Ambassador Delawie’s Interview with Express

Express: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for your time. On the first of September there will be a vote in the Parliament and if the MPs fail to ratify the Agreement on Border Demarcation with Montenegro, I want to ask you briefly–should the government continue its work? Does it make any sense for them to continue the work if they fail in this, failing to have two-thirds of the votes on such a big, important issue?

Ambassador Delawie: I tell you the first thing they teach you in diplomat school is not to answer hypothetical questions. I think that the Assembly should vote in favor of the Border Demarcation Agreement and I won’t belabor the points that I’ve made multiple times in the past, but just to say that the Border Demarcation Agreement agreed by the Commission is the same border that has existed since 1974, the border that is on Kosovo’s flag, and it is a border with a friendly state.

There was an article in Reuters yesterday on this issue where they quoted someone saying, “I’ve farmed this land all my life and now they are giving it away to Montenegro.” That’s not true. Ownership is different from nationality of the land. If your land is in Peja, it’s yours and it is still yours after this deal. If your land is in Plave and you are a Kosovo Albanian, if it is your land that is in Plave it is still in Plave and it is still your land after this deal. No one is giving anything away. Basically all they are doing is drawing in a darker line the boundary that has existed at least since 1974.

Express: Can I ask you on the government, it is not really hypothetical, it is pretty much logical. Why should the governing coalition continue its work if they fail to push this forward? But you don’t want to comment on that, do you?

Ambassador Delawie: I think it is important for governments to try to do their job. Governments are elected by the people to continue to do their job as long as they can.

Express: In case it is not going to be ratified, should the whole process be annulled? Or should this remain some sort of burden for every other government that comes in order to try to have it ratified some time?

Ambassador Delawie: I think it is important to get it ratified. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.

Express: So you are confident that it will be ratified?

Ambassador Delawie: My crystal ball is hazy today so I’m not going to make a prediction. I’m going to hope that it gets ratified because I am an optimist and I think it is important for Kosovo. I think it is also important to recognize that the Border Demarcation Agreement is not really what is at issue here. This is really an issue of political power. Whether the vote passes or fails tomorrow, the challenge to Kosovo’s democracy is going to continue.

We have a government that was elected by the people of Kosovo in 2014, a coalition that was put together from parties that were elected in Kosovo’s only national election that met Western standards in 2014. We have other people who have been opposing this agreement who have used teargas, they have used Molotov cocktails, they have threatened violence, and one political party threatened to murder political opponents based on this agreement. I’m not mentioning any parties’ names because that is not really appropriate for me as Ambassador, maybe even more as a foreigner, Ambassador or not. But I think you have a group of people who have said they will do anything to stop this agreement and they have demonstrated what “anything” could be. I think that’s bad for Kosovo.

Express: Speaking of this as a challenge, yesterday I’m sure you know there were some raids, there were some arrests, some senior officials from Vetevendosje have been arrested and the opposition as a whole did not rule out the escalation of the whole situation if the agreement gets ratified in the Parliament tomorrow. Do you think that this is posing now not only a serious challenge for the majority but also for the international communities, particularly the Western world which is such a supporter of Kosovo’s independence? Do you feel that the West is being challenged as well, it is not only the government, by all these actions taken?

Ambassador Delawie: On the arrest yesterday, as a government official , in my government we can’t talk about judicial processes until they are complete so I have no comment on the arrests.

Is this a challenge for the West? That might be stretching it a little. It is certainly a challenge to Kosovo- the political violence. I got here a year and a week ago, today. And I’ve been speaking pretty consistently about two things since then. One is corruption and the other is political violence. I oppose both of course. It is certainly important for my country that Kosovo be stable, democratic, pluralistic, multi-ethnic, things like that. My Vice President talked about that just the other day. He made that very clear, that while he thinks these things are in Kosovo’s interest, they are also in the interest of the United States. I support democracy in Kosovo, I support no political violence. I hope that we can get beyond this tomorrow without violence. I hope the Assembly will pass the Border Demarcation Agreement.

Again, I think it is important for people to realize that the Border Demarcation Agreement is not really the important issue. The important issue is political power, and how ever the vote comes out tomorrow, the struggle for political power is unfortunately not going to end.

Express: Speaking on Vetevendosje, there were some ideas now because you made all these calls, and this is not the first time you have been calling to end the violence as a means to be used against anything happening in the country and it didn’t really work out. Now some people are having this idea that probably Vetevendosje should be banned entirely as a political party and should be prohibited to participate in elections as well because they are using continuously violence as a means of gaining authority. Yesterday during the raids there were some weapons found at the private homes of these senior activists that got arrested. Is this an idea that you ever thought of?

Ambassador Delawie: It is not appropriate for me to comment on the future of any political party in Kosovo. We work with political parties, we encourage them to operate in a democratic fashion with training. National Democratic Institute people have been here for a long time, maybe since 2000. They work evenhandedly with all the parties and the questions are: how do you do fundraising, how do you organize your members and things like that. So we support the development of political parties. I can’t really comment on what the future of a political party should be in Kosovo, I’m a diplomat and it’s not appropriate.

Express: It is still worrying that political activists have the need to have weapons at home, isn’t it? Why would they need weapons? Why would they need to and weapons carried by people who don’t have a problem, don’t mind using violence for their political gains?

Ambassador Delawie: Political violence is something that we have seen in this part of the world for nearly 30 years. It has not helped anyone. It has not helped any of the countries in the region, it has not helped Kosovo. The story of Kosovo since 1999 has been about how you recover from political violence. I get around a lot, I don’t just talk with politicians and journalists like yourself. I talk to regular people too. I think what most people want is to live a normal life. They don’t want violence in their lives, they want to have enough money and a job to get along, and they want their children to live better than themselves. I think that is what most parents want, is for their children to live better than themselves. I can tell you that political violence is not going to let that happen. Political violence is going to send Kosovo back. I said last week, it risks sending Kosovo back to the 1990s. That’s not what I want for Kosovo. I am convinced that is not what the vast, vast majority of Kosovo citizens want either.

Express: Thank you very much.

Ambassador Delawie: Thank you.