Several media cover an interview that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci gave to German daily newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. Thaci said his relationship with Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, “is difficult but we need to have an open channel of communication”. “Because it is precisely this dialogue that has prevented many ugly things from happening between our two countries … We both know where we come from, but this does not stop us from working for peace,” he said.
Do you remember where you were on March 24, 1999 when the NATO launched the air raids against Serbia?
I was in the mountains, at the border between Albania and Kosovo. We were previously informed by NATO that the air strikes would begin on that day.
20 years later, how grateful are you to the West?
We will be forever grateful. Without the military intervention, Albanians in Kosovo would not have existed today, and the air raids stopped ethnic cleansing.
There is no real peace even after 20 years. In order to get a seat at the United Nations and the possibility of joining the EU, you need to reach a deal through which Serbia would recognize Kosovo as an independent country. Can this be successful?
There is no other alternative. A peace agreement between Kosovo and Serbia can be as successful as the agreement between Germany and France. On the other hand, the status quo means constant regress because it destabilizes the region.
Do you have enough support in your country to make compromises with the Serbs?
Over 70 percent of Kosovars support dialogue with Serbia.
Can border changes be part of this agreement?
We aim for a comprehensive agreement that will finally resolve all open issues between Kosovo and Serbia. But until now there is nothing on the table, there are no maps. This topic has been exaggerated by the media.
But the media are not the only ones talking about this. There is support lately even from Brussels and Washington …
I have talked directly with President Trump. His message for both sides is clear: use the momentum, move forward and do not allow the tragedies of the past to happen again.
Have you relied all your hopes on the U.S.?
From the past we know that the EU has never been able to resolve things on their own.
This goes for present times too?
To be honest, even less.
Are border corrections in the Balkans very dangerous?
All Balkans countries have unresolved border issues, starting from Slovenia, Croatia and Northern Macedonia. Only last year, after three years of drama, we resolved a border dispute with Montenegro. We need to be particularly careful about these issues.
In your opinion, how can a border correction between Kosovo and Serbia look like?
Our position is clear, Kosovo will by all means remain a multiethnic country and there will be no borders along ethnic lines.
What is your personal relationship with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic? Even during the war, 20 years ago, you two held important positions. He was Minister of Information to Slobodan Milosevic, and you were the leader of the KLA. Now you meet and have to negotiate …
It is a difficult relationship, but we need an open channel of communication. It is precisely this dialogue that has prevented many ugly things from happening between our two countries. I don’t feel pleasure from doing this. We both know where we come from. But this does not stop us from working for peace.
You are talking about what happened 20 years ago?
He lost, and I won. But I don’t want to go back to discussions about the past.
There are allegations against you about the period of war. A Council of Europe report accuses you of being involved in murder and organs trafficking. Recently, a special international court has started work in The Hague to investigate war crimes allegations against Albanians. Do you fear this court?
These monstrous allegations were fabricated in Serbia. But if I am summoned, I will go there. It is important that the truth is revealed.
How important it is to process the past?
It is important, but we cannot remain hostage to our past. I am confident that now is the right time for peace.
For the first time in Serbia, we have an interlocutor that is willing to talk with us and discuss all issues, including the recognition of Kosovo. And after many years of negligence, there is now greater attention in the EU and the U.S. toward us. If we lose this momentum, we risk losing decades.
There are voices that an agreement could be signed in Washington in June?
This is speculation by the media, there is no truth in this. But I will do everything in my power to make sure that such an agreement is blessed by the White House.
How do you see Kosovo in the next 20 years?
As a member of NATO and the European Union. A whole region living in accordance with European standards and with open borders. The issues that we are discussing now will seem ridiculous then.