President Thaçi in Paris: The EU should support the European perspective of the Western Balkans more

Paris, June 27, 2018 - The President of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, delivered a lecture at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Paris.

In front of many diplomats, state representatives, representatives of civil society and public life in France, President Thaçi spoke about the importance of integration into the European Union and about the resolution of the bilateral disputes between the states in the Western Balkans.

“The European Union General Affairs Council has just published the conclusions on the Western Balkans. I have always called and welcome the EU’s growing attention to enlargement with the Western Balkan countries. Despite the many challenges the EU is facing, I congratulate the EU member states for reaching their positive conclusions for giving their orange signal for opening negotiations with two other states in the Western Balkans: Albania and Macedonia in June of next year. The more the region progresses towards the EU, the better it is for all of us, because it simply means more stability, more sustainable peace, neighborly cooperation, more foreign investments and greater prosperity”, stated President Thaçi.

The Head of State has said that the desire to join the European Union is still great in our region and has called on the EU to take advantage of this momentum to bring the region closer to what it has done so far.

“Let us just look at and analyze the positive developments in our region recently. All this happened because European integration is the foundation and their ultimate goal. These developments include 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 the reforms in the field of rule of law, the ongoing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia and the entering into a final phase towards a final agreement on the normalization of relations and reconciliation. About twenty years after the end of the wars in the Western Balkans, all our states are making concrete progress towards EU membership”, he said.

President Thaçi also spoke about the context in which our region is working towards EU integration.

“We can not pretend as if the economic crisis, the migration crisis and the Brexit referendum have not happened. It would also be naive to think that those events have not affected and do not continue to affect our European perspective. The hesitation of the EU member states to open negotiations with Albania and Macedonia, despite the recommendation of the European Commission, has to do more with their domestic political affairs than with those two states and their respective merits. It is quite easy in such cases to concentrate only on the negative sides. But, it is even more important to admit that, at the same time, there are several often contradictory trends that are very evident. There were many who predicted a domino effect of Brexit immediately after the referendum, but what we have seen since then is that the 27 EU states have remained firm as EU members”, said President Thaçi.

He has said that the EU really faced a high wave and inflow of refugees and economic migrants over the past two years, but this trend has slowed down slightly and there is a more active approach by the EU in the addressing of this issue, despite the apparent ongoing difficulties that this challenge has brought.

The Head of State also spoke about the trends that have opposed the right-wing populism, citing the success of President Macron’s En Marche movement.

”It is the responsibility of the member states not to be subject to these threats and to ensure that positive developments, such as EU enlargement, can still take place. So my main message is this: whatever the problems are, they should not be used as an excuse for the member states not to support the perspective of the Western Balkan states for EU membership or lose the current momentum for enlargement”, he has said.

President Thaçi has also said that euro-skepticism and exhaustion from enlargement should not be used by politicians in our region as an excuse not to reform, develop and improve the lives of the citizens.

“For Kosovo it is the ultimate time for its citizens to be freed from the current state of isolation. Kosovo is the only country in the region where its citizens are deprived of visa-free movement in the Schengen area. We have met each of the 95 criteria set by the European Commission. We have put in place all the necessary institutional measures to prevent any migration effect and our citizens now look towards Europe to keep its promised word. The justifications that it is not the right time due to different events or feelings within the EU, are now not only difficult to understand for everyone, but are also unacceptable”, said President Thaçi

He has stressed that if we were subjected to populism in Kosovo, we would not remain committed to dialogue with Serbia, nor would we work so hard towards a final agreement on the normalization of relations and reconciliation.

“If we were subjected to populist feelings, the demarcation of the border between Kosovo and Montenegro would never have been ratified in the Assembly”, added President Thaçi.

The Head of State also talked about the dialogue on the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, led by EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini.

“On Sunday in Brussels, we held the first meeting within the final stage at the highest political level. Of course, these meetings are very difficult since the two countries involved in this dialogue and their representatives at the negotiating table, on our shoulders carry the bitter and bloody heritage of our one century-long history. The wounds of this one-century conflict have not yet been healed and I am sure it will take a long time for such a thing to happen. But time is always precious. Despite the bitter past, we have no time to lose. We have to be responsible towards our state interests, but above all we must give our people what they deserve and demand from us. What do the citizens of the two respective countries expect? Peace, reconciliation, good neighborly relations, economic development and prosperity. And of course, a European perspective”, stressed President Thaçi.

President Thaçi said that an achieved long-lasting peace would have positive reflections for the entire region, further dispelling the claim of non-Western ideologies for penetration into the Balkans and by reducing the impact of populist and nationalist voices.