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Interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Enver Hoxhaj

In a few days, Kosovo will be recognized by three states. This news was made public by the Foreign Minister, Enver Hoxhaj, in an interview for the newspaper, “Lajm”. Responding to criticisms from his party colleague, Fatmir Limaj, about the mistaken orientation of foreign policy only on recognition, Minister Hoxhaj denied this, stating that it is absolutely untrue that Kosovo’s foreign policy is focused only on recognition. With regard to PDK, Hoxhaj said that it should be enriched with new people and members. According to Hoxhaj, Prime Minister Thaçi, is a political leader whose political profile extends beyond Kosovo’s borders. Hoxhaj said that he has no intention of seeking the leadership of PDK.

Foreign policy is a priority for Kosovo, but it doesn’t change quickly, not only in Kosovo, but in other countries. According to Minister Hoxhaj, Kosovo is following a very active foreign policy, not just with regard to recognition, although new recognition is a priority. In an interview in “Lajm”, Hoxhaj said that within a few days, Kosovo will be recognized by three new states, and according to him, this decision has already been taken.
 
He talks also about elections within the PDK, and states that he personally has no intention of seeking the leadership of the party, but said that he hopes that the PDK will continue to be refreshed with new members. With regard to the PDK’s leader, Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, Hoxhaj said that he is a leader with a political profile beyond Kosovo and that his leadership has strengthened the PDK. He stated that Kadri Veseli’s joining the PDK was good news, strengthening the PDK and Kosovo. Regarding the Government’s decision to apply visas for various states, Hoxhaj said that this would have no effect on new recognitions.

“Lajm”: Mr. Hoxhaj, recently the Government decided to apply visas for a number of states in the world. How do you think this will affect integration and recognition?
 
Hoxhaj:
Last year, the Minister of Foreign Affairs took a decision, and on the basis of that decision we made a very detailed study in the context of the visa liberalization integration process, what criteria should we use for a visa regime, as a new state. This is a European standard that other countries in the region have applied on the path toward integration. And, on the basis of the many debates we had, we decided that from next January, a group of states outside Europe will be subject to a visa regime, and we think we should increase the capacity of our embassy in Ankara, and in Riyadh and other strategic locations, so people can apply for visas.
 
“Lajm”: China and Russia are amongst these states. What criteria were used for these two to be subject to a visa regime?
 
Hoxhaj:
The criteria we used are those used in other EU member states, and they derive from the EU. So, it is not that we made them up and they apply just to Kosovo. But, those countries that want to join the Schengen zone have to apply the same standards. We believe that those states understand and I do not think that putting in place a visa regime will have consequences for recognition, diplomatic relations, or economic cooperation, because people interested to come and invest in Kosovo, will still do so.
 
“Lajm”: Minister, besides this, recently the MFA has been criticized for not working?
 
Hoxhaj:
For us, from the beginning the priority was to represent, promote and protect Kosovo’s interests. The promotion and strengthening of our state interests is formed by international subjectivity, and our external consolidation. Recognition, membership in economic, financial, cultural, and sporting organizations, is essential for Kosovo to become a state which belongs to the community of free and sovereign states. It is necessary to promote our economic interests and various international conferences have been organized for foreign investors in Kosovo.
We held a conference in Paris, Berlin and in Rome, and in June we will have such a conference in Hungary. In addition, there will be one in the US, and in the Gulf states, which are very rich, to attract investors.
 
“Lajm”: At these conferences, have you seen signs of investment in Kosovo and if so, in what areas?
 
Hoxhaj:
The investment conferences in Berlin and Paris were very successful and the role of the MFA is as a diplomatic service, which supports other sectors. According to the information that I have from my colleagues, in the Government there are a number of people interested in investing in Kosovo following these conferences. Certainly, the main issue is what happens after the conferences, and we are working to the maximum to link respective sectors.
 
“Lajm”: You have a strategic plan for foreign policy, which is long-term. What is the focus of this document?
 
Hoxhaj:
Next week, we start a process of clarifying our foreign policy principles. Unfortunately, during these years, Kosovo still has not produced such a document. With the support of USAID we managed to produce a first draft, which will orient Kosovo’s foreign policy; identify our strategic partners, the EU and US; and what our foreign policy objectives are; what form bilateral relations will take with particular states, be they EU members or outside it; and political, economic, cultural, sporting and other partners. This document will be discussed by all stakeholders and as soon as it is finished, the Ministry together with the Presidency, Government, Parliament, Foreign Affairs Committee, KSF Ministry, and civil society will finalize it.
 
“Lajm”: When will this document be ready?
 
Hoxhaj:
We hope that a large part of the debate will end during the summer and after its conclusion, that the Government will approve it. But, this must be a consensual document of all stakeholders in Kosovo. It is a phenomenon that every country in its early years, designs such a document, which is short and long term, but every government also comes with a different conception of foreign policy.
 
“Lajm”: Since you mention that it should be consensual, how do you cooperate with the Foreign Affairs Committee led by Albin Kurti?
 
Hoxhaj:
I think that the Kosovo Government and Presidency play a role. Parliament has its role and we have coordinated and cooperated with them in the context of accountability. I have been invited to various public hearings and I go often, and respond to all the questions put to me by the Committee. I think that each of us, according to our jobs, functions and the missions of our institutions, have done the tasks assigned to us.
 
“Lajm”: Is the Committee doing its job?
 
Hoxhaj:
It is not for me to assess this, but we cooperate with all institutions and parties. The executive has its priorities, but I implement the Constitution, and program of the President, who leads foreign policy, and the Government’s program which means also implementing the program of daily politics.
 
“Lajm”: Mr. Hoxhaj you have been directly criticized for inefficiency by the PDK deputy, Fatmir Limaj. What is your response?

Hoxhaj:
I did not see the interview by Mr. Limaj, and I don’t know what the main thrust of his critique was. Of course, in foreign policy, we can do a better job, and I promised Kosovo’s citizens that I will work 15 hours a day, to advance Kosovo’s priorities. The priorities of foreign policy do not change that quickly, no country in the world does this; it moves slowly.
Up to now, we have been determined and committed to implement our objectives. I think that we have achieved this with the number of recognitions we have received on the European agenda. Just last year, I made 34 visits and all of this aims to move us forward.
 
“Lajm”: Minister, this was precisely Limaj’s criticism that the MFA had focused only on recognition, yet we still don’t have enough?
 
Hoxhaj:
We have absolutely not focused solely on recognitions. However, Kosovo has been recognized in every corner of the world, and it is just a question of days before three recognitions come from countries which have decided to recognize Kosovo. I said at the start of the year that there will be five, but two have recognized us and more will occur. As well as this, we are working on other issues and we have intensively pushed forward European integration, and visa liberalization.
I have made many visits to advance this issue. Besides this, we made also many bilateral visits; we launched over 70 new agreements which must be signed; and 14 agreements have been signed since the end of last year and up to now. Bilateral agreements regulate relations from politics to culture. Either I or other ministers represented Kosovo in all international forums. We have organized conferences in Prishtina and before this never happened. The issue of investment was mentioned, and we have organized economic conferences.
 
“Lajm”: Minister, you have organized, but there are no results?
 
Hoxhaj:
No, absolutely not, if you talk to Minister Kusari-Lila, and Minister Beqaj, they know about other sectors where there have been results, where there have been privatizations in Kosovo, and the attraction of investors.
 
“Lajm”: The issues of liberalization, and integration were mentioned. Could they be obstructed by this process of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, which is currently frozen?
 
Hoxhaj:
I think visa liberalization is a very important political and humane issue for citizens. We have been denied a right which over 50 million Balkan citizens enjoy, who travel without visas to Europe. I think that the roadmap is a question of a few weeks and great work has been done by the Ministry of Integration and embassies in order to more quickly receive it. Many criteria have been fulfilled, which relate to repatriation and integrated border management.
 
“Lajm”: It is precisely this agreement, that of integrated border management, which is not being implemented?
 
Hoxhaj:
It is about one part of our border which is a problem, not for the other parts. The non-implementation of the agreements has been raised and my position has been that agreements on paper, if not implemented, have no value and it would be good to start implementing each agreement. A lot of pressure has been made to bring to life these agreements and some have been implemented and others not. The reason why the agreement on integrated border management has not been signed up to now, is that a part of the Serbian elite is trying to push the option of Kosovo’s partition, but after the Government’s decision of July 25, this option has no force, yet they continue to delay signing and ratifying the agreements, but I believe that they will implement the agreements and this is our condition for the continuation of dialogue.
 
“Lajm”: Mr. Hoxhaj, this year internal elections in PDK will be held. You are deputy leader, how do you view this process?
 
Hoxhaj:
I think that PDK is a very professional and consolidated civic party. No decision has yet been taken about when internal elections will be held. But, clearly internal elections will be organized in accordance with the statute and program. Up to now, there has been no debate, and when a decision is taken, branches and sub-branches will carry out the process democratically.
 
“Lajm”: Why is the setting of a date for these elections being delayed? Is there some hesitation?
 
Hoxhaj:
Absolutely not, PDK is in power, as well as being a party, and you must consider the agenda of the party leader, who is also Prime Minister, and the agenda of those leading other institutions, with posts in the party, but elections will be held within a certain time frame and they will bring necessary change to PDK.
 
“Lajm”: What do you think should change?
 
Hoxhaj:
I think that this is a question which one person cannot answer. I think that what is essential is that our sub-branches include more young people who represent PDK. Though PDK’s leadership is young, those of us over forty in PDK, are no longer young.
Young people must come, there should be better gender representation, and this must occur at the level of sub-branches, branches and centrally. Efforts must be made to bring new people. The party doesn’t include the promise of a new political or professional elite, that thinks of new topics, be it economic development or technological development, and PDK must change as much as it needs to change, and as much as Kosovo needs PDK to change. The people leading PDK have led for a long time the aspiration of freedom, and now we are free; they led the aspiration for statehood and now Kosovo is a state; and now, we aspire to integration. In comparison with other states, in such a process, Kosovo is behind, but this year, with the Feasibility Study, we have started to speed up integration, since up to now things were slow.
 
“Lajm”: Minister, could you be one of the candidates for PDK leader?
 
Hoxhaj:
Absolutely not, I have no ambition or motive or such interest. I am part of PDK’s leadership. I think it is a party which is a strong bearer of hope and optimism and I am trying to give my personal contribution, but I have no ambition or such interests.
In no circumstances is being PDK leader part of my personal vision.
 
“Lajm”: Will you support the current leader for another mandate as PDK leader?
 
Hoxhaj:
I think it is early to talk about who will be candidate and who will be supported. Thaçi is a leader with a political profile beyond Kosovo and without doubt, his leadership has strengthened PDK. His dynamic of work and political ideas have made us a stable party.
Kadri Veseli’s arrival in PDK is good news and will make PDK and Kosovo stronger, but these are topics which you should discuss with Thaçi and Veseli.
But, I think it is early to talk about this, since the debate hasn’t started or internal elections.
 
“Lajm”: What was Pacolli’s role in lobbying?
 
Hoxhaj:
Let me say that Pacolli has worked hard on recognition and we have coordinated with regard to recognition.
But, I should say that I also have coordination with friendly states that have assisted this process. Sometimes, the impression is created that there are a lot of people dealing with foreign policy, but there is no confusion of competences.
 
“Lajm”: But, there has been competition about who brings recognition and who doesn’t?
 
Hoxhaj:
Above all, it is Kosovo, and its citizens who are responsible for Kosovo’s acceptance as a state or the establishment of diplomatic relations. You cannot imagine what positive association ministries of other countries have, based on our will and sacrifice 13 years-20 years ago, when the western media transmitted images of a people suffering, but determined to fight for its rights.
When I start to convince a minister or Prime Minister or President to recognize Kosovo, immediately it is the image of people’s suffering that emerges. Individuals cannot take the credit for this, but what is required of all of us, is to give our maximum. My goal is that Kosovo have a more active and lively foreign policy, in comparison with our military and popular capacities, and foreign policy is a reflection of the internal situation.
 
“Lajm”: But, we have seen in conferences individuals claiming the credit for bringing recognition?
 
Hoxhaj:
What I can say as Foreign Minister is that recognition, and not only recognition, is objective.
Every citizen who at one time thought the state of Kosovo was a dream deserves credit. I do not talk about merit just when we come to elections. The merit of the people is the most valuable.

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