11th Feb.2013: OeKG Meeting with MEP Ulrike Lunacek

 

Furthermore we are very proud to announce that we are already 78 members and we are still growing. Thank you to all of you, who joined us or continued to join us this year. 

More photos you can find under http://oekg-ks.org/?cid=2,8,151

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Speech of Ulrike Lunacek, European Parliament's Rapporteur for Kosovo

Visiting Kosovo many times over the last years and talking with a lot of people there I got the impression that the general enthusiasm in Kosovo towards the EU is waning. Not because it is all the EU's fault, but because hopes and expectations in the EU and its players, and their rhetoric, have been so high – and the EU definitely has not lived up to these expectations, not even to the ones based on our own promises. This hurts, understandably, in many respects: Five years after independence Kosovars feel the tediousness of the difficult path through the plains, as Bertolt Brecht has said. They feel isolated, they feel they are - again - victims, second-class citizens.

In comparison to other Ex-Yugoslav-States Kosovo is far behind in everything: be it visa liberalization (it's the only Western Balkan country whose citizens may not yet travel without visas to the EU, whereas all others have this right since the end of 2011), be it economically, investment is low, and (youth) unemployment rate high. Understandably there is disappointment and frustration among Kosovar citizens that five years after independence still Kosovo is not a fully-fledged independent republic, and still Kosovo can, among other things, not participate in international sport events.

The EU has done lots in regard to financial, material and technical support for preparing and building institutions of the new state, even some of the non-recognizers participate in common programs and offer bilateral support, some even issue visas. And of course the biggest European Rule-of-Law-Mission EULEX has been cooperating with Kosovo institutions from the start, supporting the strengthening of the state's local and national judiciary, especially in the fields of high level corruption and organized crime, and war crimes – and investigating, indicting, sueing and sentencing alleged criminals; not to the satisfaction of everyone, and too slowly for many, I know. That's where part of the disappointment behind the question to me comes from.

At the political level the EU has also done a lot but not enough: Despite five EU member states still not recognizing the new state, the Enlargement Strategy of Thessaloniki in 2003 is in place, and the European Perspective of Kosovo has been confirmed by all EU institutions time and again over the last years. The European Parliament has been the strongest and most outspoken promotor of the Republic of Kosovo's independence.

The Commission has been cooperating with all levels of Kosovo society – from government to civil society and minority groups, be it capacity building, trainings or support for women's organizations, or supporting the formation of the new municipalities south of the Ibar - for years, and successfully in many ways. And the Commission recent progress report in autumn 2012 is also right to give Kosovo a real and palpable accession perspective.

Finally, after years of waiting and seeing neighbouring countries’ citizens already enjoying visa free travel, the EU handed over the visa roadmap; the feasibility study has paved the way for the start of negotiations for a Stability and Association Agreement in 2013; the dialogue with Serbia started again after the Serb elections, with EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton taking things in her own hands – with astonishingly positive results in comparison to the former Serb government. The new Belgrade leaders are going ahead, with IBM as the most visible and difficult step: Accepting border stations is an important step towards recognition: Serbia is on the retreat from its intransigent positions. And until now more than half of UN member states, namely 98, have recognized Europe’s youngest state.

Despite these EU efforts the support at political level is not perceived to be enough – and it simply is not enough. Non-recognition by five member states (Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Cyprus) remains. And with only a few exceptions the 22 recognisers are leaning back, watching and waiting – rather than being active themselves in pushing for clarity and recognition. This is weakening our own efforts and the effect of the billions of Euro being spent because – for example – EULEX has not yet been able to fulfil one of its main tasks defined in its mandate.

 

As rapporteur of the European Parliament on Kosovo, I see my role also in advocating for the citizens of this youngest European country. The votes on my Kosovo reports (2010, 2012 and the one adopted last week by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament; plenary vote will be in March 2013) send a strong signal that the future of an independent Kosovo lies in the European Union. Unfortunately – because the European Parliament is not part of decision-making on EU foreign affairs – my report is not binding. But it has issued a clear call to the five to no longer delay recognition.

Of course I would like to see the Republic of Kosova as a fully fledged member of the international community as soon as possible. With status as every other state in the UN and the multitude of other international organizations – be it political ones as OSCE and Council of Europe, cultural ones like the Eurovision Song Contest (where Kosovar Rona Nishliu gained fifth place in 2012 singing for Albania) or sports’ organizations – being able to play friendship games in FIFA is a good step forward but not enough.

The process of EU-mediated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia (officially only referred to by their capitals' names) is a good example of this transformative soft EU-power. It started with an UN General Assembly resolution on September 9, 2010, negotiated by the EU, after Serbia had again appealed to the UN to accept Serbia's restrictive interpretation of the opinion of the International Court of Justice which had in July 2010 ruled that Kosovo's Declaration of Independence on Feb. 17, 2008 was not in violation of international law.

In my Kosovo reports I am calling for restoring the rule of law in the North, by intensifying the fight against organized crime and criminal structures operating out of control of any authority and using this area as a safe haven for smuggling and other illegal activities. The reports call on the Serbian government to dissolve parallel structures in the North of Kosovo. This includes to stop financing the illegitimate structures in the North in an intransparent way. An autonomy scheme would also allow Serbia to finance Serbian structures, but it should and would then be in an open and transparent way.

My recent report is also critical towards Kosovar institutions when it urges them to introduce electoral reforms, and asks for more ambitions to strengthen the rule of law, freedom of the media, the fight against corruption and organised crime and, in this context, the implementation of a witness protection programme. In respect of fighting organised crime and corruption, EU member states are called upon to provide for more judges and prosecutors to EULEX.

The EU must continue the dialogue, and devise a strategy that needs to go further than telecommunications and energy as topics for the dialogue. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union in 2012 was a timely reminder of the principle of “cooperation instead of confrontation” that has ended a history of bloodshed. And it is also a reminder that the European peace project will not be complete until South Eastern Europe is part of the EU.

Therfore daring leaders are needed – in Serbia and in Kosovo, but also in the five non-recognizers, who end this sad story of non-recognition, and start working at more important things, like rule of law, social justice, human rights, economic development, state building, protection of the environment. If not then we are in danger of not only losing Kosovo and its citizens but also our own European peace project.

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Ulrike Lunacek since 2009 is a Member of the European Parliament from Austria for the Greens/EFA Group. She is Vice president and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson for her Group and the European Parliament's Rapporteur for Kosovo. Before joining the European Parliament she was her Austrian party's spokesperson on foreign and development as well as LGBT issues in the Austrian parliament between 1999 and 2009. She has a background as an interpreter (English-Spanish-German) and activism in civil society (development issues, feminism, LGBT- and other human rights issues).

 

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