PHOTO: MARIN LUDOVIC/AFP
Prishtina, 26 June 2021
Prime Minister Albin Kurti, in his first official visit to Paris, where he was hosted by the President of the Republic of France, Emmanuel Macron, gave an interview to the largest French newspaper “Le Monde”. In the interview, Prime Minister Kurti stressed that his diplomatic priority is to gain recognition from Serbia, something that Belgrade has repeatedly refused.
Following is the full interview of Prime Minister Kurti given to the journalist Rémy Ourdan of “Le Monde”
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti made his first visit to France on Wednesday 23 June. Mr. Kurti is a former activist of the political wing of the Kosovar guerrilla, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who was detained in Serbia for two years. He then created the Vetëvendosje (Self-Determination) movement, with a revolutionary program, and he became a staunch opponent of successive “governments of the KLA commanders”. Albin Kurti presents himself today as a social democrat, and was elected on a program to fight unemployment, corruption and organized crime. After a brief first stint as prime minister in 2020, his movement clearly won the legislative elections in March, and he returned to the head of government on March 22. Thirteen years after Kosovo’s declaration of independence, its diplomatic priority is to obtain recognition from Serbia, which Belgrade has always refused since the conflict.
“Le Monde”: You have just met for the first time the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, in Brussels. What was your impression?
It is the first meeting, for a future dialogue. It was not easy, but constructive. I insisted on the fact that nothing should be hidden under the carpet, that is to say that the issue of mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia should be approached frankly. We all need this mutual recognition. Mr. Vucic replied that he would never recognize Kosovo. Not accepting the reality on one side, nor the truth on the other side, comes from the same logic. Serbia should now distance itself from the days of [Slobodan] Milosevic, who started with apartheid and ended with genocide in Kosovo. The rulers of Serbia must break with Milosevic’s legacy.
The independence of Kosovo is thirteen years old. We cannot have discussions as before 2008. Since the decision of the International Court of Justice in 2010, which validated the fact that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law, this debate has been closed. I will not discuss the status of Kosovo, it is a settled matter. The only subject today is the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia. Vucic should understand that. However, Vucic still considers Kosovo to be a territory that Serbia must one day reclaim, without any consideration for its people, its citizens. Serbia must face its past, and democratize.
‘Le Monde’: Specifically, how can the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia advance?
In Brussels, I made four proposals. The first is the reciprocity of the rights of Serb and Albanian minorities in each country. The second is a “declaration of peace”, vowing never to attack each other again militarily, especially at a time when Belgrade is buying weapons from Russia; but Vucic immediately refused. The third is for the issue of war missing persons to become a matter of priority. And the fourth is the move towards a regional free trade agreement.
“Le Monde”: Serbia-Kosovo dialogue s taking place under the supervision of the European Union, and by the American side. Since the Trump administration wanted exchanges of territories between Serbia and Kosovo, do you see a diplomatic change since the election of Joe Biden?
The election of President Biden is a very positive signal. First, Joe Biden has become the leader of the Social Democrats in the world, it is a very interesting time. Second, I believe the US administration does not pay much attention to what Mr. Trump had done diplomatically. This absurd story of the exchange of territories is over, we are not talking about it anymore.
“Le Monde”: How was your first meeting with Emmanuel Macron?
We discussed bilateral issues in the fields of security, culture and francophone. For my part, I insist on the issue of visa liberalization for Kosovars: three years after the green light given by the European Union, and while there has been a drastic decline in immigration, Paris remains skeptical. I hope this visit will help overcome the skepticism of the French state. I also insisted on the need for very strong bilateral economic relations with France.
At the diplomatic level, I asked President Macron to link Serbia’s future recognition of Kosovo, also to win a seat for Kosovo at the United Nations, because these two issues, in my opinion, should go together. Mr. Macron asked me what Kosovo is willing to give to Serbia in exchange for recognition, but the real question is: When would Serbia be ready to recognize Kosovo? I believe that we should stop with the tactic of always giving more to Serbia, never being satisfied with the exchange.