President Vjosa Osmani’s address at the summit of the leaders of the European Union and the Western Balkan countries

Dear colleagues, good morning!

Mirë se ju gjegj në Tiranën e bukur.

I’d like to wish all of you a most heartfelt welcome to the Western Balkans.

Today two parts of the same Europe meet in Tirana: the Europe of the European Union and the democratic countries of the other part that works with ambition, conviction and determination to be part of this Union.

The presence of the EU leaders – your presence here today sparkles hope indeed. For the first time in almost 20 years since the Thessaloniki meeting, we finally brought EU to the Western Balkans.

We’d like to believe that is your way of telling us: the EU is ready for you!

Today’s declaration sets a framework of multifaceted, well-structured and ambitious cooperation across areas of common interest ranging from economy, security and justice, to energy and transport, all the way to social policy, health and education.

Being ambitious about the integration of the democratic countries of the Western Balkans in the EU, means being ambitious about the EU itself.

But, while our joint meeting marks an important milestone, there is one part of Europe that has actually brought us closer together than ever before.

Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine has sent shockwaves across our continent and beyond. Witnessing the destructive nature of tyranny, hegemony and autocracy, we are bound to understand the instrumental importance of standing up together for democracy, peace and unity. Today we are more united because of Ukraine; Ukraine is even stronger because of European unity.

Dear colleagues,

The Republic of Kosovo genuinely understands what is happening in Ukraine, hence our full alignment with the EU sanctions as a result of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine was and continues to be our most natural response. It is the only right response in face of such aggression.

And being on the right side should matter. But this is not the message we are always receiving in the Western Balkans.

It should matter if you are serving as a safe haven for refugees and Ukrainians journalists, versus serving as a safe haven for Russia oligarchs and businesses seeking a way to escape European sanctions.

It should matter if you have fully aligned your foreign policy decisions with the EU despite not having any obligation, versus signing a deal to coordinate your foreign objectives with Russia – a nation wreaking havoc on the continent of Europe.

It should matter if at a time of spiraling energy costs, you continue your energy cooperation with allies, versus signing a new Gazprom deal in the midst of a brutal and bloody Russian war.

Being on the right side of history, aligning with and protecting EU values should be the decisive factor on how the EU approaches an aspiring member.

For Kosovo, alignment with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy is not a matter of ‘if’. The only question is how can we do better to protect the European unity and the common peace and security? Anyone thinking otherwise, must be seeing alternatives outside of the EU.

Last time we met, although in a different format, was at the meeting of the European Political Community – truly, a geostrategically relevant political platform. Ever since, Kosovo received the approval of the EU Ambassadors for visa free travel starting in 2024.

As pointed out by the Czech Presidency, this ‘was made possible by Kosovo’s efforts to strengthen its border controls, migration management and security.’ While we are a step closer to the visa free regime, we still remain some more steps away from it. Our share of work was done long ago, now we look up to you.

With the trialogue hopefully to be concluded in a matter of days, I urge you to conclude the decision-making process this month. To deliver on visa liberalization means delivering on EU unity, as well as, a more resilient, integrated and well-interconnected European future for all.

Just yesterday we had the absurd scenario with the EU visa-free reports on Western Balkans, where our neighbors North Macedonia and Montenegro were paradoxically asked to align visa policy in a way that would include introducing visas for Kosovo. Not only is this absurd, but it is also in contradiction with the Berlin Process recent free movement agreement which was recently signed and which the joint declaration today particularly commends. But this just reminds us of the urgency to end the unjust treatment of my citizens and deliver on visa liberalization by the end of this month.

The European future is our ambition and the EU is our destination. This year we’re taking a step forward towards the EU by submitting our membership application. The country with the biggest improvement in the rule of law in Europe and second in the world as per the World Justice Index 2022, as well as, the country with a historic climb in rankings for fighting corruption as per Transparency International Index should be well deserving of your attention.

As a good neighbor, we have wholeheartedly supported Albania´s and North Macedonia´s start of accession talks and we also support the initiative to grant a candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina. We hope that this momentum will continue with your support for a candidate status for Kosovo.

This is an imperative for our region, but it’s equally as much of an imperative for the EU and a concrete step forward towards a Europe whole, free and at peace.

Dear colleagues,

As we strive to build a better and more united future for all, the challenges of the present persist. Price volatility, supply shortages, security issues and economic uncertainty, inflation and food insecurity must sound too familiar to all. It is high time we reshape these challenges into opportunities.

The Economic and Investment Plan, the common EU energy purchases, the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, to name a few, are the strongest testament to that. However, as we see an ever-growing presence through grants and investments from the EU, we also see a prospect for enhanced regional cooperation through the Berlin Process. Yet, it is only when common values prevail, that right solutions at the regional level and beyond thrive.

As I conclude, I once again emphasize the importance of EU solidarity and unity, but particularly, the determinant effect of accelerated accession process of the democratic countries of Western Balkans for sustainable peace, development and security in our region, the EU and beyond.

It’s time to unite Europe. There is no space to division on our continent, no more us versus them; no more EU on one side, and the Western Balkans on the other side. In the face of Russian aggression, we must be one.

Thank you! Faleminderit!

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