Opinion: "Our ambition in Kosovo is to transform our young and vibrant democracy into the most prosperous nation in the region"

Recently, the Government of Kosovo submitted a formal application to join the Council of Europe as a full member. The international community remains divided on the issue of Kosovo's international recognition. Yet in the few years since its independence Kosovo has made great strides forward, and today has one of the most dynamic economies in the Western Balkans, a vibrant cultural life, and a solid track record on human rights and the fight against corruption.

commonspace.eu interviewed the Ambassador of Kosovo to the Netherlands, Dren Doli, about the current state of play in relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and on the thorny issue of whether the recognition of Kosovo has emboldened secessionist movements elsewhere. Ambassador Doli said that "the tendency to use Kosovo as a model for other cases is a strategy to generalise the rules that guide the creation of states and inflict confusion, deflect the truth, and deny the significance of objective arguments that differentiate Kosovo from other cases". Doli told commonspace.eu that "Kosovo is one of the rare examples of successful democratic state-building supported by western democracies". Ambassador Doli said that the government of Kosovo is committed to further develop and improve its relations with Serbia and welcomes any initiative  by the EU and the US in this direction.

We publish here the full interview with Ambassador Dren Doli:

CS: Recently your Foreign Minister announced that Kosovo was applying for full membership of the Council of Europe. What is the significance of the timing of this application and what are the prospects of success? The decision has been criticised by Serbia. Why is membership of the Council of Europe important at all?

The horrific and unjust war against Ukraine resurfaced the discussions about the cost of peace, necessity to uphold human rights, and the need to strengthen multilateralism. This war, among others, reignited the idea among Kosovars that membership into organizations, such as the Council of Europe,  will offer  an opportunity  for Kosovo to contribute more to peace, human rights and democracy.

The values of  the Council of Europe are mirrored in our Constitution as are the various human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by different conventions. Therefore, for the people of Kosovo, accession to the  Council of Europe is a consequence of the present, and, simultaneously, a commitment to the future.

The wish to join the Council of Europe reflects the readiness of Kosovo to commit to its principles. In practice, accession to  this pan-European organisation offers to our citizens another forum to redress possible violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the relevant conventions - especially the European Convention on Human Rights -  and extends the jurisdiction of the ECtHR over the decisions issued by Kosovo courts.

We are not anxious about the challenges that come with the process of application to the  Council of Europe, and this is due to the fact that Kosovo’s ambitions are  clear: we intend to use every opportunity to shape our young and vibrant democracy, transform Kosovo into the most prosperous nation in the region, and continue to spread the values that characterise our country.  We will never give up.

CS: Kosovo remains a partly recognised country, with the 193 UN member states roughly split on the issue. What is Kosovo’s strategy for securing wider international recognition?

Kosovo is one of the  rare examples of democratic and successful state-building supported by western democracies. It is an exemplary story of nation-building wherein democracies not only succeeded to respond and stop atrocities against the population of Kosovo, but  accompany Kosovars on the journey to shape their future within a new, independent, free and peace-loving country.

This is why, the Government of Kosovo remains very  keen to share Kosovo’s history with every country, explain them our uniqueness, and inform them about our achievements in every sector.

Of course, our approach to share and promote the truth about Kosovo is often not sufficient, mainly due to the ever-increasing speculations and the spread of misleading and fake information  from well known sources.

Therefore, our strategy and responses are both modest and sincere. We are proactive, we contribute to  stability and peace in the region, and support every initiative that aims to spread democracy and respect for human rights.  

CS: The foreign ministers of the G7 countries have just reiterated their unwavering support for the principle of territorial integrity of states. The case of Kosovo is widely cited by those who support the secession and recognition of other non-recognised, or partly recognised, entities, such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, not to mention the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus and the Russian puppet republics in the Donbass. Is the case of Kosovo in fact any different from that of these entities, and if so why?

I would like to start answering this question by quoting what our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Donika Gervalla-Schwarz said on the 20th April 2022 in front of the UN Security Council: ‘Kosovo independence is not the result of a secessionist movement. Our country was born out of genocide committed by Serbia. Kosovo survived Serbia’s openly declared attempt to extinction’.

As it was also confirmed by the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo Advisory Opinion, Kosovo is a unique case, due to its history and the model of state creation. For everyone that has studied the modern history of the emergence of states, Kosovo remains a unique reference that embodies the very model of remedial secession and democratic state creation, which was not only successful but very hard to replicate.

The tendency to use Kosovo as a model for other cases is a strategy to generalize the rules that guide the creation of states and inflict confusion, deflect the truth, and deny the significance of objective arguments that differentiate Kosovo from other cases.

CS: The issue of relations between Pristina and Belgrade is one of the most sensitive challenges facing the European Union as it addresses the issue of future relations with the countries of the Western Balkans. How do you assess the present state of relations between Kosovo and Serbia? What should be the next steps in taking the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue forward.

The government of Kosovo is committed to further develop and improve its relations with Serbia and welcomes any initiative sponsored by the European Union, as well as  the United States , who can act – as the EU is already doing – as an effective mediator. However, the independence of Kosovo is now a fact, and Serbia has to recognise the reality. The recognition of reality encompasses the recognition of the past and the responsibility for war crimes committed by Serbia.

For the Government of Kosovo, the mutual recognition is a prerequisite for the future of relations between the two countries and the stability of the region.

The war in Ukraine highlighted once more the approach that Serbia is willing to pursue: accession to the EU remains an option, while fostering close political, economic and military relations with Russia remains the priority.  Both are  parallel and not complementary objectives. Due to  this parallelism, which Serbia has indicated it wants to keep, the incentives for an open and honest dialogue are not there yet.

CS: Kosovo declared independence in 2008. What have been the main achievements of Kosovo to date?

It is impossible to highlight the achievements that Kosovo has  registered in the last 14 years in a single interview. I would rather highlight the achievements of Kosovo during the last year.  Compared to 2020, in 2021 Kosovo  achieved a 10.53% economic growth, creating more than 25,000 new jobs, it reached 83% increase in exports and 21% increase in Foreign Direct Investment.

In March this year, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock inaugurated a new wind farm in Kosovo, a joint German, Israeli and Kosovo investment worth 170 million euros. The wind energy park was  granted  strategic investor status in 2018, and consists of 27 turbines, with a total capacity of 105 MW per hour.

The great results that the country has achieved can also be seen by the very good scores assigned to Kosovo during 2021 and 2022 by many international good governance indexes.

For example, in the Rule of Law index, drawn up by the World Justice Project, Kosovo ranks the first compared to other countries in the Western-Balkans. In addition, the World Press Freedom Index ranks Kosovo 17 places higher than in 2021, better than the majority of   neighbouring countries and several EU member states. While in the 2021 Transparency International CPI Kosovo improved by 17 places, a testimony of its commitment to the rule of law, and an acknowledgment of the remarkable progress in the fight against corruption.

Last but not least, Kosovo has a vibrant community of artisans, artists, athletes, sportswomen and sportsman, film producers and singers. These people are active both in the country and abroad, winning many awards worldwide. In 2021, Nora Gjakova and Distria Krasniqi, claimed gold medals in Judo, and the film Hive by Blerta Basholli was the first movie  to win all three main awards at the Sundance Film Festival. The film Displaced by Samir Karahoda won the Nonfiction Short Film Jury award at the same festival. At the same time, Kaltrina Krasniqi’s drama Vera Dreams of the Sea won the Tokyo International Film Festival’s Grand Prix. I feel indebted towards hundreds of artist, singers, performers, scientists, business owners that have accomplished remarkable success, but  that I don’t have the space to mention here. They all contributed to make Kosovo a dynamic and creative country and society.

source: commonspace.eu interviewed HE Dren Doli, Ambassador of Kosovo to the Netherlands on 28 May 2022.
photo: Ambassador Dren Doli. commonspace.eu





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