Ambassador Delawie’s Interview with KTV’s Rubikon, February 16, 2017
KTV: Mister Ambassador, welcome to Rubikon.
Ambassador Delawie: Thank you very much. It is great to be here.
KTV: Thank you. So, it is almost a month since USA has a new President, President Donald Trump, and there were a lot of talks about the continuation of involvement of the U.S. in Kosovo and the region. How do you see this will develop?
Ambassador Delawie: I know there has been concern about this everywhere in the region. But I have been watching very carefully, of course, what’s going on in Washington and I can say that U.S. policy regarding the Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular has been very consistent over the last several decades whether there has been a Democrat or Republican in the White House. I have seen no indication that that’s going to change at this point. There are still only a few appointees of the new Administration. Of course we’ll all have to watch and see who staffs the next level down of the Administration officials. But, so far, I think we are operating under pretty much the same policy as we’ve had in the past and that is what the U.S. will continue to support- Kosovo’s independence, growth and integration into the European structures.
KTV: So, nothing you’d expect to change in this new office?
Ambassador Delawie: I have seen nothing yet that would cause me to be concerned about a change.
KTV: We have seen a new situation in process of dialogue with Serbia and we have also seen some maneuvers that were characterized as provocations coming from Serbia. The first is the arrest of Ramush Haradinaj with indictment from Serbia, the second was the so-called Russian train and the third is the wall actually that was built in northern part of Mitrovica. What is your comment on this? Where is this leading?
Ambassador Delawie: Regarding the dialogue- I think it’s very important that it continues. There have been real accomplishments from the dialogue: the integration of the police in the north, customs duty collections on the Kosovo-Serbia border, the telephone code that was demonstrated, I think, two weeks ago. I hope to see the Mitrovica Bridge opening in a month or so. I think these are all concrete evidence of progress from the dialogue. I’d like to make an analogy: if you live in a neighborhood in a house and you don’t get along very well with your neighbor, well, you could move to another house. Countries can’t do that. It’s very important that Kosovo and Serbia continue to work towards improving their relations, normalizing their relations. This supports both countries and their ambitions to become more deeply integrated into European institutions, and supports both countries’ efforts to improve the lives of their citizens.
KTV: If we see these acts of provocations as was the wall and the train- do you think that this leads to more trust within one another, or tensions?
Ambassador Delawie: I think we have to keep working towards improving relations between Kosovo and Serbia. I think the wall, the resolution of the Mitrovica wall issue, was in favor of all the citizens of Mitrovica, no matter what community they came from. I think the new pedestrian zone will be beautiful. The bridge is getting ready to open, and I think that area will be one of the prettiest in all of Kosovo. And I think that it worked out very well. It was a lot of work for everybody, I understand that. Compromises were important but I think it wound up positive in the end. We just have to keep applying the same energy, the same optimism for everything related to the dialogue between the two countries.
KTV: And we’ve been seeing and hearing different dates when the bridge will be open. You are expecting it to be open finally next month as you said?
Ambassador Delawie: The EU is working on the project, that’s the last date I heard. There was the problem with the wall and there was the problem with the weather- it was so cold for so long, and that delayed construction as well. So, I’m not fully up-to-date but I think things seem to be going well again. The weather is finally above freezing and that should let the construction work continue.
KTV: And, there is a little bit of impatience about the pace of the dialogue, it’s been almost six years since it started and we still have no clearance where is it going to end and if the final result will be this comprehensive agreement between the two countries. Do you have the view when should it end with a comprehensive agreement?
Ambassador Delawie: I think it’s important to keep working forward, to keep fulfilling all of the deals that have already been reached under the dialogue that have not been fully implemented yet, and then to keep looking for new areas where Kosovo and Serbia can work together to improve the lives of their citizens. People are working on the justice integration in the north right now. That’s making a lot of progress, it’s not completely done, it needs to be completely done. So, we just need to keep moving forward. This supports both countries and their ambitions to become a greater part of Europe. Dates? Things happen when they happen, I am going keep pushing forward here and do my best to support the efforts of both countries to improve their relations and normalize their relations.
KTV: Issue of border demarcation with Montenegro is still unsolved. You have been vocal about the issue, and we have some new initiatives now, the Commission that was formed, with different institutions to measure the territory of Kosovo. Do you find it to be a step forward in solving this issue?
Ambassador Delawie: Well, I hope it’s a step forward. You’re right, I have been very vocal about this issue. The State Department has looked at this issue very carefully, at the border that the commission drew a year and a half ago. The draft border is identical with the border that has separated Kosovo and Montenegro since at least 1974. It is the border that is in Kosovo’s Constitution, it is the border that is on Kosovo’s flag, it is the right border. And, I have to say, I wish that some fraction of the energy that was devoted to this issue had instead been devoted to solving real problems in Kosovo-dealing with corruption, dealing with unemployment, finding ways to make the lives of ordinary citizens better and more productive. I also continue to find it ironic that a lot of the people who are opposing the border agreement already have foreign passports, already have Schengen visas and are denying the travel benefits that they enjoy from their fellow citizens of Kosovo.
KTV: And you are clear that the border is OK, because we have also the interpretation of the view of the US Embassy, or US Department of State that you are actually vocal to find an agreement how to go forward and not that this demarcation is alright.
Ambassador Delawie: The State Department has determined that the border that the Commission drew is consistent with the border that existed since 1974, when Kosovo was a province, Montenegro was a province. So that’s the factual case. We certainly support that border, I think it’s a shame that this issue relates to a country that has been very friendly to Kosovo. Montenegro supported Kosovo since the beginning of independence basically and, you know, it’s kind of a silly issue, it’s a fake issue. Of course we want countries to have an agreement and we not going to tell them exactly what to do, it is not our job. But the border the Commission drew is a fine border, it’s the border since ’74 and I would certainly encourage members of the Parliament, Kosovo government officials to ratify the Agreement so that they can get on with other business more important for the citizens.
KTV: And we see the opposition saying a totally different thing that we need another process of demarcation with the border, we have protest and we heard again that if the issue will return to the Assembly there can be also protest again.
Ambassador Delawie: Protests don’t bother me, dialogue doesn’t bother me, disagreement doesn’t bother me, what bothers me is the political violence. We certainly have protests in the United States and have for hundreds of years. We have disagreement in our Congress, we have since the very beginning. But political violence, that’s a very different issue. I mean, if you want to control the agenda in a country, in a democracy, you need to win an election. And, you know, if you can’t win that election then using violence to try to achieve your ends does not help your country.
KTV: What do you call political violence? What are the acts that consist political violence that you see in Kosovo?
Ambassador Delawie: Use of tear gas, use of Molotov cocktails, throwing things in the Assembly, that’s political violence.
KTV: And many were arguing that because of these disagreements between the opposition and the Government and the parties that are in power, maybe to solve the issue we will have to organize early national elections. Will this solve the issue?
Ambassador Delawie: You know, I think it is a bad idea to have elections just because you can’t think of anything else to do. I think people were elected to the Parliament in 2014 and members of Parliament need to work on behalf of the citizens, government officials need to work on behalf of the citizens and I would certainly encourage them to do so. There is time left to do real work on things like religious freedom, unemployment, rule of law, and I would certainly rather see politicians, officials deal with those issues rather than get caught up in a year, or, you know, some indeterminate period of election frenzy where not a lot gets done.
KTV: We saw this week that Kosovo Assembly adopted a resolution that empowers Kosovo Government to work on formation of Kosovo Armed Forces. Do you believe this is the way to go forward?
Ambassador Delawie: I think if you ask anyone in the Kosovo Security Forces which foreigner has supported them the most, I think everyone would say it’s the United States. And we support, have supported for a long time the Kosovo Security Forces. We support the transformation from the Kosovo Security Forces to Kosovo Armed Forces. We think that should be done in compliance with the Kosovo Constitution. A Constitutional amendment should be passed allowing this transformation to happen. We will support that entirely.
KTV : But we see that for the time being because of Serbs, Lista Srpska boycotting the Assembly and the government, this is not something that can be done easily. Is there another way to do this?
Ambassador Delawie: I certainly encourage Lista Srpska to return to the Assembly and to start, restart working for their constituencies in Kosovo just as I encourage the Kosovo Serbs to return who hold government positions to return to the government. I think there is a way to get from here to there, it certainly involves discussion, it involves cooperation, it involves compromise. But we certainly support the use of the Constitutional amendment to enable the transformation.
KTV: And you expect that Lista Srpska MPs will vote for the creation of the Kosovo Armed Forces?
Ambassador Delawie: I think it is important for all of the parties in the Assembly to discuss this issue. I’m not going to make a prediction about who is going to vote for what, that would be inappropriate. But certainly if you are not talking, you are not going to get there. We have to make it possible for those Srpska Parliamentarians to return to the Assembly, for officials to return to the government and to restart the dialogue so that everybody can work in the interest of all of Kosovo’s citizens, whatever ethnic community they belong to.
KTV: We saw that Serb representatives in Kosovo and from Belgrade are asking to move forward and faster in creating the Association of Municipalities in the majority-Serb municipalities. How do you think this process should go?
Ambassador Delawie: The Brussels Agreement spells out pretty clearly what is supposed to happen. If I started listing steps I would forget something so forgive me, it is on the internet, you can look it up. I hope it is launched very soon. This issue has dragged on now for a year and a half and I think we need to get it going. It is important to recognize that the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities was in the Ahtisaari Plan that led to the Independence of Kosovo. My government’s position is that it is not an executive level of government issue, it is in line with the Brussels Agreement. We certainly support it being in compliance with the Kosovo Constitution. When EU High Representative Mogherini was here in the spring, she also said that the Association needs to be in compliance with Kosovo’s Constitution. There is a path. The process is lined out in the Brussels Agreement and I think it is time for people to get down to work and start actually implementing this deal.
KTV: But also parts of the agreements were for Serbia to dismantle these parallel structures. There are still parallel structures in the north of Kosovo and we heard Kosovo government officials saying that before this happens, before the dissembling of those parallel structures, we cannot continue working on whatever association because that will endanger the functionality of Kosovo as a whole.
Ambassador Delawie: The Association is the path toward dismantling the parallel structures. The reason for the Association, the reason for this whole deal, is to enhance Kosovo’s sovereignty over its entire territory and to take into account, in particular, the health and the education areas where language is so important to delivery of services. For one thing to happen, the other thing has to happen too. They have to go together.
KTV: Mr. Delawie, we talked in the first part of this interview about isolation of Kosovo because of visa liberalization process. Kosovo is the only country now left in Europe without Schengen visa liberalization. How do you see this being solved? Is it only the demarcation of the border as a condition? We heard that also fighting crime and organized crime and corruption is one of the key conditions.
Ambassador Delawie: I think Kosovo made a lot of progress on the EU list of requirements for visa liberalization. There were 90-some and almost all of them have been achieved. As you know, the last two things the EU has said are the border with Montenegro which we have already discussed and the track record on fighting crime and corruption. On the border, as I said before, I would encourage Parliamentarians to ratify it. It is in the interests of the country that they do it and will certainly open the door for the visa liberalization process that the EU will conduct.
On the track record- not for me to judge, that is for the European Union to discuss this, but I would argue, on my own account, that 2016 saw some very important work against corruption. There were 57 police officers arrested at one point, there have been a number of members of Parliament that have resigned when they were indicated for corruption, there have been some municipal officials that have been arrested or indicted for corruption. I think this is progress. Now, it clearly has to be followed up. The prosecutors have to make the best case, the judges have to provide speedy justice however the cases come out. But if I were Kosovo, I would argue that we are making progress. More to do, but still making progress.
KTV: And after that we should expect to have visa liberalization?
Ambassador Delawie: You are going to have to ask the EU about that because it is not up to me.
KTV: The U.S. Embassy is working, as you announced, on the new building in Pristina. How is it going, when is it going to be ready?
Ambassador Delawie: I’ve learned when building my own houses that it is not necessarily wise to make a prediction about exactly when a construction project will be ready. But we expect it to open in 2018. Construction is going well, it is getting higher and higher above that fence so we are very optimistic. It will be great to move into a purpose built office building because our Embassy is in a bunch of houses at this point, which are fine houses but are not built to be offices, which is what we need. In 2018, it will be I’m convinced one of the most beautiful buildings in Kosovo, certainly one of the most environmentally-friendly and energy efficient, with geothermal wells and things like that. It is going pretty well. That will also give us the opportunity to open full visa services for Kosovo citizens. Right now the majority of Kosovo citizens have to go to Skopje to get an American visa. We are sorry about that but we just can’t fit everybody in our consular section we need to to do that today.
KTV: You are issuing some kinds of visas in Pristina?
Ambassador Delawie: We do, we are trying to expand. People over 60 now can come here in Pristina instead of going to Skopje. We just announced the other day that we are going to conduct visa interviews for Student Work Travel, this is a special program, a summer work program in the United States. That is mostly young people of course, that would be about 500-600 more visa applicants that we can process in Pristina instead of Skopje. We are trying to make it easier for Kosovo citizens to come to us for visa interviews, but the key is really going to be the completion of our new Embassy.
KTV: Then all the visa requirements will be in Pristina?
Ambassador Delawie: Yes, once we open the new building, open the new consular section, every citizen of Kosovo that wants to apply for a visa would be able to come to Pristina instead of traveling to Skopje.
KTV: Tomorrow, Ambassador, is a big day for Kosovo, it is the ninth anniversary of Kosovo’s Independence Day. For my viewers, it is very important to hear the message from the Ambassador of one of the countries that supported the most for us to have this day and to celebrate it the way we want. So what is the message of the U.S. Government for Kosovo Independence Day?
Ambassador Delawie: First thing I have to say is happy birthday. We have been with Kosovo since the beginning and we have supported its growth, its economic development, its cultural development and we will continue to do so. Also I should tease that we will have a new video up on our Facebook page on Friday so watch for that.
But, more seriously, I would also like to flag a concern that we heard in 2016: too many people talk about governing as a process of dividing spoils. I feel that public service is a public trust and the first obligation of any public servant, whether you are a politician, or a civil servant, or a judge or a prosecutor should be to put the interests of the citizens of Kosovo first. For 2017, I would certainly like to encourage everyone in a public service role in Kosovo, no matter what public service role they have, to say: what am I doing today for the citizens of my country? Not my party, not my family, not my friends. Those are all important on a personal basis, but in our role as public servants, we have to take care of the public first. I hope to see a recommitment by all public officials of Kosovo to say, what am I doing today for my country? Thank you very much.
KTV: Ambassador Delawie, thank you very much for the interview.