I came to Mitrovica after already visiting a number of destinations in the region, in the Western Balkans. And for me, you cannot imagine how special it is to be on this bridge after so many hours, so many days of discussions, sometimes difficult discussions in Brussels during the dialogue on how to make the best choices and the best opportunities for all people here in Mitrovica. And for me it is a big emotion to be here.
I have just met with some extraordinary people involved in civil society organisations both from the North and South Mitrovica. And I told them that the dialogue they are doing is much more important than the dialogue I am facilitating.
The dialogue on the top, the dialogue of decision-makers, institutions, Prime Ministers, Presidents is fundamental, is key and I would like to thank all of those that have been involved in the dialogue so far because it has allowed us to achieve important decisions and implement some important decisions. But it is, at the end of the day, the people that have the power of dialogue in their hands and in their lives. Their work is representing the pulse of the citizens and it is crucial in developing a progressive society. I know that our team here, as well as me in Brussels, but here ambassador Apostolova and all of our team in Pristina, here in Mitrovica will support the people and the civil society organisations in their daily work, in their daily efforts. Dialogue and peace is never an easy exercise, but it is always a worthwhile exercise.
I am here in Mitrovica to primarily visit the Mitrovica Bridge, King Petar Street and their surroundings. I am convinced that this bridge, that is being refurbished by the European Union subsequent to an agreement that we reached during the EU facilitated Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in Brussels – but not by some aliens in Brussels, by decision makers that come from the region, that this work we are doing, this bridge we have refurnished, will turn from a symbol of division to one of dialogue and contacts among the people. And this is the power of the European Union, to create dialogue, peace understanding where we had confrontation or difficulties.
Reconciliation is the key word here, and this is the key work that we are doing and that we are supporting. The people of Mitrovica are trying to enter into reconciliation between communities and ultimately peace, and with peace comes prosperity. I have been impressed with what I have seen here, the projects, so many projects on the bridge and around the bridge and also the many infrastructures that the European Union is financing. It also underlines the value and the importance and relevance for the everyday life of the citizens, of the dialogue process.
I hear so many times that the dialogue is an empty exercise far away from here. Well, it brings results that are tangible for the people and this is the work the European Union is committed to do. I am very encouraged by this and I look forward to the full opening of the bridge and the street very soon. I have asked my Special Representative to keep me regularly informed about developments and I will continue to work with all my energy to make this happens smoothly for the benefit of all.
In particular, I would like to thank the municipal authorities of Mitrovica North and South for all the work, all the effort, all the patience, all the constructive attitude they have put into the refurbishment of the bridge itself, its adjacent areas and the pedestrinasation of King Petar Street. I am aware that this has not always been easy, I am aware that this is not always easy – dialogue is never easy, there have been setbacks at times but ultimately, these projects are nearing in completion. I have learnt that in most cases, it is a matter of couple of months and this is why the people that made this happen deserve our gratitude and our respect, our profound respect. It is a lesson that I think we are showing here today, not only to the region, but let me tell you, also to the entire world. The dialogue and cooperation and peace is possible.
The European Union remains committed to the development of Kosovo, indeed 2016 saw a large number of projects commence and money transferred. I have already witnessed the investment that has begun to make a difference. The pedestrian area, sports hall and commercial centre are just three major infrastructural projects in South Mitrovica. Walking with the Mayor of North Mitrovica just now I have been introduced to the projects to which the European Union has invested greatly and can see that the vision on paper is now taking shape and is transforming into reality. And this changes people’s life for a better.
I would like to reiterate that I am feeling a strong emotion, I am also very impressed of what has been achieved in a short period and I am convinced that this is because there is an understanding here, finally. There is an understanding that bridges can unite, that difficulties can be overcome and that this turns people’s life into something better, with investments, with understanding, with dialogue, with an everyday work, we can make our lives better here and this is the commitment of the European Union. You can also always count on us to be on your side, North and South, and accompany all citizens here on this difficult but precious journey.
I thank you very much.