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Prime Minister, good afternoon,
I am very glad to host Prime Minister [of Kosovo, Albin] Kurti today in the premises of the European Union External Action Service.
Thank you Prime Minister for choosing Brussels for your first trip abroad as Prime Minister. We see this as a clear signal of Kosovo’s European aspirations.
And I also hope that this visit can mark the beginning of our intense cooperation to advance the European Union-Kosovo relations.
This is what we have been discussing today: our bilateral relations, the domestic situation in Kosovo, the prospects for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and regional developments. Not only about the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, which is for sure one of the most important items in our agenda, but others like regional developments, bilateral relations and domestic situation in Kosovo.
I praise you for the strong mandate that you received from the people of Kosovo. When a leader receives a strong mandate from their people, it means that they are offering you a clear opportunity to undertake important reforms, pending for too long, reforms that will bring Kosovo closer to the European standards and on the way to the European Union.
We expect you to use these opportunities with determination. Because we also want to see Kosovo advancing on the European path.
Believe me, Kosovo is not alone in this. You can count on [our] continued support for reforms, building on the work already done over the past years, which is important but far from being enough.
We will continue supporting you in the fight against the coronavirus and in the economic recovery to overcome the pandemic together.
And these are not just empty words. We are the largest provider of financial assistance to Kosovo. Sometimes I am hearing voices saying ‘The European Union does not [do] much for Kosovo.’ Well, much is a quantity, you can quantify it. Since 2007, Kosovo has received almost €1.3 billion as pre-accession assistance, which, is if I am able to calculate quickly it is more or less almost €100 million per year. Much or not much, this is the figure, which is quite impressive.
In the context of the coronavirus pandemic we allocated Kosovo another additional €68 million for medical and socio-economic needs and €100 million in macro-financial assistance. Allow me to remind it, to face some criticism that from time to time comes to [our] ears, alleging the lack of interest or the lack of support of the European Union to Kosovo.
In terms of vaccines, 95,000 vaccines are now incoming to Kosovo, funded by the European Union – not from COVAX, from the European Union directly – additionally to the support provided by COVAX, to which as you know we are one of the largest contributors, if not the largest contributor.
To conclude, let me say a few words about the Belgrade – Pristina Dialogue. The European path of Kosovo leads through this Dialogue. There is no other way. There is no alternative to it.
Reaching a comprehensive, legally binding agreement on normalisation of relations with Serbia is essential to move towards the European perspective. Without it, the road will be blocked.
That is why I encouraged Prime Minister Kurti to constructively engage on this. I am sure he understands perfectly.
Me and my team, especially my Special Envoy [for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues] Miroslav Lajčák – thank you Miroslav for the work you are doing – stand ready to help the new Kosovo representatives to get familiar with the process, which is already ongoing, we are not starting it now. We have been working on it with the previous government, and we cannot throw through the window the work done with the previous government, you have to be aware of that, to get familiar with it, in order to continue the process. In order to continue the process without significant delay and to produce the necessary results.
It is not going to be easy, it is not going to be pleasant, but for the benefit of the people in Kosovo and in Serbia, for the benefit of the whole Western Balkans, we need this process to resume soon and we aim to have a first high-level meeting – I do not want to put from my side any kind of deadlines but you and me, we have in mind a precise limit in the time that we agree, in doing that before the end of June.
Thank you Prime Minister for your visit, thank you for this frank and candid conversation, thank you for your willingness to engage, but at the end Kosovo needs it and we are here only to help.
Q. You said clearly that Kosovo would be blocked without the Dialogue. But given the poor track record of the European Union towards keeping its promises not only to Kosovo but to the region, what is your incentive to make Kosovars be constructive and come to the negotiation table and discuss unpopular issues as special district for the North or special status for Kosovo’s Orthodox Church, etc.?
I have not said that Kosovo will be blocked. No, I said the European path will be blocked, which is not exactly the same thing. It is clear that without an international status widely recognised the European path of Kosovo has no future. You know, we are helping through the Dialogue. It is mainly in the interest of Kosovo to perform this Dialogue. It is not in our interest, it is in our interest also because we want the stabilisation, peace and prosperity in the Western Balkans. But it is mainly in the interest of Kosovo to engage in this Dialogue. They are not doing me a favour. It is me who is trying to help.
About this long record of non-fulfilment – about the European Union respect to the Western Balkans – I am a little bit fed up with the story of not delivering and not supporting enough and not helping. There is a long record of financial support that seems to not be taken into consideration. There is a long record of engagement. We will continue engaging with Kosovo, with Serbia, with all the Western Balkans in order to offer them a clear European perspective. I think it would be good if the people of the Western Balkans in general, and Kosovo in particular were aware of the efforts, the help and the support that the European Union has been providing them.
Q. My question is on these non-papers. We have had two of them alleging border changes. I know you have tried to quash them throughout the week, the Serbian President as well, everyone is trying to sort of say that they are not existing, but the reality is that if they are in our vision, these allegations are there, someone is trying to put them there. What are you doing, firstly, High Representative, you try to collar some of the EU Member States that you suspect might be circulating them? And how difficult things like this make your work?
There is a proliferation of non-papers. It seems to be ‘à la mode’. If you do not have a non-paper, you are no one. Look, I have not received any of these alleged documents, I hope that tomorrow there will not be another one on the stage. I am not working with non-papers. And I have to say about the last one the same things that I said about the first one.
For me, these phantom documents are not an issue. I am really sorry that there are fake news and disinformation circulating about it. I see some newspapers attributing to one of my civil servants, here at the External Action Service, [had] something to do with that.
I have to deny [it] in the strongest terms and I ask for the responsibility of the media not to diffuse fake news that create trouble, that create a toxic environment. Let us look at the real problems, putting papers on the table – on the Dialogue table, for example – in order to be constructive on serious things like this. Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-205078