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21st Jan 2021

EU says Albania comment on Kosovo unification 'not acceptable'

  • Albanians in US celebrate Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2007 (Photo: angela_n)

The EU foreign service has described Albanian remarks on Kosovo unification as “provocative” and “not acceptable”.

Maja Kocjiancic, the EU spokeswoman, told Balkans news agency dtt-net.com on Wednesday (8 April) that both Albania and Kosovo have “a clear European perspective” but must honour their “commitment to this goal … in full respect of EU principles and standards”.

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“The commitments also include regional co-operation, reconciliation, and good neighbourly relations; any provocative statements in this context are not acceptable”.

She spoke after Albanian prime minister Edi Rama said Albania and Kosovo will one day be reunited.

Rama told Klan TV, an Albanian broadcaster, on Tuesday that EU integration of Kosovo is proceeding too slowly.

“The unification of Albanians in Albania and Kosovo, Albanians that live in two Albanian countries, is unavoidable and unquestionable. The question is how it will happen," he said.

“Will it work as a part of the European Union, as a natural process accepted by all, or will it happen as a reaction to the blindness or laziness of the EU? … A strategic Europe would request first that the Balkans become part of it, and secondly, for all the ethnicities in the Balkans to have the ease to be together without having to deal with borders”.

Kosovo’s foreign minister and deputy PM, Hashim Thaci, who took part in the interview, said Rama was referring to a “reality that can come true in the future and could be the result of Kosovo's isolation from the EU”.

Their words were seized upon by Serb politicians.

Aleksandar Vucic, the Serb PM, wrote on Twitter that Rama's comments risk “causing further instability in the region!”.

Marko Djuric, Serbia’s envoy to Kosovo, told the Tanjug news agency they’re an “attack on peace … beating the war drums … [and] an incitement to new divisions”.

Serb media initially quoted Rama as saying that if Albania and Kosovo aren’t reunited inside EU they will reunite in the “classical way”.

The translation is disputed, but, the EU’s Kocijancic noted, the EU foreign service issued its criticism “after checking what PM Rama … said”.

Kosovo-Serb relations have improved as part of EU-brokered “normalisation” talks.

Serbia and Albania are also to submit joint proposals for EU-funded highway and railway projects later this month, dtt-net.com reports.

But the fragility of relations was on show at a football game last October, which ended in violence after activists flew a drone carrying a map of greater Albania into the stadium.

Foot in mouth

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, also put her foot in her mouth last month.

She told a forum of Kosovar students on her first-ever visit to Pristina that Kosovo is a “sovereign state”.

“The dialogue [between Kosovo and Serbia] happens between two equal sides. The dialogue happens between two sovereign countries”, she said.

Mogherini’s native Italy and most EU states recognise Kosovo. But Serbia, and five EU countries - Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain - don’t.

Kosovo is in talks with the EU to sign a stabilisation and association agreement, a precursor to enlargement. It's also waiting for EU visa-free travel, making Kosovars the last people in the Western Balkans who still need travel permits.

Thaci, who visited Croatia on Wednesday, noted the stabilisation pact “will serve as a good signal to those states that have not recognised Kosovo yet”.

He noted, together with Croatia's parliament speaker, Josip Leko, that Zagreb will continue “lobbying” the five EU non-recognising countries.

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