Osmani: It isn’t the moment to continue the dialogue with Serbia

In an exclusive interview for DW, Vjosa Osmani, Acting President of Kosovo, talks about the process in the Special Court, the dialogue with Serbia, the role of Germany and of the elected American President, Biden in this process.

Deutsche Welle: Acting President and Speaker
of the Assembly, a few days ago you took office as President of Kosovo as
provided by the constitution, after the resignation of President Hashim Thaçi since
he was charged by the Specialized Chambers for war crimes in Kosovo. The leader
of a large party in Kosovo, and the head of a parliamentary group of a
similarly large party in the Kosovo Assembly, where charged at the same time.
Can it be said that in Kosovo there is institutional instability or
endangerment of the functionality of the state?

Vjosa Osmani: Let me initially mention that it
is not an easy time, much less common for Kosovo as a state, for all our
citizens, but also for our institutions. Of course, despite these developments
we should not have any hesitation to constantly repeat the truth that has
happened in Kosovo. The truth is that in Kosovo there have been horrific crimes
committed by Serbia, ranging from attempted genocide to crimes against humanity
and war crimes, crimes which have been a continuation of a regime that has been
similar to Apartheid since 1989 until the end of the war. These are the actions
for which, unfortunately, Serbia has not yet been brought to justice, despite
some cases in the ICTY at the Hague Tribunal, which is not functioning now, as
you know. But the vast majority of perpetrators have not yet been brought to
justice, which we must say out loud at all times, everywhere in Kosovo and
abroad, in every forum, in every institution, because we are telling the truth
and as Albanians we have no need to exaggerate the truth, since that truth we
have experienced is extremely terrible, and we must raise our voices every day
to seek justice.

We have never sought revenge. But only justice
for the victims, justice for the children killed during the war, justice for
the women and men raped during the war, justice for all these victims. And also
reparations for the damage that Serbia has caused in Kosovo. But on the other
hand, Kosovo has been a state for more than 12 years, and during these years,
despite the many storms we have continuously gone through, institutional
stability has been maintained. We have a constitution, which clearly states
that in case of absence of the President, the Speaker of the Assembly will be
the Acting President, which is confirmed by a decision of the Constitutional
Court. We have a constitution that determines who replaces the Prime Minister
in case of any absence, who replaces the Speaker of the Assembly. I have five
other Deputy Speakers who can substitute me. So these are issues that are built
in such a way as to ensure institutional stability. So, at the moment our
institutions are functioning without any problem. But this does not mean that
the situation in Kosovo is not a difficult situation and above all that for the
citizens, for the civilian victims of the last war in Kosovo there has not been
justice yet and this means that as institutions we have a much greater
obligation now to raise our voice to seek this justice that has been lacking so

The Special Court will try war crimes
allegations against former KLA members. There are many voices in Kosovo that
say that the Court is one-sided, it judges one ethnicity. And it is a precedent
case in justice. I am interested to know, from the point of view of a lawyer, since
you are very well acquainted with these things, do you agree with this finding?

Vjosa Osmani: At the time when the Specialized
Chambers, as the Special Court is being called, with a slightly lighter
terminology, were discussed in the Assembly of Kosovo, all these that you
mentioned were discussed, so there were arguments that it would be one
ethnicity. There have been arguments that one party is on trial, while as I
mentioned earlier there is no justice for the crimes committed by Serbia. All
these arguments were put in the sessions of the Assembly of Kosovo, but in the
end it was the insistence of the then government that at that time consisted of
LDK and PDK, or more clearly it was a coalition between Mr. Thaçi and Mr.
Mustafa, and they were both as bearers of the coalition who insisted that the
Special Court be formed at all costs. Because, as we were told as MPs at the
time, the other option would be much more terrible, and that would be the
establishment of a Special Court by the United Nations, where then the laws of
Kosovo would not be recognized, we would go back to the time of UNMIK, where
additional powers in the field of justice and foreign policy would be given to
the United Nations.

So these were competencies that we took over after
the declaration of independence. In a way, it was an attack on Kosovo’s
statehood, if we were to go in that direction. And this was more or less the
basic argument why the vast majority of MPs decided, or at least to speak for
myself, not to exaggerate, we supported it at the time. But it was, as I said,
a burden taken on by that coalition at the time, a coalition which consisted of
two-thirds. And through that political support that the coalition had, it managed
to make two thirds in the Assembly of Kosovo to change the Constitution, and to
even insert the Special Court as part of our legal system. Despite the
arguments now being made, this Court is an international obligation that Kosovo
has assumed, through the ratification of an international agreement, at that
time between President Jahjaga and the European Union.

Second, that agreement was turned into a
constitutional amendment, which was carried by the two leaders of the coalition
of that time. And third, it has also become an additional law, which then
determines the procedures. Now, even on the day when the Special Court was
approved, I showed the pros and cons, the remarks I had. I do not believe that
now is the time to go back there, but I want to mention a fact that officials
of the Special Court themselves have stated several times, or former
prosecutors who have worked there and participated in investigations have made
public statements that nowhere in the documentation, through which the Special Court
was created, it was not said that they will deal with one ethnicity or the
other, but only the time mandate is determined, ie that they will investigate
crimes from one period to another, ie the temporal, territorial jurisdiction,
etc. is determined, but not that they will deal only with one ethnicity.

We will now see what we can expect in the
future from the Specialized Chambers, but I would not like to go in now to
comment on the issues that have ended at the time this Court has been voted.
Because with its will Kosovo has formed it, with its will it has become part of
the Constitution, with its will it has become part of the legal system. So all
these details have been known ever since.

Let us talk about
domestic policy developments. The election of a new president is the task of
the parliamentary political parties, according to Kosovo’s parliamentary
electoral system. You also exercise the duty of the Speaker of the Assembly.
Are you ready to complete the office of the President for a five-year term, if

Vjosa Osmani: No, I do not believe that I will
now be among the persons who will be part of the political calculations in the
current Assembly. I do not want to give assessments from this office about
where the political parties stand, but I believe that you already know my
political stance which I have previously expressed as Speaker of the Assembly,
as an elected representative of the citizens of Kosovo, as I have with the
popular legitimacy that was given on October 6, and which of course elected the
current Assembly. However I personally will not be part of such calculations.

We are at the stage when the dialogue is
taking place. You say that there is institutional stability in Kosovo. How do you
think the dialogue should take place? There are rumors saying that the dialogue
should be terminated…

Vjosa Osmani: I think that due to the current
developments it is not the time to continue the dialogue immediately. The
institutions of Kosovo should take some time, sit down, consult with each other,
create a much more unified attitude about the dialogue, because it is necessary
that anyone who negotiates on behalf of Kosovo, for the fate of Kosovo, must have
a much more unified stance of the political spectrum than just the coalition he/she
represents. I will give my maximum contribution in this regard, to discuss
together with all, on what should be the positions of Kosovo.

But I do not believe that it is the right
moment for Kosovo to continue as if nothing has happened. Not that it does not
have the institutions, since we have the institutions. But because the
situation is not the same as it was a few days ago. This must be taken into
account. A reassessment of the process so far should be made, what has been
negotiated, how it has been negotiated, what has been achieved, no matter how
little there has been achieved. But let us all together build the steps ahead. And
not to have cases when something is negotiated in Brussels, and we as other
institutions find out then either through Brussels, or the officials there, or
through the media. But these should be a kind of preliminary consultation, a
kind of preliminary communication of the stance so that then whoever negotiates
on behalf of Kosovo, has a clearer idea of what Kosovo expects from him or her.

On the other hand, as the Assembly of Kosovo,
now to speak from the position of the Speaker of the Assembly, at one point we
have made it clear to each government which are the red lines, regarding the
topics that should not be discussed, and they have not only to do with the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, but also with the
internal regulation of Kosovo, ie the way they function. No one is allowed to
negotiate the creation of a third power. And the government must be extremely
careful not to fall into such traps, which Serbia builds by opening these
topics in Brussels, ostensibly only formally, but which then turn into new
compromises for the Republic of Kosovo. We, who have followed the dialogue for
a long time have seen how they got here. But

Your relations with the Prime Minister do not
look as very good ones. Taking into account that you did not vote for his
government, even though you came from the same party. Whereas, lately you are
no longer Deputy President of the LDK. Are you ready to be part of the
dialogue, from this position in which you are speaking, as Acting President, if
a comprehensive agreement should eventually be signed if speaking in the
creation of a national unity?

Vjosa Osmani: I said that unity should be
built to determine what Kosovo’s stances are and to have prior unification. But
no rational person should go to Brussels just for signatures and formalities. I
would be part of a process where I myself am part of the negotiations from the
beginning, and not just give it some final formality. And to be part of the
signing of agreements that I have not negotiated myself. Unity is necessary,
but we must take a step back in the dialogue process, especially after the
recent statements of Mr. Lajčák, who requested from Kosovo to push forward the
amendment of the Constitution on the issue of the association. So the political
and institutional leaders of Kosovo should sit down to reconfirm their
positions on these topics in detail and not to speak in general that the
Constitution is the guide. The Constitution has always been the guide. But we
have 33 agreements signed so far, many of which have gone beyond the
Constitution, especially the document of 2015 signed in Brussels on the

So the fact of mentioning the Constitution of
Kosovo should not be enough to anyone, while on the other hand an agreement is
signed that goes beyond the frameworks defined by the Constitution. We all need
to sit down together, redefine stances, decide how to move forward and then
discuss formality issues. But just going and signing the agreement negotiated
by someone else would be absurd for any institutional bearer. Because you can
not take responsibility to sign an agreement when you have not participated in
its negotiation. I am not there as a figure, I represent, I am the second most
voted leader in the Republic of Kosovo, so I represent the citizens of Kosovo
and I can speak on behalf of the people of Kosovo, I am not a formal figure
there, who is waiting while just standing there while someone else is signing
the deal. However, I will support every document that is in the best interest
of Kosovo, any document that advances the international subjectivity of Kosovo,
but by no means documents that curtail either our citizenship or our internal

If we take a look at the list of concessions
that Kosovo has made so far since the time of Ahtisaari until now, we will have
to discuss them all a lot, I am not mentioning them now. While the concessions
made by Serbia are very small, not to say inconvenient. We talk about what we
have done. It is not the time nor the moment for us to make additional
concessions, which make our state even more dysfunctional. It is time for
Serbia to make its own concessions. And then we will see if we can move
forward. But we make constant concessions in the hope that they will supposedly
recognize us and in the end they behave as they did in 2007, 2008 and now in
these last agreements, I believe it is the wrong approach. Serbia is simply not
to be trusted. It can not be trusted. Anyone who has historically followed the
way they behave in foreign policy, with the signing of agreements, regardless
of who they sign them with, should know that Serbia has infidelity as its main
feature. They are unfaithful, as institutions, as political leaders, they do
not keep their word and do not respect their signatures. Therefore, we should
not expect anything else from Serbia in this case.

In the USA we have a new president, Joe Biden,
who during the campaign announced that he would have a different approach from
Donald Trump and his envoy Grenell about the dialogue with Serbia. From your
point of view is there hope for a new dynamic of the dialogue?

Vjosa Osmani: I think that the dynamic has
never been the problem, but the stances. For example, during the Trump
administration, at the beginning Mr. Bolton was the national security adviser,
who supported the idea of changing the borders, one of the most dangerous ideas
historically for our region, and not only for Kosovo. And he created a
situation where the entire political scene in the country had mistrust in
relation to the dialogue. This idea has even been postponed for two years, and
has put Kosovo in a very unfavorable situation, where former Prime Minister
Haradinaj has been forced to impose tariffs on Serbian goods, precisely to
create an additional obstacle, for this topic to be stopped. Therefore I do not
believe that we should be satisfied with the dynamics, if that dynamics goes in
the wrong direction. In this case there may have been additional dynamics, but
that dynamic has gone absolutely in the wrong direction. So we had full support
from the former National Security Adviser for ideas that are destructive for
Kosovo, for its independence, for its borders, as a constitutive state element
and for other issues. Therefore we too shouldn’t look if there is dynamics, but
what is the approach, what is the stance.

At the time when Mr. Biden was Vice President,
since we worked very closely at the time, firstly as an Advisor and Chief of Staff
in the Presidency and then as an MP, and later Chair of the Foreign Affairs
Committee, we have seen an approach of the US administration since Mrs. Clinton
was initially Secretary of State, but in addition to constantly having shown care
in relation to Kosovo, the American approach has been very clear, both on the
borders issue, and on the internal regulation of Kosovo, so there has never
been any insistence from the American side to discuss the borders. Therefore, I
expect again from the new administration, the Biden administration to act, in
the first place since Mr. Biden knows the past in Kosovo very well, he knows
the context, he knows that this equivalence or moral equality of what Serbia
has done in Kosovo and what certain individuals may have done can never be
created. He knows very well that Serbia has committed the most horrific crimes
against humanity in the country, including genocide, and he was one of the
people who stood by Kosovo when there were few diplomats or politicians who
were our voice. He really was our voice at the time when we had no voice. 

How do you see the role of Germany in the
dialogue process with Serbia. According to the German Ambassador here in Kosovo
in an interview for Deutsche Welle, he says that Germany wants a legally
binding agreement, which resolves all issues, including that of mutual

Vjosa Osmani: I think that a clear language of
Germany like the one you just quoted is extremely necessary in this process,
because, while Germany is clear, there are states, there are certain officials
who do not call this by the real name which is mutual recognition, but call it
normalization. Of course, Kosovo is in the dialogue for mutual recognition, but
not only for mutual recognition. So mutual recognition in the current borders
and with the internal state regulation that we have with the current
constitution of Kosovo without any changes. It is therefore necessary to ensure
that this approach of Germany becomes more comprehensive, to be an approach
adopted by other countries as well, in particular the European Union as a
mechanism, ie Brussels, and I want to say that beyond this, beyond the current
approach, Germany has played a crucial, decisive role in preventing dangerous
ideas and dangerous adventures on border change. For this, we as Kosovo are
eternally grateful to Germany and we very much hope that the cooperation with Germany
will advance in this period, because not only that it is the most powerful
country in the European Union, but it is also the country that has supported
Kosovo the most in various bases before and after the war, in the statehood
building process. Therefore, during the dialogue with Serbia, we expect an
increased role of Germany, not only to prevent catastrophes such as the idea of
changing the borders, but also to receive the advice, ideas and support that we
need as Kosovo to advance this process and as said by the German Ambassador
himself here in Kosovo, to conclude with an agreement that addresses all
issues, including mutual recognition as a final.

You have been elected Speaker of the Assembly
in a regular process by a coalition between LDK and VV. That coalition is no
more, while you, as you have stated several times, have been expelled from the
LDK. How and where is the political future of Vjosa Osmani?

Vjosa Osmani: What I have stated is not only
my statement but it is an issue that is confirmed by decisions of the general
council, so it was the choice of the LDK to continue the way forward without
me. So it was their selection, because they closed every door for me so that I
would not be able to operate there anymore. But I, from the position of the President
of Kosovo, do not want to go into further detail. As you said, I was elected by
the Assembly of Kosovo as Speaker of the Assembly, it is not the first time
that constitutional functions continue regardless of what happens to the
coalition, I would not like to go into details about my political path, but
what I want to say is that I will continue to be on the political scene and
where I will be will be determined by the citizens of Kosovo, as they have
always defined.

And exactly those citizens
you are talking about want to hear from Vjosa Osmani where her political future
is. Have you considered returning to the LDK and to make your fight within the

Vjosa Osmani: I have made statements about
this issue several times and I do not want to go into this topic. A door that
is nailed is not something that can be opened.

This means you prefer other political

Vjosa Osmani: I repeat that
it is a matter about which I would not like to speak from this office today,
from the Office of the President, although a judgment of the Constitutional
Court clarifies that the Acting President may engage in political activity,
unlike the President elected by the Assembly, however due to the situation we
are going through I would not like to go into details on this issue today. 

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