Ambassador Delawie’s Interview for the show “Jeta në Kosovë“, September 20, 2018
Jeta Xharra: Mr. Ambassador, welcome to Jeta ne Kosove.
Ambassador Greg Delawie: Jeta, it’s great to be here. Thank you.
JX: Welcome back. Since you are in the last days of Kosovo, can you do a round out for me, what are the most memorable moments from your stay here, for over three year stay here.
AMB: Well, most memorable moments. Well, I think I’d rather talk about what I’m most satisfied with if that’s okay.
JX: Okay, go ahead.
AMB: I think I’d like to start with the rule of law, we’ve made a fair amount of progress on rule of law, increased transparency to the court system, a lot more decisions are being published, six thousand as opposed to around fifty when I first got here. We’ve helped develop sentencing guidelines so that people with political connections can’t get light sentences without some kind of justification that the judge has to provide. We helped preserve the special court which we feel is very important. In the economic field we’ve helped make a lot of difference for Kosovo. When you think about things like Kosovo exports have improved by thirty-seven percent over the last few years. We’ve got raspberry exports from zero to ten million euros a year, which is providing employment to thousands of people in Kosovo. We’ve got things like, let’s see, rule of law. We’ve got brand, Kosovo brand—made in Kosovo—is kind of a brand now and elsewhere in the world and in Europe. I think we’ve made important contributions to that. So, I feel pretty satisfied with everything that we’ve been able to do over the last couple of years. We always wish we could do more and make more success but that is my answer.
JX: I want to share with you our most memorable moments…of yours, which coincides with what you’ve chosen. You say that your biggest achievement was special courts. And you’re most remembered because you are such a softly-spoken Ambassador, when you said, we felt like it was stab in the back. That was kind of the moment that people said, wow, if you said that it must have been really stab in the back. So, I’ve been meaning to ask you since, and I’m hoping you’ll let me in on the secret, who exactly stabbed you in the back.
AMB: People who promoted this agenda to disrupt the law that applies to the Special Court.
JX: Thaci, Veseli, Hardinaj, Limaj…who exactly. Kurti.
AMB: I’ve been pretty good in the last three years not mentioning people by name in public and I don’t see any reason to change that right now.
JX: You are being a true diplomat, (AMB: That is kind of my job.) but I thought, since you’re leaving you must tell us, you might have told us. But okay, let’s go on to the twelfth of September, only a week ago, you received a medal from our President, for your contribution to peace and democracy. Curious, where will you place this medal? Will it be in your house, in your office? Where will you keep it.
AMB: That’s a good question, I have to finish moving back, or I have to start moving back to Washington and I’ll make that decision. I think I intend to have several different souvenirs from my time in Kosovo displayed somewhere. I’ll figure out where that it is when I get there and what makes sense.
JX: You see, some people looking at that photo might wonder, just what would you feel like, if in the future, the President that gave you that medal ends up being indicted by the Special Court run by an American prosecutor. Theoretically, hypothetically, we don’t know if he will, but since his name is mentioned in the Dick Marty report, I’m just interested to know how you feel like, for that medal, if the indictment takes place.
AMB: You know, one of the first things they teach you in diplomat school is, and I remember this thirty-five years ago, is not to answer hypothetical questions. I think I’ve pretty much demonstrated my commitment both to Kosovo and to promoting an American agenda here. The Special Court has been an important part of that agenda, but I’ve also done other things.
JX: Is it still? An important part of the agenda?
AMB: Absolutely, it is still. As you mentioned the new chief prosecutor of the Special Court, I think started work last week, basically. And we are supplying the prosecutor, he is the third American to fill that role. I think that’s a pretty solid demonstration of American commitment to making the special court, allowing it to do its job, and to support it as it does its job.
JX: In Albanian there is a saying, e treta e vërteta—the third one will get it right. Do you think this one will resign again and we’ll see more dragging of the special court? Like the two before.
AMB: That’s another hypothetical question. They don’t work for me. I don’t work for them. It’s an independent judicial body. And I think all of us in the United States and Europe have aspirations that it will do its job to provide justice to the victims of war crimes during the war time period. I hope it will do that and I hope it will be seen as providing justice as well as actually doing justice.
JX: So you’re claiming this policy of America will stay consistent, unlike the view of the borders, which changed over time. Are you sure people will not see a change of American policy on the Special Court similar to what we’ve seen on the change of policy over the accepting of border change.
AMB: I’m saying right now our policy is to support the Special Court. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen 10 years from now or 20 years from now, I mean that’d be silly. We, just starting last week, are putting Jack Smith, the new chief prosecutor. We are supporting him, we are paying his salary. As he assumes his responsibility as chief prosecutor of the Special Court, I don’t think there’s any better demonstration of our commitment to the court than that.
JX: Just at a time when you’re leaving, it’s coinciding with dramatic moments that have gone on in Kosovo in the last month, especially with the dramatic visit of Mr. Vucic. I call it dramatic because, the most memorable thing in this audience he said that Milosevic was a great Serb leader. His intentions were certainly the best, but our results were much worse. What do you think of this statement?
AMB: Look, I think we all know that Milosevic brought nothing but misery and death to Kosovo as well as the entire Balkan region. I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t change the past, you can only change the future. And Kosovo, like Serbia, needs to focus on the future. And see how to move forward with improving a relationship that both countries need, the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
JX: The reason why I’m asking is because the comment you made on your tweet did not refer at all to this statement, but you did refer to the protests which says peaceful protests would have better shown of the Kosovo I know. Can you tell me what was not peaceful about the protests, or was it violent?
AMB: The roads were blockaded.
JX: Yes, roads were blockaded, but roads are blocked in protests in America, people occupy streets of America, it’s public space. In democracy this happens. People occupy public space.
AMB: It happens. I think peaceful protest would have been a better demonstration of Kosovo’s views.
JX: Maybe not provoking them would have been better, not, not going there and not saying that Milosevic did well. How would it feel like, for example, if Angela Merkel went to Auschwitz and said Hitler was a good guy. What do you think the people would react like? I mean, the results are not that good, wouldn’t it be similar?
AMB: Look, I’m not going to comment on what Vucic did. He’s a foreign leader. I don’t talk about foreign leaders. You know, my concern is that Kosovo demonstrate its best face to the world. I would have been happier to see signs, chants, things like that. Not blocking roads. But, you know, I think it is important for Kosovo and Serbia to find a way to move forward. And it’s not going to be easy, there are going to be bumps in the road, absolutely. But it’s in both countries best interests to find a way to make progress.
JX: I know, but how can you reconcile with people who think Milosevic did well and who were part of that regime? It’s not like it’s a new regime. Mr. Vucic was Minister of Information in the time when Milosevic was killing people in a place where he was aiming to go in Drenica. So, what do you say to people who are listening to you and you say to them that you got to reconcile, but he was part of that regime and he thinks, to this day, he hasn’t changed his mind. He hasn’t built memorials, like Angela Merkel has to Jews in the center of their town. He hasn’t regretted, he hasn’t forgiven. You, diplomats, are not asking him to ask for forgiveness, so what do you say to people? How do you reconcile a man like that?
AMB: Look, I’m not a psychologist. And I continue to believe you can only change the future. You’ve got to make progress. You’ve got to find a way. I’m not going to comment on Mr. Vucic. It is important for people to move forward, they find a way to reconcile with each other, that the countries find ways to reconcile with each other. And to find a way to move forward into the future that I think we all want, which is Kosovo and Serbia joining the rest of Europe and finding a way to develop their European values and to move ahead.
JX: Yes, I know you said this in the rest of tweet, but why is it easier—we’ll move on to the next subject. Why is it easier to comment on the behavior of people in Drenica, which was blocking the road, as opposed to Vucic’s comment. Why is it easier to do one than the other? He made the comments in Kosovo. Why didn’t we see the ambassador saying that Serbia’s president should apologize for war crimes committed in Kosovo? That is the Kosovo I want to see.
AMB: Look, I can tell you what I said. I told you I don’t speak about foreign leaders. I tell you what I think about Milosevic. I’m sorry, what else do you want from me right now, Jeta?
JX: To allow people to express themselves in a protest…
AMB: It’s democracy…
JX: And not comment on how they’re commenting, how…
JX: …they’re protesting. In the speech, one thing that you did say very, very courageously, in a speech you made in April 2007, or let me say, the ambassador that I liked, was regarding the formation of Kosovo army, you said, It’s time that all Kosovo citizens take part in forming the future of security forces. We do not expect Kosovo’s people to be waiting forever for this. We do not believe one side should veto this process. Do you stand by your speech of (AMB: Absolutely.) 2017? And why are we, today, in September 2018, and the military is not one of your successes before you leave. This hasn’t been one of the things that you have achieved.
AMB: I think I also made clear in 2017 what I thought needed to happen to bring Kosovo, to bring this military issue along. I think some things have been slower than I would wish, certainly, than the people of Kosovo would have wished. I wish there’d been more consultation with NATO, I’m a NATO guy from a long time ago. I believe that Kosovo’s security to a very substantial extent rests upon NATO. And it would be better for Kosovo to have spent more time consulting with NATO, with US NATO allies on the way forward.
JX: So, when is the right timing? How should Kosovors actually coordinate this with NATO? Because it’s been forever that we’ve been talking, like forever I mean in the time that you’re here we’ve been talking about this. When should this have been time’s up and Kosovo should have formed the army. When is the right time?
AMB: Well, Kosovo delegation went to Brussels last week, met with the missions, embassies if you will of NATO countries, in Brussels. That was good, I definitely supported that. The same week it introduced this legislation in the Assembly. I think that was too fast. I mean do you tell people on Monday and you act on Wednesday.
JX: But it’s been ongoing for a year. More than a year, right?
AMB: The first time the Kosovo government went to Brussels to talk with NATO missions was last Monday.
JX: So, if this is too fast, when is the next time they should do it? When is the time when the Parliament should consider it, that it is coordinated with NATO allies?
AMB: Well, to coordinate is not a matter just of talking, it’s a matter of listening. I think it’s good to give NATO allies, the countries upon which Kosovo’s security depends, the chance to think about what they heard and to comment on it. (JX: You talk about…) I’m not going to give you a date.
JX: Ok, so, will this happen in the time, you think, of your successor?
AMB: I’m still not going to give you a date.
JX: OK, one thing that happened dramatically in the last month is also the whistleblower, Elez, came out, the prosecutor, the special prosecutor, working on the court. I noticed you didn’t go and visit Lumezi like Ms. Apostolova did, in the time that people were protesting against this. So how do you comment, on the fact that, you know, visiting Lumezi, head of prosecution, at a time when people were protesting is actually seen as a sign, is it seen as a sign of support? You didn’t do it, why didn’t you do it?
AMB: You know, I’m not going to comment on what another diplomat does, a diplomat’s job is to exercise influence, how he or she determines how to exercise influence, you know, I’m not prepared to argue about that.
JX: What is the sign you gave us by not going to visit him? Were you supporting the protests then?
AMB: Look, I think it’s very important that the indictment in the phony pensions case was filed last Friday. I would rather focus on the responsibility of institutions to do their job, in this case the prosecution service, I think there’s been too much focus on the prosecutors. I think that this is a distraction from pursuing the case. I think it’s very important for people to spend more time worried about whether these phony veterans are stealing money from Kosovo’s government or Kosovo’s children than which prosecutor did what, when. There is an important institutional factor here and the institution, the prosecution service, needs to move forward. If it can prove a case in court, that’s the important thing.
JX: One thing we haven’t seen of, you talked about more indictments, but nothing on the sexual violence during the war. You have supported women with other projects. Last time you were here it was second of March, you were sitting down with women fighting for their inheritance. Have you made a difference to women’s role in Kosovo in the time you were here? Do you see any success? What do you see from the moment you come to when you’re leaving.
AMB: I think we’ve made a difference. I think the women of Kosovo deserve more credit than our American Embassy does. Certainly, if we think back to the show in March when Arjeta was sitting over there, I think she has…we’ve stayed in touch with her. Thank you for putting us on the show together because she is a very powerful person, someone to be reckoned with.
JX: Thank you for coming and standing by her side in the same panel.
AMB: It was a pleasure and we’ve stayed in touch since. She has made a lot of progress. She’s formed an NGO, she’s interacted with other NGO’s.
JX: And her case is being appealed. The judge gave up her case.
AMB: Okay. I think the strong, resilient women of Kosovo are really asserting themselves. I think that’s a good thing. There’s progress being made. Inheritance cases filed by women are up to three percent. That’s not a great number but it’s better than zero percent it was a few years ago. Women are registering their property in their own names now, up to seven percent or something. That’s progress. But there is a lot more to do. There is this kind of government agenda on women’s property rights. I think there are 18 laws involved. And two of them have passed through the assembly and some are in the Assembly and some are still in the government. I think there is more work to be done. But I’m pretty satisfied how we made a contribution. I’m also happy that more women are coming forward to report domestic violence cases. I don’t think there are more domestic violence cases, I think there is more reporting of number of domestic violence cases. That shows, first of all, that women are being stronger, secondly, there is a little more trust.
JX: Are you happy with the response of police on cases of violence against women that we saw recently, like the Gjakova case?
AMB: Gjakova was horrific. There is no way to paint that any other way than a failure of the system and there is an investigation ongoing, there are people suspended. The aftermath seems to be making progress and I hope we all learn from that circumstance. But, I think there are other cases when women are coming forward to report domestic violence cases where judges are taking them seriously, are treating them as real victims. I think it’s important that we recognize that domestic violence it’s a crime.
JX: Two final questions. Are you still committed, as a country, to the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo? What does this mean not only for Kosovo but for America? How committed are you?
AMB: We are absolutely committed to the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo. The United States is of course a multi-ethnic entity. We consider our diversity a source of our pride, a source of our strength, and power. I think that is increasingly true in Kosovo as well, and you look at artists, and musicians, and sports figures in Kosovo who see diversity being a strength and absolutely we are committed to that.
JX: So, these games with the borders what do you think of them? Games between Thaci and Vucic on actually dividing along ethnic lines, what do you think of that?
AMB: On the dialogue our position is to give the two countries the space to negotiate a deal that would be in the interest of both countries that will be acceptable to the populations of both countries and…..
JX: But the constitution of America is sacred, right? So, would you find that the constitution of Kosovo is sacred as well? That the president according to our constitution does not have the right to change borders or negotiate such a deal. Why are you supporting a disrespect of the constitution of Kosovo?
AMB: Look, our position is to give both countries space to make some kind of a deal that they can sell domestically in both cases. I’m not going to get into what the elements of that deal are. I was asked the same question five times on Rubikon a couple of weeks ago and I am giving the same answer today, because our answer hasn’t changed. We are encouraging the two countries to try to make a deal, we are not offering a blank check which is…..
JX: If the people of this country don’t like that deal, how is that deal viable?
AMB: Our position is that any deal has to be domestically sellable in both countries. So, and I’m not going to be prescribing exactly what the deal should look like. Our position now is that the deal has to emerge organically from the two countries and we are trying to give the countries space to achieve some kind of deal.
JX: Finally what are your three tips for your successor? With being a man of experience of three years with our parliament, institutions, civil society, what would be your three tips?
AMB: Well, without too much time to think about this, I have to say a couple of things. First of all, there is a giant division between regular people in Kosovo and politicians. And if you only talk with politicians then you don’t really understand what Kosovo is like. So, I think, get out, get out of town, get out of the office, hike in the mountains, go to bars, go to restaurants, meet regular people. I think that’s very important. Second is, you have to have a long-term vision. There are good days, there are bad days in Kosovo. There are days where you’re stabbed in the back and there are days where we help (JX: You get a medal) well, for me it’s about achieving objectives, not anything personal. So, the day that the border demarcation agreement was passed through the assembly, I think that was a really good day for me. It took us two and a half years to get there, happy to see the European parliament, kind of, inch Kosovo further along towards visa liberalization, so that’s good. But long term, there’s got to be a long term vision. Because not every day is going to be a great day where you achieve your objectives. And third is, fifty percent of Kosovo population is twenty-five years or under. That is a tremendous source of advantage for Kosovo but it’s something you have to be very careful with not to lose. You want to make sure these people stay here, that they contribute to the future of their country, that they not get discouraged by their parents, my generation, as to what they are doing that affects their future. So, it’s really important to stay focused on the young people of Kosovo which is really the source of strength for the future.
JX: Ambassador Delawie, thank you. I wish you luck in your future career. You are always welcome in Kosovo.