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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Kosovo's European Future
Dinner marking the end of supervised independence, Pristina, Kosovo
10 September 2012
Madam President, Prime Minister, Ministers, President Ahtisaari, Ambassadors, dear Pieter.
I am delighted to be with you tonight to mark the opening of a new chapter in Kosovo*'s history.
Madam President, Prime Minister – I congratulate you on Kosovo's achievements over the past years. I would like to add my personal thanks to Pieter and his team, who have worked to support you. And my special thanks this evening go to Marti Ahtisaari, without whom Kosovo would not be the same place today. I would also like to thank our American friends and partners for their cooperation and support throughout several years now. And to appreciate the role of all other friends of Kosovo, big and small.
I am here tonight to applaud your achievements and to encourage you to go further in building a stable, democratic, prosperous, and multi-ethnic Kosovo.
Kosovo has chosen the path of reform that will lead to the European Union. And I am here to send a strong message of support from the European Union. As you take on these new challenges, we will also step up our work to support you.
Pieter and his team have done a great job. Samuel, as EU Special Representative and Head of the EU Office, is here to ensure that you have our full support for your European path and for the challenges ahead. My presence here tonight demonstrates our commitment. From now on, there will be more, not less, European Union in Kosovo. We are committed to support your efforts and we are determined to play an even more prominent role than we did so far.
Let me now outline a vision for Kosovo
The European Union has given a clear European perspective to the whole of the Western Balkans, including Kosovo. Next year, Croatia will join as the 28th Member State of the European Union. This confirms our policy: when there is a strong consensus within society to push through the hard but necessary reforms, the European Union keeps its commitments. It also confirms that the road to enlargement facilitates reconciliation and helps to resolve the remaining challenges of the region.
The International Civilian Office has been supporting your efforts to build a Kosovo for all citizens. I would like to underline my deep respect and recognition for the commitment of all those Albanians, Serbs, and the people of Kosovo's many other communities, who are helping to build a Kosovo for all. It is only when all communities work together and engage in the democratic process that a new Kosovo can be built for the benefit of all its citizens.
We know that there are still challenges in this regard in the north of Kosovo. The European Union is ready to support all parties to address these concerns and to find a way forward through dialogue. The European Union was built out of a determination to strengthen ties between peoples so that conflict becomes unthinkable. You have set Kosovo's course to join the European Union. It is this framework, a framework of European integration, which allows you to address your disagreements in a constructive, and indeed forward-looking manner. To achieve success, it is key that the leaders of all Kosovo's communities work together to build a shared vision and a common future.
In this spirit, I urge all people in Kosovo to come together and unite to ensure that Kosovo continues to engage constructively with Serbia so that both Kosovo and Serbia can advance on their chosen paths to the European Union.
Let me put it simply - Kosovo is already on its European path:
Kosovo has made great strides on its path to the European Union, especially this year. In January 2012, the visa dialogue began. In June, Commissioner Malmström handed over the roadmap. We have already received your first report. I know you are working hard to tackle the challenges outlined in the visa roadmap.
In July, we successfully completed the third cycle of meetings under the Stabilisation and Association Dialogue. This process, launched only three years ago, is now running smoothly and is a valuable tool.
I am confident that we will soon be able to move ahead with our proposal to have Kosovo participate in European Union programmes.
And of course, we will soon publish our Feasibility Study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. This is a major step forwards for Kosovo on its path to the European Union.
You need to ensure that we maintain this momentum. During my visit here last March, I highlighted five areas where Kosovo will need to step up its reform efforts: the rule of law, electoral reform, public administration reform, the integration of all communities, and trade.
The pace of Kosovo's progress towards European integration does not depend on the European Union – neither on the European Commission, nor on our Member States. It depends exclusively on your hard work on reforms, and equally as much on the ability of all political parties to build a strong consensus around the European idea. Such a consensus is sorely missing today. As past enlargements have shown, the countries with the strongest commitment to joining the European Union are the most effective in driving reforms forward. And these countries make the fastest progress on their road to the European Union.
Let me finish with a short comment on the future.
Looking ahead, we count on you to reach out to all communities and to build a Kosovo, which has a common vision of its future in the European Union.
I call on the leaders of all communities to support the hard, but necessary, reforms. You have taken your first important steps on this challenging journey. You now need to continue, with vision, courage and constructive engagement.
I am confident that you can deliver this for Kosovo. We are at your side and will support you every step of the way.
Today you close an important chapter. And you are opening a new one that is even more important. I look forward to joining you for a similar dinner in the future to mark Kosovo's membership of the European Union, for this is the destiny that lies at the end of our common journey over the years to come.
This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.