February 22 (Petar Kadrev of BTA) – Jobs, justice and the coronavirus pandemic will be the top priorities of Kosovo’s new government, Albin Kurti, whose Self-Determination Movement won a landslide in parliamentary elections in Kosovo last week, told this special correspondent in an exclusive interview for BTA. Of bilateral relations, he said that Bulgaria and Kosovo share common goals and future and that his country believes it can learn a lot from Bulgaria when it comes to EU integration.
“Our government will apply for [EU] candidate status, and I hope to work closely with Bulgaria both when it comes to EU integration and when it comes to bilateral relations, because I think in terms of economic and cultural cooperation, we can share and exchange much more than we do. We belong to Southeast Europe, we have common history, and I also believe we share common goals and future,” said the Kosovar politician.
He believes that Kosovo’s integration into the EU is making rather slow progress: it still doesn’t have visa liberalization even though it has fulfilled all criteria, and there still are five non-recognizers: Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Cyprus. “I plan to work with these countries to convince them that they should not fear the independence of Kosovo being recognized by them and they should not compare themselves with Serbia, which committed genocide in the spring of 1999 in Kosovo,” said Kurti.
The six Western Balkan countries which are not part of the EU are not simply a neighbour of the EU, and all six of them should be included as soon as possible, he argued. “The Balkans and the EU are very important for each other,” Kurti added.
He is adamant that his party already has a coalition with acting Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani and sees no other party from the old guard as future government partners. In order to achieve a majority in the legislature, they plan to win over MPs from non-Serb minorities and perhaps a few MPs from the opposition “who simply would like to represent the people who voted for them rather than the parties they belong to”.
The Self-Determination leader believes that people in Kosovo, regardless of region, age or nationality, agree that jobs and justice are the two most pressing issues. “Therefore, we plan to have investments in order to increase employment, especially among youths and women and, on the other hand, we plan to fight corruption and crime, and bring rule of law. And get a development bank to lower interest rates and increase grace periods so we have more investments, more employment, more production, more export, less import and, in this way, get out of this multiple crises,” Kurti said.
Asked about his perspective on the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, he said he has noticed that in every public opinion poll, local or international, dialogue with Serbia is Priority Number 6 or 7. “We are going to make a concession and render it Priority Number 4 after jobs, justice and Covid-19.”
He plans to open a new chapter with Serbia “by having an honest and sincere dialogue based on reciprocity and equality”. He wants to check out both the previous agreements, some of which are implemented partially, some fully, some not at all, and the dialogue under Brussels’ auspices.
“It is not going to be easy but I hope we are going to come up with new dialogue under the auspices of Brussels and with the help of the US. We want to have the former transactional approach of former President Trump transformed into a trans-Atlantic form, bearing in mind that the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia must normalize Serbia and likewise Kosovo. We need development, and Serbia needs to face its own past: they started four wars in former Yugoslavia, and needs to democratize,”said Kurti. LN