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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Address to the National Council on European Integration
National Council on Integration/ Pristina, Kosovo*
19 March 2013
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
President, Members of the National Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Almost a year ago to the day, I was given the honour of speaking to you on the occasion of the inaugural meeting of this important Council. I would like to thank you for giving me a second opportunity to address you today.
The last time we met, I had the pleasure of launching our Feasibility Study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. I marked it as an important step in the development of European Union/Kosovo relations. The Council conclusions of December last year confirmed this. We issued the study in October 2012 and indicated that we would submit negotiating directives for an Agreement once Kosovo has addressed key priorities in the Rule of Law, Public Administration Reform, Protection of Minorities and Trade.
I am glad that a short while ago at the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Kuçi and Minister Çitaku I was be able to say that Kosovo has indeed made good progress on these priorities. Meeting these priorities will be the basis for me to propose the submission of negotiating directives to Council.
The last time we met, I also called on Kosovo to deliver on reforms. And you have made good progress. But you should not stop here, you have to continue delivering. Important reforms take time. The feasibility study included additional recommendations for Kosovo to follow-up on. Kosovo needs to continue its efforts in addressing crucial issues such as the judiciary, electoral reform, the Assembly, and human and fundamental rights. Kosovo will need to show continued progress on these issues for the foreseeable future. But Kosovo also has to deliver on other important issues, all of which are being discussed in the Structured Dialogue on the Rule of Law.
You know what I am referring to. The Council will only take a positive decision on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiating directives if the assessment of Kosovo's participation in its dialogue with Serbia is positive. Tomorrow's seventh meeting between Prime Minister Thaçi and the Prime Minister Dačić will be crucial in this regard.
Both prime ministers have worked extremely hard on the dialogue since October and I commend them for this. Both of them continue to show courage, determination and vision. The issues on the table are complex and highly sensitive, and decisions will be difficult. However, it is essential to continue the good work and bring it to its rightful conclusion. The benefits of an agreement are simply too important to miss. Prime Minister Thaçi cannot do it alone.
In the dialogue with Serbia, support of all responsible leaders in Kosovo, irrespective of their place in the political divide or their views and loyalties on other issues is necessary. An agreement with Serbia requires cross-party support if it is to work. And it must work if Kosovo is to thrive and prosper.
And if Kosovo is to thrive and prosper, the different communities must be able to live with each other in peace. The dialogue tomorrow and Kosovo's further progress in its relationship with Serbia are critically important for your relations with the European Union. They are also critical for the future of the region and the people who live here.
I therefore take this opportunity to appeal to the other participants in this meeting - especially those not in the government - for their support. And I also appeal to those who have chosen not to be here today to join this Council and support its good work. As experience with other countries has shown, further progress towards Europe requires broad national consensus.
Kosovo has made progress, both in the dialogue with Serbia and in the technical preparations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Kosovo should not stop here. We want Kosovo to be ready across the board, so that we can convince our Member States to develop our relationship further. Kosovo needs to continue with the same dynamism, with further credible efforts on the rule of law and the points stressed in the 2012 Feasibility Study. The Commission will continue to support Kosovo in this.
To conclude, let me recall the ambitious agenda for European Union-Kosovo relations set out by the Council last December:
The conclusions also confirmed our rendez-vous in June. I am confident both Kosovo and the European Union will make it. I wish you courage and wisdom.
I thank the President once again for inviting me to speak here today and for providing the opportunity to share with you the important messages the High Representative/Vice President Catherine Ashton and I had for Kosovo. I made the point that the European Commission is keen to make the case that no one should question Kosovo's position in the mainstream of the enlargement.
Thank you very much for your attention.