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Pristina/ Brussels, 19 March 2013
Statement of European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle to the members of the Foreign Affairs and European Integration committees of the Kosovo* Assembly
Members of the Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for your invitation to address you here today.
As I stated in my intervention at the National Council on European Integration just now, we are living historic times in our relationship with Kosovo. As you all know, the Council Conclusions of December last year have set an ambitious agenda.
The purpose of my visit today is to mark the progress Kosovo has made in meeting the short term priorities in our Feasibility Study of last October. You will remember that these priorities concern the Rule of Law, Public Administration Reform, Protection of Minorities and Trade. When Kosovo delivers, we will deliver. When I am satisfied that the priorities have been met, I will propose to put forward a negotiating mandate for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo, to the European Union Member States.
Our joint efforts towards a Stabilisation and Association Agreement are concrete evidence of the progress Kosovo has made in its relations with the European Union since last autumn. It is important to emphasise that this progress is the result of Kosovo's hard work, both in terms of moving forward with its European Union-reform agenda and in its relations with Serbia.
It is essential Kosovo maintains the pace and builds on this extraordinary progress. It is on this record that Member States will decide in June on the next steps.
In this context, you all know that tomorrow will be an important day, both for Kosovo and for the region as a whole. Cathy Ashton was here and in Belgrade last week to support the two Prime Ministers in their difficult task. I am also here to lend a hand. Kosovo has worked very hard since last October to get to this moment, and tomorrow presents an opportunity not to be missed. But you need to unite behind these efforts; the support of all in Kosovo, and in particular of this Assembly is necessary. The interests of the country and its citizens demand it. These interests should transcend the political affiliations and loyalties of its individual members.
It is important Kosovo stays the course and continues its European Union-reform agenda. The Assembly has a key role to play here. I know that its members understand this. I was therefore pleased to learn that the Assembly recently adopted the government's Action Plan for the Negotiations of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. But the role of the Assembly goes further.
In our Feasibility Study, we highlighted electoral reform and the Assembly as a priority area. We emphasised the need to ensure that the legal framework for elections reflect best practice in the European Union and that implementation is in line with international standards.
We called for the Assembly to enhance its oversight of the executive, including of the security sector, through improved scrutiny of legislation and monitoring of implementation of policies and laws. Let me highlight three elements that I consider essential in this regard:
First, it is essential the Assembly plays its full constitutional role. It needs to supervise the executive and take corrective action where required. However, this does not necessarily mean it will have to work against the government. Quite to the contrary, irrespective of party affiliations, members of the Assembly need to work with the government in ensuring that legislation adopted reflects the best standards available, making full use of the advice that is at hand here, notably from the European Commission and EULEX.
Allow me to underline the importance of this with an example. Visa liberalisation is a key priority for Kosovo citizens. In our recent visa-related recommendations we included suggestions for new legislation and modifications to existing laws. The Assembly should ensure these feature on the statute book as soon as possible, and that they reflect European Union advice. We always emphasise quality over speed, but draft legislation should not be held up unduly. The European Union provides consolidated advice on draft laws at government level, but the Assembly and its committees should best take this into account.
Second, the Assembly needs to adhere to its role vis-à-vis the judiciary. The Assembly supervises the executive and acts as a law maker. The Assembly decides on laws, but their application and implementation is for other institutions. Your constitution is built on this separation of powers. Members of the Assembly should not be mobilised to annul rulings made by judges. The Assembly is not a body of judicial appeal.
For my third and final point I want to appeal for progress on electoral reform. This is long overdue. It is high time to adopt proposals that should simplify procedures, increase transparency and ensure proper supervision of the electoral process. We all know that Kosovo citizens will return to the ballot boxes soon, first for local and then for general elections. It is essential they meet the highest standards available. Making sure that they do is your collective duty.
Members of the Assembly,
We are embarking on a new stage of our common journey. Kosovo can make qualitative progress in its relations with Europe over the next few days and weeks. This is a common effort. You will have a key role to play. I look forward to your continued good cooperation.
Thank you very much for your attention.