PRIME MINISTER so-called In a long interview with Zagreb’s Vecernji List, Kosovo’s Albin Kurti expressed “concern that Serbia is currently spending more on the army than everyone else in the Western Balkans combined” and accused Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of wanting to make Kosovo a “dysfunctional state”.
He said that Serbia in the Western Balkans is behaving like the Russian Federation and that it is making Belarus from Republika Srpska in BiH, and Ukraine from Montenegro.
When asked why he thinks that Vučić wants to provoke an international conflict and whether he sees it as a factor in destabilizing the Balkans, Kurti said that the so-called Kosovo is not a problem, that Kosovo has a problem, and that the problem of Kosovo is Serbia.
– There is no pluralism in Serbia. You have one party. That party is also the state. That state is also a church. That church is also a party. There is no pluralism there, they are playing democracy with elections. Lately, Serbia has greatly increased its military spending. Serbia currently spends more on the military than the other five Western Balkan countries combined. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, (so-called) Kosovo and Northern Macedonia together do not spend as much as Serbia alone. It does not do that because of Hungary and Romania, and this militarization of Serbia is very worrying for us. My impression is that Serbia looks more and more like Germany between the two world wars, after the end of the Weimar Republic. In the first decade of this century, we had a Serbian version of the Weimar Republic in Serbia, which began with the former Serbian Prime Minister assassinated Zoran Djindjic, ended with former President Boris Tadic, and since then we have a period where Serbia resembles Germany between the two world wars. but after the end of the Weimar Republic, militarization is the main state and institutional impulse – said Kurti.
Mutual recognition is the core of the agreement
He stated that the so-called Kosovo has the will and interest for a comprehensive agreement, but it depends on whether Serbia is ready and that the so-called normalization of relations. Kosovo and Serbia are such that much more depends on Serbia’s readiness to change its approach and itself.
– We are holding talks on the future dialogue with Serbia, on the next chapter of the dialogue. There is a lack of progress and it did not start with us, there was a lack of progress much earlier, but we pointed out that a large part is missing due to wrong approaches. Therefore, harmful agreements were signed for (so-called) Kosovo, which even the Constitutional Court, as it was, could not swallow. In that sense, we need a new chapter, we need a new approach, and for us it must be principled, where citizens are winners with reciprocal recognition in the center. Lately, there has been a tectonic shift for the better, because in the last decade, it was considered that Kosovo was making concessions in order to eventually get recognition from Serbia – said Kurti.
He emphasized that mutual recognition is the core of the agreement, and that all friends and partners of the so-called Kosovo.
– So, the agreement will not be just reciprocal recognition, but there is no agreement without reciprocal recognition in focus. So, not in the end, in terms of time, but in focus, in terms of the space that that agreement should cover. One topic that we are ready to engage in immediately in order to solve it as soon as possible is the one about the missing, since the family cares whether they will find loved ones greater than grief – said Kurti.
There is no exchange of territories
Asked whether he would agree to the exchange of territories, Kurti answered in the negative and stated that he wanted the dialogue to be conducted on the rights and needs of citizens, and not on territorial exchange.
– It is in the nature of autocrats to think that they can exchange territories as if it were their property. We are not in the time of the Middle Ages, with monarchs who consider the territories of the state as the country of a father or a monarch, and the people as the family of the one who rules. We are a democratic republic and such solutions will not be on the table. That is also the reason why I won the elections, because the people of Kosovo do not want something like that. I don’t think Serbs want that either. Only the President of Serbia wants that. Now, since I have been in power, he no longer mentions demarcation with Albanians and territorial solutions, but wants the ‘Bosnianization’ of Kosovo in the form of an autonomous Serbian entity within our republic, in order to make us a dysfunctional state and failed. And that will not happen – says Kurti.
ZSO hegemonic aspiration of Serbia
When asked why the Kosovo government opposes the creation of the Communities of Serbian Municipalities in accordance with the agreement signed in the EU in 2013, Kurti stated that what Serbia is trying to impose on Kosovo’s statehood and constitutional order is not the wishes or will of Kosovo Serbs, but an expression of Serbia’s hegemonic aspirations.
He says that no Serb in Kosovo has ever protested that the JCC has not been implemented.
– Belgrade has always been angry. In April 26, 1991, 14 Serb-majority municipalities in BiH merged into their association. On January 9, 1992, they declared independence. They had a constitution on February 28, 1992, and finally received international recognition on December 14, 1995 in Dayton. He wants to repeat Bosnia in Kosovo. Look, in BiH we have a state that is not a republic, and inside there is a republic that is not a state. In a similar way, Belgrade wants to have a state in Kosovo that will not be called a republic, but an association, and that within Kosovo it will be called a Republic, but it will not be a state. I will not allow something like that from the opposition or from the position of power. That is why the people voted for me – to prevent the ‘Bosnianisation’ of (so-called) Kosovo – said Kurti.
He added that Belgrade is the one who “wants to have a state within a state” and stated that the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is not about the status of Kosovo, nor about the internal issues of Kosovo, but about the status of relations.
– The dialogue is not conducted in order for Kosovo to question itself, but in order to normalize relations with Serbia. And for the normalization of relations, I think that Serbia needs to change much more – said Kurti.
About actions in the north
Asked how he views the criticism of EU foreign policy chief Giuseppe Borelj against the action of the special unit of the Kosovo Police in the north of Kosovo, Kurti said that the action was not directed against any nationality or community living in Kosovo.
– It was sent to criminals who were identified as smugglers of illegal goods in the territory of the Republic of Kosovo. Criminals are not divided into ethnic groups, they are divided according to criminal acts. Ethnicity makes them neither targets nor immune. Nothing can serve as a shield from crime and no one can be above the law. Establishing law and order is in the best interest of the citizens of Kosovo, without distinction – said the Prime Minister of Kosovo.
Asked whether he feared the outbreak of war between Kosovo and Serbia after the police action, he said that Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, together with Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Aleksandar Bocan Kharchenko, appeared in Jarinje, and that they visited a gathering of Serbian military forces where armored vehicles, and above them they raised a military MiG-29, a plane they took from the Russian Federation.
– Tensions have certainly risen sharply, but not because of us. They wanted to intimidate us, threaten us, but we did not give up and in the end it all ended in Brussels and today I am happy to have a measure of reciprocity on the license plates. So, we consider ourselves independent, Serbia does not recognize us, but it cannot ask us not to recognize ourselves. We want there to be no barriers at all, but as long as Serbia insists on them, we will have to answer according to the law – said Kurti.
“Open Balkans” and the region
When asked why they categorically reject the concept of “Open Balkans”, which is advocated by Albania, Northern Macedonia and Serbia, Kurti asks how the Balkans can become open when Serbia is closed to the so-called Kosovo.
– Does not accept our passport, identification documents, diplomas, certificates or Kosovo stamps. We can have the Balkans open after Serbia opens to Kosovo. The “Open Balkans” is more like the Balkans open to influences from the East, especially from the Russian Federation and China, as well as open to corruption, war criminals, contrary to European values of democracy and the rule of law. We should be with the European Union, and not open to the Russian Federation and China – said Kurti.
Asked how he assesses the general situation in the region and whether he fears a possible escalation of the conflict in Montenegro and Northern Macedonia, Kurti said that the situation in the Western Balkans is a miniature situation of the circumstances of the Russian Federation.
– It is increasingly being shown that Serbia in the Western Balkans is behaving like the Russian Federation, in which the Republika Srpska in Bosnia is trying to become Belarus, and they want to turn Montenegro into Ukraine. So, the essence is that Serbia does not accept as real states countries that are not in the European Union, ie Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, and even Northern Macedonia, so Serbia considers them temporary states and engages all its capacities to weaken them and decay, ”Kurti said.
Answering the question about Belgrade’s accusations that he is a person who wants to create a “Greater Albania”, Kurti stated that there is a lot of talk about him in Belgrade and the so-called Kosovo, but nothing about “their responsibility to provoke three wars in the Balkans, to admit guilt for genocide in BiH and in (so-called) Kosovo and for the continuation of aggression.”
– We did not start any war in the Balkans in the name of ‘Greater Albania’, on the contrary, we are occupied and oppressed only because we are Albanians. It would be good for Serbia to see itself in the mirror, and not to look at its neighbors through the binoculars of the army – Kurti believes.
On increasing the number of Croatian soldiers in KFOR
On the occasion of the recent visit of the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to Pristina, Kurti said that the closeness of the two peoples, Croatia and Kosovo, was confirmed.
He stated that Kosovo is committed to joining NATO and the EU, and that is why Croatia is an excellent example and role model for the so-called Kosovo.
– We welcome the increase in the number of Croatian armed forces in the NATO mission in Kosovo, KFOR. Such a commitment to peace and stability in the region is very welcome, especially when it comes from a country with which we have excellent relations – said Kurti.
He stated that they discussed the development of the situation in the region and emphasized that both Croatia and Kosovo are committed to lasting peace, long-term stability and regional security.
– We assessed that the increase in tension from Serbia is a consequence of the lack of democracy and non-confrontation with our past. These two internal defects are exported to the region as destabilizing effects – said Kurti.
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