President Milanović in Kosovo: EU should be much clearer about European perspective for Western Balkans

23. December 2021.

At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu, the President of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović is on a two-day official visit to the Republic of Kosovo.

The official visit of President Milanović to the Republic of Kosovo began with a welcoming ceremony at Ibrahim Rugova Square in Priština, which was followed by a tête-à-tête meeting of the two presidents and a bilateral meeting of the delegations of the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Kosovo. After the meetings, President Milanović and President Osmani-Sadriu jointly planted a tree of friendship in the courtyard of the Kosovo Parliament building as a symbolic act of friendship between the two countries.

In a statement to the press after his meeting with the President of the Republic of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu, President Milanović said that the Republic of Kosovo is a friendly country with which Croatia has a lot of common experiences that were not from the same period, but the events and problems encountered are similar.

“Today, Croatia is a member of the European Union and NATO that is facing new challenges of understanding and defining its place in this huge, unimaginably large and powerful organization in which small countries sometimes lose their way. However, in regard to Kosovo I can say that it is a country that is dear to us, without the intention to spite others, because I am not here to spite Belgrade or anyone else. Kosovo is a predictable country with a very vibrant democracy,” President Milanović pointed out.

The Croatian President emphasized that the Republic of Kosovo, like almost all the countries of the Western Balkans, is standing in one place on its path towards European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.

“Either not much or nothing is changing. The European Union should be much clearer on what it wants and on the perspective it gives. This is an ideal recipe for a kind of political depression and that is why my advice to our friends in Kosovo is to look at what the others have done while they waited and to not necessarily repeat the errors and misconceptions of others but to strongly concentrate on themselves,” President Milanović underscored, expressing regret over the approach taken by the European Union, since he believes that Kosovo is a country that could very quickly function politically as part of these institutions because there is no divided loyalty. “There is loyalty to the institutions and to the state of the majority Albanian people, which is an important element. If such a state was a member of one of the two alliances, you would know what to expect – if a democratically elected government changed, everything would more or less remain the same in relation to loyalty to the state and loyalty to the integrations, where major long-term commitments were assumed,” President Milanović explained.

“On my part I will discuss and persuade all those who can be influential because it is perplexing to see the extent of the ignorance on the highest levels of politics and authorities in Western Europe and the European Union regarding the situation in Kosovo, and especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” President Milanović stated. He added that we have been observing such a situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina for twenty years already. “I don’t wish this to anyone. Kosovo needs a solution, Kosovo isn’t a problem, the resolution of the status of Kosovo isn’t simple. Some European Union countries have still not recognized Kosovo, and I will do everything on my part to acquaint them better with the situation, because from personal experience and from discussions with politicians and other statesmen I realize that people are not informed,” President Milanović said in his statement after his meeting with the President of the Republic of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu.

After the statements the journalists were interested in President Milanović’s view on the Open Balkan initiative. “Since the Republic of Croatia is a member of the European Union, it is not in our immediate interest, but if the initiative has good intentions, then it should include, as Madam President has said, all the states of the region. Kosovo is a state, it was recognized by many European Union states. If not and if it’s the opposite – then the question is what are its motives? Therefore, either all the states, I can’t say no one because no one is standing in the way of others to establish it mutually and leave Kosovo on the side, then it is clearer what the motives are. Therefore, it does not interest me directly, connecting people is a good thing and so are open borders,” the Croatian President said, underlining that no one enters such alliances with emotions but with calculations and that it is senseless if it does not include Kosovo.

“In Kosovo there is no security risk in the sense of security of borders and integrity,” President Milanović replied in terms of how he views the security situation in Kosovo. In this context, he talked about armament in the region saying that Croatia has recently purchased fighter planes, which have a defensive purpose. “All those who are arming themselves say they are doing so only to defend themselves. It’s not always so, in the Croatian case it is, because what we are doing and what we are not doing it is evident. We are a NATO member, we are doing it for our sake, but our security is guaranteed even without new fighter planes. We are doing it for our sake, to be up-to-date, to make progress, but this is not free of charge, it costs. Serbia is arming itself, repairing some old systems, investing quite a bit. Evidently someone very much wants to invest in that, will it last long or just until the election remains to be seen,” President Milanović stated, and underlined that he doesn’t see this as a threat to Kosovo.

Asked by the press about the obstacles that the Republic of Croatia will put before Serbia on its path to the European Union, President Milanović replied that Serbia has to disclose where the missing persons are. “We are opening very few issues. We didn’t attack Serbia, the war wasn’t fought in Serbia, Serbia wasn’t burned, but Croatia was. In this case our moral position is quite strong – they used to be our enemies, they no longer are, but Serbia must decide alone what it wants,” the President said.

“I didn’t go to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the Lašva Valley for security reasons, without being more concrete. I can say that I didn’t go for security and organizational reasons, not because of my own security. A whole series of things just coincided, common sense said it should be skipped. Had it been some other place in Bosnia and Herzegovina these problems wouldn’t exist, but given the ethnic composition of the area, more recent history, I think it was responsible for me to ultimately decide not to go there and complicate life for the people there,” President Milanović said in explaining the recent cancellation of his trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and concluded that he feels safe and good in Kosovo.

In the remainder of his Official visit to Kosovo, President Milanović held separate meetings with the Chairman of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo Glauk Konjufca and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo Albin Kurti.

PHOTO: Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia / Marko Beljan