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Serbia more aggressive towards Kosovo

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, Enver Hoxhaj, in an interview with “Zëri” stated that Serbia has become very aggressive with regard to Kosovo. According to him, Kosovo’s presence anywhere, has become a disturbance to our northern neighbor

Zëri/ Arbesa Ibrahimi - 1st of December 2016 – The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, Mr. Enver Hoxhaj, has stated that Kosovo’s non-recognition by 5 EU Member States does not pose an issue for Kosovo’s visa liberalization. Rather, he said that four of these countries have already recognized Kosovo’s passport, a process that, as he said, helps the liberalization. "The non-recognition of Kosovo's independence by these countries was never an issue in terms of visa liberalization, and was never a condition imposed on Kosovo. Contrary, the European requirement for Kosovo was the fulfilment of internal criteria, stated the minister in an interview for "Zëri”. Minister Hoxhaj further said that Kosovo has recently received the support of Visegrad countries in its EU integration process.

Meanwhile, he stated that Serbia has become very aggressive in relation to Kosovo and, as he said, Kosovo’s presence anywhere, has become a disturbance to Serbia.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, in an interview for "Zëri", spoke about the Agreement on Access to European Union programs, considering that this agreement is a typical example of Kosovo’s new approach to foreign policy.

Support for visa liberalization by Visegrad countries

Zëri: during your stay in Poland, you stated to have received support on visa liberalization for Kosovo; what kind of support have you received, specifically?

Hoxhaj: I have met with several foreign ministers of Visegrad countries such as: Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia, whom I informed in details about the progress in Kosovo, and how vital it is for Kosovo's citizens to travel without visas in the Schengen area. Although, these countries in certain situations are rigid due to the internal context, I consider that there is no hesitation whatsoever on their part when it comes to their support for visa liberalization. Therefore, in the meetings that we had, they confirmed their willingness to support Kosovo in the EU integration processes, as has happened so far.

Zëri: There are 5 EU countries that do not recognize Kosovo, while it is known that without these recognitions there can be no liberalization, is there anything new in this regard; do you expect any recognition from them soon?

Hoxhaj: Non-recognition of Kosovo's independence by these countries has never been a problem for visa liberalization, nor was an imposed condition. Rather, the European requirement for Kosovo was the fulfilment of internal criteria. Furthermore, out of these countries, four have recognized Kosovo’s passport, and as such this could not be used as an argument that damages the visa liberalization process, rather it will facilitate the process. Additionally, Kosovo has a different level of relations with each of these European countries, whereby some of them, although they did not recognize Kosovo, behave as if they had, and others are more rigid. It is worth mentioning that Kosovo’s European perspective was always supported, be that either by signing or implementing the SAA, or in events such as last week, when on behalf of Kosovo, in the capacity of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I signed the Framework Agreement on Access to EU Programs.

Zëri: Ratification of demarcation has been set to Kosovo as a condition for visa liberalization; whereas there have been statements that Montenegro is willing to accept the removal of such condition for Kosovo. What are the possibilities of this happening?

Hoxhaj: The condition is not set by Montenegro, but by the EU. Therefore, we must understand the situation properly; Podgorica has not set this condition, and as such never tried interpreting or even use it that way. In fact, it is the EU requirement for Kosovo to have a legally binding decision by the Assembly of Kosovo with legal power, namely to have the ratification passed by the legislative institution. Whereas the Montenegrin approach refers to the good will, excellent relations between the two countries, and the understanding that exists between our two countries. Also, it shows that the borderline is not at all a contentious issue between the two states, but rather an internal political matter between the Government and the opposition in Kosovo. Therefore, this purely domestic political situation has never been seen through the prism of a disagreement between Kosovo and Montenegro. I consider this as more than a friendly gesture on the part of Montenegro. Although there are still a few days until a decision is rendered this year by the EU, we need to look at ways and models we will overcome this situation. It is not in Kosovo's interest to have its citizens remain without visas and Kosovo to have no internal progress.

Zëri: Kosovo was represented without a footnote in the Visegrad Group, what does this mean for Kosovo?

Hoxhaj: Poland has recognized Kosovo, and we have good relations with this country. Although not all of Visegrad countries have recognized Kosovo, they have supported Kosovo’s European perspective in every step of the way. We will make maximum efforts to use our European integration agenda for strengthening Kosovo’s international subjectivity in Europe.

It is important for Kosovo and Serbia to normalize relations, not me and Dacic

Zëri: Your Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic reacted after this. Are these relations with Serbia going to be an obstacle to EU integration?

Hoxhaj: Serbia has become very aggressive with regard to Kosovo. Kosovo’s presence anywhere has become a disturbance to our northern neighbour. They fail to understand and tolerate our presence in different parts of the world, be that on bilateral visits or in multilateral conferences. Therefore, whenever the Foreign Minister of Serbia will attempt to harm the interest of the state of Kosovo, we will defend it with unflinching determination. However, as the minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, in such situations, I represent Kosovo with a principle-based standing, which is the interest of the state, and not a personal view. As far I am concerned, the normalization of state relations between Kosovo and Serbia is important, and not the personal relations with Ivica Daçiç.

Zëri: Recently you signed the Agreement on Access to EU programs.

What programs is Kosovo expected to have access to, and what will be they effect on Kosovo?

Hoxhaj: First and foremost, this agreement is important because it is the second bilateral agreement between Kosovo and the EU, following the signing of the SAA last year. Moreover, the fact that this agreement is signed by me, in the capacity of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Frederica Mogherini, gives symbolism to the agreement. Moreover, our endeavours are to present a foreign policy that promotes Kosovo's internal interests, from which our citizens can fully benefit. This agreement is the typical example of this new approach in our foreign policy. We have signed the Framework Agreement with the EU, whereby we will have access to 17 programs, such as those related to employment, entrepreneurship, environment, education, scientific research up to civil society and media. Nevertheless, we will soon have an internal debate in the government and the society on which programs we are interested to have access to. My opinion is that initially we should have access to five most vital programs, because Kosovo has to financially respond reciprocally for each program.


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