President Osmani in Brussels: Kosovo is ready, the time has come for bold decisions by the EU

Speech by President Vjosa Osmani during the meeting of the European Union and the Western Balkans leaders in Brussels.
Your Excellency,

Dear colleagues,

Our continent is in a state of emergency, so I will not waste much time getting to the main point. Ukraine is under siege, with its values, freedoms and way of life being under attack. This is an attack on us as well.

And if someone thinks that lasting peace and stability in Europe is possible without the Western Balkans integrated into Euro-Atlantic structures, I have to tell you, as someone who has experienced the darker side of war and destruction, that this is not possible.

I did not come here for empty political statements, but with the best intentions to talk about the consequences for our entire continent if the integration of the Western Balkans would be further delayed.

The war in Ukraine marks more than one turning point for our continent. It has redefined our future. It should be an impetus for accelerated action by the EU, towards those states aiming at membership, and most importantly, those states belonging here.

There are many dimensions to what is happening in Ukraine that differ from Kosovo's case, but at the end of the day, I think there are two things that really highlight the similarities of our experiences. First and foremost is the extraordinary human suffering, in the face of a brutal genocidal war against a freedom-loving people. And the second one is the support from the international community. Your unity today reminds me of the determination of the international community to come to our rescue in 1999.

The people of Kosovo know what it is like to fight even when victory may seem impossible, so we stand with the people of Ukraine today, as one of the first countries to join sanctions against Russia and extend our support to the refugees.

There is a road to Moscow and a road to Brussels - these roads do not intercross and are farther than ever. From this point of view, Russian satellites in our region should not be tolerated, much less accommodated.

23 years after Milosevic’s genocidal war, Kosovo became a dynamic democracy and we have strengthened the rule of law and democratic governance since our new institutions took office last spring.

Politics begins and ends with the people. That is why I am determined not only to represent the voice of my citizens here today to my best but also to ensure that we improve their lives for the better.

Despite tremendous progress, the people of Kosovo want more opportunities and progress. They want a visa-free regime to see, feel and experience Europe.

I want to reiterate once again here the tremendous importance of visa liberalization, hoping that this time indeed, you will hear us. 

This has just gone too far. My citizens feel discriminated against, despite being the most pro-European people and meeting all the criteria over the last 4 years. They remain isolated in the heart of the continent where they live.

The irony is that we are here as equal members of the international community, discussing the European agenda, but of course, I sit among you here today as the only person - the only person - at this table who needs to get a visa to attend this summit.

To put things in perspective, there is visa liberalization for remote countries like Venezuela, but Kosovo citizens living a short distance by car, living in your neighborhood, cannot travel freely. This is a great injustice. Kosovo has done its part, now it is your turn.

The very existence of the EU and the values it represents are irreplaceable. But the values in our region, without a clear perspective, not only turn out to be politically unstable and unprotected but also these values themselves risk being diminished.

The lack of integration of the Western Balkans democratic countries poses a major security threat to the whole of Europe, as it leaves the region vulnerable to malignant actors and threats.
 
I believe that everyone sitting here clearly recalls and agrees that the membership of Croatia and Slovenia in the EU only strengthened the EU position. The membership of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania in NATO only strengthened regional peace and stability, it did not weaken it.

Kosovo is not alone in the corner of Europe. It is and will always be in the heart of Europe. The Western Balkans is not a simple neighborhood, it is a natural part of Europe - and strategic interest in lasting peace and stability on this continent. That is why this year we have decided to apply for EU candidate status and we hope that the next Council’s meeting will support our application.

The European Union's hesitation towards our region would create opportunities for Russia, something that no sensible leader in this room would have wanted. This hesitation would also lead to the disappointment of the citizens, which would enable Russia to reinforce its narrative.

We count on your leadership and determination. We will never stray from our Euro-Atlantic path. We have never looked the other way and we will never do so.

It is time for bold decisions, not half-steps, in terms of integration. Kosovo and the Western Balkans democratic countries deserve better. We are here by your side and we are part of this family. Please let us in!

Thank you!