Integrimi Evropian

Human Capital, key element to drive the necessary reform in the Western Balkans, Minister Citaku thanks Great Britain for continous support in this field

March 25, 2013

Dear participants,

I cannot start my speech without thanking the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for establishing this highly valuable tool Chevening Scholarship making available to our students to study post-graduate programs in one of the universities in the United Kingdom. We are young democracies with young population aspiring eagerly to embrace democratic/liberal values and how can this be better done other than living, studying and experiencing life in the cradle of democracy that is the United Kingdom. It all started back in 1215 with a document called Magna Carta which set the foundation for what we conceive today as western democracy and values for what the EU stands for.

Education is a key for a sustainable development of one society and I am very proud that we have many persons from my country that used the opportunity offered by Chevening Scholarship and now make important part of important Kosovo labor in public, private and civil society institutions and organizations. There are also other scholarships offered for Kosovo students such as the Young Cell Scheme funded by the EU and implemented in cooperation with my Ministry. In another important step in this direction, last year the Government of Kosovo signed an Agreement with the US Embassy to create a joint fund through Fulbright Scholarship which opens additional windows of opportunities for our citizens. This is a clear sign of the importance that my government gives to educating our young people which count for more than half of the population.

One need not to look further then Ireland or South Korea as a great example of how investment in education can help return its benefits many fold. These two countries from being not in a poor shape until few decades ago, have now become symbols of prosperity. Credits for this go to big investments in education they did in years. For and foremost education has significant impact to create a safer world. Chevening scholarship offers people from all around the world to come together and share experience transcending boundaries designed in the shape of nations, states, race, gender, religion etc.  I must say here that I am very proud to have here in Kosovo persons who have benefited from this scholarship and come from different countries in the region such as Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia or Albania. Yet, we also have persons coming from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania and Slovakia. I admire for the courage you have to be present here. Isn’t this great??!! I bet that you are surprised by what you see in Kosovo!! Believe me it is not a strange feeling because a lot of people fell like that when they come for the first time here and they tell me that. There is a lot of bad propaganda about Kosovo but we together should contribute to reflect what reality is and help each other to prosper because in essence it is much better to live next to a prosperous neighbor than next to a poor one. It is the same to what we feel about our neighbors next door.

Coming from Kosovo made me and my people realize what hate and lack of listening can do to somebody.  I believe that all of you present here do realize in the best way the role of communication and benefits of listening to each other because we share much more common values than what we have against them. We want to talk to all our citizens to hear their concerns and have everybody integrated in our democratic society. I must say here that we have one of the most democratic and advanced constitution in the world embracing all important international human rights documents. We want to talk to Serbia to normalize our relations because this is good for the people of Kosovo and Serbia. Normalizing our relations will also contribute to peace and cooperation in the region. There are a lot of issues to talk about but we have to start somewhere and what is of high importance here is respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other. Most of us here know how destructive wars can be and should not allow that to happen in the future.

Now I want to talk about our relation with the EU which I sometimes refer as a platonic relation having a gap distance in between us. We love each other (now I am talking also on behalf of EU but this is what they say us) yet there is something out there standing on our way to approach each other. As usually we try to be reasonable and understand but sometimes we get a mixture of feelings of mistrust and left behind but again we go back to our reason and keep the courage to continue. We have lost 9 year to determine the status of Kosovo since after the war of 1999 and then there appeared the political issues of recognition after we declared independence on 17 February 2008. Five EU member states still do not recognize Kosovo which include Romania and Slovakia. It doesn’t mean that they are hostile to Kosovo but they say they do it because of their internal issues. We confidently say that there is nothing to be afraid about independence of Kosovo because it is a sui generis case not similar to any other case in the world with regards to its historical background and the way we together with the international community managed the creation of the newest state in Europe. To put it in very simple words, no democratic state should be afraid of our independence.

Political divisions within the EU halted, until recently, any initiative towards creating any sort of contractual relationship with Kosovo. The EU created a so called Special Tracking Mechanism and what is known today as Stability and Association Process Dialogue a kind of unique mechanism to monitor the progress of Kosovo which still helped us a lot to rise to improve our standard of living in line with European values.

After the agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on representation of Kosovo in regional mechanisms, legal office of the European Commission issued an opinion stating that there is no legal impediment with regards to article 298 for EU to enter into any contractual relationship with Kosovo. Of course this was very good news for Kosovo because this would calm down the five non recognizing state who would potentially block any formal movement towards joining the EU. After this the European Commission moved immediately with the process of evaluating the readiness of Kosovo to start negotiating the Stabilization and Association Agreement. It identified four areas where we had to work which had to do mainly with establishing legal infrastructure I certain fields that is: rule of law; public administration; cultural heritage and trade issues. These criteria are now fulfilled and we are ready to start negotiating the Stabilization and Association Agreement. I am very proud because this in fact was the first result oriented conditionality and we fulfilled in due time.

The legal opinion I mentioned earlier also opened the way for the European Commission to open EU programs for Kosovo. There are plenty of programs out there in the field of education, health, culture etc. for which Kosovo could have benefited much earlier. However, as we say better late than never. Now we are working on harmonizing our objectives for signing the agreement on the EU program with the European Commission and looking forward to determine and engage concretely to harness potential benefits from such programs.

In another very important agenda that we are working on is visa liberalization process. Of course, you might feel surprised but still our citizens have to have visa permit in order to travel to an EU state. Our citizens have remained the last one and you probably understand now why do they feel sometimes very disappointed with the EU. It has become annoying to hear that the EU has learned from the past with other countries and now they have to put more benchmarks for Kosovo in order to avoid repetition of bad decisions in the past. In our case this lead to doubling the benchmarks set for Kosovo to have a visa free regime in comparison for example with Macedonia or Serbia. To put this in numbers, they had around 55 and we have 99 benchmarks. Of course we don’t want to be treated more favorably or to bypass any rules. We want to be treaty fair as other countries. After all visa liberalization, in our case, cannot be a substitute for the whole EU agenda. I am exaggerating here a little bit but we feel that some benchmarks fit much better in other EU integration process agenda than they do in visa liberalization process. However, we are still very much determined to continue with implementing all the benchmarks. We have enough energy to overcome these challenges. Recently we had a very fruitful meeting here in Prishtina with the representatives of the European Commission which gave me hope for concrete results on visa liberalization very soon.

In the end I would like to emphasize that there is no alternative to European integration for our countries. We feel great when our neighbors advance in this process and here goes one big greeting for Croatia which is set to become a full fledged member later this year. Croatia has done a great job and we have to learn upon its experience. The EU has become a symbol of peace and prosperity. It is the best example how countries that use to fight each other for so many times can work together and prosper. By cooperating with each other there can be nothing but benefit while making war does nothing but loose.

Thank you very much to Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British Council and UK Office in Prishtina for organizing this event and giving me the opportunity to address this distinguished audience.

Last modified: August 16, 2022

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