Kosovo accepted as 55th member of UEFA after vote, Serbia outraged
Kosovo has been admitted as the 55th member association of UEFA following a vote at the European governing body's congress in Budapest, a call that has led to outrage from Serbia with the nation saying it will fight the decision by all legal means.
Twenty-eight of UEFA's members -- the minimum necessary -- voted in favour of Kosovo and 24 against, with neighbouring Serbia, from which it declared independence in 2008, leading the opposition. Two votes were declared invalid.
Serbia's Foreign Ministry said the vote in favour of Kosovo's acceptance "is a warning that we live in the world of interest and politics, and not justice and rules."
The decision means Kosovo could now also join FIFA, with a vote due next week, and take part in 2018 World Cup qualifying, which begins this September.
"I welcome our 55th member," UEFA general secretary ad interim Theodore Theodoridis said in a statement. "It was a very democratic process, and very open discussions [took place] between the national associations. We respect the result of the congress [vote]."
Kosovo has been seeking international recognition through sports since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.
Serbian officials said they will file a complaint with the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport because, they said, Kosovo's membership is against UEFA's statutes.
"The foundations of European soccer were shaken today. This could lead to serious divisions in the continent's competitions," Serbian ruling party official Marko Djuric said. "They can only dream that our fight is over and that their UEFA membership is definite."
UEFA backed the nation's case after resisting previous efforts by FIFA in 2012 to allow its national and club teams to play opponents from other countries.
Kosovo were permitted to play friendlies with restrictions by FIFA in 2014 and have come up against several nations since then, including Haiti and Turkey.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci wrote on his Facebook page: "Kosovo in UEFA! The best news for countless fans in our republic. Now we will play in international championships, some games will be won some will be lost but no one will ever keep us out from green fields."
FIFA rules do not allow players to change international allegiance, but there has been speculation that the governing body could permit Kosovar players who have already represented another nation to switch nationalities.
A number of Switzerland players, such as Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Valon Behrami, all have Kosovar roots, as does Belgium international Adnan Januzaj.
"We have asked FIFA the question in a very direct way and we would like to receive a clear answer but before we do I can't say anything about this," UEFA legal director Alasdair Bell is quoted as saying by Reuters.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.