President Vjosa Osmani’s statement at the press conference
Dear media representatives, thank you for being here today,
I have called this press conference to discuss certain issues that have been addressed by the European Commission Report on Kosovo, which has to do exclusively with the rule of law in the country.
In particular, I consider it necessary to dwell a little more on some of the issues related to the vetting process in the Republic of Kosovo, law and order in our country, including the north, as well as the issue of the electoral process.
With regards to Vetting, European Commission finds that one-off and full re-evaluation of all prosecutors and judges is a source of serious concern. As the President of the country, I do not agree at all with this statement. In fact, the lack of vetting would be a serious concern, not the fulfilment of this process. The non-implementation of the vetting does not contribute to the efforts of the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo to guarantee the rule of law, nor to the European future of our country.
Further down the report, the European Commission considers that the vetting process should be a final and extraordinary measure, once all existing tools and mechanisms have been exhausted. Even this finding is wrong and even more contradictory because the existing mechanisms have been here for years and have proved ineffective. The truth is that through these mechanisms the increase of professionalism, integrity and citizens' trust in the justice institutions has not been achieved either. The EU itself has been critical of these matters for years. Therefore, vetting is not only important, but it is also necessary, and the only way to achieve all those goals which the European Union itself has presented as requirements and priorities to Kosovo for years.
Contrary to what is stated in the European Union Report, this process will be continuous and comprehensive. For years, various local and international reports have noted stagnation in the justice system, and the lack of adequate mechanisms to address these stagnations. As a result, it is very clear that with the existing mechanisms alone there will be no possibilities to implement the desired reforms in our justice system.
Vetting will therefore be a key instrument for the verification of the integrity, professionalism and wealth control of the individuals subject to vetting. This process will also be a mechanism to highlight judges, prosecutors and support administrative staff with integrity and professionalism. Vetting will be conducted in accordance with the highest international standards, as well as the best practices of countries that have carried out vetting before Kosovo.
This should be seen as the main effort of the institutions of our country to guarantee the rule of law, by undertaking profound reforms in the justice system and ensuring the independence of this system from interventions of both political and criminal nature. Therefore, as President of the country, I not only demand that this process continues and does not stop, but also that it is expedited as a necessity. I encourage all responsible institutions to continue this work with priority and in full cooperation with our international partners. Meanwhile, as President of the country, I will continue as I have done so far, to apply the highest standards of legality and integrity in all my appointments, including those in the justice system. There have been cases in the past when proposals came to my desk that did not meet the legal criteria, whether for persons who have committed criminal offenses in the past, or persons who have solely passed the bar exam in Serbia in 2010, this of course being against the law and none of these have been signed by me. I am not a President who signs blank papers and therefore, in processes involving permanent appointments to the positions crucial for the Rule of Law in the country, such as the case of Judges and Prosecutors, I will always be guided by the principle of implementing and respecting integrity and professionalism.
The second topic I want to address is the situation in our northern municipalities in terms of Rule of Law.
The European Commission, this year as in previous years, confirms that the situation in the north of the country is challenging in terms of corruption, organized crime and lack of freedom of expression.
This situation, according to the Commission, poses a challenge for law enforcement agencies in Kosovo.
Also, the European Commission in this report asks Kosovo and its institutions for, and I quote "Additional measures need to be taken to combat illegal crossings and related criminal activities (including corruption), particularly along the border with Serbia."
We ask all EU officials to stay true to these statements so that whenever the law enforcement institutions of the Republic of Kosovo fight crime, corruption and smuggling in every corner of our country, including the north, we have the support of these officials, not their objection.
My position as President on this is already clear: in the fight against organized crime and corruption, there is no compromise in any part of our Republic. This has already been proven by the institutions of the country and this position of ours is unwavering. And as these are findings of the European Union, as I also read them, we expect from them full support in terms of the actions of our institutions regarding the rule of law in every part of Kosovo, including the north, as an integral part of our country. Therefore, I hope that in the future EU officials will not make unilateral and unfounded statements which can only increase tensions and hinder our rule of law efforts in every corner of Kosovo.
I am glad that there was a reflection in this regard today, so I welcome today's statement by Secretary Blinken on which of course there was never any doubt and which the EU High Representative Borell has already joined in, who stated today that "we welcome and support Kosovo’s commitment to fighting corruption and organized crime." and I hope that this ever-present support by the United States will also be continued out by the European Union Officials.
The third issue I want to discuss has not to do with the European Union report on Kosovo, but with the Preliminary Statement of the technical team that observed the October 17 elections, who came to Kosovo upon my invitation to the Union.
Let me make some observations regarding this preliminary document:
First, I am very pleased that the October 17th elections have been described as among the best and most democratic in the region. This is excellent news for the Republic of Kosovo and shows the level of prudence and democracy that our country has;
I am also very happy that the evaluation of the work of the current CEC is very positive. This is an achievement, unlike the previous Final Report of this Mission for the elections of February 14, which found that the CEC in some cases has allowed unequal treatment of voters, that the former Chairperson has exceeded the powers by trying to dictate the work of ECAP, and there has been a significant restriction of the right to an effective remedy through shortening of the appeal time limit.
Undoubtedly, in this Preliminary Statement, I oppose the statement in one of the footnotes of this Statement, through which it is attempted to give a completely political connotation to the termination of the mandate of the former CEC chairwoman in June of this year.
The first problem lies in the fact that the termination of this mandate has nothing to do with the October 17 election process. Thus, the observation of such an action that was done before the announcement of the October 17 elections is completely outside the mandate of this technical team in terms of preliminary findings.
As can be seen from the Statement, there has been a noticeable improvement in the work of the CEC now and the elections have been organized in an excellent manner by the new CEC leadership.
But let me be very clear that the interpretation of the legality of the President's decisions lies with the competent courts, and not for the missions to issue such statements and conclusions.
The legislation in force stipulates that the President is the competent authority to appoint the Chairperson of the CEC, as well as to terminate her mandate. So the President is the appointing authority, the President is the dismissing authority and is the authority that assesses integrity. This decision has been in full compliance with the law, in full compliance with the Constitution and a clear exercise of powers to protect the integrity of that institution so important for the protection of the voting right of our citizens. The results are already being seen as positive, with excellent professional and apolitical leadership.
As a result, the CEC is no longer a topic of discussion of favouring political agendas but is being assessed with the highest marks for their performance, both by international missions and by domestic observers.
In the end, let me point out that no one will be able to make me step back through threats of sending me to the Constitutional Court. As far as I am concerned, let them send a case each week. As President of the country, I will remain committed to the full implementation of the constitution and the laws in force, and I will be uncompromising in guaranteeing the integrity and independence of the independent institutions in the country. Above all, I have a clear popular mandate to protect the interests of the citizens. This is exactly what I did and I will not back down from this at any moment.
Let me emphasize once again that the rule of law remains the main precondition for our success as the Republic of Kosovo. This does not mean drafting good laws, it above all means the integrity of institutions, the integrity of those who enforce the law. I will work for this not only while I am President, as I have done before as an MP, but I will work to the last breath despite pressures, threats, and other issues that come or may come in the future.