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Hoxhaj: Serbia behind the barricades in the North

The Kosovo Government strongly condemns the attack on KFOR in the north, states Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj in an exclusive interview given to Deutsche Welle. He spoke about the north, Nikolic, relations with Macedonia . . .

Deutsche Welle: What is the situation in the north of Kosovo like, as on Friday, two KFOR soldiers and three Serbs were injured?

Enver Hoxhaj: Allow me, at the outset, to emphasize that we strongly condemn the attack on KFOR and NATO troops by various paramilitary and special units from Serbia. KFOR troops are there to secure freedom of movement. The European Union is united around two concepts: the free movement of people and goods. This was also the goal of the KFOR action in the north, because all Kosovo citizens should move freely. I would also like to say that the Serbian Government is behind these barricades. Those who obstructed the removal of the barricades are members of Serbia’s police, special and paramilitary units and not ordinary citizens.

DW: So that means these barricades are organized by Serbia and not by Serbs in the north of Kosovo?

Enver Hoxhaj: It is clear that Serbia, over the last 12 to 13 years has undermined our sovereignty, contrary to our Constitution, Resolution 1244 and international documents. There is a massive police and security presence. They are financed and led by the Serbian Government. The Serbian Government is behind the barricades.

DW: Minister, in the north on Friday, two German soldiers were injured and the injury of KFOR soldiers is not acceptable. How can this be avoided in the future?

Enver Hoxhaj: I believe that all institutions in Brussels, member states of the European Union and the international community should exercise pressure on Belgrade to remove the illegal and parallel structures from the north of Kosovo. Not only Kosovo’s security, but the security architecture in the entire Balkans depends on the security of the north. According to its mandate, KFOR is doing a good job establishing peace, security and stability in Kosovo and it is trying to secure the free movement of citizens – as is normal in all other countries.

DW: Minister, how will your Government resolve the situation in the north of Kosovo, because this situation has been going on since the end of the war?

Enver Hoxhaj: Allow me to explain that, when we say the north, we are talking about three municipalities, where in the last 12 years there have been no democratic elections or participation in democratic institutions. The citizens of these three municipalities have been held hostage by police and security forces of the Republic of Serbia. They do not allow them to cooperate with the Government in Prishtina. Since the declaration of independence, we have managed over the last four years, to integrate all minorities in democratic institutions, including the Serb minority, locally and centrally. Today, Kosovo is a multi-ethnic, democratic and cohesive country. But Belgrade is trying to create there the conditions of a frozen conflict, in order to achieve its territorial and political goals. We are aware that integration must occur in the north. In recent years, we have integrated 100,000 Serbs into normal and local and central institutional life, - including the Government and Parliament. This must occur in the north of Kosovo with the implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan, which guarantees minorities rights which are not enjoyed in any other country.

DW: The Ahtisaari Plan is rejected by Serbs of the north and by Serbia. Is it possible negotiations will start for a special status for the north or for the partition of the north of Kosovo?

Enver Hoxhaj: The partition of the north is not under consideration. The borders of the Balkans have been defined and cannot change. Any change to the north of Kosovo would return the region to the situation 20 years ago. Each state in the Balkans has a problematic area like Mitrovica, so this would cause a chain reaction. We are interested to resolve the problems of our citizens in the north, because there is no conflict between the Government in Prishtina and citizens. The problem is the totally unacceptable presence of Serbia’s security forces. We are ready to work with citizens in the north to implement the Ahtisaari Plan.

DW: Minister, You and I know that in the north and in Belgrade, there are people who hope and claim that within the Brussels dialogue, the question of the north will be opened. When will the interrupted dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade continue?

Enver Hoxhaj: With regard to the technical dialogue, it should be emphasized that from March 2011 to March 2012, seven agreements were made and signed. But, unfortunately, most of them are not being implemented. The position of our Government is very clear: without implementing the agreements reached before, there will be no new meetings in Brussels, because the credibility of the process will be in doubt. Agreements are no good if they remain on paper. They are important for people if they are implemented. For us, the agreements on regional representation and the integrated administration of borders are very important. This is a European model which means that Kosovo and Serbia as states should jointly administer their shared borders.

DW: I don’t know if I understood you properly: You will not continue dialogue without implementation of the agreements reached up to now?!

Enver Hoxhaj: For us, it is extremely important that the agreements reached be implemented and this is a condition for the holding of other meetings in Brussels. Of particular importance are two agreements, that of regional cooperation and the integrated control of borders. I think that the institutions in Brussels should exercise pressure on Belgrade to implement these two agreements – as well as other agreements.

DW: In Belgrade, currently there is a vacuum in the Government, after the Parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, the Presidential elections were won by the onetime ultra nationalist Tomislav Nikolic. Are you surprised by this epilogue of the Presidential elections and what do you expect from Tomislav Nikolic?

Enver Hoxhaj: This is a decision of Serbia’s people. It remains to be seen how this solution will affect policy toward Kosovo and other countries in the region. He brings with him a past with serious baggage. He also bears great responsibility for whether Serbia will be a European or anti-European country. Kosovo’s citizens and those of Bosnia -Herzegovina and Croatia know too well what an anti-democratic and anti-European Serbia is like. It is hoped that the new President will conform to the present because we are now in 2012 and not in 1991. We hope that the change in his rhetoric does not mean just rhetorical, but also political change.

DW: Minister, recently there have been big tensions between ethnic Albanian and Macedonian groups in Macedonia. Certainly this has not left unaffected relations between Prishtina and Skopje. What are relations like today between Kosovo and Macedonia?

Enver Hoxhaj: We have extraordinarily good relations with the Republic of Macedonia. I am in daily contact with the Foreign Minister of Macedonia, with whom I have very close cooperation. Such close cooperation is present at the Government level, as well as other levels. Kosovo is an important economic and trading partner for Macedonia, and we also have good relations in other areas. We believe that the Macedonian Government together with Albanian leaders from there should work more to integrate Albanians there and to implement agreements reached. I think that recent tensions belong to the past. These incidents are not worsening relations between Kosovo and Macedonia.

DW: Minister when you see all these tensions in Kosovo and countries in the region, do you think they have a European perspective?

Enver Hoxhaj:
For Kosovo, 2012 is a historic year because we started with the visa liberalization process. This week, the European Commission decided to give Kosovo a roadmap and the Kosovar Government will work intensively to fulfill criteria so that Kosovars can also enjoy the right to freedom of movement without visas – like all other people in the region. The European Commission has also started a feasibility study which will make it possible for us to achieve a Stabilization and Association Agreement. Kosovo like other countries in the region is a European country, geographically, historically and culturally . . . Kosovo’s political and economic integration in the EU is the only resolution to economic and security problems. Regardless of the financial crisis in Europe, I am sure that better European days will come and the enlargement process will continue. The example of Croatia is a new one for Balkan countries and we are trying to motivate our people with this example, and to work even harder toward EU integration.

DW: Recently, you have been criticized because of the lack of continuing recognition of Kosovo. When do you expect new recognition?

Enver Hoxhaj: On Friday, Kosovo was recognized by Chad, and I have had intensive contacts with their representatives. Recently, I have visited various countries in Asia and Latin America and I am very sure that soon there will be new recognition from different parts of the world. This shows that Kosovo’s recognition is being transformed into a global fact and that Kosovo is an important factor of stability in the Balkans. We anticipate new recognition.
 

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