Ambassador Delawie’s Interview with Klan Kosova

Ambassador Delawie’s Interview with Klan Kosova, 17 Aug, 2017

Klan Kosova: Ambassador Delawie, welcome to the studio of Info Magazine, welcome to Klan Kosova.

Ambassador Delawie: Thank you Kushtrim, it’s great to be back with you.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) How do you see the recent attack on Sokol Zogaj and Parim Olluri?

Ambassador Delawie: Thank you for bringing that up, because I resolutely condemn the attacks on both the Insajderi editor and Correctional Services Director. I think it’s very important that violence not become a part of Kosovo’s political life. Kosovo has had plenty of violence. People are sick of it, the international community is sick of it, and it is not what they deserve. All of Kosovo’s citizens deserve to be able to live a life free of violence, whether they are public officials, journalists, or any other profession. I have to see these two events as attacks on the one hand on the rule of law and on the other hand freedom of media. And I of course very strongly support rule of law and freedom of media in Kosovo and around the world. Once again, I condemn them [attacks] very resolutely.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) How do you see current political situation in the country? It’s been two months since the Election Day, held on June 11, and there are no institutions in place, namely Assembly and the Government? How do you see this delay?

Ambassador Delawie: I think delay costs Kosovo politically, economically and internationally. I have to remind the members of Parliament, all of them, that they have been elected to be public servants. They are working for the people. I think it is incumbent on them to find a way to make some kind of compromise so they can create the institutions of Kosovo. They were not really elected to sit here in Pristina arguing pointlessly or worse, not even showing up to work in the Assembly. I think it is essential for the Assembly to be constituted and for the government to be constituted in order for these elected officials to help begin resolving critical problems that Kosovo faces today.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) What is the way out of this situation, when the parties have equal numbers?

Ambassador Delawie: It is not up to me as a foreigner to instruct Kosovo on what it should do or make a decision that needs to be made by Kosovo’s own citizens. It has been nine years since the Republic of Kosovo declared independence. The training wheels have come off. It is up to Kosovo’s own politicians to make the compromise that is necessary to form a government, to make the compromise that is necessary to constitute the Assembly, and to begin making important decisions that will truly affect the lives of Kosovo’s citizens. It is not up to me to do that. It is up to Kosovo’s politicians to make important decisions on their own and to accept the responsibility of the decisions that they make.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) Both parties are heavily accusing each other for blockade. Who is right? Those who claim to be the winners of the elections or the other side that says to have the Albanian majority’s support?

Ambassador Delawie: It’s not really up to me to apportion blame for the lack of ability to get things going so far. Kosovo’s citizens are harmed by the stasis as I mentioned, they are harmed economically, politically, they are harmed internationally. It is up to the members of Parliament, the 120 members of Parliament, to figure out how to make progress. And it is up to the members of Parliament to recognize that their obligation is to put the interest of their country first and to make the decisions that are in favor of their country’s future.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) If the political situation continues to be as it is, could one expect from US to intermediate on a solution or a compromise as it was the case back in 2011 with then President Jahjaga?

Ambassador Delawie: I’m not going to make a decision that Kosovo’s citizens should be making. The training wheels are off. The math is unassailable. Basically you have three groups with about a third of the members of Parliament each. Clearly, something has got to give. Some compromise has to be made by one or more people. But I’m not going to tell those people what to do. They need to figure out a way to do that. They need to put the interest of their country first and to get on to solving so many problems that face Kosovo’s citizens today.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) Are you ready to at least meet with or talk to all sides?

Ambassador Delawie: I’ve met with politicians of all the groups. That’s part of my job as a diplomat. I will continue to do so. But for every person that I meet I say basically the same thing I said to you: I’m not going to tell you who to make a deal with, I’m going to encourage you to make a deal. The world is not just sitting and waiting for Kosovo to figure itself out. The world is moving and Kosovo has to move too. For that, the politicians have to make some kind of agreement.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) What do you think about certain movements by certain political parties lately?

Ambassador Delawie: I don’t think I’m any better at interpreting that than you or your colleagues in the media. In fact, I’m sure I’m worse! But certainly I’m happy to see that discussions are going on, that people are talking about possible solutions. Will that make a solution? I certainly hope so. But it is not for me to evaluate whether this conversation or that conversation is leading us one way or the other.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) Srpska List the main topic of the debate between the two sides. There were often harsh accusations by Kosovo Albanian political parties about their role as Belgrade’s representatives in Kosovo. How do you see this debate at the Assembly?

Ambassador Delawie: My expectations of the Parliamentarians of Srpska List are basically the same of all the other members of Parliament. I expect them to work on behalf of the Kosovo citizen voters who elected them. I’ve spent a lot of time with the minority communities including the Kosovo Serbs and I know many of their concerns are basically the same as that of the Kosovo Albanian communities. Unemployment, rule of law, the ability travel freely within Europe- these are common interests that really unite all of Kosovo’s citizens. Once the Assembly is constituted, I certainly expect the Kosovo Serb members of Parliament to be in the Assembly every day working on some of these issues that unite all of Kosovo’s communities and try to make progress for the country.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) Do you encourage the SL members to work in the Parliament?

Ambassador Delawie: I certainly encourage all members of Parliament, no matter what ethnic group they come from to work for the benefit of all of the citizens of Kosovo, absolutely. Because so many more things unite Kosovo’s citizens than divide them.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) What do you think of certain candidates and political parties for Prime Minister?

Ambassador Delawie: My opinion is I’m a foreigner and a diplomat and it is not appropriate for me to comment on Kosovo’s politicians. I’ve met representatives from every political party represented in the Parliament. My team and I will continue to do so. That’s our job as diplomats, to know who has influence in any country. We are doing that here and we will continue to do that. We will continue to make sure that people know what the U.S. government priorities for Kosovo and for our relationship are, no matter what party they belong to and whether they agree with us or not.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) Has something changed over time in the communications between the U.S. government and Vetëvendosje?

Ambassador Delawie: My Embassy has been in touch with all the political parties represented in the Parliament as long as I have been here. I personally have met with representatives of all the political parties that have been elected to the new Parliament. We will continue to do so. I’m not going to evaluate for you what I think about one particular political party over another particular political party.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) What should be the focus of the new Government? Demarcation, ASM, health insurance, foreign investments, more focus on education? What kind of government Kosovo citizens deserve?

Ambassador Delawie: I have a couple of reactions to that. First of all, I think my biggest priority for Kosovo is reforms to the rule of law. I think the lack of progress on rule of law is holding Kosovo back. It is holding Kosovo back politically, it is holding Kosovo back on its path to Europe, and it is holding it back economically. Certainly, rule of law reform is my most important issue for Kosovo.

But the other issues that you mentioned are of course important as well. I was personally disappointed that education was not a topic in the recent election. I think it is so important that the future of Kosovo, its children, be educated appropriately. The border with Montenegro is of course an important issue, the Dialogue with Serbia. All of these things are extremely important for Kosovo’s future and require members of Parliament to be in office to work on them.

Regarding what kind of people, you mentioned, I think that’s a very good question. Because not only are we talking about politicians that are elected, but we are talking about politicians that are appointed to senior positions such as ministers or secretary generals, things like that. I think it is extremely important that all of Kosovo’s public officials, whether they are elected or appointed, put the interests of the entire country first. That they be honest people and that they have expertise in the areas that they are working on. That way they can do the best job of making progress on behalf of Kosovo’s citizens.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) What do you have to say about economic issues, and about how they should be a focus?

Ambassador Delawie: A growth rate of 3.5 percent, more or less, which Kosovo will probably have this year, would be terrific in my country or in a developed Western European economy. But it is not enough to absorb all the new labor coming out of the Kosovo labor market, from high school through college, every year. The economic growth rate has to go up to help deal with the unemployment problem, which I’m sure you know, the unemployment rate is around 30 percent overall and around 60 percent for young people. Those are very discouraging numbers for any person entering the labor market.

I have to get back to my main theme of rule of law. The way you get new jobs is you have businesses invest money creating new jobs, new businesses, expanding businesses, things like that. The way you get that investment is to make sure that you have good rule of law and investors feel that they don’t have to pay people off to get building permits or whatever. Or that they can go to court to resolve disputes they may have with other businesses in a reasonable amount of time. Problems in the rule of law area are holding Kosovo back economically.

Certainly you also have to deal with the education problem because you have to train young people to be able to take the jobs that exist. There is a perverse situation right now in Kosovo where you have a bunch of unemployed people but you also have a fair number of jobs that are going unfilled. That is because there is a mismatch in the skills between the labor market and what the business community desires. This gets back to improving education- not just the reading, writing, arithmetic type of education, but helping prepare young people for the jobs that are available, jobs that require vocational skills, information technology jobs, things like that. Kosovo has a lot of advantages- these young people speak several languages typically and that could be a major asset in the employment market. But you have to make sure these young people have skills that employers need. And you have to help employers by providing a regulated framework where they can get what they expect from their government, both the local and the national government, and where they know unexpected things that would cause them to have problems when creating their business.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) There are MPs at the Assembly of Kosovo that are under investigation/indictment, in one way or the other. What is your opinion about them?

Ambassador Delawie: I’m not going to talk about any particular individuals but I will certainly say that equal justice before the law is a fundamental tenet of democracy. It is something Kosovo desperately needs to improve on. We all know that many politicians of a variety of parties face impunity. That is very discouraging for the citizens of Kosovo, it is discouraging for other countries that want Kosovo to make progress. I think this impunity of politicians desperately has to end.

Kosovo has got to live according to the values of the clubs it wants to join. Multiple Kosovo governments have said Kosovo should be in the European Union, Kosovo should be in NATO, and I of course support those aspirations. But you can’t get there unless you live the values of those countries. Impunity of politicians is a key problem that has got to be resolved. There are many places you can look for a solution to this but certainly prosecutors, judges, they have to hold politicians to the same standards as a regular person off the street. Everybody needs to face the same type of justice.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) Is there a main issue that is most important to you the new government should focus on?

Ambassador Delawie: The issues that are important to me are the issues that impede Kosovo’s progress to Brussels, to Europe, to make progress. Certainly visa free travel for Kosovo’s citizens seems to hinge on the border agreement with Montenegro. I would say the border agreement is exactly right. We have evaluated it carefully and we know that it actually represents the border that has existed between Kosovo and Montenegro since 1971. The Dialogue with Serbia is an important issue for both countries. Progress has to be made there. Rule of law I’ve talked about probably too much already, but there are other issues that are important to Kosovo that are not my issues.

We don’t work on education here anymore very much, not because it is not an important issue but just because we have to focus our efforts on things that we can really change ourselves, or that we can encourage change in. But certainly, I’m a parent, I have two children. If I were a Kosovo parent, to me I’d have to say education is one of the top three issues. If you look at the OECD PISA scores that came out last fall showing Kosovo 70 out of 73 countries in the world, that is bad news. I’m not going to tell Kosovo’s politicians everything that should be important to them because obviously they need to make their own decisions on that. But there are a lot of important issues and that is why it is so important that there be an Assembly quickly so that people can start to work on them. None of these issues are easy, but if you don’t start, you are not going to finish.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) In case blockade continues, how much do you think the dialogue with Serbia would be jeopardized and how do you see this dialogue moving in the future? Is there a deadline this dialogue should end?

Ambassador Delawie: You are absolutely right, we support the Dialogue because it has brought many positive benefits to Kosovo. I think of things like the integration of the Kosovo Police; expanding all of Kosovo’s sovereignty over all of its territories; the minority/majority cities look toward Pristina for budget and resources and other central things; the elections happened in June across the entire country in a pretty fair way on the whole. All of these things kind of stemmed from the Dialogue. The collection of customs duties on the northern border, for example. It has brought real benefits to Kosovo and has helped enhance Kosovo’s sovereignty.

Absolutely, I think it should continue. There are things coming up that would improve the lives of people on both sides of the Kosovo/Serbia border that could be discussed. Really, for both countries to make progress toward their aspirations of European Union membership, continued dialogue is certainly going to be essential. The end state normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, we certainly support that. We will continue to support the EU as it tries to make progress on these issues.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) Some people say there haven’t been results from the Dialogue. Should the format change?

Ambassador Delawie: The Dialogue belongs to Kosovo and Serbia. The EU is facilitating it. The U.S. is supporting it. Exactly how it is formatted is really up to Kosovo and Serbia to figure out. Certainly the United States has been very involved in helping facilitate conversations, helping to facilitate agreements. We will continue to do so. But I can’t take a position on what the future Dialogue should look like. It doesn’t belong to me. I certainly support it.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) How do you think relations are between communities in Kosovo?

Ambassador Delawie: It is making progress, it is improving. Is it perfect? Of course not. But definitely I think things are better than they were several years ago and they are in a periodic state of improvement. The trend is positive. People are getting along.

A couple of weeks ago the OSCE had a project down on Mother Teresa Boulevard in Pristina called the Dialogue Caravan or something like that. They brought several members of Parliament from the Serbian Parliament to talk with people here. Anyone could wander in and chat, and I did. There were also some young people from Serbia who were along with the Serbian members of Parliament. I was chatting with them and several of them said that people had expressed concern to them that they shouldn’t come to Pristina and be heard talking Serbian because something bad might happen to them. They got here and found that Pristina is just like everywhere else. People are friendly and if they didn’t have Serbian or Albanian in common they could probably speak in English. I think that is a symbol of the progress that has been made in Kosovo in the last several years. It is no problem for the minority and majority communities to talk with each other, assuming they have a language in common, and for people to come to Pristina from minority communities and speak their own language and no one will bother them.

I also see constantly people working together. I was in Strpce about a month ago looking at a USAID project for mostly women who grow plants for medicinal and cosmetic products. They grow these flowers of different kinds, they harvest them, they dry them in these drying racks and then they sell them mostly to Germany. They have a thriving little business. It is a multiethnic business. There is an association of women, some are Kosovo Serbs, some are Kosovo Albanians, some are Kosovo Bosniak. And they all work together in an association to make sure they can meet quality standards, they can meet with buyers from abroad. They work together and I see other examples of that all over Kosovo. Community relations are making progress, they need to continue to make progress, but I am optimistic that things are heading in the right direction.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) What is the US stand vis-a-vis Serbia’s President Vucic initiative for an internal dialogue in Serbia, over Kosovo? What is your comment about ideas for division of Kosovo that have been displayed over the past 20 years or so?

Ambassador Delawie: I don’t know exactly what President Vucic has in mind at this point. I’m certainly optimistic to hear people talking about making progress, about making compromises, about making hard decisions. That is definitely positive.

For the internal dialogue, will good come out? I don’t know, and I’m willing to wait and see. I do know that the status quo is holding both countries back. Both countries have aspirations to join the European Union and clearly making progress in their bilateral relationship is going to be a key factor as that process continues.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) But you certainly don’t support ideas about division of Kosovo between Serbia and Albania? There were such statements all over media, and positions of politicians from both sides.

Ambassador Delawie: The United States recognized Kosovo in 2008 under its existing borders, the borders that are on Kosovo’s flag. That is how we recognize Kosovo today. I don’t want to try to strangle discussion before it gets started and I won’t so I’m not really going to comment on specific proposals at this point. I’m certainly happy if politicians from both countries can begin to talk about possible solutions. But, the U.S. recognizes Kosovo according to its borders that exist today and that have existed since 2008. Which are in the Ahtisaari Plan and we respect the Ahtisaari Plan a lot.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) Considering current complicated situation where no party has the numbers to create the Government, do you support the idea for new general elections?

Ambassador Delawie: I would be concerned that additional elections would put Kosovo even further behind the curve. Without a constituted Assembly, without a constituted government, who is going to deal with these rule of law reforms? Who is going to deal with education reforms? Who is going to help create the kind of economy that will employ more of Kosovo’s citizens? These things are all kind of waiting.

I know that the various political parties have different views on these policy issues that I brought up, but I hope everyone can agree that progress is better than stasis. I hope everyone can understand that Kosovo doesn’t really have time to wait. It needs governing institutions, it needs them as soon as possible and I would hope politicians would come to some kind of agreement to constitute these institutions so they can begin to make progress on the issues that are important to Kosovo’s citizens.

Klan Kosova: (summarized) Thank you for coming on InfoMagazine.

Ambassador Delawie: Thank you very much for having me Kushtrim, I really appreciate your time.