European Western Balkans

Hahn: Eight requirements still had to be fulfilled for visa liberalisation

Johannes Hahn; Photo: European Union

President, Honourable Members,

 Only two weeks ago I addressed this House to thank it for its support to the continuing development of EU-Kosovo relations and its support for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement we negotiated with Kosovo. I would like to again thank the Foreign Affairs Committee and rapporteur Ulrike Lunacek in particular for their support.

 This House’s overwhelming vote in support of the SAA on 21 January was welcomed in both Brussels and Pristina. In Brussels it should allow the Council to adopt the Agreement later this month, and in Pristina it reminded everyone of the support Kosovo has in this House. I look forward to the SAA entering into force in April or May. Implementation of the Agreement will not only deepen our political relations, it will also ensure a more predictable business environment leading to much needed growth and jobs.

I hope that political leaders in Kosovo take the opportunity of the adoption of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement to sit around the table to discuss their differences, and find a way out of the political stalemate. The political paralysis in Pristina has lasted far too long and has caused a great deal of damage. It is high time the opposition renounced violence and obstruction and got down to business.

 President, Honourable Members,

Our 2015 Report on Kosovo confirms that Kosovo needs to address structural reforms to tackle key economic reform challenges. Unemployment is unacceptably high and economic development is not sufficient. More focus is needed on delivery of results in the fight against organised crime and corruption; the same goes for the independence and capacity of the judiciary. Improvements in these areas should provide the people of Kosovo with a perspective for a better future.

As it is reflected in the SAA, we attach great importance to the normalisation of Kosovo’s relations with Serbia. Kosovo needs to implement the agreements it has reached and continue to work towards further agreements. Kosovo also needs to ensure that the Specialist Chambers become fully operational quickly. Kosovo’s cooperation with the Chambers will be of critical importance to the country’s image and international standing, and therefore to its European future. Similarly, Kosovo needs to continue to work with our Rule of Law Mission, EULEX, in the execution of its mandate. This is a legal obligation under the SAA.

We fully understand that visa liberalisation is a key issue for Kosovo, and that Kosovo’s progress in this area is important to this House. The Commission’s third and final report on Kosovo’s visa progress last December noted substantial progress, but also concluded that eight requirements still had to be fulfilled before it could proceed with a proposal. Kosovo is working hard to fulfil the remaining recommendations, I hope this will be possible very soon.

President, Honourable Members,

Allow me to thank you once more for your support. I look forward to the debate.

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