Thaçi for “Der Standard”: The European Commission is unfair to Kosovo
Standard: You have proposed for Kosovars to be equipped with Albanian citizenship. Why, in fact? Why?
President Thaçi: Kosovo is left in isolation, there is still no visa liberalization. My proposal is in full compliance with the laws of Kosovo and Albania. They have the right to dual citizenship, just as we do. It is indeed an absurdity for students and business people who need to travel, to be impeded from exercising their elementary right. The European Commission has been unfair to Kosovo. Therefore, the citizens are losing faith that the European Commission may have a positive agenda for Kosovo.
Standard: If there is visa liberalization, then Kosovars will not need Albanian citizenship. Or do you want that, despite this issue, all Kosovars to be provided with Albanian citizenship?
Thaçi: It remains for Kosovars to decide whether they want dual citizenship or not. But if the European Commission continues with this isolation, even condemning Kosovo, then it is likely that this will happen. Kosovo has fully met 94 out of 95 visa liberalization criteria. We have been loyal, but the fulfillment of these criteria has not been awarded by the European Commission. The European Commission is focused only on Serbia and is concerned only about Serbia, but not about other Western Balkan states. The EU needs leadership when it comes to integration and enlargement policies.
Standard: The border agreement with Montenegro has not yet been ratified for visa liberalization. Only when this happens, Kosovo will have a chance to get a liberalization.
Thaçi: Kosovo and Montenegro are strategic partners and have excellent relations. Demarcation is not a dispute between Kosovo and Montenegro, but an internal political issue here in Pristina. We have been surprised when the European Commission has set it as a condition. But the ratification of the demarcation from one condition turned into a trap for Kosovo.
Standard: So, you don’t think that Kosovo will be able to ratify this agreement soon?
Thaçi: I hope this will happen soon in Parliament, but we still have no date for this issue. But we remain concerned that it can easily happen that despite the ratification of the demarcation, the European Commission will hesitate to conclude the visa liberalization process successfully.
Standard: Have you discussed with the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, about your proposal for Kosovars to be equipped with Albanian citizenship?
Thaçi: If a state allows dual citizenship, this is the citizen's right. Kosovo Serbs have the citizenship of Serbia, the Montenegrins of Kosovo have the citizenship of Montenegro. Most of the political elite, the Kosovo media already have citizenship of Albania. Why should students, businessmen and citizens have it as well? This is no longer a political issue, but a practical need and human rights are in question. I am not nostalgic when it comes to Tito’s Yugoslavia, but 30-40 years ago we have moved more freely than today. It is a great injustice that is happening here even though we are the most pro-European state in the Balkans.
Standard: Have you talked with Prime Minister Rama about this issue?
Thaçi: My message was clear for all.
Standard: Several weeks ago I spoke with Prime Minister Rama and he said that the border management between Albania and Kosovo will be easier. Does this mean that people traveling between Albania and Kosovo can do so without border controls?
Thaçi: This is in line with EU rules. It is about an integrated border management. We did not set them up just at the border with Albania, but also with Montenegro and Serbia. We want open borders between all countries and not what the EU is doing, namely building mental walls. While the EU is trying to give lectures to US President Trump about building the wall, it is building mental walls in Southeast Europe itself. These mental walls are even more dangerous than the physical division of people.
Standard: If all Kosovars have Albanian citizenship then they can all vote in Albania and this would increase the concern for a Greater Albania. This, on the other hand, would lead to a concern that there could be something like Great Serbia, which would mean the disintegration of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Would this not lead to instability in the Balkans?
Thaçi: Bosnian Serbs now have Serbian citizenship and Bosnian Croats have Croatian citizenship. Why should Kosovars be excluded from this? It is in line with the Constitution. There is also the possibility for citizens from neighboring countries to accept Kosovar citizenship. It has nothing to do with changing borders, but with freedom of movement and rights guaranteed by the constitution.
Standard: So, it has nothing to do with Greater Albania?
Thaçi: No, this has nothing to do with Greater Albania, but it is about freedom of movement, with a (basic) human right. We are witnessing that the European Commission is rewarding only Serbia. And this happens at a time when people convicted by the Tribunal for Yugoslavia, after returning to Serbia, are rewarded with higher positions in state institutions. Serbia is making progress in negotiations with the EU not because it is meeting European standards but because it is blackmailing the EU with the “Russian card”. Moreover, Serbia is not implementing the agreements reached in the dialogue with Kosovo. And yet, it is rewarded.
Standard: When will the next step in the dialogue with Serbia occur?
Thaçi: After the local elections. The dialogue has no alternative. We want to conclude the process of normalization and reconciliation with a final historical agreement.
Standard: So, the dialogue can recommence this year?
Thaçi: I hope!
Standard: There are many rumors about northern Kosovo. There is also a stance in Serbia that northern Kosovo, which is largely inhabited by Serbs, will join Serbia under such a deal. Is Kosovo ready to give up northern Kosovo?
Thaçi: Once and for all we have to see that the partition of people along ethnic lines is not a solution. Kosovo is a sovereign state and has its territorial integrity. The change of borders can not provide a sustainable solution, despite the fact that Albanians in the region live in five different states. But ethnic division is not a solution. We have to work for a European model with open borders in a region, and all Balkan states to be integrated into the EU.