Remarks by the President of Kosovo at the Berlin Summit on regional reconciliation and cooperation
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset, I must point out that despite the fact that 20 years have passed since the end of the wars in the Western Balkans, full interethnic and inter-state reconciliation still seems distant, despite the progress made.
The same situation is reflected when it comes to regional cooperation, despite numerous initiatives undertaken so far, including the Berlin process.
The EU integration process is almost completely blocked.
The European perspective for Kosovo remains only a good phrase to the ears which continues to be repeated, but nothing more.
Today’s reality in the Western Balkans does not match at all with our expectations and perhaps even those of the EU.
Despite the fact that Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008 has ended the breakup process of former Yugoslavia, peace in our region still remains fragile.
The current instability in Kosovo’s relations with neighboring countries in the region is firstly the result of Serbia’s non-recognition and hostile behavior, and secondly, the non- recognition of the independence by Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Serbia has consistently continued to undermine and violate Kosovo’s state sovereignty.
Strangely, the hostile and anti-European behavior has not restrained Serbia’s journey towards EU membership.
The non-recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia is causing major problems for the Euro-Atlantic journey of Kosovo.
This situation has enabled the five EU member states not to recognize Kosovo.
As a result, Kosovo is legally and practically unable to take concrete steps to join the EU and NATO.
As a conclusion, Kosovo’s relations with Serbia are constantly aggravated, there are many barriers to freedom of movement for citizens and goods.
The dialogue commenced in 2011, despite tangible results, is now blocked by Serbia, which has conditioned its continuation with the abolition of the tax.
The conditioning of the dialogue has not dared to happen in any circumstances, because the dialogue can not be conditioned by either side.
This has been the unwritten leading principle since the beginning of this process.
On the other hand, more or less, due to Serbia’s negative impact, Kosovo’s relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina are at the lowest possible level.
There is no free movement for the citizens of both countries, and consequently neither for goods.
There is a really paradoxical situation, the EU has lifted the visas for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the latter still maintains the visa regime for Kosovars.
It can easily happen that the EU will lift visas for Kosovo citizens, while Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to maintain them.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Despite this tense reality, there has certainly been some progress in relation to other neighboring countries in the region.
First of all, it is very important that Kosovo and Montenegro have managed to ratify the inter-state agreement for marking the border line/demarcation.
This issue has been essential to establishing good mutual relations.
Moreover, for Kosovo, the demarcation of the border with Montenegro, has been the last criterion for visa liberalization from the EU.
But for our bad luck, the current reality testifies that this was just a deceptive promise.
Kosovo unfairly remains the most isolated country in Europe.
The European Commission had recommended visa liberalization in May 2016.
I don’t understand why Kosovo’s citizens who are the most pro-European people in the region are discriminated in this way.
North Macedonia is also a neighboring country with which we have unhindered cooperation, movement of people and goods.
We have no open issues and have welcomed the Prespa agreement and are supportive for NATO and EU membership.
Whereas, the relation between Kosovo and Albania is self-evident.
We are brothers and as two independent states, we want to unite under the EU and NATO common umbrella.
Slovenia and Croatia are Kosovo’s friend states in our region.
Bilateral relations and economic cooperation are at a very satisfactory level.
We just require that these two states advocate and support Kosovo and other countries in the region much more in order to accelerate the fulfillment of our aspirations for EU and NATO membership.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In such a situation of our neighborly relations, many good initiatives that have emerged from the Berlin Process have remained unrealized.
- Progress towards the establishment of the regional economic zone, free trade, connectivity, and above all reconciliation, will remain impossible or just minimal, as long as Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina do not recognize Kosovo’s independence
- As long as this does not happen, the influence of third parties in our region, respectively the influence of Russia and China will be continuous.
This bad situation in our region can not be overcome only with abstract statements and promises.
Bold decisions are needed by the countries of the region that will not occur for as long as there are no bold and strategic decisions by the EU and its member states.
Germany and France have the opportunity to take leadership for these bold decisions, but whether they will do so or not, is up to their will.
Thank you for your attention!