Zyra e Kryeministrit

Prime Minister Kurti’s interview for El Peridicio newspaper

November 30, 2022

Below you will find the article and interview translated into Albanian by Prime Minister Kurti for the newspaper El Peridicio, published on November 26, 2022.

Unofficial translation

Albin Kurti: “Spain and Catalonia case have nothing to do with that of Serbia and Kosovo”

Sun follows the rain on Prado Boulevard in Madrid, when the Prime Minister of Kosovo passes by in a car, going to a discreet meeting with former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana. In passing, the Balkan politician, 47 years old, looks at Velesquz rays, which are transmitted between branches of trees, and have been declared World Heritage by UNESCO.

He told him that at the end of boulevard, the City Hall has surrounded “Cibeles” square with Ukrainian flags. “I just arrived, and I did not have any chance to see them prior – he says, but it seems to me that Putin cannot find a way out. He needs to lose the war, and together we will help him in this direction”, he ends with irony.

It is the first time that Albin Kurti, the leader of a country that is not recognized by the country he is visiting, is stepping on Spanish soil. He is coming this weekend to Madrid, invited by Socialist International (SI) and, at the same time, to greet Pedro Sánchez.

President of a party with such a significant name (Vetevendosje!), it has not been long since Kurti, as a young activist, sought union with Albania. Today, he faces a conservative position and an administrative apparatus burdened by corruption, against which he has declared war. He is supported by youth, women and large diaspora, which, in order to avoid the problems of local post office, paid 40 euros out of pocket just to send its own vote via DHL to Pristina.

“We participated in SI meetings in Geneva, Tel Aviv, Ramalla, and Brussels. I value my coming here. I have always been drawn to visit Spain”, says Kurti. There was the occasion for a short conversation with Sánchez at the meeting of European socialists in Berlin. Kurti has good relations with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who also has good relations with his Iberian neighbor, and that’s how the first meeting was forged.

El Periodico: According to what I know about you, the desire for independence and social preoccupation are interwoven in Albin Kurti’s figure. Are we dealing with a nationalist or a social democrat?

Prime Minister Kurti: I am a European social democrat, but at the same time I want the state of Kosovo to strengthen more and more. The independence we always wanted was a liberating independence. Not an independence, which would bring hegemony. In Yugoslav federation, we were both the poorest and the most oppressed. Our approach was anti-colonialist.

El Periodico: Do you understand the reasons why Spain has not recognized Kosovo?

Prime Minister Kurti: I regret that Spain is among the minority of EU and NATO countries that do not recognize Kosovo. Out of 30 NATO countries, only 4 do not recognize us, including Spain. While, of EU countries, only 5 do not recognize us, including Spain. But Spain is the biggest country among those that do not know us. I believe that this state ignorance is the result of the real situation ignorance. When we declared our independence, I don’t know which Spanish politician formulated some erroneous analogies regarding Kosovo.

El Periodico: What do you mean?

Prime Minister Kurti: According to what we have been told, at the time there was a concern in Spain that Kosovo’s independence could serve as a precedent for certain Spain regions that wanted to secede. I believe that the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare, while receiving Prince of Asturias award, gave the best argument why Spain should recognize Kosovo: NATO intervened in Kosovo in the spring of 1999 to prevent the genocide committed by Slobodan Milosevic’s regime. And if any Spanish politician sees similarities between Kosovo and Catalonia, or any other part of Spain, Madrid should not see itself as Belgrade. Only in the spring of 1999, over 10,000 unarmed civilians were killed in Kosovo. Over 10% of them were children. Whereas, more than 20,000 women were raped. And 860,000 Albanians were deported from Kosovo. It was proven at Hague Tribunal that it was a premeditated operation, known as Operation Horseshoe. Vetevendosja was a reaction to these events. So I don’t see where analogies or similarities can be found with Spanish regions. In 1979, the time of the highest level of living standards in Yugoslavia, the gap between Slovenia and Kosovo was seven to one. In the same socialist state! Raw materials were extracted from Kosovo, while factories were located in Serbia and other Yugoslavian parts. We were miners and they were financiers.

El Periodico: I assume you followed the events in Catalonia in the fall of 2017. What made you think?

Prime Minister Kurti: What we didn’t like were policemen images hitting citizens. It shouldn’t be like that. It surprised us, because Spain is a democratic country. Even today, Serbia is an autocratic country: the elections are always won by the same party. They killed Đinđić, not in the last century but in this one. Therefore, we did not understand why in a country like Spain these problems are not solved through dialogue, democratically and with EU participation.

El Periodico: Do you still think that way today?

Prime Minister Kurti: The most important thing is that self-determination is democratic and comes from below, not from above. In 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, Russophiles challenged me: “Now that citizens of Crimea are voting to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, why don’t you support them?” For me, it was unacceptable that ballot boxes were brought by soldiers. This was a self-determination remotely controlled from Moscow, so it came from above. In my opinion, within European Union, if there is division, they should follow Czech Republic and Slovakia model.

El Periodico: But, does Catalonia have a right to self-determination?

Prime Minister Kurti: I can’t comment on this issue since I don’t know the situation well enough. However, in my opinion, it should be the result of negotiations between Madrid and Barcelona.

El Periodico: Then we are leaving aside the Catalan obsession…

Prime Minister Kurti: Yes, please!

– El Periodico:…and I’m asking you about this trip. Will this be the embryo of Kosovo’s recognition by Spain?

Prime Minister Kurti: I am open to debate, cooperation and conversation with all those who can help Kosovo’s recognition by Spain, because it is decisive for our entry into EU and NATO. Spain is a decisive factor for us.

El Periodico: Has Pedro Sánchez given you any encouraging signs?

Prime Minister Kurti: Our meeting in Berlin was cordial, but I cannot speak of any concrete progress. The first thing I expect from Pedro Sánchez is to support our integration in Europe Council. After Russia’s exclusion, it’s time for Kosovo to enter! Also support us to become a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. As a preparation, we have increased the military budget to 1.5 of the Gross Domestic Product. We also participated in last year’s “Defender Europe” operation, with 330 soldiers. This is NATO’s largest operation in Eastern Europe, from Baltic to Balkans. We will also be present in the 2023 edition.

El Periodico: Do you remember the young Albin Kurti, who sought union with Albania? Where is this twenty year old now?

Prime Minister Kurti: We have had problems with Serbia as a whole of the Albanian nation for more than a century. Kosovo and Albania are two different states, but not two different nations: same language, same cultural base… Albania is in NATO and we want to join too: also we are in permanent danger because of Serbia and Russia strong relations.

El Periodico: Kosovo Serbs in north use Serbian license plates and this has caused a crisis, that has destabilized your country, but it seems that you are getting closer to a solution. Do you consider that Mr. Borrell has played the right role as EU’s high representative?

Prime Minister Kurti: Perhaps Mr. Borrell has distanced himself a bit from representatives role and the solution proposed by France and Germany. I do not believe that a prime minister shall be asked to deal with technical issues like license plates. And Mr. Borrell should push for a real bilateral agreement with Serbia, instead of dealing with such matters (license plates – translator’s note).

El Periodico: What is the Russian destabilizing role in the preoccupational situation we are seeing in Balkans?

Prime Minister Kurti: Sputnik TV’s regional center for Balkans is in Belgrade. They also have an organization called the Russian Humanitarian Center, in Niš, 160 km from Pristina. This is a cynical label to say that “if NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999 was humanitarian, so is ours”. Now Putin doesn’t stop talking about us. He wants Kosovo to be a failed state. Furthermore, he considers that West interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have been failures and that Kosovo is only a temporary success, that it will also fail. Kosovo’s ever-greater success is disturbing his sleep. We have risen to 17 places on Transparency International’s list thanks to our fight against corruption.

El Periodico: We had an International Tribunal to judge Milosevic and his fellow fighters. Will we have something similar to judge Putin and his people?

Prime Minister Kurti: Yes, there should be such a court. This cannot be left in Ukraine’s hands, and even less in those of Russia.

Last modified: December 1, 2022

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