For Kosovo, the European agenda has no alternative and the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union represents a cornerstone of the country’s politics, said the Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti, while addressing Members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thursday. Mr. Hoti assured the MEPs that his country will do everything it can to stay on its European path, and pointed towards the strong support that European integration has among Kosovo’s population.
Kosovo is fulfilling all the criteria set up by the EU, and therefore, he expects the EU will soon make a decision to introduce visa-free regime for his country, he said. Mr. Hoti underlined that Kosovo is making serious efforts in the fight against illegal migration and organised crime, while stressing that illegal migration from Kosovo has decreased by 50 % in the past two years. Talking about Kosovo’s ongoing dialogue with Serbia, he said it is one of his government’s priorities. Since last spring, they “managed to make some progress... in some issues”, but Kosovo’s aim is a final, comprehensive agreement of full normalisation, which can only be achieved through mutual recognition, he said.
Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans on the way
MEPs were interested to hear if Mr. Hoti sees any difference between the talks he had in Washington recently, compared with the dialogue he has had with Serbia under the EU’s auspices. They also asked about the deal Kosovo recently made on Israel. MEPs further put special focus on minority rights in Kosovo and on legislation that should ensure that these rights are respected, as well on environmental issues, such as lignite power plant that pollutes the air near Pristina.
Assessing the document he signed with Serbian president Vučić last week in Washington, Kosovo’s Prime Minister said it is a paper on economic normalisation, and the deal on mutual recognition between Kosovo and Israel he judged as a breakthrough in the process of recognition of his country. He also used the opportunity to thank the EU for the help it has provided in the crisis caused by COVID-19.
Commending the bravery of Kosovo’s government in making unpopular decisions, such as lifting the tariffs for Serbia, in order to make the continuation of the dialogue with Belgrade possible, the Foreign Affairs Committee Chair David McAllister (EPP, DE) stressed that the Parliament has always supported Kosovo in its European path. He expressed hope that a visa-free regime for the citizens of Kosovo will be swiftly adopted and pointed out that the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, which is to be adopted by the Commission, could help with the post-COVID recovery of the region. Declaring strong support for the mandate of the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Priština Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák, the Foreign Affairs Committee Chair underlined the importance of achieving a comprehensive normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia still refuses to recognise its former territory. Kosovo has so far been recognised by 22 EU member states, with the exception of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
Normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is one of the priorities of the EU’s foreign policy and the European Parliament is actively engaged, following and supporting all the democratic processes in the region.