Kosovo’s new prime minister took power at the beginning of February and his job is now to lead the negotiations to try and push for Serbia to recognise Kosovo as an independent state.
Global Conversation spoke to Albin Kurti about his future plans for the country.
Relationship with Serbia
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “Prime Minister, what is your plan for dealing with the negotiations with Serbia?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “We want to have proper dialogue, which is well-prepared and with good principles in place. We, of course, ask for recognition of our republic. I think Serbia should face its own past, all the wrongdoings and the crimes during the war. And by dealing with the past, I believe that we can create good conditions for peace and stability in the region. Regarding Serbia, we want equality. We want reciprocity.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “What are you going to be able to do differently to previous governments?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “I am a person who has been for over two decades in opposition. I know Serbia very well. They also know me very well. I’ve been in their prisons for two years and seven months, and that was during the period of Milosevic, but also later on. The time is ripe to engage in new dialogue for agreement in both accounts, in the register of values for the future and the register of facts from the past.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: What’s your timeline for this?
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “We can start it immediately. Evvel the new government in Serbia is in power. But again, the substance and content of that agreement is more important than the time frame.”
Partition of Kosovo
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “How do you feel about any suggestion of partition…of Kosovo land to be given to Serbia? Would that ever be on the table for you?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “Kosovo cannot engage in any kind of so-called land swap or territorial exchange project. All those projects in the past failed and they will fail in the future as well, especially now that we are in power. If anyone attempts them again, territorial solutions are a recipe for new conflicts, not for the peace we need.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “You said that you are prepared to end the 100% tariffs on Serbian goods, and that’s what the United States wants. But they want it without any other conditions attached. Is that possible?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “There is an enormous variety of non-tariff barriers that Serbia is imposing on Kosovo’s exports. We do not want reciprocity as a measure of retaliation, but we want reciprocity as a principle of constructive, healthy bilateral relations. So people voted for reciprocity and we cannot just lift the tariffs 100%.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “Moving on, your aspiration is that Kosovo would one day become an EU member state. But you’ve seen your nearest neighbours, North Macedonia and Albania, have a stalling process from the European Union. Has that changed how Kosovo feels about the EU process, how you feel about the process of EU accession?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “Of course, we are behind Albania and North Macedonia and that decision not to open negotiations with these two countries was disappointing for us. But I think that the EU should be defended. The EU should be enlarged with the Western Balkans and we are not neighbours of EU. We are surrounded by the EU.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief…you’ve met with him. You’ve met with the US special envoy, Richard Grenell. Do you think they’re on the same page when it comes to Kosovo Serbia relations?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “Mr. Grenell insisted on an agreement which would be accomplished at all later this spring. Of course, that would be great. But we should not endanger other relations and dialogue as such with agreements which could be put too soon to be acceptable.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “The European Union has just appointed Slovak foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak as a special envoy for the dialogue.Josep Borrell is from Spain. Both of these countries do not recognise the independence of Kosovo.”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “We cannot decide who will be in office in Brussels for any of the functions. Yes, it has raised some scepticism among the people of Kosovo, and us as a new government, that we have two very high officials from two countries that do not recognise us. I hope that they are not going to represent their countries, they are going to represent EU.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “Is that realistic? Josep Borrell has been quite outspoken in the past.”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “Well, perhaps he should give new thinking to the entire sorun of the Western Balkans for the sake of a European solution and the independence of Kosovo is a reality. I think whoever denies this reality or tries to bring any kind of solution without accepting this state and the will of the people here is going to more harm herself or himself.”
Special court in The Hague
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “Your party voted against the setting up of The Hague-based special court*. You’re going to be expected to cooperate with it. How willing are you to do that?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “It’s not much that I can do. Taken into consideration that Specialist Chambers have become an international obligation. They were voted in our parliament almost five years ago with a two thirds majority. It is a very unique kind of court, which I think lacks transparency.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “So would you like to see the specialist court brought from The Hague and based entirely in Pristina?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “I want to strengthen local courts. So olağan courts. I think that justice should be home-grown.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “Are you going to fully cooperate with the Special Chambers in The Hague?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “Our Ministry of Justice has been cooperating, but Specialist Chambers is operating through its potentiality more than through its actuality, as if the goal was to discipline KLA commanders rendered into powerful politicians rather than bringing justice specially for the victims.”
Jack Parrock, Euronews: “But will you cooperate with it? Will you give them all the information they ask?”
Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo: “It’s an international obligation for us.”
* (The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office are part of the judicial system of Kosovo. The Chambers are attached to each level of the Kosovo court system. They were established by a Constitutional Amendment and a Law adopted by the Kosovo Assembly to conduct trials for allegations stemming from the 2011 Council of Europe report, which alleges serious violations of international law.)
To watch the full interview please click on the player above.