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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
EU-Kosovo: Formal negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement concluded
National Council for European Integration
Kosovo, 6 May 2014
Madame President, Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of the Assembly, Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is the third time I have been given the honour of speaking to you in this forum in as many years. One would be forgiven for thinking it has become part of a spring ritual in Kosovo and if it is, I sincerely hope the tradition is here to stay.
Each time we meet, we have an important occasion to mark. In 2012, I had the pleasure of launching our Feasibility Study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Last year, I was happy to report to you that Kosovo had met the key priorities set out in our Study, which allowed me to propose the submission of the negotiating directives for such an Agreement to the Council.
This year is no exception; I am truly delighted to be able to confirm that last Friday, we concluded the formal negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Kosovo. This is a momentous achievement for which we can all rightly take credit and congratulate ourselves.
I should also like to take this opportunity to salute and commend you for your political courage and maturity as shown on 23 April. Kosovo's agreement to the new EULEX mandate and the establishment of the Special Court is a key step in Kosovo's EU-progress and a true statement to the world. It says that Kosovo is open, that it has nothing to hide and that it is not afraid of the past. It is also a marker of Kosovo's faith in the rule of law.
As you know, we identified the rule of law and overcoming the legacy of the past as key priorities in our Enlargement Strategy last year. Economic governance and competitiveness is another. Kosovo needs to do more to provide its citizens with prospects for a prosperous future. Kosovo needs to become a place where people want to invest, a place where the young have a perspective of building a career, where people can get jobs. Kosovo urgently needs to agree on a programme for socio-economic development that will help turn this vision into reality.
The European Union is helping you with this. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement will provide assurance to future investors that Kosovo is a safe place to do business. Our IPA funding will continue to provide you with technical and financial assistance to help build capacity, to acquire new skills, to clean up Kosovo's environment, and to upgrade and extend its infrastructure.
In turn, Kosovo needs to continue to deliver on reforms. It needs to continue to build bridges to its neighbours. It needs to continue to offer all ethnic communities a stake in Kosovo's collective future. Kosovo has made great progress, but there still is a long way to go and important reforms take time.
Above all, however, success in building a prosperous society depends on a shared vision of the future for your country. EU integration is a joint effort. Diverging opinions on the means should not be a problem, provided all stay focused on the shared objective and the common goal. As I said last year, experience with other countries has shown that progress towards Europe requires broad national consensus. For this reason this Council - and participation in it by all - is so important.
I think this message has particular resonance at this moment in time. General elections are likely to be called any day. Campaigning is the time when political forces would want to distinguish themselves from their rivals and competitors, rather than emphasise the similarities they share. It is of critical importance for Kosovo's EU future that the elections take place in accordance with international standards, that the process is efficient and that any irregularities are swiftly dealt with. I hope that the positive experience with the recent local elections will serve as inspiration.
The campaigning and elections over, the political forces in Kosovo should gather round a shared vision of Kosovo's European future. Whoever wins, they will need to respect the international commitments Kosovo has signed up to, focus on the priorities identified in our Feasibility Study and Progress Report, engage in the Dialogue with Serbia, support EULEX in its invaluable work and work hard to continue on the impressive progress made during the time of my mandate as Commissioner for enlargement.
I hope that next Spring's National Council of European Integration will be able to confirm that Kosovo's EU reform agenda is on track, that the signature and conclusion of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement are imminent, that the Dialogue with Serbia has achieved further important results, and that Kosovo's European future is assured.
Thank you for your attention.