Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said in an interview to Radio Free Europe today that the 100-percent import tariff on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina will remain in force. Commenting on the recent Berlin Summit, Thaci said it did not produce any clear conclusion, and he criticized the European Union for lack of unity. Thaci also said that the United States of America must have a role in the process of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.
President Thaci, following the Berlin Summit, you were not overly optimistic that there would be a positive movement toward concluding the process of dialogue with Serbia and a final settlement. What are the key obstacles in the process?
In my opinion the Berlin Summit did not produce a clear conclusion, and I am optimistic that in Paris we will have more clarity and a new pace of engagements to find a way to conclude the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, a comprehensive and legally-binding agreement that will close all open issues between Kosovo and Serbia, and which will conclude in mutual recognition.
Do you see this as continuation of the dialogue or a new beginning?
I see it as new dynamic in the framework led by the European Union and Mogherini, but now including Chancellor Merkel and President Macron too. I see an interesting and creative concept and vision by President Macron, that’s why I believe there will be additional consultations among the Quint countries, the United States of America, Great Britain, Germany, France and Italy, in order to have a united position on dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia and for this unity to be seen in society, the political landscape in Kosovo, and in Serbia too. And to have an agreement that is acceptable to both sides and that can be implemented on the ground.
You did not spare criticism toward the EU and Quint countries. Does this mean the process is not being led properly?
In Berlin one could certainly see how weak Europe is and how non-united the European Union is and the lack of clarity among the leaders of the respective countries. There was good will from Chancellor Merkel, but no results.
You mentioned an inevitable role of the U.S. in the process of reaching the agreement. How do you see this, given that Washington has said on several occasions that it supports the EU-led process?
A crucial and historic role by the United States of America in the past, when a peace agreement was reached in Dayton for Bosnia and Herzegovina, then the agreement on Kosovo in Rambouillet, and the exceptional contribution of the United States of America for the Ohrid Agreement for Northern Macedonia, and the agreement in Koncul [Serbia]. I have discussed today with representatives of the United States of America at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin for two hours before the Berlin Summit, and I said that the U.S. have an irreplaceable role in the process of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia and that an agreement cannot be reached without a dynamic and leading role by the U.S. I say this because President Trump was very clear in his messages and the formula for reaching a final settlement between Kosovo and Serbia is in the core and framework of the letters of President Trump.
You have mentioned on several occasions the idea of border correction, as part of negotiations, but you did not receive support, especially not in Pristina, or at the Berlin Summit. What sort of correction are you engaged in?
I have always been against territorial exchange because it is bargaining, and I will never allow that to happen. I am strongly in favor of correcting the historical injustices against Albanians in Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac. I am strongly in favor of that region joining the territory of the Republic of Kosovo. I presented this at the Berlin Summit too, but the Berlin Summit did not bring anything new, and it did not close any idea that has been discussed until now, so including the Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac issue.
If you ask for Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac to join Kosovo, doesn’t this open way for Serbia to ask the same for certain parts of Kosovo, like the north for example?
I will try and fight for Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac to be part of the territory of the Republic of Kosovo, with the current borders, and not violating a single centimeter of Kosovo’s territory. At the same time, and I have said this in Berlin too, we will not allow any ideas for double sovereignty for Kosovo, or any other idea for an Association with executive competencies, similar to the Republika Srpska, because this would mean the partitioning of Kosovo, and we will also not allow a German-German model.
Mr. President, let us go back to the tariff introduced by the Kosovo Government on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Can talks resume if the tariff is not lifted?
It is very good that with the initiative of President Macron, with my agreement, and with the consent of President Vucic too, we agreed to have the meeting in Paris. The tariff is a legitimate right by the Kosovo Government and therefore it will remain in force. We will not allow Serbia to condition the dialogue.
Earlier, you were against the tariff, you called for its removal or suspension …
It is a pure lie by anyone to say that I was against the tariff. You can look at my statements, since day one, since it was suggested by Mr. Hoxhaj at a 10 percent rate, I supported it, and also supported Assembly President Veseli’s proposal for a 100-percent tariff. The tariff is a legitimate and fair decision and it will remain in force.
If the Kosovo Government does not lift the tariff, despite requests from Kosovo’s allies, will there be new elections in Kosovo?
The tariff will not be lifted, and it is no way related to elections. If the partners of the coalition lose the majority in parliament, or if they conclude that they don’t have the majority in parliament, the country can certainly go to new elections and that would not be the end of the world. It is healthy in democracy and I have sent a message to the coalition partners that they must keep the majority, otherwise the country cannot remain paralyzed with a minority government.
This means that in your opinion the tariff should not be lifted despite pressure from Kosovo’s allies to lift the tariff.
I saw no pressure in Berlin, and there was no meeting that discussed the lifting of the tariff. It was all improvisation, acting for political points. No one was under pressure.
There is a negotiating team in Pristina that drafted a platform on dialogue, and this was then adopted by the Assembly. Who will represent Kosovo in the final phase of negotiations, yourself or this team?
Kosovo will be represented by the heads of institutions, the legitimacy that derives from the Kosovo Assembly, and the will of the citizens of Kosovo, a constitutional and legal mandate. But we will try to have broad representation, a part of the unity team. So it will be us, the heads of institutions, and also other members, and I will inform the other members, including the opposition, soon.
In general, Mr. Thaci, do you expect Kosovo and Serbia to reach an agreement this year?
I hope so, on the contrary we will lose another decade.