Delegation of the European Union to Norway

Clear and credible European perspective for the Western Balkans is a strong priority of the Bulgarian Presidency

23/01/2018 - 12:37
Voices and views

The speech of Nataliya Apostolova, Head of the EU Office in Kosovo/EU Special Representative, at the presentation of priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union

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Dear Ambassador Dantchev,

Dear EU Heads of Mission,

Dear media representatives,

Thank you for coming here today. It is an honour for me to present, together with Ambassador Dantchev, the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

As the European Union we speak with one voice. This is the legacy of the Lisbon Treaty: that Europe counts on the world stage only when we speak with a strong and united voice. The EU's effectiveness as an actor is greatly enhanced when the European interest is clearly defined and vigorously defended.

The Presidency plays an important role in the European Union as a driving force on key internal Union competencies in areas like the economy and finance, energy and the environment. On all areas of Union competencies the Presidency helps steer the Union. The Presidency sets the pace and the agenda of our common work on these EU policy areas. This is a crucial time for the European Union, with preparatory talks on the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework already in full swing.

This is also a crucial time for the Kosovo-EU relations. With the upcoming EU's Western Balkans Enlargement Strategy in February, the presentation of the Kosovo Report in April, and the EU Summit on the Western Balkans in May in Sofia, Kosovo has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to European values and present a positive image to the rest of the Europeans.

The Enlargement Strategy is currently in the making. Right now, as we speak, Kosovo has a chance to influence it. How? By doing the right things. Now. Later might be too late. Kosovo must use this unique window of opportunity. It should ratify the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro. This would be a real signal that the Assembly works in the interest of all in Kosovo. The demarcation agreement should be ratified as a matter of national interest to stop the self-isolation of Kosovo and move beyond personal interests of some political circles.

Kosovo is a young democracy. It has made many advances over the past ten years. The change and progress take time though. What is important for the Kosovo people is to have institutions work for the people. And people here still do not trust the institutions. This is why international support is still needed. In judiciary, rule of law and elsewhere.

The EU and the international community were behind Kosovo 19 years ago. They have been behind Kosovo ever since. And no matter what some say, I know that Kosovo people know very well who has been behind them all these years and who continues to be behind them every day.

In the EU, we are friends of Kosovo; we want the international influence to phase out and Kosovo to take over full responsibility for its present and its future. We hope to see this maturity more and more in Kosovo. The initiative to abrogate the Specialist Chambers is not the way to go. An attempt to annul an international commitment is not the way to build institutions. Nor is it a way to strengthen the people's trust in them. I hope the politicians will realise this sooner rather than later.

I am very happy that a clear and credible European perspective for the Western Balkans is a strong priority of the Bulgarian Presidency. This priority focus on the Western Balkans could not be timelier. As President Juncker said in his State of the Union Address last September: "if we want stability in our neighbourhood, then we must maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans."

We, the EU, want Kosovo to succeed. This is why people of EU member states give almost 100 million euro to Kosovo people each year. They want Kosovo to succeed. We stand here for our joint values. The European values we share with the people of Kosovo.

Thank you.

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