Kosovo has no other vision but to become a member of the EU and NATO

10 November 2009. – The President of the Republic of Kosovo, Dr. Fatmir Sejdiu, had a meeting with a group of journalists from several European states, with whom he discussed developments in Kosovo and answered to their questions.

“It is my pleasure to see you and meet you and discuss with you developments in our country. I remain at your disposal to answer to any of your questions” – President Sejdiu told at the beginning to journalists from Poland, Rumania, Georgia, Slovakia, Greece and other countries.

You have been following developments in Kosovo. Two years have passed since our country became independent and a good progress was made, but there is no doubt that there are many real challenges laying ahead of us, especially in terms of ensuring an economic growth, further recognition of the Republic of Kosovo and our country’s accession to international mechanisms, including other issues that relate to all the fields of our everyday life.

It is very important for us that bad prognoses about an independent and sovereign Kosovo have not become a reality, so we have been and will remain cautious to ensure that Kosovo remains a democratic country that belongs to all its citizens and that pays a particular attention to minority communities. Accordingly, there was no exodus; there was no backlash against the Serbian minority and, of course, it is very important for us to ensure that all our citizens are treated equally by law and Constitution. At the same time, our institutions are striving to accomplish the objectives that have derived from Ahtisaari’s Proposal and to implement the entire proposal as a commitment. These days we are making efforts to implement the process of decentralization. Three new Serbian majority municipalities have been created and two others are due. We also have a pre-electoral process that will precede 15 November elections, so, I believe that, in a couple days, it will constitute a good challenge to all our country’s institutions and people.

Becoming a member of the EU and NATO Kosovo’s major objective and we are engaged in meeting the necessary requirements to rise above this challenge. It is crucially important for us that, with the exception of Serbia, we have now good relations with our neighbors,. We want to have good relations with Serbia in the future as well, absolutely, because this is in the best interests of both Serbia’s and Kosovo’s citizens, but our exchanges must always remain at the level of a communication between two sovereign states. We are aware that Serbia is continuously endeavoring to impede the further recognition of Republic of Kosovo, but, despite a slow, recognitions are being announced. Last night we had a new recognition. We are very pleased that 63 states have decided to recognize the Republic of Kosovo so far. We have become a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and, of course we expect further recognitions.

Five EU member states have not recognized the Republic of Kosovo yet, but I consider that a positive thing is the fact that these states are a part of EULEX and were, in a way or another, a part of a vast international investment in Kosovo, even within KFOR.

I also consider that Kosovo is a sui generis case that should not represent a concern for any country or lead them to think that it may represent a cause to internal strives, because this is would be a misconception. In this framework, we are endeavoring to promote the progress that we have made in terms of our country’s development and economic growth, including other issues that involve international cooperation. In terms of investments, I consider that a viable legal framework is in place to facilitate courageous and uninhibited investments. I believe that you already h sufficient information about Kosovo in this regard.

Kosovo covers a territory which is indeed an inexhaustible source of mineral reserves, such as lead, silver, zinc, gold and coal and, moreover, it has a very young population. Around 52 % of the entire population is under 27 and, as such, it is educated and deserves a right offer from the state, more jobs and cooperation. Rather than making people leave, we must set our pace in ensuring the visa liberalization for Kosovo, because the people should enjoy the right to move freely. Our future is in Europe and doesn’t really matter if one is working in Paris or in Berlin; what matters is to be together in Europe.

It is true that we are facing problems concerning unemployment. Around 40% of our population is unemployed and you may wonder how we communicate with these people. I was never inclined to make things look better and I cannot consider something to be idyllic when it is not. There are challenges to be faced and I believe our citizens have realized this properly and are playing their part in these processes. But, of course, both our country’s institutions and international stakeholders must invest and cooperate more to ensure an economic growth in our country and a proper use of the financial aid that was granted at the Donors’ Conference. Investments in capital projects must bear fruits, or else, if we only go on spending the money, we might soon fall short of it. The position of our government and our position is to be very cautious in this regard.

In this meanwhile, we have managed to build the most vital state institutions. We have established the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Kosovo, the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council and the Kosovo Security Force. The latter was established under NATO requirements and in cooperation with NATO institutions. Other institutions are maintaining a good cooperation with EULEX and other international institutions.

“Our major objective is to set our pace in our road to becoming a member of European Union and NATO and to ensure that Kosovo plays the role of a partner in peacekeeping processes and in fostering neighborliness, regional cooperation and other positive developments” – President Sejdiu told the journalists.

Question: Z. President, how satisfied are you with the EU presence in Kosovo?

President Sejdiu: We have invited the European Union, namely EULEX and ICO, to be present in Kosovo. To be honest, there were some unreasonable delays in their deployment which have brought about some consequences and practical misconceptions. What happened earlier with regard to the six-point plan was not fair, because that was done without consulting the institutions of our country and without our consent. Of course, we have rejected such an approach, but we have never declined to cooperate with EULEX or international community. However, it is a fact that there were some positive developments that we have facilitated together. The independence of Kosovo was declared in a coordinated fashion. Kosovo is an independent and sovereign country recognized by many countries. There were delays in the deployment of international presence but good results were achieved and we are maintaining a good cooperation. More can be done, but always adhering to what we are mandated by law i.e. to the provisions of Ahtisaari’s Proposal, the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo and the Joint Action Plan of February 2008.

In a word, we appreciate the current investment in the fields of security and rule of law and we will remain appreciative of that.

Question: What else can be done?

President Sejdiu: There must be an increase in efficiency in terminating parallel structures, in establishing fully operational customs services in the north, in reactivating courts in the north and in ensuring an uninhibited operation of Kosovo Police. This should be a part of the support that we need. We absolutely need this type of approach. The main problem is that delays have occurred at a time, but the capacities do exist and we must move on faster.

Question: How long will the international community stay in Kosovo and what do you think of Belgrade’s plans for and about Kosovo?

President Sejdiu: Regarding the first question, I say that that the stay of international community in Kosovo should be limited to the shortest term possible, but this also depends on the work that we will do together. It can not be predicted precisely how long it will last but it will depend on the fulfillment of all the commitments that have derived from Ahtisaari’s Proposal and that time is approaching.

A mission review has been foreseen to be conducted after a year or two, but we are really interested to move on faster together and I also believe that the member countries that have their presence within EULEX share the same opinion.

Regarding the second question as to what Belgrade thinks, I believe that Belgrade is unfortunately following Milosevic’s politics, excluding the war. We understand that Tadic and his people were backed to advance to power, with the belief and the hope that they will foster pro-European and pro-western policies. We are still hoping that they will, though this was not the case so far. I believe that Tadic’s government, like some other governments, are aware of the whereabouts of war criminals, such as Mladic and others, but they have not handed them over, though they owe this to the humanity and it is an obligation  that they have to the Tribunal. Secondly, Serbia has never apologized for the crimes that they have committed, including atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo, and, thirdly, it is striving to keep Kosovo under tension, to nourish parallel structures and invest large sums of money on them.

Based on some information that we have, only last year they have spent 235 million Euros to nurture parallel structures and to cause destructions in Kosovo. They are also using a very spiteful rhetoric, like “Kosovo is Serbia” and so on and so forth. In parallel, they are making continuous efforts to obstruct independence. These efforts represent an absolutely irrational approach, but, of course, we have never replied with the same rhetoric. Amongst Serbian authorities, in the Serbian Church and government, there are people who wish for a new war, such as Bishop Artemije, who proclaims that only a new war in the Balkan can settle these issues. It was such calls that plunged Serbia into a war against all others before, against Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and all others. But, today all these countries have become independent. Each of these countries wanted to be free. There’s no reason why Kosovo cannot be free. Even Montenegrins, who have a Slavic origin, like all others, didn’t want to live with the Serbs, so what were Kosovo Albanians supposed to do? Serbia’s claims are illusory, because Kosovo has never been a part of Serbia with her own will. You also know what they were up to. All their projects aimed at an annihilation of Albanians, be it in terms of an exodus, expulsion, colonization, or mass killings. People who were even in power until recently have said that Albanians must be thrown into sea and expelled beyond the Cursed Mountains. But, we have different aspirations. We want Kosovo Serbs to appreciate Kosovo as their homeland and we will engage in their integration. We don’t want them to serve as a mechanism that bodes no well to their future, but we want them to create what is necessary for them to thrive. They enjoy all the rights.

I would only like to point out one thing. Albanians constitute 90% of the population but yet they enjoy equal political rights with the Serbs, who constitute less than 5% of the population. Albanian and Serbian are equal official languages in Kosovo. Even other minority languages, such as Bosnian, Turkish or Roma, are used as official languages in some municipalities.

Question: What are your relations with the Rumanian state?

President Sejdiu: Rumanian Office has operated in Kosovo for a while and there was a Rumanian contingent within KFOR. To be honest, we haven’t had other contacts in terms of state representation. There was a meting between the Rumanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and our Minister of Foreign Affairs. I have personally met the former Rumanian presidents, but not the current one. We have explained them the reasons behind Kosovo’s being an independent state and have asked for their recognition. I would rather not dwell on eventual concerns that Rumania might have, but in our viewpoint, issues that Rumania may face have no relation to Kosovo’s being independent.

Kosovo was a part of a country that has dissolved. We have also mentioned earlier that it has enjoyed equal rights with all other federal units and its borders were clearly defined. There was a bloody war which had very tragic consequences, an international intervention and, later on, the establishment of institutions that emerged from a democratic process and an international mission deployed here. There was a clear understanding that Kosovo’s status should be settled based on the will of the majority, even within the Contact Group, where Russia was a member. Even the Security Council Resolution 1244 does not contain any provision that prohibits the independence of our country. On the other hand, I repeat, a state that was referred to in this resolution does not exist anymore. What we would like to tell to Rumanians through you is what I have already told them through other journalists before: a positive reality has been created in Kosovo and we vey much want to have good relations with your country and I believe that you have not forgotten the contribution of Basilio Lupe and Elena Gjika, who were both Albanians.

We welcome all the people of good will. I cannot contact Mr. Basesku. I have tried to establish some contacts through your office as well. All that we want to convey is a message for a good cooperation.

Question: The government of Georgia wants, in a way, to recommend to the US to annul the recognition of Kosovo’s independence. What’s your comment on this?

President Sejdiu: I cannot comment on this because I have no information about this. I have met your representatives and all of them have hailed the independence of our country. I have also met President Saakashvili. The Kosovo issue is an issue that has produced a positive reality and the wheel of history cannot be rolled back.

Question: I have a similar question to the one made by my colleague from Rumania, because I am from Slovakia, which has also not recognized the independence of Kosovo and my question is: Is there any difference between the relations with Slovakia and Rumania?

President Sejdiu: No, no, as a matter of principle. We need to be recognized by Slovakia, Spain and Cyprus and Greece. We are in Europe, not in Orient. We are not in Latin America, but we are at the centre of our joint developments. And, of course, it is in Europe’s best interests to conclude a cycle of development of common policies, which contribute to peace and stability. This is Europe’s main interest.

I have met your statesmen, including Minister Kubis and latter ministers and we have your representatives in Prishtina. We have excellent Slovak and Czech contingents and I have always said that we have had a good experience with Czech representatives. We haven’t experienced the dissolution of a country based on the political will of the parties involved, but we have experienced bloodbath. One can hardy find a Kosovar family that has not experienced a tragedy, because they were constantly suppressed by a regime. Now we are living a reality that we have aspired to create and I would like you to convey messages of appreciation to the people of Slovakia, our appreciation for their support, regardless of the fact that your government has not recognized us yet, for I believe it will. Yet, we have some positive elements in this regard: Republic of Kosovo’s passports are recognized in Slovakia and in some other countries that have not recognized Kosovo’s independence. It is good that Slovakia has a presence in EULEX and KFOR and that our citizens can move freely in Slovakia. Based on the information that we have, Kosovo citizens can move freely in Slovakia and in Greece by using the passports of the Republic of Kosovo.

Question: Can you tell us something about the participation of Serbs living in the north of country in municipal elections and about parallel structures supported by Belgrade?

President Sejdiu: First of all, it was for the first time that we had such an interest to participate in these elections. From among more than 70 political entities that are running in these elections, 22 are from the Serbian community, be they political parties or independent candidates. We have established three new municipalities according to Ahtisaari’s Proposal. There are some positive indications based on some surveys. I hear that Serbs from Graçanica and Kllokot will participate in these elections, what was not the case before. Regardless of everything, we have two Serbian ministers in our government and 10 reserved seats for Serbs in our Parliament and other institutions. We have announced elections that will cover the entire territory of Kosovo, including the north. There may be a larger turn out this year; there may be not, I don’t have any prognosis about the three municipalities in the north. We have made all the necessary efforts to make sure that they participate in these elections. I have also established the Consultative Council for Communities, including Serbian members from the north. I have again called on them to participate in these elections. Yesterday I was informed that more than 100 intellectuals from Serbia have urged Kosovo Serbs to participate in these elections. However, the official Belgrade is still posing obstacles. There is somebody who has thrown the idea for a fait acompli there, in order to create divisions, but these are dangerous cards to be thrown. It is like opening Pandora’s Box. Many problems may emerge. Therefore, we say that an independent Kosovo is the most reasonable solution Kosovo that was supported by our people and by the international community. Any approach that might aim at a division of Kosovo would bring about unpredictable consequences. The worst thing is that these people are being kept hostage to Belgrade’s policies. Many of them are from Kosovo. Many of them have apartments in Prishtina. They rent out their apartments in Prishtina and cause troubles in the north. Our idea is to have people return to their homes, never by force, but with their own will.

Question: What are bilateral relations between Kosovo and Greece? What is Serbs’ position on elections and how is the process of decentralization going on?

President Sejdiu: I am glad that some of you here come from countries that have not recognized the independence of Kosovo yet. Despite the fact that it has not recognized Kosovo’s independence yet, we have very good relations with Greece. We have trade exchanges and recognition of passports. We have received visits from Greek senior officials, such as the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, including other meetings in Thessaloniki and other places.

The Serbian community and the decentralization issue remain a challenge, as President Ahtisaari has said himself. Metaphorically speaking, it takes two for a tango and I believe that the hesitating part of the Serb community will understand and accept our offer.

Serbs have the majority within the two thirds in the Parliament and they can hold back many decisions, which is not a case with minorities in other countries. We followed an affirmative approach towards them, which is sometimes considered to be a positive discrimination. Almost 99% of property disputes were resolved and all the necessary investments were made to have Serbs return to their homes. However, we built for example their houses in Svinjar, municipality of Vushtrri, we gave them the keys to their homes, they accepted them, but then Belgrade called on them to return the keys. So, what can we really do with them? They return the keys because they are being kept under pressure. There is no ethnically motivated conflict in Kosovo. Ordinary crimes may be committed as anywhere else, but they are not ethnically motivated. Their representation in every institution is three times higher than their percentage within the population breakdown; they have a high representation in Kosovo Police and the return of more than 400 Serb police officers to their jobs was good news; they are a part of Kosovo Security Force, Constitutional Court and Supreme Court and, they are present in all the courts of Kosovo. We are also planning to provide governmental grants to the municipalities inhabited by a Serbian majority and I don’t really know what else we can do them. Serbs employed in our institutions are under an enormous pressure from Belgrade.

Question: What is your opinion regarding the situation created in the north because of the failure to pay the electricity bills?

President Sejdiu: There were some problems there. They want to be supplied by a different source of electricity. KEK has adopted some disconnection measures against those who can afford to pay the electricity bills, but refuse to do so. There are more than 100 million Euros that people owe to KEK, but they still refuse to pay. Why not pay when investments are made to improve their situation? These services are paid for in Greece, Spain and Albania and in every country in Europe, because they require investments. A solution might be sought for those who cannot afford to pay, but the issue should not be politicized.

Question: Austria, Germany and other countries are discussing with Kosovo authorities the return of Kosovo citizens to their homes. How will you integrate such a large number of people when you have so many people unemployed?

President Sejdiu: First of all, we are appreciative of those countries that have made their countries a second home to so many people. You know very well why these people were forced to immigrate. They were facing an enormous political pressure and financial restrains and this had its consequences. We will welcome all the citizens of our country who wish to return, regardless of their ethnic background or community. It is true that their immediate return might cause some problems, as even people living here now are facing unemployment, but we will maintain the coordination with our friend countries. Of course, those who have not managed to settle their status must return, but this is a process that requires arrangements and technical consultations. I would rather not use the word ‘deportation’, because the cooperation that we have with these countries and which aims at ensuring a safe return of these people is correct.

Question: Do you speak Serbian and would you be able to address Serbs in Serbian?

President Sejdiu: Yes, I have addressed them in Serbian in the Parliament, I have also done that when I announced the date of elections and I do address the Serbian journalists in Serbian.

Question: How many Serbs have returned to Kosovo after the war?

President Sejdiu: There are no accurate data, but there may be 18,000 to 20,000. The important fact is that two thirds of the Serbs are inside Kosovo. Serbian estimations claiming that there are 350,000 to 400,000 Serbs and that half of them are in Serbia are incorrect. We reply to these estimations by using the official figures that were recorded during Milosovic’s time. Based on a population census that was carried out in 1991 by Milosevic’s government, not by us, there were les than 194,000 Serbs living in Kosovo. We know how the natural increase of population takes place, which in the case of Serbs was not an increase but rather a regress and which really represents a prevailing trend in other countries as well. Even those figures involved people who were not Kosovo Serbs, but were Serb colonizers and military and police officers. Serbia has created some colonies here.

The people who have returned after the independence are here, living in Prishtina, in Kosovo, and they are not facing any troubles. Figures are available with the Ministry of Return, which is led by a Serb minister.

Question: How do you appreciate the new identity as Kosovars. Albanians appreciate the new identity. Is there any difference between Albania Albanians and Kosovo Albanians?

President Sejdiu: We were citizens of Yugoslavia, but the latest events were unacceptable to Kosovo Albanians, because our constitutional rights were violated during Milosevic’s regime, though this belongs to the past now.

Kosovo Albanians have always been in Kosovo, they are aboriginals here. Of course, we are a nation like Albanians in Albania or Germans in Germany, Switzerland or Austria. We appreciate the existing reality created in our sovereign state. We are a majority, because we represent 90% of the population in Kosovo, but we don’t want the minorities to experience what we have experienced during the Serb occupation. This is why we are paying a particular attention to minorities. Kosovo is free now and joy is prevailing among all the children of Kosovo. The war and the tragedy have ended. We cannot forget what has happened, but we will never attempt to take revenge. We will let what happened to remain a part of our memories and archives and we will move on forward. Though when we look back to the history we can see Albanians have lived here much earlier than Serbs and that we are indigenous here, we don’t what to tell Serbs that Kosovo is not their home. This is our approach. However, Kosovo is a not the cradle of Serbia. Serbia has tried to plant cradles everywhere, until it reached the point of a misguided illusion that they were a divine nation and that others were no good.

Question: Do you believe that Kosovo will become a member of the European Union in 2014? What are your expectations in this regard?

President Sejdiu: We have never spoken in terms of exact dates or years, because this is a rather difficult process. However, we need to move on toward fostering an extended cooperation so as to make the path shorter. It is not easy.

Question: What would you react in case the north decides to secede?

President Sejdiu: The north is an integral part of Kosovo and it has been internationally recognized as such. Everyone seeks a sort of integrity, but I believe that the will of all the people of Kosovo is to live together and that Kosovo’s friends, EULEX and NATO, will live up to their commitment to protect Kosovo’s territorial integrity and, of course, we will also be engaged in maintaining this integrity.

Illegal activities in this part of our country have been reported by UNMIK, OSCE and EULEX and these actions run counter to both international legal acts on Kosovo and the very legislation of Kosovo.

Question: What constitutes the biggest threat to the new state?

President Sejdiu: Difficulties in terms of integrating a part of the Serb community, ensuring an economic growth and setting a pace in meeting the criteria for integration into the European Union. And this is a vision, not a fiction.

Question: Why does Kosovars still love the United States of America more than Europeans?

President Sejdiu: No, we love both Americans and Europeans and we appreciate their investments, but it is important to note that the United States has invested the most, including the military intervention that was carried out together with the European Union. It has invested the most in terms of military contribution during the 78 days of NATO air strikes, but we retain our highest consideration for all the EU countries and we have no reservations in our relations with them. It is important to note that most of the EU countries have invested in Kosovo in a way or another.