Kosovo seeks to build agreement in the Balkans

This year, Kosovo commemorates the 10th anniversary of its independence. It is a time for celebration and reflection for our people and our allies. Kosovo is a stable and prosperous young democracy that aspires to join the EU and NATOo like most of its neighbours and partners. But the road ahead is long and filled with obstacles.

We believe Kosovo has shown itself to be a reliable and trustworthy partner to the EU. We share the same goals. We have been actively engaged in dialogue with Serbia; a process that I have been proud to lead for many years. Those who remember the terrible wars of the 1990s will understand the importance of this effort. Kosovo has clear goals and expectations from our efforts to normalise relations with Serbia. The dialogue should lead Kosovo and Serbia to extend formal mutual recognition and full diplomatic relations to each other. Kosovo must have a clear, equal and unhindered membership path to the EU, NATO and the UN.

Kosovo will maintain its current political system as a unitary Republic. It has proven effective in integrating all communities and ensuring they can lead their daily lives. We will not explore experiments that would put the constitutional order into disarray.

Until Kosovo and Serbia work out their differences, we will not be able to join the EU. That is why it is so important for me that we achieve a legally binding peace treaty with Serbia. Kosovo’s people will have a brighter and better future as part of the bigger Euro-Atlantic family.

For Kosovo there is no alternative to EU and NATOmembership. We do not have a Plan B, nor are we seeking one. The window of opportunity to reach agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is open but shrinking. The potential for others to take advantage of the vacuum and limbo, is great. This is why I have re-engaged with the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to seek active and creative solutions that will bring about a fair and final agreement. We need a durable solution that covers both current differences and potential points of future conflict. We will not accept interim deals or continuation of the status quo.

One area of contention is the border between our two countries. Much has been written about this in recent weeks; some of it unnecessarily inflammatory. I wish to set the record straight. The history of the Balkans is not that of agreements but of disagreements. We have a chance to change this course.

Just as we settled our borders with Macedonia and Montenegro, any final agreement with Serbia will need to address our respective state boundaries. In doing so, we believe that any border corrections should be based on firm principles of international laws and our shared values.

First and foremost, a border correction should not be based on the principle of ethnic separation. We do not want to split up our two peoples. Needless to say, any final agreement must be coupled with cast iron guarantees for the continued protection of the rights of all communities that remain in our respective countries, including the safeguarding of religious sites.

Secondly, we are not seeking to create the conditions for border change elsewhere in the region, such as with Albania, despite what some have said. Kosovo has never been a precedent. It will remain as a sui generis case. Kosovo and Serbia are sovereign states. International law allows sovereign states to delineate their boundary as they see fit, and our decisions have no bearing on any other state.

Currently, tensions between Kosovo and Serbia remain high. The history of the EU has already shown that agreed borders coupled with a shared vision of a peaceful and co-operative future can eventually make state boundaries less important. We want that model to work for us. A mutually agreed border, as part of a wider final agreement, will allow Kosovo and Serbia to lay the foundations for a more open relationship and a more peaceful future.

The writer is president of Kosovo

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