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Brussels, 01 March 2012

Statement by High Representative/Vice President Catherine Ashton following the meeting with Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaci

«First of all can I say, Prime Minister, what a great pleasure it is to welcome you once again to Brussels. Only a few days ago we saw what I think is an historic agreement reached in the dialogue and of course the launch of a feasibility study for a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Kosovo.

Let me start by paying tribute to you, Prime Minister, just as I did to President Tadic the other day, to your vision and your leadership. I know, because I was involved in all of the details, and you and I had many conversations. I know how much the agreement is due to your leadership and vision - leadership for your country, vision for the future of your country.

Both agreements reached in the last round of the dialogue are about cooperation. The agreement on regional cooperation is a major step - it means that Kosovo will now participate on its own account and will speak for itself in more than 35 different regional fora. Kosovo will also be able to sign agreements for itself. UNMIK has announced already that it will leave these roles to Kosovo.

The second agreement is about cooperative management of the crossing points with Serbia, a country with which only a year ago there were no official contact. So we have come a long way.

We have always said that the aim of the dialogue that we set up is to bring both sides closer to the European Union, to enhance cooperation and improve the lives of ordinary people. This is exactly what we are now seeing.

The history of Europe is one of overcoming historical memories and fears through very practical cooperation. I am very pleased that with this agreement we move forward with Kosovo and with Serbia.

In my discussions today with Prime Minister Thaci I have reiterated the EU's wish to see Kosovo moving even closer to the European Union. We have a rich year ahead of us in EU - Kosovo relations: the feasibility study, the visa dialogue, trade agreement, participation of Kosovo in EU programmes and hopefully EBRD membership.

This will require hard work on both sides and they will require the continuation of cooperation. We are not done yet, but we have reached an important milestone. And as I began - I want to pay enormous tribute to you.»

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