The situation of Kosovo suddenly highlighted

Kosovo currently has a special status in handball and in sports more generally. Only a handful of international sports federations have granted Kosovo status as a full member. Several other sports use the concept of ‘associate member’ or hold off while allowing their continental federation in Europe to take the lead. In Europe, Kosovo has ‘associate member’ status in the European Handball Federation and participates in cup competitions, but the IHF does not yet recognize Kosovo.

Most sports follow the lead of the International Olympic Committee, which in turn has the principle of waiting for the United Nations to bestow the status of independent state. Serbia has refused to recognize the independent status of Kosovo, and the United Nations Security Council has so far provided for a kind of interim, international administration. In recent months, however, there has a been a ruling from the International Court of Justice, to the effect that Kosovo did not violate any international laws when unilaterally breaking away from Serbia in 2008. This has given reason to optimism in Kosovo but has made Serbia determined to plead its case in the United Nations General Assembly.

In the meantime, Kosovo teams have played their games in EHF competitions without incidents. But now the inevitable happened: in round 3 of the 2010-11 Women’s Cup Winners’ Cup, the Kosovo participant KHF Kastrioti was drawn against the Serbian team ZRK Knjaz Milos. Playing these games ‘home and away’ in Kosovo and Serbia was not quite a realistic option, so in collaboration with the EHF the decision has been reached to play both matches in Skopje, FYR Macedonia on November 20 and 21.

Let us hope, first, that these matches will be played in a spirit of sportsmanship and without any incidents, and then that the more important basic issue of the status of Kosovo will soon be resolved in a mutually agreeable manner!