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With the agreement on the footnote, Serbia has accepted the reality of independent Kosovo

The EU decision to give Serbia the candidate status has to do with a new geopolitics, says Kosovo Minister Enver Hoxhaj in an interview for DW.

DW: Minister Hoxhaj, there has been a wide debate in favor and against the agreement reached on the footnote between Kosovo and Serbia. What has Kosovo lost and benefited from this agreement reached at a favorable moment for Serbia? 

Hoxhaj: The agreement reached in the technical dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is an agreement which allows Kosovo for the first time in its history of statehood to participate in regional, European and global forums and to speak for itself and to have the authority to sign multilateral agreements while at the same time to be represented as a sovereign and democratic state. That agreement is provisional and it is a solution that offers a representation framework for our country. As Foreign Minister, I see the agreement as a good opportunity for us not only to be an independent and sovereign state and to maintain this sovereignty but to also exercise this sovereignty in all regional, European and other forums. The other beneficial aspect for Kosovo is the European Council’s decision to launch the feasibility study. Last year, during some of my meetings with several foreign ministers of EU member states, I was told when I asked for that study that it could take years. Therefore, we have a feasibility study and a package of European agenda for Kosovo; I think that this agreement has brought Kosovo benefits, despite various perceptions. Apart from the agreement on regional cooperation, there is another crucial agreement for the Republic of Kosovo, which in my opinion, is a bilateral state agreement, the one on integrated border management, through which the Republic of Serbia accepts in a legal way the border with the Republic of Kosovo. If we also take into account this agreement, I think that the agreements have laid solid foundations for the establishment of the internal sovereignty throughout the entire territory of Kosovo and of external sovereignty in regional and other initiatives. 

DW: Mr. Minister, numerous analysts say that Serbia, with the candidate status, is taking quicker steps than Kosovo towards integration in the EU and that the Serbian politics could hinder or slow down Kosovo’s journey towards the union in the future. How plausible is that? 

Hoxhaj: I think that every country progresses in its European agenda in line with its internal dynamic. In the Kosovo case, we should take into account that Kosovo was declared a state only four years ago and we have a different timeframe in our European path compared to other Balkan countries. The European agenda should be looked at as a whole. Seven new states were created after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and it can be said that two of them are already EU members, the others are taking favorable positions in their European agendas and all this speaks for itself that the Balkans is moving towards peace and stability and our continuous request has been that a European Serbia should behave like a European state not only in its relations with Brussels, but also towards Kosovo and treat Kosovo as an independent and equal state partner and in line with European standards to take a position on Kosovo. Both agreements reached are a concrete proof that Serbia has accepted the reality of Kosovo’s independence as a first step, and I am deeply convinced that in a few years time there will come the recognition of Kosovo from the Serbian state. 

DW: Mr. Minister, how do you assess the role of the German politics in relation to Kosovo and Serbia? There has been a constant request by the German Government to dissolve the Serbian parallel structures in the north of Kosovo, but that has not happened yet. 

I think that that the German position should be understood as a principle-based stance. The German economy today is the most powerful one in the EU, the German state has more neighboring states than any other state and despite the new financial crisis and debts the role of Germany within the EU is much higher than it used to be. At the same time there is a very special sense in Berlin to understand the Balkans. Balkan for Germany is also seen in the historical, cultural and geographical aspect, as part of Europe, and the position expressed by Mrs. Merkel in August last year was a principle-based position, but at the same time it was a European standard. A country like Serbia, which aspires integration in the EU, can no longer try to control a part of the territory of Kosovo through its illegal security and police structures. A country like Serbia cannot help allowing the establishment of the rule of law in the north and democratic participation in democratic institutions through elections. I am sure that these European requirements, which were made clear by Mrs. Merkel, still apply for Serbia. However, the decision taken in March this year to give Serbia the candidate status has also to do with a new geopolitics. I have the impression that the Western world, meaning the US and the European Union, have been interested in detaching Serbia once and for all from the Russian influence for the first time in 20 years. And the best way to bring to an end the Russian influence on the political, economic and cultural life of Serbia was to give it the candidate status and a European agenda. Therefore, all the decisions taken should also be seen from a long term perspective as to how the Balkans should look in 10 or 20 years. 

Mr. Minister, is Kosovo ready to engage in talks on the north of Kosovo? I refer here to a statement by Philip   Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State, who said that Prishtina and Belgrade should talk about the situation in the north of Kosovo. 

Hoxhaj: The Government of Kosovo is ready at any time to have a process of discussions between the Government and the Serbian citizens in the north of Kosovo. We think that this dialogue should take place within the state of Kosovo and in no way should that dialogue involve Serbia, while the US and the European Union, through their representatives in Prishtina, or through other forms can give their contribution so that the three and a half northernmost municipalities integrate with the rest of the Republic of Kosovo. 

DW: Mr. Minister, what impact can the representation of Kosovo with a footnote have on the Kosovo diplomacy, namely, on the recognitions of Kosovo? 

Hoxhaj: I want to give a clear formulation on this. The cause of the freedom and independence of Kosovo has gone through three stages so far, from a very low to a very high position. In the last 20 years, in partnership with the US and with the key EU member states, we managed from the nineties until 2008, to build our statehood step by step in different stages. It is understandable that after the declaration of independence and after the Ahtisaari plan could not be endorsed by the UNSC, although Martti Ahtisaari was he envoy of the UN Secretary General at the time, our statehood, our independence got in a very complex situation. We were forced to look for bilateral recognitions. Today, the Republic of Kosovo has much more bilateral recognitions than the other states in the region. The other states have recognitions through their membership in the UN. Also during the process of the International Court of Justice, and when the technical dialogue started and after the agreement on the footnote, I am firmly sure that the process of the recognition of Kosovo will not stop. The independence of Kosovo and Kosovo’s recognitions do not breach Resolution 1244 and I am sure that some countries will make public their decision to recognize the independence of Kosovo in the weeks to come. 

By: Bekim Shehu

La Serbie plus agressive envers le KosovoInterview du ministre Enver Hoxhaj pour "Epoken e Re"