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Kosovo’s path towards EU integrations on its 4th Birthday. By Vlora Çitaku, Minister For European Integrations of The Republic of Kosovo.

On February 17th of 2008 at precisely 15h49, on a cold Sunday afternoon, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Mr. Hashim Thaçi declared our country’s independence. This was followed by the members of the Parliament proceeding into signing The Declaration of Independence. I had the honor and privilege of serving my country as an MP at that time and with trembling hands and indescribable joy I signed The Declaration as well, fully aware that an old era has ended forever and a challenging new one was beginning.

As we are getting ready to celebrate our country’s 4th birthday I can’t help myself but think about the fact that some twelve plus years after the end of a grueling and brutal war, having been recognized by 87 countries and counting, having been under the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) administration until 2008, Kosovo still finds itself as the last country in Europe that needs visas to travel freely. But, the idea of a European Kosovo should not be reduced with the visa liberalization process. First and foremost the idea of a European Kosovo is linked with what the EU represents, peace and wellbeing.

After all, Robert Schumann, Jean Monnet and the other founding fathers of the European Community based their ideals on this idea. "As distinct from ideas of federation, confederation or customs union the main development in Europe depends on a supranational foundation to make war unthinkable, materially impossible and reinforce democracy" they once declared.

Unity in Diversity is the main theme of the EU meaning that regardless of nationality, religion, culture or geographic position, there are some values that transcend all these features. These values are democracy, freedom and equality, these are the values that keep Europe together.  Kosovo has endorsed and embraced these values and they are now embodied not only formally in our documents beginning with the Constitution, but they form a natural part of our mentality and everyday living. In this sense we can contribute to further enforce these values and at the same time enrich the cultural aspect of EU.

Considering the bitter past and the devastating wars that occurred in our region in the past decades, the countries in the West Balkans need EU more than ever, thus the European Integration theme has become a strategic objective for the Western Balkans, it has become a synonym of success, development, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Every country in the region is aspiring to achieve these values not for the sake of EU integration as an ultimate act in itself but for the wellbeing of their citizens, sustainable living and to the contribution of peace and security in the region.

We are very happy to see all our neighbors advancing their way for a final inclusion into the EU. However Kosovo has remained in a deadlock due to several factors. We have a specific relationship with the EU. We have a special European Partnership and a sui generis Stabilization and Association Process Dialogue. For Kosovo it has become more of a political issue than for the other countries and it’s taking its toll. The passing grade for us has to be an A+ and any other grade will not be acceptable. In one sense this seems unfair that double standards are being applied when it comes to Kosovo, but in the other sense it helps us to be prepared on all issues and tasks at hand.

Although we realize and know it very well that all important decisions in the integration process are to be approved by all member states, we still think that it is absurd for the EU to not be able to reach a consensual position on Kosovo. Nevertheless we look forward to formal recognition by the remaining five member states since Kosovo has only contributed to the security and peace in the region and no state should feel threatened by our independence. Until then we respect their position and we are ready to answer on any issue they may have regarding Kosovo.

It might not be fair that the states that were initially admitted to the EU were not in a better position than us, or are maybe not in a better position even now – but life is not fair in general. One thing is sure though. We will not stop until we reach our goal. We will keep adopting laws, draft documents and, we will create concrete instruments to accelerate the process of integration. We will perform on each of the tasks. The rest is not up to us, the decisions are taken in Brussels and they are more than often influenced by political perceptions and are mainly inspired by the feelings of European politicians as to how "acceptable" we are. It’s only human nature. 

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