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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood
Opening remarks in EP debate on Kosovo
European Parliament, Brussels
Brussels, 28 March 2012
Honourable members of the European Parliament,
I am grateful for your kind invitation to participate in your discussions on Kosovo. I am also grateful for your support for the Commission's work on Kosovo, as confirmed by the report we will debate here today. And I am grateful for the excellent work of your rapporteur, Ms Lunacek, in preparing this well balanced report and in ensuring broad support for it.
I have just returned from Kosovo. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure to attend the very first meeting of Kosovo's Council for European Integration. The Council was set up by Kosovo's President Jahjaga in order to establish a forum for discussion and guidance on Kosovo's path to Europe.
In my speech to the Council for European Integration, I emphasised that it was essential that the Council reflect and be supported by all sides of the political spectrum in Kosovo. The Council needs to build as broad and inclusive a consensus as possible across society. Only with the support and engagement of all political forces and communities will Kosovo be able to make the reform effort required to move towards Europe to a good end. European integration requires the support and commitment of Kosovo's society as a whole. By its very nature, European integration is and needs to be inclusive.
What can we do to support Kosovo on their way towards closer integration? The General Affairs Council of 28 February confirmed the Commission's intention to launch a feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo. This marks the beginning of a new stage in the European Union's relationship with Kosovo.
The Council's endorsement firmly anchors Kosovo in the European Union's policy framework for the Western Balkans. It marks a crucial step towards the establishment of contractual relations with Kosovo.
The objective of the feasibility study is to provide a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Kosovo's readiness to negotiate and eventually implement a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which forms the legal basis of the European Union's relations with countries of the Western Balkans and a stepping stone towards membership. The study will focus on the political, economic and legal aspects of Kosovo's readiness for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. My visit to Kosovo yesterday marked the start of our work.
The launch of the feasibility study was another, additional key element in the European Union's already ambitious agenda for Kosovo. Let me mention some of the key elements of this agenda:
• First, I hope that we will be able to issue the visa liberalisation roadmap for Kosovo later in the spring.
• Second, we will shortly resubmit our proposal for a framework agreement allowing Kosovo to participate in European Union Programmes.
• Third, on 30 May, I will launch the structured dialogue on the rule of law.
• Fourth, we will support Kosovo's bid for membership of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development once Kosovo chooses to submit its application.
• Fifth, we are ready to support an inclusive and long-term agenda for the north of Kosovo.
Let me conclude by re-affirming the European Union's commitment to Kosovo. The last few weeks have shown that these are not just empty words, but that they are backed up by concrete action. The Commission is fully engaged with Kosovo. 2012 should be a year of opportunity.
I trust I can count on Parliament's support to turn this opportunity into reality.
Thank you very much.