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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Hashim Thaçi, Prime Minister of Kosovo
19 February 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start by welcoming Prime Minister Thaçi to Brussels.
Prime Minister Thaçi's visit is proof that Kosovo is realizing its European perspective, and that it is engaging constructively on the key issues that will determine its European future and the well-being of all citizens. And I want to say: Kosovo is making progress, step by step!
During our very good and open discussions today, I have emphasized that now is the moment to make that progress decisive and to accelerate the pace of reforms. This may be a crucial year for EU-Kosovo relations. As pointed out by the Council, 2013 could see a decision on opening negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement – if the required progress is made.
This is a crucial week in this important year, and we all look forward to Prime Minister Thaçi's meeting with Prime Minister Dačić of Serbia in the fifth round of the Dialogue. We hope that it will take place in the same constructive spirit as their previous meetings.
The results of the Dialogue are critically important for EU relations with both Kosovo and Serbia. I wished the Prime Minister courage and wisdom for the days ahead. He has an opportunity on his hands to make a big step to the next stage on Kosovo’s European path.
We have also discussed progress with respect to a future Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The European Commission is committed to issuing negotiating directives for such an Agreement with Kosovo this spring - provided Kosovo makes further essential progress on the remaining priorities identified in last year’s Feasibility Study.
Substantial progress has already been made on public administration reform, the protection of minorities and the Rule of Law. And I understand Kosovo has committed itself to addressing the fourth priority (trade) by mid-March.
Finally, we also discussed the issue of visas, which I know is a key concern for many in Kosovo. The Commission presented a first report on Kosovo's progress towards visa liberalisation last week. We are satisfied with progress on legislation. But Kosovo needs to do more on implementation, and we have issued detailed recommendations to that effect. These are meant to be helpful, and we look forward to working with Kosovo on these in the next few months.
To conclude: on our suggestion, the Council set an ambitious agenda for EU relations with Kosovo. This week and the next months will be critical in realizing these ambitions. Prime Minister, I am sure you will continue to show leadership and vision to seize this opportunity.