KosSev: You have recently arrived in Kosovo? What are your impressions so far?
Ambassador: Well, thank you for asking. I have very positive impressions for Kosovo so far. I got here about four weeks ago today, in fact. I’ve travelled a fair amount; I’ve met a lot of people and I see a country that’s come a long way since the war. I also see people are a bit impatient: they want things to go faster and they want to see more progress. They want Kosovo to be fully integrated into the European institutions. Those goals that I support and I see nothing wrong with impatience. Without impatience among the population, those of us in government probably wouldn’t work as hard as we do. So, those are my first impressions, very positive impressions.
KosSev: Have you been to Kosovo before?
Ambassador: I have never been to Kosovo before four weeks ago today.
KosSev: Ok, have you visited predominant Serbian areas and your impressions from there?
Ambassador: Well, this is my first day in north Kosovo and I met the mayors of four Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo, but last week I was in Gracanica and I met Mayor Kostic there and I saw Bishop Teodosije there. So, I guess this is my second day visiting a Serb majority municipality.
KosSev: What did you do first upon your arrival?
Ambassador: Well, I had a very busy first day. The first thing I did was to talk with my staff at the Embassy. I have many jobs as ambassador, but my first and most important job is to manage the American Embassy and the several hundred people who work there: many Americans, but the majority of our staff are Kosovo citizens. So, I met with… we had a town hall meeting – we call it in the United States – with the staff in the Embassy in Pristina and after that I went to see President Jahjaga and I gave her the letter I had from President Obama, which recommended me to her as his ambassador to Kosovo and we had a very nice ceremony in the President’s office. I enjoyed that and then I went to see Prime Minister Mustafa to meet him and his leadership team to talk about my priorities in Kosovo and the issues that are important to him. And then I went to the raspberry festival in downtown Pristina. This is a project the USAID supports to work with farmers to help them grow raspberries, which are a high value crop. So, I walked down the street Mother Theresa, I think, in Pristina, and there are all these little booths with raspberry products, fresh raspberries, frozen raspberry jam and I was talking with the farmers about the raspberry production. That was a lot of fun, and of course I got to eat a lot of raspberries, too, so that was good.
KosSev: What would be your general assessment to the political and security situation in Kosovo currently?
Ambassador: Well, let’s see. On politics, starting with politics, I think recent decisions by the government and parliament on tough issues, like the Special Court and the dialogue agreements with Serbia, demonstrate considerable political maturity. These issues were nowhere near popular and nevertheless, the government and the parliament were able to make agreement and to vote for the Special Court. So, I think that’s very important. Any government can pass a law that everybody supports, but I think it takes a mature government to pass hard laws that people not always support, but that are necessary for the future of the country. My view is that Kosovo has a future in all the key institutions in Europe, in security institutions, democracy institutions and economic institutions and taking some of these hard steps, the dialogue agreements, the Court, were necessary for full reconciliation between Kosovo and Serbia and for full integration of Kosovo into European institutions. So, I felt that the Dialogue agreements concluded last month were real success for both, Kosovo and Serbia.
On security front, my impression so far is that the Kosovo Police is doing a very good job throughout Kosovo and that the respect it has earned from the communities throughout country demonstrate that it capability is strong and growing. Other big security issues that are important are the gradual transition of the Kosovo Security Forces into Kosovo Armed Forces by, in a way, sensitive to Kosovo’s history and the communities that live here. And then, another important security issue is Kosovo’s work as the part of the counter ISIL coalition, and I noticed that the Government just yesterday passed a new policy on countering violent extremism which is very important stuff.
KoSSev: And, at the end, your message to Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs
Ambassador: Well, diversity and respect for others are really cornerstones for a multi-ethnic democracy. And the policy of the United States is to encourage continued development of a multiethnic democracy in Kosovo. The relationship between Kosovo-Albanians and Kosovo-Serbs is key to sustain peace and development in the region, and critical to the country’s future. To this end, you all, everyone here has a personal and national responsibility, I believe, to work together to build stronger communities that value all the people despite differences in heritage, beliefs, ideas. The United States is committed to Kosovo’s future as a full member of the European Community of Nations. We believe this is a goal shared both by Kosovo-Serbs and Kosovo-Albanians, and we continue to work together with all of Kosovo’s communities to achieve this goal. Thank you very much.
KoSSev: Thank you so much, I’m pleased to meet you.