The Spanish government will allow athletes from Kosovo to use national symbols in international competitions organised in the country, even if Madrid doesn’t recognise the independence of the Balkan state, the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) said Wednesday.
The decision comes after Juan Antonio Samaranch, vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), warned that Spain’s refusal to recognise Kosovo was an obstacle to staging major sports competitions in the country, and the IOC threatened it would advise international federations not to hold any international competitions in Spain.
The IOC deputy general Pere Miró had previously said in an interview with the sports news outlet Inside The Games that the organisation was ‘ready’ to make the suggestion.
Spain, which faces its own independence movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country, is one of the 5 countries in the EU not recognising Kosovo as an independent country, after its parliament declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.
‘The Spanish government will provide sporting delegations from Kosovo that compete in Spain with the appropriate visa and will allow them the use of their own national symbols, the anthem and flag, in accordance with the Olympic protocol,’ the COE said in a statement. The decision was taken by Spain’s foreign ministry, it added.
The IOC high official remarks came as the World Karate Championships ended on Sunday, in Madrid.
The Kosovo athletes were allowed to take part, but with the acronym KKF (for Kosovo Karate Federation) on their backs. Their names appeared in scoreboards and screens next to the initials WKF (for World Karate Federation), instead of their country name, according to Inside The Games. Also, both their anthem and flag were banned.
This was the agreement between Spain and Kosovo authorities, and for Pere Miró this was ‘acceptable’ but ‘did not go far enough’.
This led the IOC to ask international federations not to award major competitions to Spain until this issue was resolved, a source close to the Switzerland-based body told the AFP agency.
‘We can recognise or not a country at the political level, we don’t have an opinion on that,’ Samaranch, who is from Spain, told reporters in Madrid.
Spain’s decision to give out visas and allow Kosovan athletes to use their flag and anthem has been welcomed by Spain’s Olympic Committee and the IOC.