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A delegation of the European Parliament (MEP), headed by Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Mr. David McAllister (EPP, DE), visited Kosovo between 28 February and 2 March 2019. Mr. McAllister addressed media at the end of the visit. Here are his opening remarks:
My name is David McAllister, I am a Member of the European Parliament from Germany and I have the honour of chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee. This week, 6 Members of the European Parliament, representing 5 largest political groups in Parliament visited Serbia and Kosovo. At the same time, another delegation from the European Parliament went to Albania and North Macedonia - these are our last missions outside the EU before the European elections and we have chosen the Western Balkans as our priority.
We are very happy to be in Pristina today. We arrived on Thursday evening in your country. Together with Mr Elmar Brok (EPP), Ms Neena Gill (S&D) and the Rapporteur for Kosovo, Mr Igor Soltes (Greens), we have met with Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj, Minister of Justice Abelard Tahiri, Minister for European Integration Dhurata Hoxha, Speaker Kadri Veseli, Members of Parliament that chair parliamentary Committees and Members that represent both coalition and opposition parties, including parliamentarians from the Srpska Lista.
We also met with civil society representatives, as well as a number of students from the University of Pristina who shared their hopes and concerns for Kosovo’s European future.
Let me start with Kosovo’s reform agenda. We are very happy to see the progress made in passing reforms in the field of the Rule of Law - with for instance a revised Criminal Code and the Law on Confiscation of Assets - as well as on public administration reform. This is about fighting corruption and organised crime.
This is about modernising the Kosovar institutions, notably the Judiciary. However, passing legislation is not enough: implementation is key. And other sectors also need attention - let me refer, for example, to education, employment and the environment.
The European Union is supporting Kosovo in all reform areas and is providing 100 million euros every year to Kosovo. Let me stress this - Kosovo is the place where we, the EU, spends the most money per inhabitant, after Palestine.
We invest in areas such as education, the energy sector, the environment – including air quality! - infrastructures, the economy and many more. And the EU provide expertise in all these fields - but also the police, the judiciary, and rule of law. All this shows the EU has invested a lot - and is still investing today - in the future of Kosovo.
European integration cannot be complete without all states of the Western Balkans in the EU. But let me be clear - neither Kosovo nor Serbia will join the EU without a comprehensive and legally binding agreement which addresses all outstanding issues. And there are many - rights of minorities, property issues, missing people, return and resettlement of refugees and still more.
But to solve these issues, we need to relaunch the dialogue. We have a small window of opportunity this year, with no regular elections in Kosovo and Serbia and a dedicated High Representative, Ms Mogherini, working hard on this matter and, let me stress, in full impartiality. The EU is a facilitator in this dialogue, we are not pushing for any scenario, we just want Kosovo and Serbia to reach an agreement.
So this week, we have repeated what has already been said by many friends of Kosovo. The customs tariffs need to be suspended. We strongly recommend to resume the dialogue, to solve all issues with Serbia and get on the EU accession track. We recommend this because we want the dialogue to succeed.
On visa liberalisation. The European Parliament believes that “the benchmarks for visa liberalisation have been fulfilled” and that “it is vital to grant visa liberalisation to Kosovo without undue delay”. This is a position that was adopted by a large majority in the European Parliament.
Indeed, Kosovo has fulfilled all 95 benchmarks that were set for this liberalisation. So the European Parliament agrees but, to convince the Members States that are hesitant, Kosovo should continue building confidence, including in the area of the Rule of Law.
Much has still to be done. With courageous but necessary political decisions (notably on the dialogue) and with EU support, I do see a European future for Kosovo.
Thank you very much.