The speech of HE Hashim Thaçi, President of the Republic of Kosovo, given in the Opening Lunch of the Munich Security Conference Core Group Meeting, Minsk, Republic of Belarus, 31 October 2018

The world has changed. One “political world” is dying and a new “political world” is still in an embryonic phase, yet to be born. Europe is at the cross-roads, with many developments that raise question-marks about the future. The Western Balkans has remained hanging in a limbo.

In this reality, Kosovo and Serbia find themselves seeking to achieve a final peace agreement. We are exploring possible workable ideas.

In terms of the agreement, nothing is agreed yet.

Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is the most sensitive step for the Western Balkans. This process is not about one side loosing.

Is this possible? Very difficult. Or, almost impossible.

But, even in these circumstances, I see light at the end of the tunnel. Why?

First, both countries – I am convinced of this – know that we cannot continue the way we are today.

The currents status-que, for both countries, will not hold. The current frozen conflict damages both countries, in all fields of life… in economy, in development, in security, in integration…

The dialogue, received support, but also received some criticism. In our own societies and internationally. I am fine with this. It was expected.

This is healthy for the general debate but also for the process itself. In particular, in bringing more transparency and more responsibility of the leadership, in both countries.

But in this process, the easiest thing to do is to criticize. And the most difficult thing to do is to find the way to reach the agreement.

By reaching an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, we will have less populism in our region. Less nationalism. Less voices calling for war and tragedies. Less hatred and revenge.

What is the main goal of the dialogue process?

1.    A final peaceful agreement for full normalization of relations and reconciliation. Between two countries and between the two peoples.

2.    An agreement that is internationally legally binding.

3.    A comprehensive settlement, which means mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia. Without recognition, this agreement, or any other agreement, will not have a meaning. An agreement about all issues… missing persons, the displaced and the refugees, property, community rights, voting rights, education and healthcare, Serb Orthodox Church, economic cooperation and so on.

4.    The agreement must be final, not a temporary one.

5.    It will be an agreement that will bring more comfort for our neighbors and the region.

6.    There will be no borders along the ethnic lines.

7.    There will be no exchange of population between countries.

8.    We will maintain the multi-ethnic spirit and reality of Kosovo and of Serbia.

I have heard some mentioning peaceful ethnic cleansing. This is ridiculous.

We heard the same in February 2008, just before declaring independence of Kosovo. That the Kosovo Serbs will leave in convoys out of Kosovo. In reality, not a single individual family left Kosovo when we declared independence.

In Kosovo, we were and we remain committed to build a civic democracy in our state.

Some friends of mine, diplomats, analists and academics, have mentioned the Pandora’s Box. Kosovo’s case will neither open, nor close the Pandora’s Box. It is already open. But the settlement between Kosovo and Serbia will help beginning to close the Pandora’s Box in the Western Balkans.

And nobody can put parallels between Kosovo and Bosnia. Only if we allow a Republika Srpska to be established in Kosovo - than we will build parallels between Kosovo and Bosnia. I will not allow this. We should not allow this.

The time is running out. Now is the moment, now is the momentum, to act. To achieve the settlement.

What benefits will the agreement bring for the two countries and wider?

Kosovo and Serbia will recognize each other. Both countries will have a clearer and safer EU perspective. We will produce more peace for the whole region. Our energies will be focused in development, in reforms, in economy, in education, in integration, in cooperation.

Kosovo will be recognized by five EU non-recognizers. With realistic possibility for full membership in the United Nations.

When Serbia recognizes Kosovo, nobody can be a greater Serb than Serbia and continue not to recognize Kosovo or to block Kosovo in the Security Council.

With the Agreement also the EU wins. And the US. And also Russia. Kosovo is not an enemy of Russia. We want to be recognized by Russia. We want to have fair and constructive relations with Russia. Most of all, the winners are our respective countries.

We need the support of everyone if we are to make this a success. The time is now. We have leadership, both in Kosovo and in Serbia, that wants a peace agreement. We have an EU that wants, and works for, a peace agreement. I express here my gratitude for Madam Mogherini for her role in this process.

We need to move forward now, without hesitation.