Transcript of the press conference held by President Sejdiu, President Topi, President Ivanov and President Vujanovic

Following the joint meeting, the President of Republic of Kosovo, Dr. Fatmir Sejdiu, the President of Albania, Bamir Topi, the President of Macedonia, Gjorgi Ivanov and the President of Montenegro, Filip Vujanovic, held a joint press conference.

Below you may read the entire transcript of the conference:

President Sejdiu: I want to express my pleasure of having had the honor to be the host of a follow-up meeting to the previous constructive meetings in Vlora and Ohrid with President Topi, President Ivanov and President Vujanovic. The major topics tackled at the meeting related to the progress that we have made and to the freedom of the people, as an important foundation to communication and integration processes.

We shared the observation that we have made a progress, on which we have embarked with modesty, but with strengthened and open relations between us. If it was thought that the first meting in Vlora was an introduction one – which it was not, because we had been acquainted before – I consider that now we must meet more often. Our task is to ensure, through our institutions, the free communication between our people and the free movement of our people and goods. We are also trying to ensure that rule of law is a value that helps prevent criminal activities that pose an obstacle to human freedoms. Accordingly, today we may say that we are closer to the practical realization of what we have mentioned before i.e. a Balkan mini-Schengen zone that would help people move freely. There are many values that we share and it is important that we also share mutual friends and partners.

President Topi: First I want to thank, from the bottom of my heart, President Sejdiu for organizing this excellent meeting in Prizren. I also want to thank presidents Ivanov and Vujanovic, who have joined this initiative and are building on it continuously. Certainly, I’d like to thank the media, who are showing a great interest in the meeting, which, to my opinion, is of a special importance. It is true that our meetings have started in Vlora two years ago exactly, have continued in Ohrid and one of them is taking place in the historic town of Prizren. It is taking place in a Kosovo that has made a tangible progress compared to two years ago. Everybody knows that two years in the history of a country are like two drops of water in an ocean. However, these two years have proven that Kosovo and its people have joined a dream, which is the dream of a joint future in the Euro-Atlantic community. We agreed that the political dialogue between our countries has been strengthened. Beyond political dialogue and human understanding, we want to implement joint infrastructural projects. I felt it as an obligation to unfold the entire Albania’s journey towards improving the infrastructure with Kosovo, through this road, along which we drove for around two and a half hours. We also had a trip from Shkodra to Montenegro. We have augmented the segments of the eighth corridor. This indicates that Albania is endeavoring a lot to strengthen relations and infrastructural ties with its neighboring countries, and lastly – in order to make my speech a bit shorter – we also dwelled on the free movement of the people.

Macedonia and Montenegro have benefited from visa liberalization. We were and still are glad that our two neighbors could benefit from this. Albania is close to obtaining the same status, and I have noticed that my counterparts are equally joyous about this. As in other meetings, I expressed today my personal opinion that the people of Kosovo must also benefit from the visa liberalization process, for which my counterparts showed an understanding. Certainly, this is a call to our European partners who believe in and perceive the free movement as a fundamental right of every citizen who lives and works in the Balkan region. Cooperation between us will contribute tangibly to the improvement of stability in the region, to the fight against organized crime, to the strengthening of our borders – in terms of an integrated management – and to the free movement of people and goods. Thank you once again, my honorable colleagues, and I feel very happy for the new state of relations between our countries.

President Ivanov: Honorable media representatives, I want to inform you that we really had a friendly and constructive meeting and that we raised many and discussed many issues that are common to the region. Having elaborated on what has been achieved since our last meeting in Vlora and on the current state of affairs now as we met here in Prizren, we found that a tangible progress was made on all fronts. Macedonia and Kosova have resolved the disputes regarding the border demarcation. Moreover, they have established diplomatic relations, opened respective embassies and we have signed 6 or 7 bilateral agreements so far and 5 are awaiting the signature. This indicates that the legal framework between our two countries is already being established and that we will resolve all our problems in an institutional manner.

Metaphorically or symbolically speaking, if we were down at the sea yesterday, today we have reached the mountain, and this is how these meetings are taking place – at the top. At bilateral meetings, we raised all interstate issues between us and we did the same at our joint meeting. If we compare what the region was 10 years ago with what it is now, it becomes evident that a great progress has been made. Beyond free movement of people and goods, we can now discuss infrastructure and energy, meaning we have gone beyond the frame of issues that only related to free movement of the people. All this reveals that the climate in the region has changed and that there is a good prospect for us. A positive thing is that we have found that we must necessarily solve all the issues by means of dialogue and that we ought not dare to show mercy for crime or anything that obstructs our progress. It was in that spirit that I invited the presidents to be our guests in Ohrid in Macedonia next year.

President Vujanovic: I do share the opinion with my colleagues about this meeting  and about the constructive talks that we had during it. We drew on positive effects achieved in Vlora here in Prizen in Kosovo and this is indicates that we are making positive steps forward towards regional cooperation. In terms of the major topic of free movement of the people, we emphasized that we, the four countries, have established a mini-Schengen zone and that this is crucial to our advancement toward Euro-Atlantic integration. We sent a message to the countries of the Schengen zone that these four countries must enjoy the right to move freely. Montenegro and Macedonia have already benefited from the visa liberalization process, Albania is close to benefiting from it. We have underlined that it is not appropriate to leave Kosovo out and we expect that Kosovo will also be included in the process.

Border crossing points should be places where people will stop very shortly and where only people involved in trafficking are checked. We maintain that freedom of movement is crucial to any progress and integration in general. We also found that freedom of movement is a good message for integration and economic growth and we all agreed that there can be no future for Europe either without cooperation in the region. President Sejdiu has organized this meeting excellently.

During the other part of the conference, the presidents answered questions by journalists:

Question: This was the third meeting. What was achieved by the meeting in concrete terms and what is the message that you will convey not only to the people, but also to the leaders of other countries of the Balkan?

President Topi: I want to consider the period following the meeting in Vlora, which took place prior to this one. Many events have taken place within a year; relations between Kosovo and the countries that we represent here today have improved; diplomatic relations have been established between Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro and several agreements, which President Sejdiu presented during the meeting, were signed. Today’s meeting is of an enormous value: first because it has taken place in Kosovo and, second, because of the fact that together we told all our European partners that our countries maintain an excellent cooperation.
We have unanimously agreed that no citizen of our countries can be deprived of its right to move freely and to engage in a political dialogue. We also tabled and made concrete commitments to make considerable improvements in infrastructure and to utilize our infrastructural corridors and energy resources and touristic areas that we are lucky to have and that cover a considerable part of our territories. It is impossible to provide details of a long meeting and bilateral meetings during a press conference, but I assure you that a complete understanding was shown for all major issues that relate to our relations.

President Vujanovic:  I believe that we all share same the same opinion with Mr. Topi regarding this conference. I consider he has left nothing unsaid from what we all can say.

President Sejdiu: We absolutely share the same position, which was elaborated very well.

Question for President Ivanov and Vujanoviç:
President Ivanov has stated that the meeting assumes European dimensions. Do you believe that a dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is necessary to the further integration processes?

President Vujanovic: In his introductory speech, President Ivanov emphasized the importance of dialogue, and dialogue must be founded on the right of each sovereign state to engage in a dialogue by respecting its sovereignty and by considering the interests of its people in general. We remain particularly sensitive to sovereignty, because we have decided to be sovereign and independent. I would rather not advise or comment on this, but underline the importance of the dialogue to the improvement of the climate in general. A dialogue is already going on between Macedonia and Greece and we want this dialogue to end as soon as possible, so that Macedonia can accede to NATO.

The other dialogue, that between Kosovo and Serbia, must take into account two existing realities: one reality is that 69 countries have recognized the independence of Republic of Kosovo and have established diplomatic relations and exchanged ambassadors, and the other reality is that 123 UN members states have not recognized the independence of Kosovo. Accordingly, it is these two realities that must be considered in terms of this dialogue, which would be beneficial to both Serbia and Kosovo.

President Ivanov:
As President Vujanovic said, we asserted that all the problems in the region must be necessarily solved by means of dialogue. Dialogue makes communication possible, and this brings back the trust between the parties. Therefore, we would be very glad if we would see presidents Tadic and Papoulias among us in our future meetings.

Question for President Sejdiu: Is this a coalition against Serbia and what must happen before Serbia joins the summit?

President Sejdiu: This is a good model of cooperation between countries of a region. This is a practical approach that we believe and hope will involve other countries in the region, including Serbia. The future and the progress of the countries of the region lies in cooperation, but also in respect of sovereignty, characteristics and qualities of each respective country.

President Topi:
Institutions of Albania as well encourage the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia under the terms of reciprocal status as sovereign states. Our meeting reflects a very pro-western approach and a cohesion between friends and neighbors that must cooperate with each other.

Why did I interpose to make this short comment? It was because I believe that it remains at the discretion of each country to decide on the mode of communication with others, but it is inacceptable to engage openly both diplomacy and underground in lobbing against Kosovo’s presence in regional meetings, like in the case of the meeting between the countries of the South-East Europe. We encourage cooperation and communication between all, without distinction. The philosophy of exclusion is a mere antithesis to the western cooperation tendencies. We very much hope that our communication and forum will expand in the future.

Question for President Ivanov: A question regarding dialogue. The Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that the name issue will be resolved in the days to come. How would you comment on such a statement?

President Ivanov:
I cannot comment on somebody else’s statement. I don’t have that information. Probably he has the information, since he has made that statement. Nevertheless, the frequent communication between Prime Minister Gruevski and the Prime Minister of Greece indicates that a solution should be necessarily found within the United Nations and in the course of the process led by Mr. Nimitz.