Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci has called for international missions to leave and complained that the EU is keeping the country isolated.
Thaci wants Kosovo to complete the transition of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into a fully fledged army, despite strong opposition from Serbia. However, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on December 5 that the KFOR mission has no plans to leave Kosovo as it plays an important role in maintaining security and stability.
“The time of international foreign missions in Kosovo has passed,” Thaci said in a speech to KSF soldiers, according to a statement from the president’s cabinet.
“We remain grateful to the international community for every good it has brought to Kosovo, just as we hold them responsible for all their omissions and failures,” Thaci said.
Thaci noted that although today Kosovo function as a state, many fields still remain outside its state authority saying that an unjustified number of international missions still functions in Kosovo, “creating the impression that we are at a very early transition stage”.
He also commented on the proposed transformation of the KSF into a Kosovan army. “As you are today, you will be a multi-ethnic, professional, defensive force that will represent your country with pride. Kosovo needs to have full defence capacity and a modern army that will contribute to peace and stability in the region and around the world,” Thaci said.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. It is recognised by 114 countries but not by Serbia, Russia and China. Five EU countries still do not recognise Kosovo.
Pristina’s increasing discontent with the international missions in the country has worried Kosovan Serbs. Although Serbs living in Kosovo significantly integrated into Kosovan society in the last few years, KFOR is still seen as the main guarantor of security for the Serbian minority in the country.
Stoltenberg’s words that the alliance has not been considering the withdrawal of KFOR was therefore welcomed by the country’s Serbian population and in Belgrade.
“KFOR plays an important role for security and stability in Kosovo, and the Nato mission there means that any reduction in the number of troop would be based on the existing situation on the ground,” Stoltenberg said at a December 5 at a press conference held ahead of a meeting of Nato foreign ministers, B92 portal reported.
"We will monitor this, and this is not on the agenda now, we are constantly monitoring the situation on the ground, so now the emphasis is on the need for KFOR to continue to be in Kosovo,” Stoltenberg added.
As well as his comments on international security forces, Thaci also criticised the EU for its stance on Kosovo, and pointed out that the current mandate of the EULEX mission will end in summer 2018. He complained that the EU’s door is open for Serbia, which he accused of war crimes in the late 1990s, while at the same time Kosovo still is kept isolated.
He added that if Kosovo is given a fair opportunity and a clear perspective, “we will do everything in our power to reform, improve and meet all EU criteria.”
“But to make this happen, the EU must end the isolation of our citizens,” according to Thaci.
However, he acknowledged that as much as the EU is guilty of isolating Kosovo, local state institutions are also guilty of failing to meet their obligations, giving the EU an excuse to keep the country isolated. In many areas of functioning and governance “there is still work to be done,” he commented.
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