From: Bledar Qalliu
Kosovo Won’t Join ‘Open Balkan’, Supports ‘Berlin Process’  

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has reiterated that his government won’t join “Open Balkan” – the initiative for regional cooperation launched by Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia.

On Tuesday, speaking from Albania during a visit to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western Balkan Six (WB6) leaders, Kurti told journalists that the “Berlin Process” initiated by Merkel and supported by the European Union makes “Open Balkan” redundant.

“The Berlin Process is inclusive and deep enough not to necessitate other alternative variants,” he said.

The statement came after the Albanian Prime Minister accused Kosovo, during a press conference with Merkel, of relying on “conspiracy theories” to refuse to join his initiative.

Kurti urged journalists to ask Rama what he meant by “conspiracy theories”, and reiterated his government position that regional cooperation should happen within the Berlin Process and under the EU’s watch.

Referring to the three Open Balkan members, as well as the refusal of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Montenegro to join, Kurti said: “The Balkans is not just three states, it’s not even six. The Balkans has at least 12 states, and the Western Balkans Six already have the Berlin Process […] The only difference [between the BP and OB] is that the EU is not present in the latter.”

Kurti has argued earlier that the Common Regional Market agreed under the Berlin Process makes the initiative of the trio redundant; that the latter has no vision for the region’s relations with the EU; and its creation was not consulted with all WB6 countries.

He stressed that EU’s approach in the region should focus on strengthening the rule of law in the fight against corruption; democratization, in order to weaken autocrats; facing the past, so as war criminals are not allowed back to power; and reciprocity in relations among countries so as to provide minorities with human rights and avoid nationalisms. 

“There should not be European funds without European values,” he stated.

Speaking of the dialogue with Serbia, Kurti said that it is focused on the future status of relations between the two countries, and not on the status of Kosovo.  

“We can’t compensate Serbia with our statehood or territory for the losses caused by the Milosevic regime two decades earlier,” he stated.

Kurti slammed President Alexandar Vucic of Serbia for denying the Recak massacre last month, in which Serbian troops killed 45 Kosovo Albanians in January 1999.

Hinting at Rama’s collaboration with Vucic to launch Open Balkans, Kurti said that Albanians should demand from Serbia to recognize Kosovo, instead of showing understanding toward Serbia for not recognizing Kosovo.

“Refusing to recognize Kosovo’s independence and refusing to recognize Serbia’s crimes are not two different things,” he stated.

In talks with Merkel, Kurti said, he was not asked that Kosovo join the initiative spearheaded by Rama and Vucic.

Kosovo’s prime minister announced the four agreements expected to be signed in the framework of the Common Regional Market in Slovenia on October 6, covering the free movement of people using only IDs, and recognition of diplomas and other qualifications.

These agreements have so far been blocked by Serbia, he said, because it refuses texts containing words such as “border, territory, state, country, government,” claiming that they allude to Kosovo’s statehood which Serbia refuses to recognize.

“For normal relations in the Western Balkans, it’s not Kosovo who should change, but it’s Serbia. The pressure should not be on Kosovo but on Serbia,” Kurti concluded.