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HOXHAJ: NO PEACE IN THE REGION FOR AS LONG AS BELGRADE DOES NOT CHANGE

It is high time that Europe supported Kosovo. “I think that it is the last chance that Kosovo is supported with issuance of visa liberalization, so that this gives opportunities to the citizens of Kosovo to move freely and without visas to Europe, like the other 50 million citizens in the Balkans. It is the last chance not to leave Kosovo behind as forgotten people, therefore the establishment of institutional relations with the European Union is of utmost important and the main key,” said Hoxhaj

Prishtina, 18 January – The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Enver Hoxhaj, said that Kosovo needs support from Germany with regards to internal, political, economic and international aspect in order to increase the number of recognitions. 

Hoxhaj said that it is the last chance to support Kosovo so that it is granted visa liberalization. “. It is the last chance not to leave Kosovo behind as forgotten people, therefore the establishment of institutional relations with the European Union is of utmost important and the main key,” said Hoxhaj adding that drafting of a genuine guide and signing of a stabilization and association agreement would be the right framework for the European integration of Kosovo. 

Hoxhaj said that as a Ministry, they did a significant work during the last year to change for the better the image of the state of Kosovo in the international arena. 

“Apart from this, we consider that during this year we need to increase our diplomatic staff, and not only at the level of ambassadors, but to also have another 40 personnel to be hired in embassies,” said Hoxhaj. Chief diplomat Hoxhaj said that it is very important that we turn 2012 into a decisive year for a European Kosovo. 

From the meeting and conversation you had with Minister Westerwelle, what would you point out, what is Germany promising for the beginning of this new year and what do you expect from Germany during this time? 

Hoxhaj: For us it is very important to turn 2012 into a decisive year for a European Kosovo. The goal of my visit to Berlin, apart from meetings of bilateral character in the field of economy, trade, education, science and culture, has also been to gain the support of the German state for our European integration journey. Visa liberalization and entering of institutional relations between Kosovo and respective European Union institutions are our priorities that we also had in 2011, while my idea now was that Kosovo should sign the stabilization and association agreement this year, which would make Kosovo a state which would have real opportunities in its European path and this has been the key part of our discussion. Of course, we also talked about the situation in the north of the country and the dissolution of the parallel structures there, about the integration of this part of Kosovo with the rest of Kosovo and in the institutions of Kosovo. We also discussed about German support in increasing the number of the recognitions of the independence of Kosovo by countries and international institutions, be them political, economic, financial or even sport ones. 

If you intend to attract as many German investors to Kosovo as possible, for which Minister Westerwelle also spoke at the press conference, what are you offering them? Do they have the right conditions there? 

Hoxhaj: I think there are only a few countries with such a young population as Kosovo, who are exceptionally dynamic, and who have a very positive approach to the world. At the same time, our youth is really qualified for various duties. Second, the situation in the rule of law aspect is much better in Kosovo than in other countries in the region. The rule of law in Kosovo is exercised by both the local and international institutions. Third, Kosovo has a legal framework that protects investments and a fiscal policy that is the most favorable one in the region. So, these circumstances would facilitate German investments and would make it easier for any investor to come and carry out his business thus giving them access to a Balkan market which is huge and also because of the strategic position that the Republic of Kosovo has, its geographic location, roads and infrastructure linking it with other states are of crucial importance. 

Kosovo is a new state. It lacks experience and needs to further consolidate. However, it has a huge privilege, because although it is a new state it aspires integration in the EU. How do you assess such a step, and do you think that there are foundations in place for this country to join the big EU family? 

Hoxhaj: I can tell you that in 2008 there was a study conducted by the European Commission on how ready Kosovo was to embark on this key process of European integration. The study conducted at that time by the European Commission was very positive. In 2011 we had the publication of the progress report, which also acknowledged a substantial progress in key fields. I think that it is the last chance that Kosovo is given support to get its visa liberalization so that this gives an opportunity for the citizens of Kosovo to move freely and without visas to Europe, like the other 50 million citizens in the Balkans. It is the last chance not to leave Kosovo behind as forgotten people; therefore the establishment of institutional relations with the European Union is of utmost importance and the main key. Drafting of a real guide and signing of the stabilization and association agreement would be a real framework for the European integration of Kosovo. This opportunity should be offered Kosovo and only in this way could we have an effective integration process which would reform, change and modernize Kosovo. 

Diplomacy is one country’s business card abroad. More than any other country, Kosovo needs a dignified diplomatic representation throughout the world, as this would further help its positive image. Is the Kosovo diplomacy at the right level? Here I mean diplomatic representation in many important countries, in Europe and elsewhere. Talking about the European perspective, is there a need for reforms and changes also in this field, meaning, with regards to more engagement and more responsibilities for the Kosovo diplomatic representations? 

Hoxhaj: I agree with this. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Kosovo diplomacy should do much more than what they have done so far. Kosovo’s image often presented in Europe has not always been objective, it has rather been an image created or borrowed from other countries, especially from those countries that are unfriendly towards Kosovo. But, during the last year, we did a great job to change this damaged image of Kosovo and to inform in an objective way about the situation. Apart from this, during this year we also think that the diplomatic staff should increase, not only at the level of ambassadors, but we will also have another 40 staff members to be engaged in embassies. We will have another five embassies. Whereas the public diplomacy dealing with improving of the country’s image is one of our priorities. Last year we had an excellent conference in Prishtina. This year we will have several other conferences in Kosovo where we will bring special guests and personalities so that they can see for themselves the progress that the Republic of Kosovo has made. 

Talking about diplomacy, do you think that with German support the position of Serbia will change in its relations with Kosovo in a near future? 

Hoxhaj: Definitely. The only way for Serbia to move ahead in an efficient European integration process is to gradually normalize its relations with the Republic of Kosovo, to accept Kosovo as a new geopolitical reality. The independent Kosovo is going to exist forever. And also to see Kosovo as a partner in its European journey and to dissolve its parallel structures in the north of the country. There can be no peace and security in the region for as long as Serbia aims to control several cities in the north of Kosovo through its police, security and paramilitary formations. 

("Epoka e re")

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