On Thursday, the Spanish president Mariano Rajoy will be the only EU leader to not attend a summit with Western Balkan countries that aren’t members of the European Union. The reason is that Kosovo –not recognised by Spain as a country– will take part in the meeting. Yet, the other EU member states that do not recognise this country as independent –Slovakia, Romania, Greece, and Cyprus–  will attend the event in Sofia. Kosovo has been recognised by 113 UN member states in ten years and 23 out of 28 EU countries.

Rajoy will be in the Bulgarian capital, and will be present in an informal meeting on Wednesday evening, ahead of the official summit. Apart from the 27 EU states –all but Spain being present–  Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will attend.

Madrid has never recognised Kosovo as a state since its parliament declared independence unilaterally in 2008. The Spanish government has always stated that it’s “a matter of principle” not to accept any unilateral independence. On a number of occasions, it has expressed concerns about the legality of Kosovo’s move in 2008 under international law. Yet, some political commentators believe that the independence push in Catalonia, the Basque Country, as well as similar movements throughout other Spanish territories, have also had a significant influence of Madrid’s refusal to recognise the Balkan country.

Mediterranean Games controversy

Last February there were some concerns that Spain could challenge the attendance of athletes coming from the Balkan country to the Mediterranean Games, to be held in southern Catalonia next month. According to the radio broadcaster RAC1 in February, there was a possibility that Kosovo visas could be denied for this sporting event. Yet in March, Spain confirmed that athletes from this country would be able to take part, via a sworn statement rather than a visa. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) did recognise Kosovo’s national committee, and according to international sports law, the IOC is above national legislation.