Ambassador Delawie’s Interview with Sporazum

Ambassador Delawie’s Interview with Sporazum, March 15, 2017

Sporazum: Welcome to our studio and our show.

Ambassador Delawie: Dobro vece (Good evening)

Sporazum: Mr. Delawie, the U.S. Embassy and NATO a few days ago made it clear to Pristina that transformation of KSF into the Kosovo Army can only be done within the Constitution. What if authorities in Pristina fail to do so?

Ambassador Delawie: Thank you very much, it is great to be here tonight. I can certainly say that the United States has been one of the strongest supporters of the Kosovo Security Forces since Kosovo’s independence almost ten years ago. We believe very strongly in the transformation of the Kosovo Security Forces into a Kosovo Armed Forces. We feel very strongly that that transformation should happen pursuant to a Constitutional amendment to the Kosovo Constitution that would enable this transformation to happen in the best possible way and taking account of the sensitivities of the various communities in Kosovo.

Sporazum: What if the Government fails to ensure two-thirds of the votes?

Ambassador Delawie: The first thing they teach you in diplomacy school is not to answer hypothetical questions. We believe the transformation should happen in a constitutional way and we are going to continue to work with all the officials in Kosovo to make that as likely as possible.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: Thank you very much for your answers. Tonight with us, we have guests from the north of Kosovo who I welcome, to include my colleague Sladjana Radosavljevic from RTV Herc, from Strpce. Good evening to you Sladjana. You are watching Sporazum TV Show, I invite you to stay with us in the forthcoming hour.


Sporazum: A question for both. How do you comment on last week’s visit of Federica Mogherini to Kosovo. Would you please answer first, Mr. Delawie?

Ambassador Delawie: I think it was terrific to see High Representative Mogherini here. She was clearly very supportive of Kosovo. She came to Mitrovica, I saw pictures of her on the bridge. It is terrific to see that, it is a very important EU project they have been working on with Kosovo authorities for some time. It was very clear that she was doing her best to support Kosovo’s integration into Europe, Kosovo’s prospect for a future with other European states, the European Union. It was terrific to see such a senior official here supporting all the people of Kosovo, from whatever community.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: Recently, there was a UNSC session during which there was a report on Kosovo presented by the new UN Secretary General Guterres which says, and I have to quote, “the commitment of Belgrade and Pristina to improve their dialogue is waning, whereas the loss of momentum increases the risk of halting the process of normalization.” Do you feel that dialogue in Brussels is weakening, or not?

Ambassador Delawie: I think it is very important for both sides to take positive steps to improve the lives of all the people of whatever community in Kosovo and the Brussels Dialogue is the best way to get from here to tomorrow. There has been a lot of progress in the Dialogue over the last couple of years. Certainly here in Mitrovica, you see the police are integrated, we see that the Civil Registry Offices are just starting to issue documents in Mitrovica North. We have seen the bridge project, which Ambassador O’Connell just talked about, so I think there are a lot of real results from the Dialogue. Certainly there are days in the Dialogue that are better than others, but the Dialogue is the path for Kosovo, for all of Kosovo, to come closer to European institutions and I think both sides need to keep working to make that possible.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: Yes, people certainly say so but the warnings we get such as from New York who call on leaders to calm down and change the vocabulary used to address issues. Even SRSG Zahir Tanin warned that because of all last events we’ve mentioned, it will require some time for dialogue and talks come back to the right track. How much were all those mentioned stories, unfortunately it was also mentioned that everything was at the edge towards a conflict and that everything is possible, in fact, how much is all that possible and what is your opinion to all that?

Ambassador Delawie: There has been some unhelpful rhetoric, unfortunately, on both sides. I think the people that live in Mitrovica, no matter which side of the Ibar they are on, really don’t want rhetoric. I think they want solutions to real problems that they face, they want their lives to be better, they want their children to be able to go to good schools, they want the water to come on when they turn the tap and they want the lights to come on. There was a terrific article in Kosovo 2.0 just a couple of weeks ago that talked with people in Mitrovica and it came to this exact conclusion: that people who live here, many of them have had enough rhetoric, they have had enough tension, and they just want to get on with their lives.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: As we speak about tensions and rhetoric coming from Pristina and Belgrade, the Kosovo Assembly decided to request from the Government to cease the process of dialogue in Brussels until the release of Ramush Haradinaj. How do you see all that?

Ambassador Delawie: I think it is very important to continue the Dialogue. The Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is the path, certainly for Kosovo, to approach Europe. It is in the interests of Kosovo’s citizens, it is of course in the interest of Serbia’s citizens as well and I think any detour from the path of the Dialogue would, picking up on what Ambassador O’Connell said, would not make people’s lives better, would make rhetoric worse and would head us in the wrong direction.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-


Sporazum: Thank you very much. Mr. Delawie, in New York where the UN HQ is based, four times a year there is reporting about the situation in Kosovo whose status is determined by the Resolution 1244. How does the U.S. look at that document? How does U.S. diplomacy look at the document Resolution 1244 which determines the status of Kosovo and the territory as administrated by the UN?

Ambassador Delawie: The United States has recognized the independence of Kosovo since 2008. We support Kosovo’s membership in the United Nations and in fact to all organizations to which it desires to belong, and we certainly support the efforts of Kosovo to achieve recognitions from other countries of the world.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: What are your expectations from the new attempt announced by Pristina on Kosovo’s accession to UNESCO?

Ambassador Delawie: We were disappointed that Kosovo barely missed the two-thirds supermajority required to get into UNESCO in November 2015. We certainly support Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO. We support Kosovo’s membership in other organizations, whether part of the United Nations or not, that it desires to become a part of. I’m not sure what is going to happen next time this is on the table, I think that is in the Fall of 2017. But we certainly support Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO.

Sporazum: What has Kosovo done to deserve becoming a UNESCO member?

Ambassador Delawie: Kosovo is first of all an independent country, which we recognize and we believe other countries should recognize too. It is a country with rich cultural heritage that derived from the various civilizations that have lived here over the millennia. I think Kosovo can continue to make its best possible case for UNESCO membership by, for example, respecting the Ahtisaari Plan Article Five, which in particular deals with cultural heritage assets that belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. But I think Kosovo is making a lot of progress and it will continue to do so.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: Thank you very much on your answer, as far as this subject is concerned. Also, another very spoken-about subject in Kosovo is the ASM and at the latest UNSC Session, the UNSG Antonio Guterres pointed out that there is no clear progress in creation of ASM, which according to him is the crucial element of the agreements reached and facilitated by the EU. Can anyone from the foreign diplomats influence in Kosovo to make this happen or not? Let’s say you, could you exercise your influence on this matter?

Ambassador Delawie: We are in constant dialogue with the Kosovo Government, Kosovo Serb representatives, and other governments related to the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities. We believe that it is very important for the future of the minority communities in Kosovo. It would be very important for integrating, for example, education and health issues under the Kosovo umbrella to make sure that people have these essential services in their own languages. I think it is very important to point out that this Association would be formed in compliance with Kosovo’s laws, Kosovo’s Constitution and would reinforce Kosovo’s sovereignty. I’ve been very pleased with the Government of Kosovo’s announcements over the last several weeks. They seem to be making progress on moving towards a compromise with the Kosovo Serb representatives and I certainly call on the representatives, the elected and appointed representatives from the Kosovo Serb community, to reach out to them and to begin the most essential step, which is the drafting of the Association Statue.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: How do you view ASM? Many people comment about it as if it would be a NGO. What kind of competencies do you see for the ASM?

Ambassador Delawie: I think that is spelled out pretty well in the Brussels Agreement. It is the one from 2013 and the longer agreement from 2015, which spells out exactly what the Association would look like.

Sporazum: What is exactly stated in the agreement, could you tell the audience what exactly is defined, how the ASM should really look? What is the accord in Brussels?

Ambassador Delawie: Thank you for that tough question. I’ve read the agreement many times, but I’ve not memorized it. But it is available online, and everyone can see exactly what it said on the European Union website. I think it is intended to be an institution that will make it easier for the Serb-majority communities of Kosovo to work together on issues of common interest, things like education, things like healthcare, things like use of the Serbian language as my colleague has pointed out. It is something that is important to the Serbian language community and Kosovo Serbs. It is spelled out in the Ahtisaari Plan in a not-very-detailed way and it was elaborated in 2013 and again in 2015. It is something that Kosovo needs to do for its own citizens. I think that is the key here- this is for Kosovo’s citizens. And unfortunately I think there is too much rhetoric about it being for citizens of a foreign state. It is not. It is for Kosovo citizens, it will make their lives better and make it easier for them to operate in Kosovo and to use their own language for the most critical governmental services.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: Thank you very much. When we speak about the ASM, you mentioned that the representatives of the Serbian Community, namely Srpska List, froze their functions within Kosovo institutions although they are still members of the ruling coalition and so we asked Mr. Branimir Stojasnovic, who is also DPM of Kosovo, about with whom and how the ASM should be created. Let us listen to his statement:

Branimir Stojanovic: The ASM has not been discussed in villages, stations or offices or cafeterias. It was not done without sense and agreement about who has agreed upon and how it has been agreed at the highest political level in Brussels. There is a very clear roadmap which way to go to reach the final solution, to the Association, to the result that we still don’t know how will it look like entirely, but we know the path needed to be taken and what are the stations one should stop at along the way, the decisions that need to be made along that path. The biggest problem here is about lacking common ground, if we’re going to implement what has been agreed or something new, since some people in Pristina obviously want to implement something else but not what has been decided. They are avoiding the roadmap agreed in Brussels and now with some improvisations inventing some new stations, some new decisions making that path senseless and at the end we would get some other result from the one we and this population need. We stick to what has been agreed in Brussels, it is clearly described at the implementation roadmap, what are the steps and for sure that the ASM cannot be formed without the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija. Whoever would want such thing, they would be, as our people say, “building a receipt without the bartender – or – dealing with something they shouldn’t.” We will make sure that everything that has been agreed in Brussels is implemented and if there is any change from the set roadmap in the future, it cannot be done without Belgrade’s consent and no one can dismiss Belgrade from the implementing process nor could they dismiss Kosovo Serbs from it.

Sporazum: Gentlemen, you heard the statement of the DPM Stojanovic. Mr. Delawie, do you have any comments on all that?

Ambassador Delawie: It is very important for both sides to start working on this now. I think people have come a long way. I’m afraid there is a little too much commentary right now about where is the meeting going to take place, is it going to be here, is it going to be in Brussels, is it going to be somewhere else. I think the essentials are agreed, the essentials are spelled out in the two Brussels agreements. The Kosovo Constitutional Court has ruled on the Association Principles from the Brussels Agreement and it is really time for people to start working on the Statue, which is the core output of the Agreement. I hate to see people arguing about things like the shape of the table when they could just be solving problems.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

-Conversation between journalist and the audience-

Sporazum: You heard Serbs from the north. Are you surprised that people don’t expect that the ASM will be established by the end of this year?

Ambassador Delawie: I have to say that you should not go into diplomacy unless you are prepared to be an optimist all the time because the idea is that you could change the world using only your words…So I am going to be a little more optimistic than the audience and I am going to say that the Association is going to be established this year and it is going to make a positive difference in people’s lives because that is what I believe and that is what I am working for.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Ambassador Delawie: If I could take the opportunity to say how much I agree with my British colleague. I think this relationship between the government and the people has to work both ways. It is very important for the people in Mitrovica and the rest of Kosovo to see their representatives working for them in the government. There are several political parties in Kosovo now that are boycotting the Assembly, the Kosovo Serb members of government are boycotting the government, or freezing their participation in the government right now. I don’t think that helps the citizens of Kosovo from whatever community get anything done. If their representatives aren’t working for them in Pristina, then it is hard to see their lives getting better.

Sporazum: Thank you very much on your answer. Otherwise, the creation of ASM as you mentioned is a part of Brussels agreement and as such is a pre-condition for further EU integration for both Belgrade and Pristina. Previous U.S. Administration was, as one could say, EU’s strategic partner and was strongly supportive of Kosovo’s EU path. Is something changing with the arrival of the new U.S. President? Has something changed, is there anything that will change?

Ambassador Delawie: The United States continues to support Kosovo. I say this a lot, which is one thing. But our Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said a couple of days ago that Kosovo deserves a seat at the UN table just like any other state. More broadly, Vice President Pence was in Munich for the Munich Security Conference a couple of weeks ago and talked about the U.S. commitment to NATO and partnership with Europe. I am very confident that our partnership with Kosovo and with Europe will continue to be broad and deep.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: Thank you very much. As we speak about the Brussels Dialogue, it is one of the most spoken-about current subjects when it comes to relations between Belgrade and Pristina and one cannot avoid that. So I have to ask you: is it so that at the end of Brussels dialogue there is “the question,” is Belgrade going to have to recognize Kosovo if it wants to get into the EU?

Ambassador Delawie: You should not ask an American what the EU is going to require of any country…

Sporazum: …your opinion. I am asking about your opinion.

Ambassador Delawie: Diplomats rarely have personal opinions on political issues. I would like to tag on though to something else that you mentioned a minute ago about Kosovo’s progress towards Europe. I think it would be wonderful if someone could just wave a magic wand and Kosovo would be just like Belgium. That is not going to happen. There is hard work involved. There is compromise involved and there is internal work of all of Kosovo’s communities, Kosovo’s Government, and Kosovo’s citizens have to support the government. Unfortunately the magic wand doesn’t exist. People are going to have to work, they are going to have make compromises. That is certainly in the interest of Kosovo, that it become more integrated with Europe and it is certainly in the interests of Kosovo’s neighbors as well.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: Mr. Delawie, how do you assess the efforts of the Kosovo authorities in meeting the requirements envisioned following the signing of the SAA? Is it doing OK?

Ambassador Delawie: Once again, the SAA is an EU thing and I’m an American so I’m not in charge of it. My friend Ambassador Apostolova might take offense if I talk too much about it. But I certainly can say how important the SAA is. Kosovo’s future is integrating with Europe. I used to serve in Zagreb, Croatia, about ten years ago when it was working on its’ SAA with the European Union. It of course succeeded and is now a member of the EU. There are a lot of steps in completing the SAA and a lot of them require public support of one kind or another. I would love to see more discussion in Kosovo about the SAA, what its requirements are, because the government is going to have to persuade the people that they are going to have to do certain things in order to implement the SAA. Unfortunately, there is less talk about that than I would like. It takes several years to complete all the steps and the sooner that is started energetically the better it will be for Kosovo and the closer Kosovo will come to its destiny in Europe.


-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Sporazum: Thank you very much. Now we’ll see what the Kosovo Minister for EU Integration, Mimoza Ahmeti, has to say about how much Kosovo has done to fulfill the obligations deriving from SAA.

Mimoza Ahmeti: Kosovo is geographically part of Europe. Its’ very young population is part of Europe. Our obligation as a government and the whole of Kosovo is to make Kosovo part of the EU. Onto that path, Kosovo has managed to sign its first SAA with the EU. Kosovo is on its way, building the mechanisms deriving from that agreement. Of course, that requires a huge amount of engagement and commitment of the whole Kosovo society, institutions and inhabitants. Required reforms are not going to be easy to embrace. However, we are committed, no matter what and as soon as possible to become part of EU. Our singers like Rita Ora or athlete Majlinda Kelmendi made Kosovo known not only in Europe but all over the world. I see no obstacle that one day, in the near future, Kosovo becomes ‘de jure’ part of Europe.

Audience Question: Mr. Delawie, is it possible to influence public policies in northern Kosovo, considering the fact that the main decisions about northern Kosovo are made at the level between Belgrade and Pristina?

Ambassador Delawie: I think citizens and non-governmental organizations have a very important role to play in helping Kosovo make progress. There are a lot of non-governmental organizations that bridge the Ibar River, bridge the different Kosovo communities. They have a very important role to play. Obviously Brussels and the European Union are very important to Kosovo’s future but I would say the important point of impact for citizens of Kosovo, whether they are in the north or anywhere else in Kosovo, is more Pristina than Brussels. I think the way you influence Kosovo’s future with Brussels and Europe is via working with your elected representatives, working with non-governmental organizations in Kosovo and influence the government in Pristina, which will have an impact on Kosovo’s future in Europe and in Brussels.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Audience Question: What are the concrete steps of the United States and KFOR if the KSF transforms into the Army of Kosovo through a law and not the Constitution?

Ambassador Delawie: I have to get back to I think my first answer about not answering hypothetical questions. Right now, that is a hypothetical question. We have made our position very clear. The United States along with Great Britain and other key NATO allies have been the greatest supporters of the Kosovo Security Force since Kosovo’s independence nine years ago. We are very proud of the assistance we have been able to provide, and we are very, very proud of the people who work for the Kosovo Security Forces and that they have done such a terrific job of developing a security structure from basically nothing at the beginning. Our desire is that the transformation happen according to the Kosovo Constitution to make sure that it takes into account the sensitivities of all the communities of Kosovo.

-Conversation with Ambassador O’Connell-

Audience Question: A question for Mr. Delawie: once you stated that the U.S. policy towards Kosovo will not change no matter who is the President (of the U.S.) and that KFOR will not withdraw as long as Kosovo doesn’t have its army and is ready to defend itself. Since I see that Kosovo is under no circumstances endangered, especially by Serbia whose politics is “give them whatever they ask,” why should the Army of Kosovo be created? Is it because of aspirations for creating greater Albania or something else?

Ambassador Delawie: Kosovo is an independent state and we accept that certainly it is the right of an independent state to have an army if it wants. It is a question of sovereignty. The question of greater Albania- I think the borders of the Balkans have changed enough in the last couple of decades and I am very satisfied with where the borders are today. We support Kosovo and its current borders, the borders it has had since independence, the borders that are on the Kosovo flag and we continue to support Kosovo as a sovereign, independent state. We are working, as Ambassador O’Connell said, to help complete a Europe whole, free and at peace, in the words of Churchill, and we believe that the Balkans in particular and Europe in general will be better off as long as Kosovo is a sovereign, independent state at peace with its neighbors.

Sporazum: Thank you very much on these answers. I thank these young people for their questions. And in the end a question for you Mr. Delawie – although visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens was announced last year, so far nothing has happened. The Assembly of Kosovo is not capable of meeting one of the conditions and that is ratification of the BDA with Montenegro. We know what happened, there were protests, tear gas and you were present at the Assembly when all those riots took place. Are we closer to extraordinary elections or visa free travel for Kosovo citizens?

Ambassador Delawie: I do have to say that until I came to Kosovo I had never personally experienced tear gas, and now I feel that my life as a diplomat is complete. I was jealous of many of my colleagues who were Foreign Service Officers who had been involved in demonstrations with tear gas over the years and that had not happened to me, but now it has.

Certainly I believe that the Kosovo Assembly should pass the Border Demarcation Agreement with Montenegro. The line that the government commission drew is the same line that has existed between Kosovo and Montenegro since 1974 when the two were provinces or autonomous regions of the former Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of time wasted in the Assembly over the last year and a half over this issue. I would love to see the Assembly work harder for the benefit of Kosovo. Ambassador O’Connell pointed out that the number of laws that actually have to be passed as part of Kosovo’s movement towards Europe with the SAA. The Assembly could certainly have worked harder on those if it had spent less time convulsed with tear gas and political violence. I think when High Representative Mogherini was here just the other day on Saturday, she made it very clear what Kosovo has to do to get to the stage of visa liberalization you mentioned. And the key thing that she mentioned was that it has to pass the Border Demarcation Agreement.

Sporazum: Do you expect that Kosovo Assembly will manage to ratify the law on BDA?

Ambassador Delawie: My crystal ball is kind of hazy today but I will certainly say that I hope the Assembly will adopt this. It is in the interest of Kosovo, it is in the interest of Montenegro, and it is certainly in the interest of Kosovo’s better relations within the Balkan region.

Sporazum: Gentlemen, thank you for being part of Sporazum and answering and sharing your thoughts on the questions of these very interested young people.