International Olympic Committee grants Kosovo "provisional recognition"

Body says partial international recogition enjoyed by the Balkan country is enough to consider it "a country" · Serbian committee condems move as "unacceptable" · Final decision to be taken in December · Kosovar teams to compete in 2016 Olympics qualifiers

Kosovo yesterday achieved a sports and symbolic victory as the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted "provisional recognition" to the Kosovo Olympic Committee (KOC). Similarly, the Executive Board recommended that KOC is granted "full recognition" at the next IOC session in December.

According to the Executive Board, the Kosovo committee "has met the requirements for recognition" in accordance with the Olympic Charter, which states that each National Olympic Committee (NOC) represents "a country." The Olympic Charter defines "a country" as "an independent state recognized by the international community." It is therefore not tied to UN membership, but to recognition by other states. Accordingly, the Executive Board yesterday recalled that Kosovo "is recognized as a country by 108 of the 193 UN Member States."

The decision will allow Kosovar sports federations to participate in the 2016 Olympic Games qualifiers. Kosovar sports federations that are internationally recognized include handball, gymnastics, boxing or judo.

The Olympic Committee of Serbia yesterday said it had lodged a protest to the IOC. The Serbian committee believes the IOC decision is "unacceptable."

Several non-independent countries are IOC members

Prior to 1996 the Olympic Charter did not require NOCs to represent internationally recognized states. When the current rule was approved, it was not retroactively enforced. Thus, a number of NOCs that joined IOC before 1996 do not represent independent states and have not been excluded from the organization. They are American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the American Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Aruba and Hong Kong.

In addition, the Cook Islands, which have a free association agreement with New Zealand, hold IOC membership despite the fact they are a sovereign but non-independent state. The Palestinians too have their own NOC: although the State of Palestine is not an independent country, it is recognized by approximately 70% of the UN member states -the case being thus similar to Kosovo in this regard.

Taiwan is also a IOC member. In this case, it is not an unrecognized country, but one of two states that claim sovereignty over the whole of China -the other one being the People's Republic.

(Picture by Frederick Roll.)