation of Kosovo as the 55th member of UEFA, as this would then require a simple majority of 28 votes.

However, as it transpired, the failure of the original proposal to change the statute did not prevent the subsequent vote, and Kosovo's membership.

After this precedent, Kosovo will likely in the next ten days be admitted to FIFA, and could in September start play qualifiers for the World Cup that will be held in 2018 in Russia.

In his address before the vote, acting UEFA President Spaniard Angel Villar said that the issue of Kosovo's admission was "very sensitive" and warned of the possibility of "political consequences."

Kosovo's application was explained by Fadil Vokri, who said the issue "essentially boils down to whether someone will allow or deny children to play football."

Serbian Football Associaion (FSS) President Tomislav Karadzic responded to his first propsal. At the beginning of his speech, Karadzic saluted Michel Platini saying he wished him "to leave the problem behind as soon as possible, so we don't end up with more associations than countries."

"I was hoping I would never have to talk about this topic because I believed we would be successful in saving football from politics," said Karadzic.

Referring to article 5 of UEFA's statute that states that only countries recognized by the UN can join, Karadzic insisted that the proposal to allow Pristina to join was political, while "football must not cross the line and redraw the borders of any country."

Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 - a proclamation that Serbia considers a violation of its territorial integrity.

"Receiving the (football) association of a self-proclaimed state to UEFA before the eyes of the whole world is the crudest possible meddling of politics in sport. Therefore, we have to say no," Karadzic said ahead of the vote.

He noted that Kosovo is not a UN member and was denied membership in UNESCO, adding that the UEFA admission process suffered from a number of serious shortcomings.

According to the FSS head, the congress participants did not receive any documentation relating to the matter, while UEFA's legal issues committee did not present its position.

Karadzic cited as an argument the 1992 UN sanctions and a UN resolution used to prevent Yugoslavia from participating in the European Championship in Sweden.

"In accordance with UN Resolution 1244, Kosovo is part of Serbia under UN administration. If Yugoslavia could not play in 1992 due to a UN decision, why deafly and blindly ignore a UN resolution now," Karadzic asked.

Karadzic also said that the admission of Kosovo to UEFA would lead to divisions among the membership and "open Pandora's box in Europe."

"The question is where these teams (from Kosovo) would play, how those countries that have not recognized Kosovo would welcome them, what protocol would be applied, and there is also the issue of the safety and security at the stadiums in Kosovo, which have not undergone the usual licensing procedure," Karadzic said.

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