Interview with Mrs. Alina Romanowski, Assistance Coordinator for Europe June 19, 2015

Zëri: So, Ms. Romanowski, as a coordinator of the US assistance program in Kosovo, can you tell us which are the fields you are mostly focused in Kosovo?

Romanowski: Well, you may know, this is my first visit to Kosovo and as the Assistance Coordinator for all over assistance in Europe, Asia and central Asia, it was very important for me to come and see our programs firsthand and to speak with both the government and civil society, and with our implementing partners, who work in many areas. The areas that we are focusing and clearly we have a broad range of programs. We work with the business sector; in fact I had a very exciting lunch with members of our community that are supporting development of businesses. We work also with civil society to become a strong advocate of issues, and to represent the very different means of support to the government as it goes forward in making reforms. We are working very much in strengthening the rule of law here in Kosovo, undertaking projects that support strengthening the judiciary, the prosecutors… We do this through training, through helping with tactical assistance on how procedures can be strengthened. In fact, I visited the Kosovo police just recently to see how we worked with, again, to strengthen the procedures and the ability of the Kosovo Police to respect the rule of law. We’re working also with the Kosovo farmers to also develop agriculture, both for domestic consumption product and also to be able to eventually support the export of Kosovo’s agriculture to the European Union and beyond.

Zëri: Are you satisfied with the results of your assistance programs in Kosovo? Can you specify any field where you see better results?

Romanowski: Well, I am satisfied with the programs that we’re doing here in Kosovo. The work that we are doing… for example, I met with our partners who are doing work to strengthen the relationship between the north and the south, and they were telling me about business meetings that they were undertaking and ways in which businesses in the north and businesses in the south can come together to encourage trade. It seems that for the first time they had been able to faster these dialogues.

Again, tomorrow I’ll be going out to see some of our work in the agriculture sector. I was very satisfied with the conversations I had with the civil society groups, and later today I will be spending some time talking to the energy sector, which is very important and it’s another sector that we’re working in. I arrived yesterday and I had a chance to meet with Kosovo students, who are studding in the US under our scholarship programs, and I have to say, I’m quite pleased and impressed with how dynamic they are and how much they value the experience they have in the US, but also an opportunity to help Americans understand better Kosovo as well. So, I’ve been very reassured that many of our programs are achieving the objectives we want.

One area we would very much like to continue to work in and strengthen our work is in fighting corruption. It is one of the areas that is a huge challenge for Kosovo’s economic growth and throughout the programs that we are doing, we are making sure that we are strengthening the businesses and the ability for businesses to make sure that contracts are well, are put on paper, that there is a mediation and arbitration process here so that too can again attract and increase investment in Kosovo and work in a private sector.

Zëri: So these are the projects, that you will be focused in the coming years?

Romanowski: Well, we will continue, we try to continue a lot of the work that we’re doing, but we will strengthen, looking to strengthen our work and support for the reforms that the government would like to do to fight against corruption and to strengthen the judicial sector and the rule of law.

Zëri: Do you see any progress in fighting corruption in Kosovo? I mean this is a field that we are talking every year and it never stops, but do you see any progress in this area?

Romanowski: I think there has been some progress, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. It’s an area that is complicated and needs support of the government to take on the reforms, it needs the parliament also to enact laws and then to implement the laws. It’s also an area where the Kosovo people need to express their need for stronger anti-corruption methods and measures, and also to make sure that those who are corrupt are prosecuted. So, it’s an area that I think needs probably a lot of work, but there is some progress, we would like to see more progress.

Zëri: But, where do you see the biggest failures?

Romanowski: The failures or where more progress needs to be made is in the implementation of some of the laws that have been enacted. You need, I think in the judiciary and in the rule of law, the laws that may be on the books need to be implemented. So, I think those are the areas where it’s not a strong and a lot more work needs to occur.

Zëri: Can you tell me something about International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program. Can you tell us more what does this program of the international criminal investigation involve?

Romanowski: This is a program that is designed again to go after the illegal criminal activity that goes on both here in Kosovo and also helps to strengthen both the judicial system and the investigative system as well as also the prosecutors, and strengthen the ability to once you find criminals, or you find evidence, you can prosecute those criminals all the way to the end. So we’re working in different fields and in different areas of the judicial system.

Zëri: Let’s change the topic a bit: LGBT is one of the most problematic issues in Kosovo, this community faces problems, receiving often death threats and governments is not ready to deal with these issues enough, and we haven’t seen that they are doing anything. Also NGOs and media are not giving priority to this issue. So, having in mind this mentality that we live also here, what is your stand of that?

Romanowski: Well, I think there is an awareness of this community that needs to occur as it does in many of over countries in the world and awareness of the human rights and the rights of this community. And I think that it is a very important component of understanding the community, and supporting the community and ensuring that the community has their rights as other minorities and other communities are able to have their rights represented fairly.

Zëri: What can we do more for their better protection?

Romanowski: Well, again I think the understanding of the issue and understanding of the community, and their needs to be laws enacted that protect the rights of these communities.

Zëri: It’s been more than three years that Kosovo is focused on dialog between Prishtina and Belgrade. There was a huge international push to get results. What is your stand towards this process? Did Kosovo and Serbia achieve the results we were seeking after so many years?

Romanowski: I think that the dialog that is continuing between Kosovo and Serbia is an important dialog, it will continue, it’s one that we support.

Zëri: Yes, but after three years of ongoing dialogue, what progress you have seen until now?

Romanowski: Well, I think the progress we’ve seen is again as I noticed in my conversation earlier with those who are working there is that there is understanding and a more positive way in which the two communities are beginning to engage with each other, and try and see a way to develop contacts and trade and relationship.

Zëri: If we see the northern part of Kosovo, Albanians for example cannot go there, so in the fields we do not see any progress?

Romanowski: It takes a long time on these issues and I think you have to sustain and to continue to support these dialogues, and I think it’s going to be a long process.