Ambassador Delawie’s Interview with Voice of America, February 12, 2016

VOA: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for you time.

Ambassador Delawie: It’s a pleasure to be here.

VOA: Mr. Ambassador, Kosovo has entered its sixth month of a political crisis, the worst one since the declaration of independence of Kosovo.  According to you, what is the way out of this situation?

Ambassador Delawie: I have to say this is a manufactured crisis.  I don’t think it’s a real crisis.  The problem is that the opposition, which failed to achieve its objectives at the ballot box less than two years ago, is now trying to use violence to achieve its objectives.  The best way out of the political crisis is for the opposition to allow the Assembly, the Members of Parliament that were elected by the people of Kosovo to do their job, to meet in the Assembly and to begin to focus on the important issues that face Kosovo citizens.

VOA: So, does that mean that you’re just supporting the government?

Ambassador Delawie: No.  I support Kosovo’s democracy. I support Kosovo’s people. I support Kosovo’s Assembly. And I support of the democratic institutions that we all worked so hard to create for Kosovo over the last 16-17 years.  I oppose those who are trying to destroy Kosovo’s democracy and to destroy its path towards the Euro-Atlantic institutions.

VOA: You have had several messages for the opposition. Why are you not meeting with them? To talk with them, to explain to them directly those messages.

Ambassador Delawie: Members of my Embassy are willing to meet with all political parties that renounce violence.  We maintain contact with political parties that do not engage directly in violence.  We support democratic political parties.  We are not interested in conversing with those who are conducting violence.

VOA: They are there. They are part of the Parliament.  They are 27 % of the Parliament.  You cannot ignore them.

Ambassador Delawie: The United States remains willing to talk with all the political parties who are not conducting violence in Kosovo.

VOA: Ambassador, you have closely followed the meeting organized by President Jahjaga.  Judging by the opinions expressed at the meeting, is there any possibility for a political solution of the political crisis?

Ambassador Delawie: I think there is definitely hope for a solution of the political crisis.  One should not be a diplomat if one is not willing to be an optimist.  I am an optimistic person.  I think there is certainly room for a political solution to these problems.  I certainly call on all of the political party leaders in Kosovo to try and get together to come up with a resolution to this political impasse and to begin to serve the people of Kosovo, who elected them.

VOA: You have said that Kosovo is on the brink. Is there any good will to avoid the abyss?

Ambassador Delawie: I have to think that nearly eight years after Kosovo’s independence that those who fought and struggled to achieve the Kosovo we have today should be willing to put aside their personal interests and to work for the benefit of citizens, who employ them.  So, you know, I guess there is hope. I call on all the political parties to look for a way forward.

VOA: Are you willing to a kind, let’s say, to intermediate between the political parties?

Ambassador Delawie: Look, Kosovo is a sovereign, democratic country.  It has the tools. It has the people to resolve the political problems it faces.  I don’t think that it’s necessary for foreigners, like me, to try to resolve all of Kosovo’s problems.  We’re certainly willing to help, we’re willing to support the democratic political parties as I mentioned. But, Kosovo is an independent country, it has its institutions and those institutions could be used to resolve these political issues.

VOA: Ambassador, the opposition has announced protests for the next week. Do you have any comments on those protests?

Ambassador Delawie: Protests, peaceful protests, are essential in any democracy.  I think it is certainly important to recognize that a lot of people that are protesting have real, legitimate concerns about their current situation.  They want to express those concerns in a peaceful manner.  But, I draw the line at violence during protests.  No Molotov cocktails, no destruction of property.  Unfortunately, opposition parties have been so far unwilling to renounce violence, which is a terrible thing.  I remain concerned that a demonstrator, that a police officer, might be critically injured during violence.  I’m particularly concerned that on Kosovo’s Independence Day, those who are trying to hijack Kosovo’s Independence Day, are also really trying to hijack Kosovo’s democracy and its Euro-Atlantic orientation.

VOA: The opposition is insisting on early elections. Is there any harm, any harm if Kosovo holds those elections?

Ambassador Delawie: Elections that result from political violence would be an expensive waste of time.  They would prohibit the Parliament from conducting the important business it needs to conduct on behalf of the people of Kosovo. But, more importantly from my perspective, elections that result from violence begin to enter this pattern of “if you can’t achieve what you want from the ballot box, then let’s just have violence, then we can provoke new elections.”  You start to implement that precedent, and then you’ve got nothing but violence and elections and violence and elections from here to eternity and Kosovo makes no progress.

VOA: Let’s put in a larger mosaic, let’s say.  The whole region will be in elections this year.  Why not Kosovo? There will be elections in Serbia, in Macedonia, why not in Kosovo?  Why not get a way out of this situation?

Ambassador Delawie: I don’t have anything to add.  The question is not whether elections are good or bad. Obviously, elections are an essential component of democracy.  The problem is whether elections result from violence or from a normal calendar that is part of any country’s constitution.

VOA: The political crisis followed the agreement for the establishment of an association of Serbian municipalities, Kosovo reached during the talks between Kosovo and Serbia on normalization of relations.  Many critics fear this association can lead to the federalization of Kosovo.  Can this mechanism harm Kosovo?

Ambassador Delawie We are well aware of the situation regarding the formation of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities. We are certainly aware of what happened during the Dayton agreement. I can tell you as Secretary Kerry said when he was here in December, the United States would not support any agreement or anything that would call into question Kosovo’s territorial integrity or its sovereignty. This association would do neither. We continue to support it. I continue to believe that it is very important for Kosovo to continue to develop relations with Serbia on its path towards the heart of European institutions.

VOA: But many critics say that Serbia benefited more from those talks. What has Kosovo benefited from that?

Ambassador Delawie The first issue is, as I mentioned, better relations with Serbia are an essential component of Kosovo’s path toward the heart of all Euro-Atlantic institutions, which is certainly my aspiration for the country. Secondly, there have been real, concrete benefits that have helped make people’s lives better and to improve Kosovo’s sovereignty. I’m thinking of things like integration of the Kosovo police in the north. There were national municipal elections, including in the north in 2013 and the national parliamentary elections in 2014. Since the dialogue agreements were signed in 2013, Kosovo has started to collect customs duties on the northern border. These are all real, concrete benefits that not only make people’s lives better, but make Kosovo more sovereign.

VOA: Ambassador, even though I said before why don’t you mediate, on the other hand, we have some critics who say you and your colleagues from the EU embassies in Kosovo sometimes you are going beyond your mandate for interference in Kosovo politics. How would you respond to this criticism?

Ambassador Delawie Well, there was certainly the time during supervised independence until 2013, the United States and Kosovo’s European allies played an important role in advising the government on how to function. That period ended a couple of years ago because we believed and Kosovo believed that it had the tools, that it had developed the capabilities, it had the structures to manage its own affairs. The United States I know and the international community I’m sure wants to continue to help Kosovo as much as it can on its democratic progression but the country is in the hands of Kosovo’s citizens now. They should make the decisions about its future, about its democratic development. And we certainly support that notion.

VOA: Ambassador, when you came to Kosovo, in your first days, you said fight against corruption will be your priority. Unfortunately, Kosovo is still listed among the countries with the highest degree of corruption. According to you, where or by whom is this fight stalled?

Ambassador Delawie Look, I am really glad you asked that question because I think that corruption is the key issue that is one the minds of most of Kosovo’s citizens. And I would much rather have the political class of Kosovo’s citizens talk about an important issue like corruption than the manufactured political crisis that I mentioned a few minutes ago. Look, corruption is a hard issue. We’ve been working on it for a while. We’ve certainly ramped up work on it in the recent past. If I had a magic want to solve corruption, believe me, I would use it. And then I would give it to my other colleagues around the world because corruption is a world-wide problem. So there are several issues. You have to punish corruption. Police and prosecutors have to work together to identify corrupt officials, to get them convicted in a court of law, to put them in jail and then to keep them there. That is a vitally important issue regarding corruption that we have seen around the world. Law enforcement is an important tool. And we of course, we’re training police, we’re training prosecutors, we’re training judges, on how to deal with these issues, which are hard to deal with in every country. We have corruption in my country too.

The other set of issues it to try to make it harder to be corrupt. To provide more transparency in thing like public procurement.  So USAID is working with the municipalities of Kosovo to develop what is called electronic procurement, which would make it clear when a city wants to buy something, people would have to bid online, the bids would be transparent, and everyone would know at the end who got the contract and what price they had to pay. So that makes corruption harder because sunlight is the best disinfectant, as one of my former Presidents used to say.

The other thing I want to point out on this is that we at my embassy have taken the decision that we would not be seeing public officials indicted for abuse of office. This certainly makes our lives a little bit more difficult. There are several municipalities in Kosovo where I have not me the mayors. We continue to do our best to work and support important programs in those cities we’re working on. But we feel it is very important to draw a line in the sand, that we are opposing those that would steal from Kosovo’s taxpayers.

VOA: Ambassador, an issue relating to political developments in Kosovo is the functioning of the Special Court on war crimes. Is there any possibility that this process could be harmed by current political crisis in Kosovo? Or used by someone to destruct this process?

Ambassador Delawie The United States continues to feel very strongly that the Special Court has to be created as soon as possible. When Secretary Kerry was here in December, he made it clear that he expects Kosovo to take these necessary procedures, to bring them into force, to help resolve the lingering questions about war crimes that the Special Court is intended to deal with. I think it is the responsibility of Kosovo and its government to make as fast progress on getting those things done as possible, irrespective of what is going on in the domestic political situation.

VOA: Many things are at stake due to this political crisis, even the question of the election of the president of Kosovo. What do you expect?

Ambassador Delawie: I am aware of the constitutional necessity to have presidential elections in the near future. I take no position on who should be president, which political party should nominate whom. It is entirely in the hands of the citizens of Kosovo and the assembly they have appointed to make that decision.

VOA: Ambassador, Kosovo is mentioned as one of the countries that face the threat of radical religious movements. How do you evaluate the steps that are taken by Kosovo authorities to deal with these concerns?

Ambassador Delawie: The problem of violent extremism is extremely serious. It’s a Kosovo problem, it’s a Balkan problem. It’s Europe problem. It’s a United States problem as well. So, it’s something we all have to work on. I certainly applaud the steps that Kosovo has taken in the last couple of years. The Assembly passed a law on foreign terrorist fighters about a year ago, that the Government of Kosovo participated in the worldwide summit in New York that we hosted. They participated in a regional summit in Tirana in the middle of the last year we also attended. It’s the tough issue where all are going to have to try to understand better what are the causes of this violent extremism problem. We’re going to have to work together to try to make it less likely for people to wander off to the Middle East to fight another people’s wars. Once again, it’s not an easy issue. We’ll probably make mistakes as we work towards it. It’s absolutely vital that all countries participate in this issue.

VOA: And, Ambassador, in few days Kosovo will mark the eighth anniversary of its independence, the announcement of which was unthinkable for many without the role of the United States of America. Eight years later, how would you describe the relation between the United States of America and Kosovo.

Ambassador Delawie: I’m very excited to be here on the eighth anniversary of the Kosovo’s independence in just a few days. The United States, as you said, played a very important role in Kosovo’s independence and the development of its democracy in the intervening years. We are very proud of the role we were able to play to help establish the democracy in Kosovo which is why we are so committed to maintain that democracy. But to sum things up: I have to say that I believe that relations between the United States and Kosovo are just as good as they have ever been.

VOA: And that they will continue.

Ambassador Delawie: And that they will continue, and continue to grow.

VOA: Ambassador, thank you very much indeed.

Ambassador Delawie: You’re quite welcome, thank you for your time.