Ambassador Delawie’s Interview with RTV KiM, October 18, 2017
RTV KiM: Ambassador Delawie, good evening and welcome.
Ambassador Delawie: Thank you Alexandra, it is great to be here.
RTV KiM: My first question is about elections. Some participants in this election race say there is a lot of pressure, people losing their jobs, they are threatened. How do you look at this? Why is there no reaction from the authorities and condemnation by the international community, even from you personally?
Ambassador Delawie: I’m certainly concerned about reports of pressure in the north, both economic pressure and in some cases unfortunately physical pressure. I’ve talked about this a little but you are right, I probably should have talked about it more and at least I am doing it today. I believe that citizens deserve the ability to hear candidates who are running in elections, that media should be able to report on candidates’ positions freely without any interference from government, that there should be no threats, no violence and no pressure. And certainly I condemn intimidation, I condemn economic pressure, I condemn efforts to limit media’s ability to cover candidates using sabotage of one kind or another. That is a real concern to me. I have to say elections aren’t super democratic if candidates drop out due to pressure, if poll workers or poll observers drop out due to pressure. I think in the majority communities in Kosovo the elections are competitive. There are lots of candidates for the mayor jobs, for the assembly jobs. I’d love to see more competition in the minority communities as well.
RTV KiM: Do you expect fair elections, especially in the north of Kosovo?
Ambassador Delawie: I do expect fair elections on Election Day, absolutely. I know the CEC with the help of the OSCE are going to work very hard on Election Day to ensure all the rules and laws are implemented. I can tell you that I will be out on Election Day in various cities across Kosovo, including a Serb-majority city. My colleagues from the Embassy will be out- we will have 30-40 teams all over Kosovo. We will be observing the polling during Election Day, we will be observing the counting on the evening of Election Day and our goal will be to ensure that things are going the way they should and that there is no pressure on the polling workers or on the voters from anyone.
RTV KiM: Do you see readiness from Ramush Haradinaj to fulfill obligations on demarcation of the border with Montenegro, and are demarcation and fight against corruption and crime still the main obligations for visa liberalization?
Ambassador Delawie: I’m going to have to send you to the European Union to talk about visa liberalization. I can tell your our position on the Border Demarcation Agreement has not changed in almost two years.
I want to say more about corruption because that is the defining issue for Kosovo and for many other counties in this part of the world. Corruption is an issue that really unites all of Kosovo’s communities. Everybody sees it, everybody hates it, and everybody is frustrated by it. Kosovo really has to grapple with this issue in all of the communities to make progress for the future, to make progress toward the European Union, to make progress toward consolidating its democracy and to make the kind of progress the citizens of Kosovo, no matter what community they come from, really want. It’s because we think this issue is so important that we in our Embassy spend so much time and so much money working on the anti-corruption issue, on the rule of law issue. We train people- we train police, we train prosecutors, we train judges- we hold public programs, we call out bad behavior. This is because it is so important to Kosovo’s future. I think it is incumbent on every citizen of Kosovo, from every community, to hold their own officials accountable and say look: we can’t take this anymore.
RTV KiM: What about the Association of Serbian Municipalities? Do you see readiness from Albanians for this issue, which is important for the Serbian community?
Ambassador Delawie: I’m continuing to make the case for the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities. It stems from the Ahtisaari Agreement, almost ten years ago at this point. It is perfectly reasonable, the more you know about it the more you think it is reasonable. It normalizes the framework for Serb Majority Municipalities, it makes it easier for them to work together on issues such as healthcare, such as education, where language is an important element. I think this is going to be good for Kosovo Serbs and I think it is going to be good for the rest of Kosovo’s communities as well. I think it has been hanging on long enough. There has been a deal, and I’m certainly encouraging the government and the communities to get to work on the next step, which is drafting a statute for the Association.
RTV KiM: You are advocating for the transformation of the KSF into the Armed Forces, through constitutional changes and participation of all communities. However, Serbs’ stance on the institutions remains unchanged for the time being. They believe that Kosovo does not need an army, since KFOR is there. Do you think that Serbs’ stance will change or Kosovo Army could lead to a new political crisis?
Ambassador Delawie: You are right, I strongly support the development of the Kosovo Security Forces into a Kosovo Armed Forces. I also support it through the method of a constitutional amendment to assure the buy-in from the communities. I think the transformation should happen gradually, it should be professional, it should be completely public and transparent so everybody knows what is going on. I’d like to see this change be achieved by a constitutional amendment and I would encourage Kosovo Serbs in addition to all the people of Kosovo to participate in the discussion. I think Kosovo’s politicians should go out into the country all over and explain what this is all about. There is a lot of misinformation about what transformation would really mean. I think a political dialogue where people who are not sure about the idea or don’t like the idea, they have the opportunity to address their concerns to political-level people and get the politicians to explain to them why it really is in their interest. Because I think it is in their interest. I think Kosovo as a sovereign, independent state deserves an army like any other sovereign, independent state. The question is how you get from today to tomorrow.
Regarding a political crisis, I don’t see it. Once people really understand what it means, they are going to say: oh, it is not really a threat to me. And that is what I truly believe.
RTV KiM: How do you comment on the president Hashim Thaci statement than the Special Court for KLA crimes was formed under the pressure of the international community? How important is for Kosovo to show willingness to cooperate with this court?
Ambassador Delawie: I don’t generally comment publicly on public officials’ statements but I will say that the United States supports the Special Court, the formal name is the Specialist Chambers, relocated in the Netherlands. We are fully committed to seeing it operational and doing its’ job. It was adopted in line with Kosovo’s Constitution and Kosovo’s juridical framework and we certainly expect all of Kosovo’s institutions, all of Kosovo’s people, to work along with the mandates of the Special Court when the Special Court needs something from them.
RTV KiM: The issue of Trepça is being actualized again. Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj asked from respective ministers to implement the earlier adopted law as soon as possible. Serbs, on the other hand, demand this issue not be resolved in political, but economic way. Do you think Trepça will again affect the relationship of coalition partners in newly-formed institutions and how do you see the solution for Trepca issue at all?
Ambassador Delawie: I think the most important thing is that everybody recognizes that Trepca’s days as the “Jewel of Yugoslavia” are over. The question is how can Trepca be economically viable and how can it serve the communities and the workers that surround it. Certainly I think the Kosovo Serb management team needs to be included. I hope that all the stakeholders, the workers, the communities on both the north and the south parts of Trepca will be involved in the dialogue about exactly what happens to it, that they will work constructively in assessing it from a business standpoint. You said economic standpoint. I think you have to approach it as a business or economic issue recognizing of course that it has tremendous social impact because of all the employees, but it has to succeed as a business. A solution I know will not be easy but it has got to be fair and perceived as fair, it has got to take into account the interests of the owner, the workers that work there, and the surrounding communities. I know there are capable managers in both the north and the south parts of Trepca that want to see solutions and want to see the company survive and prosper and I certainly hope that will happen.
RTV KiM: This year Kosovo gave up on applying for membership in UNESCO. Previously, the request for Interpol membership was withdrawn. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo says this pragmatic decision was made in coordination with the U.S. What’s the strategy and how much does the fact that the US stepped out of UNESCO affect Kosovo’s aspiration for membership in this organization?
Ambassador Delawie: We certainly support the Foreign Ministry’s decision in these two areas. To answer the last question first, I don’t think the U.S. decision to step out of UNESCO, which doesn’t take effect for another year or so, will have a substantial affect on Kosovo’s chance to become a member. Certainly the United States continues to strongly support Kosovo’s desire to be a member of this organization. It will certainly help protect and promote culture, heritage, science, etc in Kosovo. We think that is good for all of the citizens, all of the communities of Kosovo.
We also support Kosovo’s desire to join Interpol, which is an extremely important law enforcement organization and is extremely important in the days of terrorism and flows of people across the borders of all the states of the Balkans. I think it is very important that Kosovo be part of Interpol to gain access to passport information of potential really bad people.
Regarding the actual process of getting into these organizations, we did very careful vote counting in the State Department in Washington and we did not see that the votes were there. Getting into both organizations requires a supermajority of votes and we did not see that those votes were going to be there this year. That had a lot to do with political decisions that had nothing to do with Kosovo. This year just wasn’t going to be it for those two organizations. We continue to strongly support Kosovo’s membership in Interpol and UNESCO along with all other international organizations that Kosovo has a desire to join.
RTV KiM: How do you see the future of this government led by Ramush Haradinaj? It is estimated that it will not last long considering the coalition and the Rikalo’s case?
Ambassador Delawie: Let me separate that into two. Regarding the future of the government, I am not going to make a prediction about that. That is not my job. What is my job is to help Kosovo have an effective government that serves the needs of Kosovo’s people. We are going to continue to do that. The world is not waiting for Kosovo to get its act together. The world is changing, and Kosovo needs to change with it. Kosovo needs to take important steps regarding rule of law, economic development, and regional security issues. We will help as we have for many years to support the efforts of Kosovo’s government and Kosovo’s citizens in these areas as long as the government lasts. That is because our fundamental aspiration for Kosovo is that it be able to join Euro-Atlantic structures, to become a European country like any other. This is important to every citizen of this country, whether it is something fundamental or something straightforward like visa liberalization or whether it is attracting investors from other countries in Europe to come and build companies here so they can employ citizens of Kosovo in their companies. We are going to continue to support Kosovo on its path toward Euro-Atlantic integration. Therefore, we are going to continue to work with the government, whether it lasts one year or four years, because we have to work with governments, that is what we do.
Regarding the question about Minister Rikalo. I think a fundamental aspect of Kosovo’s democratic system is innocent until proven guilty. Most Western democracies have this principle. Any conclusions need to wait until the appropriate authorities have looked at the question and as far as I know that is still underway. What I do know is that politically-motivated accusations do not help Kosovo. People will remember politically-motivated accusations, probably more against the accusers than against the accused of course. Another comment I’d like to make is I watched on TV as Minster Rikalo and PM Haradinaj were in the Assembly a couple of weeks ago in a very difficult session that must have been very hard for both of them to sit through and to hear the accusations. I was impressed at the respect that Minister Rikalo displayed toward Kosovo institutions, to the Kosovo Assembly, by being there when all of this was going on. I was impressed by the respect that PM Haradinaj illustrated for Minister Rikalo by being there with him. You don’t want to read too much into one instance but I think there is some positive that may come out of this.
RTV KiM: Mr. Ambassador, thank you for your time.
Ambassador Delawie: You are quite welcome Alexandra, thank you.