In an interview with M Magazine, EU Special Representative in Kosovo, Samuel Zbogar talks about the north of Kosovo, Serbian elections, the challenges EULEX is facing...
How much has the EU invested so far in the north and what will be undertaken in the near future when it comes to this part of Kosovo?
Recently, we talk a lot about how to help the north of Kosovo. We think a lot about projects and the steps to take in order to improve the situation. The situation, I think we all agree, is wrong for the people living there. None of us want to live in constant fear, and everyone wants to have a normal life. I promised to the representatives of civil society with whom I spoke in Mitrovica that Ill be coming back here every month to discuss it so Ill better understand the needs of the local population.
What projects have you implemented in the north of Kosovo?
We had a lot of projects pertaining to infrastructure, so, i.e., we are working on the health center in Zubin Potok, we have projects implemented by the representatives of civil society, University, etc. In the framework of the EU’s funds for Kosovo, we have decided to separate a part exclusively for projects in northern Kosovo.
When it comes to EU money, it is accepted in northern Kosovo, but not in some Unions?
I think we should give it to time; we should continue with the projects and go step by step in order to create and build trust ... The result will be that all institutions in the north of Kosovo will be accepted. When it comes to EULEX, I heard some remarks. Regardless all, EULEX is still neutral status institution whose interest in Kosovo and in the north is to bring to life the rule of law and that the EU is a priority for Kosovo. The rule of law is the biggest challenge and we will give the greatest attention to it.
When should we to expect the court in the northern part begins to function at full capacity?
We hope as soon as possible, it cannot overnight and not by force. It must get to that with a dialogue, gradually, and I hope as soon as possible because it is in the interest of people that court works at full capacity.
Will the representatives of Belgrade and Pristina talk about the court?
The representatives of Belgrade and Pristina talk in the dialogue, in which we mediate, on some technical issues. I think I will they will not talk about this and that this is not a discussion topic of the two sides in this dialogue. This is more an internal matter of Kosovo, it is a matter of freedom of movement, and it is a matter of dialogue within Kosovo.
How do you plan to persuade the Serbs in northern Mitrovica to accept the Kosovo legislation?
This is a matter of agreement between the Government of Kosovo and the Serbs in northern Kosovo. They gradually towards that direction, not overnight, because, as I saw, there is a lot of fear and distrust. One cannot skip steps, first should start by building some of the basic contours of confidence, taking the first steps in the dialogue between Serbs and Albanians, and it will come later.
How do you see the possibility of organizing Serbian elections in Kosovo?
Id like those elections not to be organized in Kosovo. I view this from the standpoint of what will help to resolve the situation we have. The situation in northern Kosovo can be resolved only by internal dialogue, a dialogue within Kosovo. Organization of Serbian local elections in Kosovo will hardly bring us closer to this dialogue, I even think that will exacerbate the situation and rhetoric, and it will not lead to a rapid solution.
What consequences might have the official Belgrade if it is decided to organize elections in Kosovo?
I cannot speak on behalf of the EU, but the expectation of the Union is that the country that is a candidate for membership in the EU acts in accordance with the status that has to solve problems through dialogue rather than making unilateral decisions.
Do you think that organizing Serbian elections in Kosovo was a violation of UNSC Resolution 1244?
As I understand, Resolution 1244 is very precise in the 11th article where it says who is responsible for organizing elections in Kosovo. It is not Serbia, it is UNMIK, respectively provisional authorities.
Belgrade and Pristina have achieved a number of important agreements, but neither one is being entirely implemented?
Each of these agreements has begun to be implemented, so it is still in the implementation phase. We progress more and more every day in every way. The EU is the guarantor of the implementation and we are helping in some way when it comes to copies of the register books, providing of assets for the management of integrated border, so I think that implementation of these agreements will be seen in all steps of both countries towards the EU and I think the further steps of both Serbia and Kosovo to the EU will be evaluated by how much the agreements, that the two sides reached, are being implemented.
Still, there are barricades in northern Kosovo. Until when will their presence be tolerated?
I think they almost disappear; many of them have been removed. Freedom of movement is one of the fundamental rights and basic principles for which the EU stands for and why EULEX is here. We will insist on that until the complete freedom of movement is reached.
Serbs in northern Kosovo, are increasingly blocking EULEX, how you see it?
We regret that there is restricted freedom of movement for EULEX. I hope that there will be fewer of these blockades and that EULEX will be allowed to perform its job and that through EU activities we will prove that we are here to help people and bring the hand of justice everywhere in Kosovo and we are not against people in the north but to improve their life.
Do the results of the referendum which was held in northern Kosovo has an impact on the EU?
There were lots of words about the referendum, especially from Serbia. We saw their attitude, presented to a referendum, as unnecessary, that it is not in accordance with the constitution so that it seems to us that it was not necessary because it was an arm that led to no solution. I think we need to start a dialogue between Serbs and Kosovo authorities, and through this dialogue to strive to reach a solution by which everyone will feel safe in Kosovo and all see their future in Kosovo.
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