President Hashim Thaci held a press conference today in Pristina to inform the public on his last week’s meetings in the US, including an unexpected one with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic. Following are the highlights from this press conference.
Thaci-Vucic meeting in Washington
Thaci said the meeting was called by President Trump’s envoy Richard Grenell, it was a good will meeting in which the US pledged to lead the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue process toward a final agreement between the two countries, which will be in full compliance with Kosovo’s constitution.
“Historic momentum” for a Kosovo-Serbia agreement
President Trump and US envoy Richard Grenell’s engagement in the process comprise a “historic momentum”, “unique opportunity” that should not be wasted by Kosovo, according to Thaci. “We need to behave wisely, take advantage of the opportunity offered and take the great strategic step forward” toward an agreement with Serbia, he added.
Thaci said the agreement would ensure a lasting peace between Kosovo and Serbia, possible recognition by Serbia, a seat in the UN and a clear path to becoming NATO member.
Wasting this momentum means “more delays, stagnation, unchanged status quo, lack of development,” he added.
Need for unity
The president underlined the importance of political unity within Kosovo regarding the dialogue and agreement with Serbia. “We must be united, get all together – parties, institutions – and provide positive arguments to our partners. I call for political unity, coordination of our steps,” he said.
When asked by journalists if he planned to reply to Prime Minister Kurti’s calls to meet and coordinate foreign policy steps, Thaci said he was himself planning to invite all party leaders in a meeting to discuss the best way forward.
Asked if he would be able to convince the leaders of the governing coalition to unity with him, Thaci noted that “the role of the US is irreplaceable; whoever challenges that role would be harming the country.”
EU failure vs US leadership
The EU credibility in Kosovo that it could mediate an agreement between the two countries is zero, according to Thaci. He said it’s saddening to see that there is “zero probability” that the EU could convince its five members to recognize Kosovo, and that obviously the same goes for Serbia.
Thaci slammed the EU for its policies toward Kosovo, particularly the lack of free visa regime, and for appointees to deal with Kosovo issues. “Borell comes from a country that does not recognize Kosovo. The EU special envoy [Miroslav Lajcak] will also come from another country that does not recognize Kosovo. The EU has not been able to convince its 5 members to recognize Kosovo. Considering these policies and representatives, the level of trust in EU is very low. Full trusts stands only with the US.”
Large US investments awaiting Kosovo
Thaci stated he was promised large US investments in case of a successful agreement with Serbia: “At the offices of State Department they told me about hundreds of millions of dollars waiting to be invested in Kosovo as soon as an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is reached.”
Thaci denied there was any rush to conclude an agreement before the Serbian elections in April or within this year. “We have no deadlines, but the sooner the better,” he said.
However, he failed to answer several other questions by journalists regarding possible exchange of territories, the status of municipalities with Serbian ethnic majority, status of Serbian Church, chances for the agreement not to be implemented, his alleged unkept promises in similar situations, lack of transparency with the three recently signed agreements with Serbia, lack of coordination with the government, the reason for his small team when he meets with Vucic’s large team etc.
President Thaci asked the Parliament for a special hearing today, where he could report on his visit, but Speaker Vjosa Osmani replied she could not convene the parliament in such a short notice.