“We are in the process of finding out the truth about demarcation and only after we reach a point that will help us address the topic we will address political partners in Kosovo and international partners too,” Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said in an interview to Radio Free Europe. Haradinaj also said that the Kosovo Government’s new platform on dialogue will include all stakeholders in the country. Haradinaj also explained the reasons why Kosovo withdrew from its membership bids in UNESCO and INTERPOL.
Mr. Prime Minister, what were the reasons that Kosovo withdrew from its membership bids in two international organizations, UNESCO and INTERPOL?
This year has been a year of institutional deadlock, the announcement of elections, delays in forming institutions and lack of consistent work. An unsustainable agenda or unconsolidated achievements towards membership in these two institutions, made us reconsider our strategy. We already working on our membership bid for INTERPOL for next year. Whereas as far as the membership bid for UNESCO, we will try this in two years. This requires a serious mobilization, our application and the voting process. Otherwise, entering the voting process without securing the necessary votes would not be a good precedent for Kosovo on the international arena.
Officials in Belgrade have continuously said they will prevent Kosovo’s membership in these organizations. Can this issue be addressed in the Brussels dialogue which aims the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia?
I believe it is of interest to address Belgrade’s approach toward this matter, as part of dialogue. Why? Because there is a great obstructive engagement against Kosovo’s membership in international organizations. However, a lot of work depends on us too, if we would have been more serious in our work, we would have had a completely different reality. There was a lack of serious work in the past, there was no inter-ministerial mechanism with respective authorities with a consistent policy but work was rather done in individual basis. In addition to this, there was also no mobilization among partners that support us. In other words, this is not only about Belgrade’s work and their success in opposing this, but also about the lack of serious engagement by the Kosovar side in both processes.
When are you ready to resume political talks with Belgrade?
The process of dialogue is ongoing. Kosovo’s President (Hashim Thaci) is part of the process and he represents Kosovo; at the same time, we are preparing a genuine platform on what Kosovo expects from dialogue. We will include all decision-making actors in this platform. This requires an internal discussion so that dialogue can be in the service of the people, and so it does not remain only a dialogue among leaders and we have to do a lot of work in this respect.
Mr. Prime Minister, you met yesterday in Pristina with the European Commission Enlargement Director, who said that Kosovars will get visa liberalization after the two last criteria are met, chief among which is the ratification of the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro. When will you proceed with the demarcation issue?
We are now realistic about all topics. We know Kosovo’s obligation for internal reforms in the rule of law area, especially in uprooting corruption. Even the U.S. Secretary of State, and other international officials, have offered their unreserved support so that Kosovo can progress in the rule of law, the fight against corruption, organized crime and terror. The demarcation topic is being addressed and we will proceed. Kosovo however lacks two third of votes in parliament to ratify the current version. We need to find a solution.
Do you expect the international community to support your efforts to review the border demarcation agreement, given their requests to ratify the agreement as soon as possible?
No one can interfere in the current situation, because Montenegro has ratified the agreement and it met its obligation from a previous agreement, while Kosovo has not been able to ratify it in Parliament because the findings are wrong. The current version by the previous commission is wrong. We are now in the process of finding the truth and only after we reach a point that will help us address the topic, we are first going to address all political partners in Kosovo, and then our international partners too. There are standard procedures between countries concerning such disputes and we are no exception, there are EU or NATO member states. We are no exception and we will respect those procedures.
So you expect support from the international community?
I would call it a useful engagement, because Montenegro’s advancement toward NATO and EU, Kosovo’s advancement, the resolution of all open issues, facilitates the agenda of the European Union, NATO and the U.S. in the region. We want to find a solution. We need the support and understanding of the Montenegrin side.
Mr. Prime Minister, since the first day at work, you have run into major political resistance from the opposition in the Assembly. How challenging do you think it is to dialogue with the opposition on matters that require their support too?
It is now a huge fortune that we are in a democracy, there is an opposition and this is very good for governance. It obliges us to be not only serious at work but to be cautious in our efforts. Of course, it is of interest for me to establish communication with the opposition, the civil society. Today I worked with the civil society. This is not done for the sake of the government and not because the government cannot exercise its functions but is done because of our duty to the country and I look forward to a communication with the opposition. The opposition has a certain opposing approach. I believe they will evolve because this is a serious government, it’s active and competent and to previous practices used by the opposition to counter the government will not work. We are now dealing with a new quality, other parametres and it would be good for them to as soon as possible counter us on plans pertaining to economic development, fight against corruption, strengthening of the rule of law. If they continue to defy us by questioning patriotic values, interethnic relations and so on, they will only be wasting time because we are people that have journeyed for the interest of Kosovo. Furthermore, I myself am one of those that has contributed to partnership with Kosovo friends, particularly allies that accompanied Kosovo at each stage. So it is best for them to focus on issues relating to opening of new jobs, progress of living conditions. On other topics, they are really in the wrong.
Will you invite the opposition to be part of the dialogue with Belgrade?
The government and I will at present support the agenda of the President for dialogue. So we are supporters of this agenda and the role of the President is an institutional, unifying function as he represents all. I welcome the engagement of the opposition on this issue.
And finally, one of the main agreements of the dialogue with Serbia at this stage is the establishment of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities. When will this be achieved?
We now have a clear situation, meaning we have a decision of the Constitutional Court which found the agreement on the Association not to be in harmony to the Constitution of Kosovo. It is up to us to act in the future based on what the Constitution of the country stipulates, by respecting the ruling of the Constitutional Court. This is a process whereby Kosovo can only act in certain circumstances based on the Constitution and the laws of the country. What is also important is that Kosovo would have acted on many issues if it had been more certain on its perspective. A new approach by Serbia to address the EU countries and making an analogy between Kosovo and Catalonia is not helpful. So this is a wrong approach. It was always stated that a climate should be created to enable implementation of mutual obligations. This truth makes the climate of obligations Kosovo has to take with regards to dialogue more difficult. We are not an EU candidate, we only have the SAA and this stage is late for Kosovo. We have not been given visa liberalisation. We have not made progress towards NATO at the adequate speed. We do not yet have a constitutional name for the Kosovo army and a constitutional mandate. So some of these processes would have increased Kosovo’s possibility, capacity to undertake bold actions in furthering many issues it faces.
When do you think this climate enabling progress with Association will happen?
A great contribution is provided by the government through its work, through serious commitment to topics I mentioned before. So, an effective, active and responsible government that guarantees functioning of the country helps this climate.