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Hoxhaj: Belgrade should stop discriminating Albanians in the Preshevo valley

Interview with Enver Hoxhaj, minister of foreign affairs

The aggressive intrusion on the part of the government in Serbia through their parallel structures in Kosovo is part of a political and public agenda which was made public by president Tadic already six months before.

“In the US, our delegation composed of the president of Kosovo’s Atifete Jahjaga and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, met with the US president Barack Obama, the UN chief Ban Ki-Moon. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Ki-Moon confirmed their commitment to the preservation of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosovo by ruling out any idea for its division...’ said Kosovo’s chief of diplomacy Enver Hoxhaj.

Mr. Minister, you are now at the UN General Assembly where you have met with the UN chief Ban Ki-Moon and the US Secretary of State Clinton. Are you satisfied with your dense political and diplomatic activity in the US along with Kosovo’s head of state Mrs. Jahjaga and Mr. Thaci?

Hoxhaj: We started off our meetings with the UN chief Ban Ki-Moon. I informed him about the progress in Kosovo, about the problems and challenges our country is facing in the recent days. I also informed him about the asymmetry and disparity in the free trade relations between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia as well as about the situation in the north of Kosovo. I reaffirmed to him the commitment of the Government of Kosovo to peace and stability. The UN chief Ban Ki-Moon expressed the necessity for security in Kosovo and welcomed KFOR’s positive role in fulfilling this goal. Moreover, he called on all sides to contribute to the calming down of the situation. Despite the fact that the Security Council may be divided on certain issues related to Kosovo, all the members support the stability and peace in Kosovo, stated the UN chief, adding that it was very important for him to hear the views from both sides about how to overcome our problems. In the US, our delegation composed of the president of Kosovo’s Atifete Jahjaga and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, met with the US president Barack Obama, the UN chief Ban Ki-Moon. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Ki-Moon confirmed their commitment to the preservation of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosovo by ruling out any idea for its division. During our stay in New York, our delegation met also with senior UN officials including with the president of the Security Council, the head of the German permanent mission Mr. Peter Witting. During the meeting I informed the UNSC president about the recent events in the north of Kosovo as well as about the commitment of the Government of Kosovo to extending its authority throughout the territory of the Republic of Kosovo as well as to peace and stability in the region.

When it comes to the UN, in your meetings with representatives of member states of this international organization you have surely  lobbied in parallel for recognitions and Kosovo’s membership into the UN. Do you think Kosovo can soon become a member of the UN, do you have a date or a year in mind, perhaps the next year?

Hoxhaj: As you know, when Marty Ahtisaari’s proposal on Kosovo was made public, not all members of the UNSC agreed with that plan, even though Ahtisaari, a well known diplomat, had been UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s special envoy for Kosovo. This despite the fact that Kosovo and Serbia had been engaged in a negotiating process from 2005 to 2007 whose aim was not only to establish a framework for Kosovo’s statehood but to also serve as a blueprint for the integration of minorities. Realistically speaking, this situation has complicated Kosovo’s road to the UN membership.

In the north of Kosovo, there are continued Serb provocations instigated by Belgrade with the aim to destabilize the region. Despite the earlier calls by Kofi Annan and the present calls by Ban Ki-Moon on UNMIK, including now EULEX, to dismantle the parallel and criminal structures, they are still active and operate before the eyes of the international community in Kosovo. Does the Government of Kosovo have a strategy to restore the stability in this part of Kosovo too?

Hoxhaj: Following the events in July of this year, Kosovo has further consolidated its statehood and is determined to extend its government writ in all of its territory in spite of the provocations by criminal groups or others in the north of Kosovo. The aggressive intrusion on the part of the government in Serbia through their parallel structures in Kosovo is part of a political and public agenda which was made public by president Tadic himself and all other Serbian officials already in the past six months which is aimed at the partitioning of the territory of Kosovo. During my meeting with the UN chief, he assured me that the recent events should not be seen isolated and that they are part of a Serbian political agenda to divide a part of Kosovo’s territory and to incorporate it into Serbia. But the message from the German chancellor Merkel and other diplomats from Brussels and Washington recently is clear that the Serbian parallel structures and gangs must be eliminated and that the avenue for the resolution of technical issues through the negotiations begun between Prishtina and Belgrade should remain open. At the EU-facilitated dialogue between the Republic of Kosovo and Republic of Serbia, one of the most urgent topics which has been discussed continually is the resolution of the trade relations in line with European standards and CEFTA agreement as well as the acceptance of the Kosovo customs stamps by the Serbian authorities. Given that Serbia failed to participate during the last round and was not willing to accept the EU proposal, the Government of Kosovo decided to apply reciprocity measures with regard to goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia into Kosovo. The Government of Kosovo then took action to ensure the decision on reciprocity measures is implemented throughout the territory of the Republic of Kosovo, including at border crossing points 1 and 31.

Tensions in Mitrovica continue but there have also been tensions in the Preshevo Valley where there have been protests against Serbian violence. So as to avoid any confrontations or instability in the region, do you agree Mr. Minister that Serbia should accept and respect the reciprocity?

Hoxhaj: We have been constantly concerned about the rights of the Albanians in Preshevo, Medvegja and Bujanovc and we have raised our voice by condemning every instance of Serbian violence there. Belgrade is engaged in a discriminatory policy aimed at driving out Albanians from these municipalities. Therefore, the series of protests at the Preshevo valley, coupled with the boycotts of the population census in this neighboring country, has its motives and reasons. I am saying this because serious decisions would not be accidental if there had not been for serious discrimination in the region. However, as with Kosovo and other neighboring countries, our future lies in the great European  family. Thus, without a respect of the reciprocity on the part of Serbia, not just in the economic field but also in respecting the rights of the minorities, the EU perspective and stability will remain fragile.

From Belgrade and some other circles one can often hear voices in favour of partition or exchange of territories. Does Prishtina support those ideas and would they be in favour of the stability in the region?

Hoxhaj:
The division of Kosovo would put peace and stability at risk not only in Kosovo but in other countries in the region as well, including Serbia itself where it is known that today more than twenty different minorities live there. Under no form, no time, no circumstance and no manner will the Government of Kosovo allow for such a thing to happen. Borders in the Balkans are a closed issue. And all peoples should work for a European future. I repeat, the ideas about partition or exchange of territories belong to the past.

BS

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