Kosovo’s leader says he wants the European Union to formalize its relationship with the country by opening negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement – the first step towards eventual membership.
Prime Minister Hashim Thaci made the call at a meeting with the EU’s High Representative, Catherine Ashton, in New York on Monday, when he asked Brussels not to delay the process with Kosovo.
“Kosovo-EU relations should go beyond courtesy and good manners in the direction of concrete contractual relations sealed with a process of stabilization and association,” Thaci said.
The EU Council of Ministers concluded last December that Kosovo citizens would benefit from the perspective of visa-free travel into the Schengen area once all the conditions were met. All other Balkan countries currently enjoy this privilege.
Since December, Kosovo and the EU have commenced a rule-of-law dialogue, designed to help Kosovo to address challenges in this field, with the focus on the judiciary and the fight against organised crime and corruption.
The EU set the ball rolling on visa liberalization with Kosovo in January, after the country was deemed to have fulfilled a number of conditions.
The EU’s so-called “roadmap” serves as an instrument for visa requirements to be lifted eventually on the country.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. Since then 89 states, including 22 EU member states and the US, have recognized it.
However, five EU states – Spain, Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus and Romania – have supported Serbia by refusing to recognise its statehood.
The government in Pristina says that despite the lack of unity on Kosovo’s status within the 27-member bloc, Brussels is taking a unified position on the country’s European integration.
“Kosovo will fulfil the necessary reforms, and we think that we deserve the green light from the European Commission to commence negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement,” Thaci told Ashton.
Serbia and Kosovo began face-to-face talks in March in Brussels, under EU mediation.
The so-called technical discussions aims to resolve practical problems ranging from cadastral documents to air traffic.
Since the recent change of government in Serbia the talks are expected to resume – and move up a political level.
At the same time, the talks are expected also the tackle the issue of the north of Kosovo, where the Pristina government has no authority.
In a sign of continuing ethnic tensions in this Serb-controlled part of Kosovo, a Kosovo Albanian was beaten up on Monday night in the northern sector of the town of Mitrovica, police said. Kosovo Police described the assault as ethnically motivated.