The transcript of the press conference held by President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Berisha following their meeting in Prishtina

Prime Minister Berisha: I guess it is self-explanatory. Positions to elections are complex. They are influenced by many factors, but it is in the best interest of Kosovo Serbs to participate in elections, to elect their representatives and to use an opportunity to help set standards of excellence in minority representation and rights. I wish, and I hope, that the problems of Kosovo Serbs will not have an adverse effect on relations between political parties in Belgrade. That is not in Serbia’s interest. The normal flow of events requires their participation. I am convinced that this process will move towards its normalization.

President Sejdiu: Allow me to introduce to you and to say that it is a particular pleasure for me today to have in the bosom of Kosovo the man who has dedicated his life commitment to its freedom and independence.

Having expressed our respect and acknowledgment for the great achievements made by Prime Minister Berisha and the Albanian nation under his leadership, we want to reiterate that we are together in these major historic processes. Today we are living in a new era; an era when we are strongly revealing the values of the Republic of Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. In parallel, we are also assuming our common values of identity, democracy and we are drawing on Republic of Albania’s extraordinary experience in a quick process of integration. Of course, it is a great privilege to the institutions of our country that at this very period of major evolutions the Prime Minister Berisha and the Albanian state are assuring Kosovo of their strong support in the new important processes that we will go through.

To us, Republic of Albania’s accession to NATO was a historic moment. On the other hand, Republic of Albania’s fast and rational advancement towards integration shown in the course of important processes that this country has gone through represents an important guide in our road to integration. You know that a short while ago an important electoral process took place in Albania. This process was supported and positively rated by the international community and by all those who have attentively and curiously followed these elections, which were in a full harmony with the highest international standards. On the other hand, almost in parallel, Kosovo is making the necessary preparations for the municipal elections that will be held in November and that, for the first time, will be managed by the institutions of our country.

Accordingly, today I’d like to hail the signing of bilateral agreements between the Republic of Albania and the Republic of Kosovo. This also represents a stage when the Republic of Kosovo is building its capacities and qualities to function properly, at all levels, as a state, and I will try to ratify these bilateral agreements as quickly as possible. So, once again Mr. Prime Minister, I’d like to express our gratitude and highest considerations for your engagement and for the continuous support that you are providing to the Republic of Kosovo and its citizens.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha: Honorable Mr. President! I’d avail myself of this opportunity to thank you and to express my appreciation for your brotherly reception, but, above all, I’d like to express my admiration and highest consideration for your contribution in leading the state of Kosovo, as a symbol of values and unity of the people of Kosovo.

You, Mr. President, advanced at the top of the state of Kosovo in precarious circumstances, following the passing of the great man of the Albanian nation, the architect of Kosovo’s independence, President Ibrahim Rugova. With great dignity, commitment and prudence, you managed to provide a crucial contribution to the declaration of independence of Kosovo and consolidation of independence and a democratic system oriented towards market values.

Kosova has passed a short period as an independent state, but has succeeded and achieved a lot. Kosovo is building and establishing democratic institutions and standards, which, in some respects, are unique for the region and beyond. The position and the standard that is being fostered here for minorities and their rights is inspiring and bears proof of the will and the commitment of authorities and citizens of Kosovo to a multiethnic Kosovo that belongs to its citizens who are equal before law and where Albanians, Serbs, Montenegrins, Bosniaks, Turks and Roma live together in peace and harmony.

Kosovo is establishing the highest standards of decentralization, which represents a fundamental principle in a democratic system. The establishment of new municipalities represents a positive development that contributes to peace, stability and democracy in Kosovo. Kosovo is moving towards November elections after having fostered a very good tradition of free and fair elections. I am convinced that the Republic of Kosovo will succeed in facing this new challenge, because these are the first elections to be held following the declaration of independence. In a short period of time, the Republic of Kosovo has developed into an important factor of peace and stability in the region. All those who know the region and take a look back on its past maintain that these 20 months were the first months of a true stability in the Southern Balkan, all this owing to Kosovo’s independence.

Relations between Albania and Kosovo are brotherly. The agreements that we have signed today and those that are being prepared will create the legal infrastructure for the most excellent and exemplary relations in the region. I believe this is our common contribution to understanding, integration and cooperation in the region and beyond.

KFOR i.e. North-Atlantic Treaty Organization, EULEX, the European Union, the European Commission and other international institutions are providing a great contribution in Kosovo. Albania, but other countries as well, very much appreciate this contribution. EULEX and its presence represent a great chance for Kosovo’s European perspective and for setting a pace in moving towards this perspective. KFOR and its presence are very important factors not only for peace and stability, but also for preparing and supporting Kosovo in its accession to NATO.

Albania will assist Kosovo in any way it can. Albania is resolved to renew, in the quickest way possible, all its infrastructural ties with Kosovo. Within the next four years, the construction of Qafë Morinë – Shkodër highway will be completed and this will give the Western Kosovo a fast access to the sea. In the next year, my government will carry out a feasibility study and will draw the project for Albania-Kosovo railway. Many other infrastructural lines are and will be constructed.

The Albanian diplomacy has and will do its best in lobbying for ensuring further international recognitions of Kosovo. I want to emphasize that the recent great and positive developments will render our task much easier. Kosovo has never been more peaceful, fair and equal. Ethnic tensions have marked a considerable decrease and the displaced people are returning. Together with the government of Kosovo, the Albanian government is determined to provide a direct contribution to the construction of houses and facilities for displaced citizens. Despite some obstacles that belong to the past now, Kosovo is resisting and maintaining its pace in ensuring a brighter perspective. The infrastructural ties enable Kosovo to have a faster access to the sea and closer ties to its neighboring countries. Of course, Kosovo’s and Albania’s paths are not covered in boulevards. Obstacles and problems lie ahead, but, certainly, we have the energy and the will to find solutions and to move forward faster than ever in our history.

Today we are free and by using the advantages of our freedom I believe we will achieve high levels of development and we will meet the expectations of our citizens.

Mr. President, I want to thank you again for your brotherly reception.
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, the government that you are leading and the governments of Kosovo have a joint motto: zero tolerance for corruption. To what an extent was this phenomenon combated in Albania?

Prime Minister Berisha: This is a question about one of the most important issues. Corruption is a ‘mater matrix’ of all the evil in a free society. Therefore, the Albanian government, with an array of reforms, but by always observing the law, has managed to find a way out of the situation that had plagued our country. However, the Albanian government is aware that though it has won a battle, it has not won the war yet and it is trying, on everyday basis, to set the highest standards in terms of practices and procedures to follow for narrowing down the room to this cancer that abrades, more than anything else, the welfare and the rights of Albanian citizens.

At present, Albania is the only country in which tenders are carried out by 100% computerized procurement procedures. Albania is a country with the highest level of privatization, which has enabled her to wipe the corruption out of the private sector. Albania still faces problems of corruption, but is resolved to use the highest standards in combating it and to cut the black hand of corruption with the scissors of law, whenever it lies.

Question: Mr. Prime Minister, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lulzim Basha had stated that Albania has hired special people in various countries to lobby for the independence of Kosovo. Are these people still engaged in this direction and in what ways should Albania lobby, in concrete terms? And, second question, is it possible for Albania to have troops within KFOR as well?

Prime Minister Berisha: Albania has and is still deploying continuous missions of lobbying for Kosovo’s independence. To Albania, this is a major obligation to a brother country. There are many countries that call their relations brotherly, but our relations are truly brotherly. Albania will do its utmost. It has and will send envoys in every chancellery whose duty is to explain that the recognition of Kosovo is a chance to contribute to peace and stability in the Balkan. There is no country that has recognized Kosovo for any other reason but for the fact that its independence is a major factor of peace and stability in the region. I can tell you that, besides integration, the major focus of Albanian diplomacy will be economy. We will shift the focus to the economic diplomacy because this how we can serve our interests better.

Question: Do you consider the failure of Kosovo Serbs to participate in elections an obstacle?

President Sejdiu: I can say that these elections, despite their municipal character, are elections that extend throughout the territory of our country. These elections aim at giving all the citizens of our country the chance to cast their vote for the people whom they would like to have as representatives. Of course, we have continuously called on Serb citizens to participate, including various outreach arrangements and other forms of communication aimed at enabling them to elect and to be elected in the new municipalities that will be created and that have been created. The institutions of our country are resolved to fulfill their promises and to implement the Ahtisaari Proposal. Belgrade’s approach and continuous call to prevent these people from participating and casting their vote for the people who are citizens of Kosovo is very irrational to us. I think this a particular point of turning back to reality, because, according to some surveys that we have carried out, the Serb citizens, even those who were reluctant before, are quite ready to turn back to reality. From this podium, I would like to call on them to exercise their constitutional and human right to be a part of a major process in Kosovo and to elect the representatives of their choice. There are 14 political parties and independent candidates that have been registered to run in these elections. We really hope that, with the work that we are doing in different levels and with the support of the international community, these people will support their candidacies on November 15.

There may be a number of those who remain hostages to external coercions, but I believe it is high time for them to understand that they are facing external influences and that these actions do not represent their own will or the will of the Serbian people that they would or should represent. Kosovo has entered a new stage of development. All the international support and investments in Kosovo aim at ensuring Kosovo’s functional multiethnic character. In this regard, I do really think that we have even surmounted international standards. Like it was expressed in Ahtisaari’s idea, Kosovo was a sui generis case, and I believe that it is again a sui generis case as far these standards are considered. In the course of all my studies in Europe and beyond, I have never come across another country that had established higher standards in this regard. We have established these standards consciously and as a chance for everybody.

Prime Minister Berisha: I guess it is self-explanatory. Positions to elections are complex. They are influenced by many factors, but it is in the best interest of Kosovo Serbs to participate in elections, to elect their representatives and to use an opportunity to help set standards of excellence in minority representation and rights. I wish, and I hope, that the problems of Kosovo Serbs will not have an adverse effect on relations between political parties in Belgrade. That is not in Serbia’s interest. The normal flow of events requires their participation. I am convinced that this process will move towards its normalization.

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