The breakup of the former Yugoslavia continued this past week with Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia. This declaration was recognized by several countries, including the USA, France, Germany, the UK and Italy. But other countries, including Serbia, Spain and Russia have indicated that they will not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.
On a sporting level, the IOC has indicated that they will wait for UN recognition before granting Olympic Status. While IOC recognition is important, it is not a requirement for either the International Handball Federation (IHF) or European Handball Federation (EHF) to recognize Kosovo for membership. Already, the EHF has granted Kosovo Associate Member status which has allowed Kosovo clubs to play in European competitions. Last year a Serbian club was fined and forfeited a match for refusing to play a Kosovar club. In other instances Kosovo-Serbian matchups have been staged on neutral sites. As Handball is one of Kosovo’s top team sports they will undoubtedly press the EHF for full membership. As a precedence, EHF recognition of Montenegro was very swift and allowed Montenegro to qualify and participate in the European Championships only a year and half after obtaining independence. Montenegro’s independence, however, was less controversial then Kosovo’s, so it will be interesting to see how the EHF responds.
Wikipedia Article on Kosovo Declaration of Independence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_reaction_to_the_2008_Kosovo_declaration_of_independence
Washington Post: IOC: Kosovo Olympic Team Unlikely: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/18/AR2008021801072.html
Serbian Handball Association Commentary on Kosovo being granted Associate Membership in the EHF: