President Thaçi: Kosovo and the Western Balkans have no alternative but EU

Brussels, 9 June 2016 – President of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim thaçi, has held a public lecture at the “European Council on Foreign Relations” (ECFR), where he spoke about the achievements and challenges of Kosovo and the region on the EU and NATO integration path.

“There is no doubt that the European Union is at a major crossroads. Brexit, the flow of refugees from Asia and Africa, the renewed Russian expansion that has caused crises like the one in Ukraine, threats posed by political and religious radicalism, terrorism,... the list is pretty long for our continent.  But where is Kosovo in all this?”, President Thaçi began his presentation.

“Ten years ago, Kosovo was still discussing with the international community the right to decide by itself about its political future. In just eight years as a state, Kosovo has signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement that has already started to be implemented. We received a recommendation for visa liberalization and we expect that this year the citizens of Kosovo will also, finally, move freely in the Schengen area. We have become a member of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the US Congress, as we have meet the strict criteria of reforms in economy, politics and justice”, President Thaçi said.

President Thaçi recounted the achievements of Kosovo in the economy, emphasizing the stable banking sector and the lowest public debt in the region. Speaking about progress in the field of justice, President Thaçi stressed that “Kosovo has been fortunate to have enjoyed strong international support in the building of the judiciary” and that “thanks to the work done on capacity building, judicial authorities have taken steps to combat serious crimes”.

“Senior officials have been arrested and convicted of involvement in crime and corruption”, President Thaçi said.

Speaking of dialogue, the head of state said that the dialogue with Serbia contributed to success in the integration of the northern part of Kosovo.

“We have organized elections in compliance with the laws of Kosovo and our citizens who live in the northern part of Kosovo have elected their legitimate leaders. Those who once stood by the barricades they had put up are now part of Kosovo institutions and participate actively in political life, in the Assembly, as ministers in the Government of Kosovo, as municipal mayors or advisers”, President Thaçi said.

In his lecture at the ECFR, President Thaçi said that communication is now just normal in the Western Balkan region and added that now is the time for a new step, that of building trust between nations and states but also between the Balkans and the EU.

“It is important for the region to maintain confidence in the idea of the EU and the aspirations for EU membership”, President Thaçi said, adding that “through constructive dialogue that the region should have with the EU, we will be able to demonstrate why Europe is not complete without Kosovo and the Western Balkans in its ranks. But through dialogue we will also show the EU the values the Kosovo and the Western Balkans will bring to this community of peoples and states”.

“Kosovo and the entire region is multi-ethnic and multi-religious. We really have a majority belonging to the Islamic religion. But it is an European Islam, which promotes tolerance, coexistence and peace, as it has done for centuries. This value of Kosovo and the region is also a value for Europe”, President Thaçi said.

“It is important for the EU to remain engaged in Kosovo and in the Balkans. EU’s delays in extending its hand to the Western Balkans gives way to other ideologies, nationalist or religious”, President Thaçi explained.

“Kosovo is a success story, but it is a not yet finished story. We have a long way to go, but we are on the right path”, President Thaçi concluded.

After his presentation, the President of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi took questions from the audience, who were interested regarding the developments in Kosovo’s neighboring countries as well.

President Thaçi said that it is important that despite the problems faced by the countries in the region, all these states are determined to become members of the EU and the EU is the “engine” of the positive changes in the Western Balkan countries.

ECFR is a renowned think tank headquartered in Brussels that deals with drafting reports and analyses on the EU and the EU’s role international relations. Members of the ECFR Boards are, among others, Martti Ahtisaari, Javier Solana and Joschka Fischer.