Enver Hoxhaj graduated in 1993 from the Faculty of History at the University of Pristina. He has also studied in several Western European universities. In 2006, he was appointed Associate Professor in Philosophy Faculty at the University of Pristina. He was appointed foreign minister on 22 February 2011.
He was speaking to EurActiv Slovakia’s Editor in Chief Zuzana Gabrižová.
Do you perceive the recent Agreement on normalisation of relations with Serbia as a victory for Kosovo?
The Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia that outlines the guiding principles for the normalization of inter-state relations is a victory for both countries. It is a victory of our European future above the bitter past and an opportunity for inter-state political reconciliation and persuasion of good neighbourly relations. Notwithstanding this, the Agreement is a victory that preserves Kosovo’s institutional, legal, and administrative unity and functionality, as Serbia has accepted Kosovo’s political system and constitutional order.
This is crucial for a prosperous multi-ethnic Kosovo, it is in the interest of Serb community in Kosovo, as well as in the interest of Serbia who is aspiring a European future. In the process of the Europeanisation of the Balkans, and in this regard of Kosovo and Serbia, there are no single victors and losers, but such arrangements that ensure the resolution of inter-state outstanding issues in such a manner that ensure sustainable, mutual acceptance, and pragmatism.
The sentiments in Kosovo won’t probably change any fast, how do you plan to address the discontented of the Serbs in the North of Kosovo with this deal?
We are confident that the Agreement provides for Serbs in the north of Kosovo the best arrangement to fulfil their political and socio-economic rights and needs. The Agreement enables them to finally have functional, democratic and legitimate local authorities that is planned to be established through local elections in the fall 2013 with the facilitation of OSCE.
The Agreement enables Serb population to enjoy their political liberties and economic benefits it generates by the removal of Serb parallel structures in the north that have bred organized crime, controlled politically the political and socio-economic life, who have bred criminality and economic informality in the expense of local Serb population. To this contribute also the integrated border management between Kosovo and Serbia, which enables the freedom of movement and the inter-state security across the border line. Finally, the agreement will enable Serbs in the north to integrate to Kosovo’s social life and have the opportunity to live a normal and prosperous life as Serbs in the rest of Kosovo, in the newly formed municipalities where they enjoyed extensive local self-government.
Kosovo government is ready to undertake all the institutional and political measures to ensure the smooth, timely, and sustainable implementation of the agreement. We have agreed to establish a special developmental fund for the north of Kosovo, which will greatly contribute to the socio-economic development of the region.
The Agreements stipulates, for example, that the Police in Northern Kosovo should be integrated into Kosovo Police Framework. Are there any further guarantees or signs that all of the parallel structures controlled by Belgrade will be dismantled?
The Agreement explicitly defines that Kosovo will operate with a single police and courts structure, which aims to preserve the functionality of Kosovo’s institutions. This means that all existing Serb parallel structures should be dismantled and undergone an integration process into Kosovo’s institutional framework. Some of the other Serb parallel administrative structures effectively started to be dissolved even earlier as part of the implementation of the technical agreements reach between Kosovo and Serbia.
The dismantling of Serb parallel structures will not effect the life and wellbeing of Serb population in the north, nor leave any institutional vacuum, as there Kosovo government with the support of EU will install democratic institutions which will have local democratic legitimacy and acceptance, will reflect local representation, and will ensure that local needs and interests are taken into account throughout the process.
Some observers claim the deal will just cement the status quo in Kosovo and further divide your population along ethnic lines. Doesn’t the deal mean that you have resigned on building your country on a civil principle rather than ethnic?
The actual fact is that the Agreement puts an end to the 14 years of status quo in the north of Kosovo, an end to 14 years of lack of effective, democratic governance in the north of Kosovo, and an end to 14 years of institutional parallelism which has obstructed the integration and participation of Serb population in the north of Kosovo into the entire social and political process of Kosovo.
The fact that the Agreement preserves Kosovo’s institutional, political, and legal unity and functionality means that any tendency for social division on ethnic or territorial lines is avoid once and forever, and effectively a common and integrated society is preserved in Kosovo, which is for the good of peace, stability, and European future. The Agreement provides that all the arrangement with regard the Association of Serb municipalities, police and court arrangements, and the local elections ensure the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo. The arrangements in the Agreement are in line with Kosovo Constitution, which is founded on the principle of multi-ethnicity, democracy, and secularism.
Do you expect the EU-brokered deal will change the position of EU “non-recognisers” of Kosovo, such as Slovakia?
The Agreement provides that neither Kosovo nor Serbia will block each other, or encourage other countries to block each another’s path to EU integration. This obviously is a significant move to open the prospects for the recognition of Kosovo by five remaining non-recognizing EU member states. In addition, the successful dialogue and the subsequent agreement is a strong argument that Kosovo and Serbia have moved ahead in normalizing their inter-state relations, and as such there is no reason why these countries won’t recognize Kosovo.
Further to this, it is evident that Serbia has accepted Kosovo’s constitutional and legal system, as well as has accepted Kosovo’s institutional authority. This is a significant argument that the five remaining non-recognizing EU member states should seriously revise their decisions and take courageous step and accept Kosovo’s independence and contribute to Kosovo’s and region’s European future, contribute to peace and stability and common future in Europe.
How was your government satisfied with the EU mediation in this case?
We strongly command the leadership, flexibility, and commitment of High Representative Ashton. We think she has done a great job and she deserves important credits for the successful closure of the dialogue and the initialling of the Agreements by the Prime Ministers of Kosovo and Serbia. Obviously, the successful dialogue will strengthen EU international ‘actorness’, it will also resonate positively on the EU foreign policy commitment to peace, inter-state resolution of disputes, and promotion of normative and pragmatic agenda.
The Agreement says neither side will block the progress of the other on their respective EU path. What about other international forums like the UN?
As this is the first agreement we expect that in the process of normalizing our inter-state relations with Serbia and implementing effectively the agreement, we will be able to remove the obstacles for admission in the United Nations and other regional and international bodies. However, we can not talk about full normalization of relations with Serbia until Kosovo gains full membership in the United Nations and Serbia recognized Kosovo’s independence.
Notwithstanding this, Kosovo will continue its quest for completing international recognition and full membership in international organizations. So far we have been recognised by nearly 100 UN member states, and also we have joined important international financial institutions such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Regional Cooperation Council. Kosovo’s independence and recognition is irreversible, and sooner universal recognition of Kosovo is better for Kosovo, regional and entire world of free and peace-loving nations.
What is your idea on the further presence of the international peacekeeping and rule of law missions in Kosovo?
The presence of KFOR (NATO) and the EU Rule of Law in Kosovo (EULEX) is crucial for ensuring the successful implementation of the Agreement in the north of Kosovo. The EULEX mandate is extended until 2014, while the mandate of KFOR remains open demanding on the situation on the ground. Their presence does not affect the functioning of democratic institution sin Kosovo, nor its ability to exercise its sovereignty within Kosovo.
Moreover, it is important to highlight that Kosovo has created effective law enforcement agencies, who are able to ensure public safety, effective enforcement of laws, and secure the borders. Equally, we have been able to strengthen the institutional framework for the rule of law, justice, and independent public administration. These arguments have been confirmed and highlighted by the April 2013 European Commission report on Kosovo.