The speech of the President of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, at “New perspectives for EU’s enlargement” conference, held at the European Forum in Alpbach

Good evening,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank you for the invitation and for selecting the important topic on EU enlargement in the Western Balkans for this session.

We all agree, the more the region progresses towards the goal of EU membership, the better it is for us all because it simply means more stability, peace, regional cooperation, more foreign investment and beter life.

Therefore, a well-implemented enlargement policy has the potential to make the EU itself stronger and more cohesive.

The need to overcome conflicts, disputes, and resolution of bilateral issues is at the heart of the recent European Commission strategy.

EU integration, and the resolution of bilateral issues and disputes between states in the Western Balkans are closely interlinked.

About twenty years after the end of the wars in the Western Balkans, all our states are making concrete progress towards EU membership.

When it comes to the sectorial technical reforms, there may be different levels of progress.

But, looking at the whole picture, we are all at a more or less similar level of development and face more or less similar challenges in terms of democracy, rule of law and economy.

The desire to join the European Union is still great in our region and I urge the EU to take advantage of this momentum to bring the region closer.

Just look at and analyse the positive developments in our region recently:

-the name issue agreement between Macedonia and Greece;

-the completion of the border demarcation ratification between Kosovo and Montenegro;

-Albania's achievements in addressing issues related to reforms in the area of ​​rule of law and the (conditional) promise of opening negotiations with both Albania and Macedonia next summer;

- ongoing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia and entering a final stage towards a final agreement on normalization of relations and reconciliation.

All this happened because European integration is the foundation and ultimate goal of the region.

That is why I think it is important that all Western Balkan countries should make harmonized steps towards EU membership and that the EU does not allow any country to stagnate due to bilateral disputes or internal problems.

All Western Balkans 6 are committed to implement profound political and economic reforms and to harmonise our laws, including economic reforms to strengthen public finances and macroeconomic stability, improve co-operation in internal affairs and security to prevent illegal migration, and to share the burden of refugees.

However, we must also know that the context in which our region is working towards EU integration is not easy.

The EU’s economic crisis, migration crisis and the Brexitreferendum affected and continue to affect the commitment to the European perspective of the Western Balkans.

In addition to this, there are other factors eager to extend their negative influence in the Western Balkans.

Ladies and gentleman,

Now we have officially launched the final phase of the Dialogue on Normalization of Relations between Kosovo and Serbia led by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini.

Me and President Vucic have been invited by Federica Mogherini to attend the third meeting of this final stage on September 7.

Let me stress that Kosovo is determined to reach a binding legal agreement with Serbia.

The time to do this is now, and we have a short window of opportunity.

It's not easy at all, it’s very difficult.

That’s why everyone has to be behind it.

It is not just a matter of building an internal consensus on this agreement, but we need support from all those who want to see the Western Balkans in the EU.

I am willing to do so and I am working hard to achieve this goal.

That’s why, we have decided to explore every possible option, including the border correction in order to make efforts to reach the deal.

Countries of our region, EU member states or other countries in the world, should not oppose or be afraid of a potential peaceful agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, even if such a deal may imply border correction.

I reassure everyone, that a potential agreement between Kosovo and Serbia under this scenario, will not be along the ethnic lines.

Kosovo will remain a multi-ethnic society and will continue to uphold the highest standards in terms of the protection of community rights.

The same principle will be valid for Serbia also.

Because the ultimate peace between Kosovo and Serbia, the mutual recognition, will have positive reflections for the whole region and beyond.

Perhaps this potential peaceful agreement is the single largest contributor for the realisation of the EU enlargement agenda of the Western Balkans.