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President Thaçi [Hashim Thaçi, President of Kosovo],
Thank you very much for your very warm welcome. I am very happy to be here, in Kosovo, and I came here to offer our collaboration to facilitate the Dialogue between you and Serbia. I also came here to ask you for your trust and confidence in order to have a very good cooperation.
I am saying that because, for me, the European Union is not complete without the Balkans. Ending all conflicts and healing the wounds that you and other countries have been suffering is a priority. It is a requirement to ensure stability and security in the whole Europe. We are not doing that just because we love you – despite that we love you-, but because it is in our interest. The stability of the neighbours is the EU stability. The security, prosperity and freedom of any country in Europe is an asset for all of us. We cannot afford anymore to have the Balkans apart, in a critical situation with countries not being good neighbours to each other and pending on the sad days of your history when you were in war and you were suffering casualties and people are still missing as the keys in the corridor [of this building] are reminding us.
I come from a country where I know very well what it means missing people. And I think that my experience, both political and personal, can be of help to facilitate this dialogue. I am going to say also that we are very far away of any kind of intervention in your internal affairs. The Kosovars are free people who decide about their future. They voted, they elected representatives; it is up to them to form a government, not up to us by any means to intervene, to interfere, to show any kind of preferences. We have not done it and we will never do it. It is up to the Kosovars to decide their future, who is going to govern Kosovo. The only thing we would like is that you form a government as quick as possible in order to start working. I am very happy to know that – as President Thaçi explained me - it is going to happen soon and then we can continue – well, not continue, but to restart - our work.
I know that the visa issue is very sensitive and I fully understand it. As frankly as you have been with me, let me tell you that I cannot promise when this visa liberalisation will happen, because it is a decision that has to be taken by the Member States. I can say from my side and from the side of the European Commission - which I am representing, because I am Vice-President of the European Commission - that Kosovo, has met, from a technical point of view, all conditions for visa liberalisation. It is high time to proceed. This is a shared objective and it is long overdue. I know that Kosovars want to travel freely, as any other people in Europe. I insist, I cannot promise, I have not come here to promise, because I cannot, but I can assure you that from the point of view of the European Commission, there is no technical obstacle and this has to be taken into consideration by the Member States when they take their final decision, which I hope will be reconsidered soon.
We, the European Union, have been supporting Kosovo. Let me put some examples. President [Hashim Thaçi], you know very well that more than €1 billion have been invested here by the EU. Others may give nice words, but we give nice words and financial help. On the sector of transportation and infrastructures, we have engaged more than €150 million helping you to improve your infrastructures. Today I am very happy to say that we are going to offer an investment of over €75 million to reduce the emissions of the coal power plant, which is killing people. Frankly, this is a really important issue. You know we are engaged in a Green Deal in Europe. We would like to get rid of the coal, but as far as we have coal, let us – at least - reduce the amount of emissions, because people are suffering. I am very happy that, in the framework of the EU Green Deal, we can provide some help in order to reduce the emissions of this important power generation facility.
I will be very happy to know Kosovo and your people in order to engage, personally, in a process that I hope could be very fruitful for you in order to solve one of the problems that still remains in the geography of Europe and overcome the difficulties of the past.
Thank you for your work.
Q. My first question is: as you may know, the Americans have a plan for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, they made the agreements very quickly in Berlin for the railway between Pristina and Belgrade. Is the European Union an outsider in this whole story? Do you have a plan if the Americans have it? And my second question, if I may. As we all know, Europe has five members who do not recognize the independence of Kosovo. How are you going to work with them and to convince them, maybe, to recognize the state and work in the future with Pristina? Thank you.
Well, ultimately it seems that Americans have lots of plans. They have a plan for everything. They have a plan for the Middle East and they have a plan for Kosovo. The important thing is not to have a plan, but to engage frankly with resources. We have spent more than €1 billion during the last years in Kosovo. In the framework of the infrastructure, as I told you, we are investing €150 million to improve your infrastructure. But I am not competing with the Americans. The US and the EU work hand in hand in many places in the world, here too. There is no problem at all among us. We work together, because there is no difference. We pursue the same interests and the same objectives. We want to solve the problem. And I told the President that there is no rivalry, there is nothing to blame each other. The only thing I want to do is to put in evidence that we are not someone who is missing here. On the contrary, we are very present. Maybe we are not outspoken enough. But in practical terms we are doing a lot. I would not say that we are missing out. Yes, there are five European countries that have not recognised Kosovo and my task is not to convince them to do so. The EU does not recognise countries. I represent the EU, not a single state. Now I am European, acting as a European civil servant, a European political responsible. My duty, my task, my endeavour, my objective is to accompany, to facilitate the negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo because the problem can only be solved by Serbia and Kosovo. It is a negotiation between the two of them and the solution can only come from an agreement between the two of them. There is no other solution. We are not going to impose because we cannot and we do not want, even if we could. What we want to do is to facilitate an agreement and if this agreement is being reached, nobody would be more papal than the pope.
Q. Please can you be more direct, why did you not Richard Grenell [US Ambassador to Germany; US Special Envoy to Kosovo and Serbia] and is Europe on the same line as the US on the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia?
I think I already said that we are here to facilitate the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. I do not see the difference. And why have I not met someone? I just arrived. I think the first thing to do is to visit the President. We are not competing; at least we are not competing. We want to cooperate. We want to work together, we do not have differences. We are not looking for protagonism, we want to be useful and sometimes in order to be useful you have to be discreet.
About the first question, I am not organising the meeting in Zagreb. This meeting is organised by the EU country who has the presidency, now it is Croatia.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/ebs/both/20200130