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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Address to the Parliamentary Assembly of Kosovo*
Parliamentary Assembly of Kosovo*/ Pristina, Kosovo
18 July 2013
* Under UNSCR 1244/99
Mr Chairman, Honourable Members of the Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for your invitation today. Last March, I had the privilege and opportunity to address some of you. Back then, we had an ambitious agenda set by the December Council, and we were looking ahead to important decisions to fulfil this ambition.
Today, some four months on, I am delighted to be able to confirm that we have delivered on an ambitious European agenda together, both Kosovo and the European Union. There has been a seismic shift in our relationship within the space of just a few months. Kosovo has concluded a 'First agreement of principles' with Serbia and agreed on an implementation plan to match. And the European Union has agreed to start negotiating a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo.
These developments merit some reflection, a pause for thought, before we move forward together.
Therefore – how has this come about? What has made it happen? Three key factors immediately come to my mind:
We share a vision of Kosovo being part of Europe. It is an inclusive vision. A vision of Kosovo being a place:
We share a vision of a Kosovo that is part of an inclusive region. A vision of Kosovo sharing the same prospects as its neighbours, working hard to overcome similar challenges and that wants to be part of the same solutions. Above all, this is a vision of Kosovo sharing the same destiny as its neighbours.
This is the vision that has guided our work together. Kosovo has played its part by:
We share this vision by supporting Kosovo where we can through financial and technical assistance and with advice, through the mobilisation of all our enlargement tools, including the Structured Dialogue on the Rule of Law and the Stabilisation and Association Process Dialogue.
The second factor I identified was creativity. Without creativity, Kosovo would not have found ways to agree with Serbia on the difficult issues covered by the historic 'First agreement of principles' of 19 April such as:
Without creativity, we would not have proposed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo to our Member States at the end of last year. And we would not have found ways to get an authorisation from the Council to work with you on a robust Stabilisation and Association Agreement that includes provisions on trade, internal market, Justice and Home Affairs, Common Foreign and Security Policy, and a wide range of cooperation policies.
the last of the three factors is courage. Without courage, Kosovo's leadership would not have engaged in the high-level dialogue with Serbia back in October, it would not have been able to find compromises leading to the historic April First Agreement. It would not have agreed on the May implementation plan. And it would not have proposed the April agreement for ratification by this Assembly to have it approved by a two-thirds majority a few weeks ago.
And on our side, the EU had the courage to come up with a mandate for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo while our Member States have different positions on Kosovo status, and some have serious issues regarding European Union and Member State competences.
Therefore: we will continue our work together, guided by our vision, using our creativity and our courage to address the challenges that we face.
We will need you to continue to implement the Dialogue agreements with Serbia and to work on new agreements, to negotiate a Stabilisation and Association Agreement and to implement it, and to make Kosovo a better place to live for all its citizens by moving the reform agenda forward. And we need to work towards the moment when all the countries in the region will be ready to join the European Union.
You, the Assembly of Kosovo, have a key part to play in this. You will need to show vision, creativity and courage to adopt key legislation to ensure that elections meet European standards. The people of Kosovo expect you to do your duty without any further delay.
You also need to have the vision and courage to adopt legislation to make the April agreement work. This includes giving your approval to difficult legislation and processes, such as last week's Amnesty Law, and to agree on upcoming legislation regarding local self-government and community rights.
You need to take these difficult and sometimes painful decisions for Kosovo to be able to turn the page and become a peaceful and prosperous member of our European family. You need to hold the executive accountable: debate the laws and policies; monitor their implementation; and question the decisions of ministers. At the same time, you will be creating conditions and an environment in which the judiciary does its job on the rule of law unhindered and without political pressure. You will also need to finalize the adoption of the legislation related to the visa liberalisation dialogue, which the government has been working on with us since the adoption of the visa report in February.
When it comes to European integration, also EULEX is a unique instrument created to assist Kosovo in achieving European standards in the Rule of Law. EULEX, including its judges and prosecutors, works as an integral part of the Kosovo institutions and applies Kosovo law. You should actively support EULEX in the implementation of its mandate, as is indicated clearly in last year's Feasibility Study. EULEX is a support for the benefit of Kosovo; a support other countries in the region cannot benefit from. It is also a necessary support in key areas where there is a clear lack of local capacity.
The Rule of Law will continue to be a key theme in Kosovo, as it will be for the rest of the region. The European Union will continue to assist Kosovo in its efforts to strengthen the rule of law. As Kosovo moves forward, the European Union moves forward. We will adjust our partnership with you according to the progress you make. The Commission stands ready to increase its involvement in the EU's relationship with Kosovo, including in the rule of law. As it does so, the nature of its support will change.
Mr Chairman, Honourable Members of the Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me summarise the challenges for the period ahead of us:
I propose we join forces and start negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement after the summer, in close consultation with our Member States. I propose we appoint our respective negotiators. I propose we organise our work so as to have formal negotiating sessions in October, November, and in February next year. I propose we set up joint technical working groups to prepare these sessions. And, in close consultation with our Member States, I propose we set ourselves the ambitious target of wrapping up our work in the spring.
In parallel, Kosovo will need to continue the good work it has done in preparation of the June Council. Kosovo needs to continue its work on the feasibility study priorities. It will need to continue to work on its relationship with Serbia. In return, we will continue to mobilise and further strengthen the tools we have at our disposal to help you. Through our Structured Dialogue on the Rule of Law we will help you focus on the priorities beyond 2014 and the future, and agree on targeted action to reach our shared objectives. We will adapt all our instruments to be able to assist you better. We will strengthen our partnership.
The European Commission has become a more important partner for you than ever before. Kosovo is now placed firmly in the enlargement mainstream. By negotiating the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the Commission is engaged with Kosovo more strongly than ever before. We are strongly committed to help you to become a part of the drive for the whole Western Balkan region to become an integral part of the European Union, not lagging behind the ambition and progress of others.
I look forward to our further work together, as partners that can trust and rely on each other. We trust and rely on Kosovo delivering on improving its relationship with Serbia and on continuing its European Union reform agenda. And Kosovo can trust and rely on the European Union to keep its promise and sign and conclude a Stabilisation and Association Agreement and further build our relationship to ensure that Kosovo can take its rightful place in Europe.
Thank you for your attention.