European Western Balkans spoke with Dhurata Hoxha, the new Minister of European Integration of Kosovo, on visa liberalisation of Kosovo, rule of law and cooperation with CSOs in the EU integration process.
Hoxha has been appointed the Minister of European Integration of Kosovo in September 2017, following her prior position as the Minister of Justice. She also served as a Political Advisor to the Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi for four years.
European Western Balkans: Taking into account that you have recently been appointed as the new Minister for European Integration of Kosovo, what will be the next steps of the Ministry?
Dhurata Hoxha: As the new Minister of European Integration I am looking forward to energising the process and work closely with all institutions with the purpose of implementing successfully ERA, SAA and fulfilling the remaining criteria for visa liberalisation. Kosovo has made it clear that the only way forward for our citizens and our country is the integration in the European family. As a signal of my willingness to energise the process, I have gathered the Ministerial Council for European Integration for the first time since 2013. Now the Ministerial Council is having regular meetings and is co-chaired by the Prime Minister of Kosovo.
EWB: One of the conditions for visa liberalisation of Kosovo is demarcation agreement with Montenegro, which is signed and ready for ratification in the Parliament of Kosovo. When do you expect the ratification to happen and what would be the subsequent steps, after ratification is completed?
DH: The conditions for visa liberalisations should be fulfilled and citizens of Kosovo should have free movement in EU countries. Kosovo institutions should also focus on the fight against corruption as a second condition. The European integration agenda and the free movement of citizens should be a priority and we should all have an internal consensus. The political class in the country must be united when it comes to the European integration agenda. As for the next steps after we have fulfilled the criteria the European Commission is the institution that should move the decision-making process through announcing that Kosovo has fulfilled the two remaining criteria.
The decision then goes to the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of the European Union. The next major steps are the opening of the inter-institutional exchange (EC, EP and Council), which may begin after the Council approves their mandate. Following the approval of the mandate and the end of negotiations, the final approval of the visa liberalization recommendation will be voted on in the Justice and Home Affairs Council and in one of the EP plenaries.
EWB: Recently the EU Office in Kosovo had to cancel EUR 7.8 million of financial assistance to North Mitrovica. The projects foresaw the construction of a cultural centre and of a new university. How would you assess the Kosovo’s usage of IPA funds?
DH: Kosovo benefits millions of euros assistance from EU through IPA. Kosovo institutions should take their best efforts to use funds in the sector where assistance is more required such as rule of law, education, employment and doing business. So far Kosovo has successfully used IPA funds however we should focus more on showing progress and improving our projects that require IPA assistance.
EWB: As the former Minister of Justice, do you believe that the rule of law represents a stumbling block on Kosovo’s EU path?
DH: As the former Minister of Justice I strongly believe that rule of law is crucial and is the most important sector where Kosovo institutions should focus and undertake necessary actions to make improvements and reforms. The only way towards EU path is to strengthen the rule of law and have judiciary and prosecution effective, transparent and accountable.
EWB: Cooperation with CSOs is important when it comes to the EU integration process. How would you assess the current cooperation of Ministry for European Integration with CSOs in Kosovo?
DH: I have stated also in my previous interviews that it is almost impossible to have a successful integration process without active involvement of civil society. I have already started first talks with CSO and in the coming days, we will have specific activities jointly with CSO for the purpose of promoting European integration process. CSO will also play a crucial role in monitoring the performance of institutions in fulfilment of the criteria for EU integration process and implementation of SAA.