Ambassador Delawie’s Interview with RTK 2

RTK 2: Dobro veče poštovani gledaoci, Večeras je sa nama Greg Delavi, ambasador Sjedinjenjih Američkih Država na Kosovu. Mr. Delawie, welcome to RTK2.

Ambassador Delawie: Thank you, it’s great to be here.

RTK 2: You are U.S. Ambassador in Pristina for year and a half. You are familiar with the situation in Kosovo. If you could wrap up and give a mark, what is the most positive and what is the most negative thing that happened in Kosovo during that time?

Ambassador Delawie: Well, let me think about the most positive and negative thing in general, if I could.  I’d say the most positive thing that I have experienced in Kosovo during my year and a half or so is the young people of Kosovo, of all the ethnic communities. I am fully confident that Kosovo’s future is assured because of the talent and  energy of the youth of Kosovo. On the negative side, I have to say political violence is definitely number one. That’s not the way to make a progress in any country in the world; it is certainly not the way to make a progress in Europe. I know that it set Kosovo back, everybody in Kosovo a lot, both politically and economically.  And you asked for one but I’ll give you two. The other issue, negative for me, is I see too many people here putting their party, their family, their personal interest ahead of the national interest, and I believe that Government officials, whether elected or appointed, should really have an obligation to put the people of their nation first, and I wish more people did that.

RTK 2: Process of visa liberalization also stagnates. Agreement of demarcations between Montenegro and Kosovo is still on hold, because there is not enough votes in parliament to pass the agreement, and citizens became some kind of hostages of that process. How can we overcome that situation?

Ambassador Delawie: Hostages is right. First of all the Agreement with Montenegro was perfectly right. It basically ratified the border that existed between Kosovo and Montenegro when Kosovo was a province in 1974. It’s what’s in Kosovo’s Constitution. It’s what’s in the Ahtisaari Plan. So the line the Commission drew is perfectly fine. I think Parliament should vote on it; I think members of Parliament should support it. I recognize they’ve got less personal interest in the issue than most of Kosovo citizens, because most of the opponents have either Schengen Visas already,or they’ve got foreign passports, lots of them, to travel to Europe. But let me get back to the thing I said a minute ago. I think officials should put interests of their citizens first and I think the Parliament should vote on this, and all members of Parliament, or whatever party, should support this agreement.

RTK 2: Government officials sometimes emphasize that Demarcation is the only condition for the visa liberalization and somehow they forgot that there is another condition which is fight against organized crime and corruption. What has U.S. embassy done so far in order to decrease the degree of corruption in Kosovo, and what are the results?

Ambassador Delawie: Certainly the fight against crime and corruption is an important issue. I think what we saw just this week of 59 police officers being arrested for what amounts to corruption is a very positive sign. Of course, they are innocent until proven guilty. But it’s very hard for any police force to hold its members accountable.   I am very impressed with the PIK and Kosovo Police; they were able to build this case and arrest so many potential problem police officers. What the U.S. Embassy has done, we do a lot. Corruption and rule of law issues are our first priority. We support training of judges and prosecutors. We’ve of course supported the Kosovo Police for more than a decade. We are trying to make it harder for officials to be corrupt by supporting things like electronic procurement, and we are drawing a lot of attention to the issue. We had “International Anti-Corruption Week,” I think two weeks ago – just my team in the Embassy participated in 25 different activities during that week, and then non-governmental organizations, civil society, other embassies, other people, participated in another couple dozen activities. So, we are drawing a lot of attention to the issue. We’re doing our best to contribute to making things better. Of course, every country in the world has corruption, including mine. If I had the magic wand to fix it I would. But realistically, you have to work on a whole bunch of different areas at the same time to tackle the corruption problem and we are trying to help the citizens of Kosovo do that.

RTK 2: It’s been a really turbulent political year, if we can say. Opposition, on one side, is strongly against both agreements – demarcation and Association of Municipalities with Serb Majority. “Srpska” List froze their participation in the institutions and there is some kind of turmoil between the two leading parties. Could the early parliamentary elections bring something new on Kosovo’s political scene?

Ambassador Delawie: As a foreign diplomat, it is not my place to talk about decisions that need to be made by democratically-elected people. I will say I think it’s important for people in the Assembly to get back to work. There’s been a lot of time wasted on things that are of only peripheral interest to many people in Kosovo. I travel a lot around the country, I talk with mayors, businesspeople, citizens, and the things the Parliament seems to have focused on in the last year or so are not at the top of the priority list for many citizens of Kosovo. The main concerns for citizens here are kind of the main concerns of every country in the world – economic issues, unemployment, my children’s education. I think there’s plenty of work to be done in dealing with those issues, and I hope the Assembly and the other officials at the Kosovo Government will start to work on those issues that will make a difference, a real difference in people’s lives.     

RTK 2: What about the “Srpska” List? Serb officials said that their coalition partners leave them no choice but to freeze their participation in institutions because they are not giving them too much credits, they do not discuss with them regarding the issue that is important for the Serbs. The drop that spilled the cap is the “Trepca” Law. What is your message regarding that issue?  

Ambassador Delawie: I think the future of Kosovo depends on all the communities working together to make progress on behalf of all the citizens. I certainly hope that the “Srpska” List and the Kosovo Serb politicians will return to work in the Government, will return to work in the Assembly. That’s the way you can get things done for your community and for all of the citizens of Kosovo. You mentioned “Trepca” – it’s a really, really, difficult problem. Everyone’s got to work hard on that problem. There is a study going on by an international consulting firm that, everybody hopes, will provide some clarity and some ideas on what’s the important work to do with “Trepca” in the future. But, if you’re not playing in the game you can’t score any goals. And, so, I think it’s very important for “Srpska” List and for the Kosovo Serb politicians to return to work in the Government, and I certainly call on Kosovo Albanian politicians and Parliamentarians to engage in a constant dialogue. Unfortunately, I see people talking at each other a lot rather than talking with each other. And, I think when you agree or not on an important issue, for politicians, it is very important to talk with each other. And so, I would certainly encourage both communities to reengage in a dialogue, small “d” dialogue, with each other, make sure you express the interest of yourself and your community or the citizens you represent. But, let’s try to work for positive change for Kosovo.

RTK 2: Could this dialogue lead towards establishing of Kosovo Armed Forces? We heard that Parliament members of Srpska List are determined that they will not to vote in favor of Constitutional amendments or article changes, so, could this lead to establishing later on, Kosovo’s Armed Forces, maybe?

Ambassador Delawie: Certainly the United States supports the transformation of Kosovo Security Force to the Kosovo Armed Forces. I gave remarks about this yesterday at the Kosovo Ambassador’s Annual Conference. I think it’s important that this transformation happen in a way that is Constitutional, that involves the interests of all communities of Kosovo. So, this is another issue, I think, that improved dialogue is very important between the communities.  And I certainly think that the Kosovo Armed Forces, once it exists, can be a factor for stability for the citizens of Kosovo. But it’s important that everybody kind of play in that discussion of how we get from today to tomorrow.

RTK 2: So called, revitalization of Ibar river bridge in Mitrovica entered in, if we can say, unexpected phase. There is some kind of wall there. The Mayor of North Mitrovica said that these are stairs. Do we need stairs or walls there in Mitrovica?

Ambassador Delawie: You know, I think – I kind of wish if people would spend as much energy trying to build bridges between each other and trying to build relationships with each other as some people seem to spend dividing each other. I am convinced that the future of Kosovo depends on everybody working together. Integration of all communities, recognizing that Kosovo is multi-ethnic society and always will be, where the minority communities feel at home. I don’t think that wall made a positive contribution to bringing people together. I think it needs to be dealt with according to Kosovo Law and I hope that all sides that are discussing the issues related to the bridge in Mitrovica will find the way to work together to improve the situation for all members of Mitrovica – all citizens of Mitrovica.

RTK 2: Are you satisfied with implementation of Brussels agreements? We still have many of them waiting to be implemented. We are really far from Implementation of Association with Serb majority municipalities, all deadlines for finalizing the statute have passed. Who is the responsible for that?

Ambassador Delawie: Well, let me say that I also think it is important to make progress in Association with Serb majority municipalities, but I would say that a lot has been achieved.  Just this week, we see that the civil registration authorities in the four northern cities are now providing birth certificates, marriage licenses, whatever, to citizens there. So that is positive. Judicial integration is set to kick off on January 10th. That’s very positive. There was the telephone code that seems to have been resolved with +383 for dialing Kosovo just last week. And of course, the Kosovo police have now integrated the MUP people into the Kosovo police. So progress is being made. I don’t think it is fair to say there is no progress. Clearly it could be moving faster. I wish it were. We certainly support the implementation of all of the agreements that were reached in August of 2015 and we think it is perfectly possible for the Association of Serb-majority municipalities to be created in a way that is consistent with the Kosovo Constitutional Court’s ruling from just about a year ago. And I would encourage people to get to work on that.

RTK 2: In ministry for community and return are not satisfied with number of returnees who came back to Kosovo during this year. Security issues is one of the problems. There is also economic stability, is also one of the problems. What has to be done in order to achieve better results in the process of return?

Ambassador Delawie: This is one of those multi-faceted issues I think you have to deal with in a number of ways. Certainly I believe, and my government believes, that people should be able to return to the homes that they had. Whatever community they are in and whatever community they are going to. I think that the Government of Kosovo has an important role to play to ensure that the right conditions are in place in the communities people are returning to. I also think the citizens of the communities themselves, who are already there, need to welcome the returnees. I recognize this is hard in some cases. But I firmly believe that the future of Kosovo is as a multi-ethnic society and it is important for people to be able to go to the places that they feel are their homes.

RTK 2: Netherlands ratified agreement of Special chambers on Kosovo as part of the Special Court, which will deal with possible war crimes committed by members of the former Kosovo Liberation Army. First indictments will be filed in the middle of next year. What will it mean for Kosovo?

Ambassador Delawie: Well, we support the Special Court, as we have for some time. Exactly what it means, we’ll just have to wait and see. I think it is an important step on Kosovo’s path toward Europe. It is important to resolve the lingering issues from the war period. It is now a legal issue rather than a political issue, I think. I have met the chief prosecutor, who happens to be an American citizen. He seems to be a very serious guy with a lot of experience in the area of war crimes prosecution and I am sure he will be doing his job in a way that is one hundred percent consistent with the law and deals with specific crimes allegedly committed by specific individuals. This is not an effort to smear the liberation struggle or any other political issue. This is a rule of law issue and I am confident that the court will deal with it appropriately.

RTK 2: U.S. elected new president. There are analyses, expectations, or thoughts that new elected president, Donald Trump, will change foreign policy towards EU, maybe, or Balkan region. Are there any indications for that to happen?

Ambassador Delawie: I don’t have anything specific to say about the foreign policy of the new administration, which is not in office yet. I will certainly say that policy towards the Balkans in the United States over the last twenty years or so has remained remarkably consistent whether there has been a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. And I see no indication that that is going to change any time soon.

RTK 2: Mr. Ambassador, thank you for the interview.

Ambassador Delawie: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.