Kosovo's athletes were unable to compete under their own flag at the EKF Senior Championships ©KOK

The Kosovo Olympic Committee (KOK) has said it is concerned about "the discrimination of our athletes by the states", after they were prevented from competing under the nation's flag at the European Karate Federation (EKF) Senior Championships in Guadalajara.

This marked the latest in a string of recent controversies, with Kosovar karateka boycotting the EKF Cadet and Under-21 Championships in the Cypriot city of Larnaca because they were required to compete under a makeshift Kosovo Karate Federation flag.

The country also shunned the International Boxing Association Women's World Boxing Championships in India's capital New Delhi because it could not use its flag or national anthem.

Kosovo's athletes were initially unable to compete under their own flag at the 2018 Karate World Championships in Madrid, but the Spanish Government backed down following pressure from the international sporting community.

They also took part at the 2019 European Championships in Guadalajara with state symbols but were prevented from doing so this year and have refused to participate.

Spain is one of five European Union nations which does not recognise Kosovo's independence.

The KOK said it is "experiencing with great concern the discrimination of our athletes by the states, which still mix politics with sports", and accused Spain of "bringing back the old 'regime' for our athletes, despite the fact that a few years ago it was correct in this direction".

It added it has informed the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and is seeking "a quick response".

The IOC said its "position is well known to everyone and has been repeatedly mentioned in the past, i.e. all eligible athletes and teams must be able to participate in international sports competitions without any political discrimination from the host country, in accordance with the Olympic Charter and the fundamental principles of non-discrimination, autonomy and political neutrality that govern the Olympic Movement".

It pointed to the outcome of the Olympic Summit in 2019, and said it is "expected that the relevant Government authorities and the sports organisations directly concerned take appropriate action at their respective levels and in a timely manner to obtain all the necessary assurances in advance, and to anticipate and address properly any such incidents, in accordance with the principles and rules which govern the Olympic Movement".

Kosovo has been recognised by the IOC since 2014, but the KOK said it is
Kosovo has been recognised by the IOC since 2014, but the KOK said it is "experiencing with great concern the discrimination of our athletes" ©Getty Images

However, it denied receiving correspondence from the KOK relating to the EKF Senior Championships.

"The IOC did not receive any correspondence and was not informed in a timely manner of any such issue, and therefore could not even try to do anything," it said.

"In addition, this competition falls under the direct jurisdiction of the European Karate Federation."

EKF and World Karate Federation President Antonio Espinós said it had worked to ensure Kosovo's athletes could compete at the European Championships, but claimed they had been ordered by their Government to withdraw because of the flag situation.

"The EKF did its utmost to ensure that the athletes from Kosovo found the best conditions to participate at the event in Guadalajara, just as we did with the rest of the 48 delegations from all over Europe taking part in the tournament this week," the Spanish official told insidethegames.

"However, we were informed by the representatives of the Kosovo delegation that they had been instructed by their Government to withdraw their participation from the event, once they had arrived here and were already in Guadalajara with the rest of the delegations participating in the Championships.  

"We find the utilisation of sports for political agendas not acceptable and we hope that athletes can practise their sport free of any form of political pressure from their Governments."

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and the KOK was recognised by the IOC in 2014.

However, Serbia continues to view Kosovo as an autonomous part of its own country, and there is division in the international community over its recognition.

Spain has separatist movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country, although politicians have stressed these represent different examples to Kosovo.

The EKF Senior Championships in Guadalajara is due to conclude tomorrow, and is serving as a qualifier for the Kraków-Małopolska 2023 European Games.