Mercredi 21 Août 2019  

N°95 - Troisième trimestre 2011

La lettre diplometque
El Salvador
  Trois étapes clé de l’histoire contemporaine du Kosovo
  Le Kosovo en marche
  Des liens privilégiés entre le Kosovo et la France
  La route vers le Camp Nou passe par l’intégration européenne du Kosovo
  « Nous devons inciter à voter la reconnaissance du Kosovo »
  Un marché à conquérir
  L’aéroport de Pristina, exemple d’une coopération réussie
  Vers un tournant pour le Kosovo
Sri Lanka
Enjeux Économiques
La lettre diplometque
La lettre diplomatique Haut
  S.E.M. / H.E. Muhamedin Kullashi

A Young, Evolving Democracy

Kosovo was the last State to emerge from former Yugoslavia’s disintegration and has set its sights on becoming a fully-fledged member of the international community. Its Ambassador to France, H.E. Muhamedin Kullashi, shared his insights on the challenges that his country still has to face on the road to securing recognition for his country’s independence, and the opportunities to cement stability and bolster economic development that will open up when Kosovo joins Euro-Atlantic organisations.

The Diplmatic Letter: Mr Ambassador, Kosovo will be celebrating its 4th Independence Day on 17 February 2012. What has it achieved so far in its efforts to build a viable State rooted in democracy and the rule of law ?

H.E. Muhamedin Kullashi :
Indeed, Kosovo will be celebrating its fourth Independence Day on 17 February 2012. But, before talking about the achievements it can look back on, I would like to briefly remind you that the Kosovo crisis during the last two years of the 20th century left behind a challenge for Europe and the rest of the international community.
This crisis challenged the European Union’s (EU’s) principles and values because it was triggered by a political drive to quell any risk of seeing the causes that led to those WWII crimes ever reappearing. And, half a century down the road, the wars in former Yugoslavia dealt its values and aspirations a fierce blow. Ms Catherine Lalumière’s statement as Vice President of the European Parliament during the 1999 debate about whether the intervention in Kosovo was legitimate is revealing: “Kosovo is a founding act for Europe”.
When they realised what the conflict was about and how far it had stretched, the EU and US managed to put an end to the war and create the right conditions to rebuild the country and its institutions. One example that comes to mind is that it was former French Minister Mr Bernard Kouchner, who was the UN’s Special Representative at the time, who organised the first free elections in Kosovo in 2000.
Coming back to your question, the young republic of Kosovo has set up the institutions it needs to operate as a State (a Government, Parliament, Constitution, Ministries, Constitutional Court and diplomatic network spanning 20 countries around the world), with help from several countries including France, since it declared its independence.
It has also set its economy in motion, harnessing its own resources with the international community’s support. 85 countries on several continents have recognised Kosovo so far. It is a member of several international organisations including the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
You can also see the results at every level of the educational system, and young talents in artistic fields (music, painting, cinema and poetry) have earned acclaim in several European countries.
Last but not least, I would like to add that the International Civilian Office has said that 90% of the work to roll out the Ahtisaari Plan, which has been embedded in Kosovo’s Constitution, has already been completed.

T.D.L.: Prime Minister Mr Hashim Thaçi was re-elected in the 12 December 2010 parliamentary vote, and ranks European integration at the top of his list of priorities. What do think about the key measures to drive this process? What factors are driving plans to reform Kosovo’s Constitution ?

The European Commission has said that the Government of Kosovo has indeed flexed its muscle to implement the European agenda and reform policy. We have made progress in our efforts to reform our public administration and legal system, and to bring our legislation into line with European standards. We have bolstered our legal system on several fronts (customs, taxes, free circulation of goods, statistical analysis, policing and fighting terrorism).
Kosovo is alto taking part in the EU’s association and stabilisation process in the Western Balkans. The measures we are banking on to promote our European integration also include our moves to cement our economic stability, improve our fiscal policy, public-sector tenders and business conditions, and protect monitories (especially Serbian minorities).
Kosovo’s institutions have been working very hard to tackle problems with corruption and organised crime, backed by the EU’s EULEX civilian mission. We have kicked off several legal investigations, made arrests and initiated legal proceedings against people suspected of corruption, organised crime or war crimes, and several of them are still underway.
But we have also established ongoing exchanges with the EU on other topics such as innovation, domestic markets, governance, farming, the economy and infrastructure.
On another front, we have made substantial inroads in our decentralisation drive, inter alia creating four new municipalities to ease minority integration. The fact that more of them took part – and, especially, that more of the Serbian minority took part – in the latest 2009 local elections and December 2010 parliamentary vote means that there are more City Councillors, Members of Parliament and Government Officials representing them. Three members of Kosovo’s Government today – including Deputy Prime Minister S. Petrović – have Serbian origins.
Using Serbian as Kosovo’s second official language in all its institutions, administrative documents and the media, and officially using Turkish and Romani in several municipalities, have contributed to creating a better climate for interethnic relations.
The massive presence of women in Kosovo’s political and public life is another facet of our country’s renewal. One-third of MPs and two Deputy Prime Ministers are women, and women are running countless institutions.
We have also started working on reforming Kosovo’s Constitution, to revamp electoral law in general and presidential elections in particular. The goal, in both cases, is to improve the system, fix the problems and fill in the gaps we have seen in practice. We are also heading towards universal suffrage for presidential elections.
The promise of European prospects for Kosovo, however, has not yet led to any contractual relations with the EU – even if, paradoxically, the Union’s largest mission is precisely in Kosovo. Kosovo’s institutions and public opinion can feel the sting of isolation: our country is the only one in the region that has not been included in a visa liberalisation scheme and, what’s worse, does not even have a roadmap listing the requirements it has to fulfil.
But that does not mean we have not started working with the countries in this region. Nearly two years ago, Kosovo adopted a law on readmission and signed readmission agreements with several EU countries, set up a readmission strategy, set up local organisations to integrate readmitted people and set aside funds to do so. I feel that free circulation around EU countries for students, researchers, businesspeople and journalists from Kosovo could have been a positive “test” for the integration process.

T.D.L.: What about the fact that five EU member countries do not acknowledge the State of Kosovo ?

The EU’s difficulties coming up with a down-to-earth to-do list for Kosovo’sntegration process has something to do with this. Whether or not one State acknowledges another is naturally a question of sovereign right. The reasons we hear most often from the five countries that object to recognising Kosovo could be summarised thus: doing so would fly in the face of international law and could kick-start a chain reaction (not to mention opening “Pandora’s box”) of illegitimate, arbitrary secessions on the part of minorities, scoffing at States’ territorial integrity, undermining international law and destabilising entire parts of the globe, triggering population exoduses, and so on.
And yet, on 22 July 201, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence and its institutional process, which it has been rolling out under the UN’s aegis since 1999, comply with international law. This was the first time that the UN’s highest legal authority said this about a country’s independence, and it did so after a lengthy procedure involving 36 countries. This puts Kosovo in a class of its own.
It is also vital to understand that our country’s path to independence also runs parallel to the paths that the other countries that emerged when the Yugoslav Federation broke up followed. And, when it was part of former Yugoslavia, our country enjoyed a constitutional and legal status that defined it as a federation constituent (including a presidency, government, parliament, clearly defined territorial boundaries and so forth in the 1974 Constitution).
On the other hand, the worst-case “disaster” scenarios that some said could have emerged after our declaration of independence in Kosovo have turned out to be wrong three years down the road. Actually, quite the opposite happened: Kosovo’s and indeed the entire region’s stability have become more tangible.
We also believe that these five European countries could do more to contribute to European political unity and consistency by following the example that the great majority of other EU members has set by acknowledging Kosovo, inter alia based on the ICJ’s decision. By agreeing to establish political, economic and cultural ties with Kosovo, they could do a lot to help the EU play its role in the Western Balkans, and put it in a much better position to spur this continent’s political reunification by supporting active cooperation and good neighbourliness.
We hope they will take this case into account. The European Parliament indeed passed a resolution asking them to head towards recognising Kosovo. I would like to point out that these five countries are also involved in several EU projects on Kosovo.

T.D.L.: The IMF is forecasting 5% GDP growth in 2011 and asking your government to tighten its State budget. What else can you tell us about the guidelines shaping your economic development strategy? As the war hit Kosovo’s industrial fabric and infrastructure, what are you doing to facilitate foreign investment? Which business sectors are involved in the privatisation process ?

Kosovo has a number of advantages to attract foreign investment. To start with, it has abundant natural resources including vast reserves of lignite, lead, zinc, magnesite and ferronickel, and fertile soil. Its population is very young (70% is under 35 years old) and is taking vocational training courses.
On the monetary front, Kosovo uses the Euro, which eliminates foreign-exchange and interest-rate risks. The Euro has a big advantage: it boosts our financial and macroeconomic stability. We also have a simple, direct tax system – and very low taxes: in 2009, we halved our corporate income tax from 20% to 10%. We have set up a legal system that tallies with European legislation and applies to foreign and domestic investment alike. Lastly, this legal framework does not restrict the way in which investors use the income they derive and shields them against expropriation.
Despite the fact that Kosovo’s economy is becoming more buoyant and growing 5% a year, our unemployment rate is still too high (40%). To cut it, we have started working on several projects and have a very supple fiscal policy to attract foreign investment and sharpen our small and medium businesses’ competitive edges. In that sense, there are exciting investment opportunities in our tourism and construction sectors, and our telecommunications sector is one of the most prosperous in Kosovo. There are also projects in the pipeline to reform every level of the educational system.
More generally, we have kicked off several reforms to promote our economic development, especially in the energy sector. One of them involves building a 1,000-KW thermoelectric power plant and should start materialising soon. We have taken measures to improve electricity distribution and supply to homes and businesses and to enhance electrical transmission capacity. We are already rolling out plans to build small hydroelectric plants thanks to public and private investment, in order to diversify sources of energy and improve our mining sector’s cost-efficiency.
Building road infrastructure still ranks high on our Government’s list of priorities, and we are planning to step up investment to develop railroads and air transport. Developing agriculture is another top priority in the Government’s current economic programme (2011-2014) with investments to support the entire production chain (especially the food-processing sector).
To round up with the privatisation process you mentioned, it spans several sectors such as telecommunications (PTK) and electrical distribution, and stretches to encompass a number of public-sector companies and concessions to build the A6 and A7 motorways. The Government is also planning to develop public-private partnerships among small and medium businesses.

T.D.L.: You have started talking with Serbia again but the decision to have the Kosovo police take control of the northern border points with Serbia in late July 2011 fired up tension again. Why did that happen? Doesn’t that move beg a question about this region’s status as it is home to a Serbian majority ?

Serbia has had an embargo on Kosovo exports since we declared independence in 2008. We have not taken any similar measures on Serbian exports over these three and a half years. Goods from Serbia have entered Kosovo without any problems – and without paying customs duties. We took control of the border points and two customs posts in the north of Kosovo on 25 July 2011 backed by the KFOR and EULEX, to stretch the Ahtisaari Plan to this area (35,000 inhabitants spanning three communes).
Until then, that area had been controlled by illegal parallel organisations set up by Serbia. Those organisations also ran operations in a few communes where Serbians lived in other parts of Kosovo. However, these organisations crumbled as a result of a joint political drive by international organisations – UNMIK and EULEX – and Kosovo authorities, and Serbians gradually joined Kosovar institutions via the electoral process.
In that sense, I would like to underline the fact that Kosovo’s Constitution is trying to strike a balance between the principle of citizenship and the principle of multi-ethnicity. Our Parliament has adopted the guidelines in the Ahtisaari Plan – thus named after the UN Special Envoy –, which emphasises multi-ethnicity principles and standards much more than citizenship principles
and standards.
This plan is therefore a compromise between what Serbia and the Albanians in Kosovo want. The legislation on decentralisation affords the Serbian community (about 7% of the population) the right to self-management on 25% of Kosovo’s territory (which spans 10,800 sq km and counts 2 million inhabitants) as regards legal systems, policing, education, health and culture. Serbian is Kosovo’s second official language. In that setup, political society and Kosovar institutions have to try to steep political practice in a balance between citizenship, the common interest of citizens, and the legitimate political and cultural rights of the ethnic communities in order to prevent them from reverting to enclaves and thus gravitating away from the European spirit.
The EU’s move to stretch the Ahtisaari Plan to the north of Kosovo and firm objection to Serbia’s request to share Kosovo was an encouraging sign. There is a lot at stake as regards the EU’s policy vis-à-vis Kosovo – and as regards its founding principles and values.
The drive in certain circles in Belgrade to shift Kosovo’s borders according to purely ethnic concerns is dangerous for the region and for Europe, and may spark a new wave of tension. Remember that all the States that emerged from former Yugoslavia - including Kosovo – were acknowledged based on the borders established in the 1974 Constitution. And, if you take a closer look at those political cases, they would entail substantially shifting borders across most Balkan countries (Bosnia, Macedonia and even Serbia).
Another approach to this claim involves Serbia and Kosovo sharing sovereignty or territorial autonomy. This could clearly disintegrate Kosovo, which is a small country. So the way to go is to apply the Ahtisaari Plan in these three communes – and in the rest of the territory. Again, remember that this plan not only provides a generous amount of self-management latitude for the Serbian population: it also includes direct links to Serbian communes and institutions.
The Ahtisaari Plan also provides ample measures to cater for any Serbs who have real difficulties as regards their rights and well-being in Kosovo. The experience over the past few months, however, unfortunately shows what certain Serbian leaders in Kosovo (S. Petrovic, R. Nojkic, R. Trajkovic, etc.) have said: that the challenge in this area, for certain political circles in Belgrade, is to use it to put spokes in the wheel for Kosovo’s institutions to stumble and then emerge as the referees for our country. The same circles are playing a similar political game in Bosnia, using the Serbian Republic’s status.

T.D.L.: What initiatives could help you to overcome your country’s painful past and cement reconciliation between Kosovars and Serbs ?

Some initiatives involving civil-society associations in Kosovo and Serbia have been up and running for over a decade. They are working to promote cultural exchanges, and to find out about missing and displaced people and war crimes. This will cast light on what caused the war and on exactly who was responsible for what.
I would like to dwell on the political alternative for Kosovo tabled by Serbian intellectual and political personalities (including C. Jovanovic, V. Pesic, S. Biserko, etc.) and associations such as the Helsinki Committee for Serbia or the Humanitarian Law Fund. In their view, recognising Kosovo’s independence, after that of other federal entities, requires prior admission of the Serbian State’s responsibility as regards crimes committed in Kosovo. It is denying this responsibility, in their view, what is preventing leaders today from advancing towards recognising its independence.
Other personalities, such as former Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Vuk Draskovic, and former Serbian Ambassador to France Mr Predrag Simic, are a bit more demanding: even without going as far as formally recognising Kosovo, they are making a case for developing constructive relations in order to turn the corner from the past and work to set the Ahtissaari Plan in motion. This plan, as you know, was devised by the international community to provide the right framework to integrate and protect the Serbian minority. They are also asking authorities to drop the hurdles preventing Kosovar delegations from taking part in a variety of international meetings.
The Serbian leaders in Kosovo are asking for the same things. The top EU leaders are asking for the same things. The EU has actually clearly stated that regional cooperation and good neighbourliness are two sine-qua-nons for the Western Balkan countries’ European prospects.
To move on from our painful past, we would have to open the door to constructive relations and communication based on mutual respect. And this involves acknowledging that the partner we want to establish fruitful ties with exists. And this is not simply an ethical demand: it is a pragmatic need and at the core of the populations’ vital interests. Easing the deadlocks means opening up communication channels in several fields and at several levels.
I don’t need to remind you that the history of relations between the Albanians of Kosovo and the Serbs (in Kosovo and Serbia) is not only riddled with conflict and hatred. We can look back on many experiences of constructive coexistence. In Kosovo, for example, we have had bilingual (Albanian and Serbian) literary and scientific reviews, mixed cultural and sports associations, and joint political and educational institutions (from 1968 to 1989). These experiences can provide a stepping stone to build new options to live side by side with the Serbians of Kosovo and good neighbourliness ties with Serbia. The point is to stop wasting our energy on obstructive policies to smooth the road to developing relations that make sense.

T.D.L.: Your country and Serbia resumed talks in Brussels on 2 September 2011 under the EU’s patronage. Now that Belgrade has acknowledged Kosovo’s customs stamps, in what other areas can you start building bilateral exchanges? Where can you see room for manoeuvre to normalise relations between your two countries ?

After the agreements on civil registries, recognising school degrees and the free circulation of people between the two States (provided they show proof of identity), we have to move forward on several fronts including telecommunications, land registries and missing people. Then, we can gradually open up more and more room to move towards normal relations by establishing good will and replacing the will to dominate with a desire to cooperate.
Remember that the war in Kosovo ended 12 years ago. President Nicolas Sarkozy has suggested the French-German model to cement normal relations between Kosovo and Serbia several times. It is the spirit of good will, which is simply based on pragmatic agendas and mutual interests, what will open up the prospect of exchanges in the economic as well as cultural and sports realms. We also have to allow entrepreneurs in every business field to travel freely and unencumbered by political issues between these two countries. And, at the end of the day, that is a condition that the EU has established for the countries that want to become members.

T.D.L.: The fresh upsurge of tension in the north of Kosovo in the summer of 2011 cast light on the essential role that the NATO mission, the KFOR, is playing in efforts to maintain stability. What is your view on its decision to gradually disengage and on whether Kosovo’s authorities will be able to take over? And, more generally, where can you see the closer ties between your country and NATO structures materialising?

NATO played an essential role in efforts to bring peace to the Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular. And it is still, as the recent tension showed, a stabilising factor. The positive developments, however, have led NATO to gradually cut back its ranks there from 40,000 to 6,200 soldiers.
The Government of Kosovo is ready to – gradually and with NATO’s help – take over the country’s defence and security. Our Defence Minister’s objective is to transform the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into Kosovo’s Army. NATO trained the KSF’s troops. And one of Kosovo’s aims – along with Croatia and Albania – is to join the Atlantic Alliance.
Lastly, I would like to convey our Defence Minister Mr Agim Ceku’s request to French authorities to allow KSF special units to take part in civilian and humanitarian efforts alongside French troops in various parts of the world.

T.D.L.: Your country has signed the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and is in a central position in the Balkans. What opportunities has building a motorway connecting your country to Albania opened up to harness that geo-economic advantage? How much progress have you made stepping up exchanges with other countries in the region?

Building the Merdare-Vêrmicê motorway connecting Kosovo and Albania, and connecting it to the Adriatic Sea, is a very important step towards developing our economy. And it is also an advantage for Serbian businesses and tourists. It is a momentous development for the region. We have made considerable progress intensifying economic exchanges – not only with Albania but also with Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Greece.
The European Commission is also providing financial support for Kosovo to take part in the cross-border programmes we are running with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania under the IAP (International Action for Peace). It has also been supporting the joint programmes we have been working on with Montenegro since 2011. And, beyond economic ties, we are also busy developing good neighbourliness with all these countries.

T.D.L.: Kosovo has been working very hard to cement its position as a sovereign State on the international scene since its independence. What is your angle on the challenges awaiting Kosovo’s diplomacy? Beyond your existing partnerships with the EU and US, what emerging countries are you looking at to team up with?

Kosovo’s young diplomacy has many challenges to rise to, even though the main goal is to secure further recognition of our independence. I would like to say that Kosovo’s people expect a lot from their Foreign Affairs Ministry and its diplomatic network.
The move to open diplomatic missions in 20 countries (in particular in the EU, US, Turkey, Canada, Japan and Saudi Arabia) only a year after the declaration of independence shows that Kosovo had a deep-seated need to emerge from the isolation it had been subjected to from the outside. Declaring independence was not the goal: our aim to join the EU and Euro-Atlantic organisation came hand in hand with an aim to establish political, economic and cultural ties with all the other States around the world, in Africa, Asia and Latin America. More than 80 countries on various continents have recognised us. We have joined the IMF and World Bank backed by many countries including France. 
Our problems have to do with threats on the part of a permanent member of the Security Council to veto the decision. We are trying to analyse and understand the reasons for the misgivings over recognising our independence in certain countries. In some cases, it can be due to the long distances between us and an incomplete understanding of the circumstances that led to former Yugoslavia’s disintegration. On other cases, it is the projection of certain problems with specific minorities within a State or in neighbouring countries. We try to explain that the situation is much closer to that in other Yugoslav Federation entities than people usually believe. Moreover, the ICJ has clearly explained what put Kosovo in a class of its own. We believe that its view should clear up the uncertainty over fulfilling international law in our case.
I would like to add that our diplomatic efforts involve using three definitions of the word recognition. We are talking to diplomats in various countries and asking them to recognise our country and the fact that out people have a right to live freely and build political, economic and cultural ties, and a right to take part in international organisations. Once they have recognised that, we try to recognise them, i.e. “formally reward” their gesture. Lastly, when we exchange and work together, we learn to get to know them, i.e. recognise who they are and overcome our mutual misconceptions.

T.D.L.: France was one of the first countries to back Kosovo’s independence and one of the first to recognise it. What are you expecting from France for your EU integration process? What did you talk about when Kosovo’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Enver Hoxhaj visited France on 31 August 2011 to deepen cooperation ties between both countries? What concrete projects could channel this shared drive?

France indeed played a pivotal role. First of all, it understood the complexity of the issues in Kosovo. Then, its, political measures and military action successfully put an end to an atrocious war. Lastly, it contributed to rebuilding and developing the country and its institutions.
I believe that France’s involvement was not geared against the Serbian people’s interests but against a domination policy. The French people who visit Kosovo can sense the deep-seated gratitude towards France. The French political system’s republican model is also very well known and respected in our country. Kosovars are indeed often proud to say that a secular republic is the best way to go to establish relations between the State and religious institutions, and between political and religious circles, and that it is the best way to go to guaranteed that the various religious communities’ rights will be respected.
During his latest two meetings with this French counterpart Mr Alain Juppé in Paris (in May and August 2011), our Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Hoxhaj made it clear that Kosovo is keen on deepening the many ties it has established with France through several bilateral agreements and conventions. He has also asked for France’s support in efforts to cement our European prospects, in particular by liberalising visa schemes and building business ties with the EU.
You can also see that ties between our two countries are livening up in the official visits to Paris in mi-October by Kosovo’s Public Administration Minister Mr Jagcilar, European Integration Minister Ms Vlora Citaku and Interior Minister Mr Bajram Rexhepi. We are looking forward to welcoming their French opposite numbers in Kosovo soon.    

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