The European Parliament’s Rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon, says that she has been critical of Ambassador Grenell’s approach to his efforts to resume the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, saying that the US official wanted to circumvent the EU and the former democratic government (Kurti Government).
In an exclusive interview for KosovaPress, she says that the citizens of Kosovo have deserved visa liberalization like all other countries in the Western Balkans, adding that the issue of visa liberalization for Kosovo is not related to the progress made during the negotiation process between Kosovo and Serbia.
Von Cramon talks about the possibility of visa liberalization during the six-month German presidency of the European Union, France’s position on visa liberalization, its expectations from the Kosovo-Serbia negotiations, expectations from the Hoti Government, etc..
KosovaPress: Ms. Von Cramon, You are the rapporteur for Kosovo in the European Parliament, and we would like to have your opinion on the political situation in Kosovo. From your point of view, is there currently political stability in Kosovo?
Von Cramon: I think the political situation is very fragile at the moment in Kosovo, but I hope the country can work together and right now, especially because of the pandemic, decisive action is needed, we need a stronger political to work on comprises and a clear mechanism and quick decision-making in order to stop the pandemic. It is the responsibility of all political actors to make sure that decisions are made and then implemented.
KosovaPress: You were very critical against the overthrow of the Kurti government, at a critical time for the citizens of Kosovo such as the Pandemic. The motion has already taken place, have you changed your mind now?
Von Cramon: I raised my concerns when the decision was made, but I was always puzzled by the behaviour of some political groups in Kosovo as well as some external actors to vote this democratic government out of office after only 50 days. Not just myself, but many experts had serious concerns whether it was in line with the Constitution, but the Constitutional Court decided in a certain way, which we need to respect. This is a key issue in a democratic country, that we accept the decision of a court. Of course, this was not a black and white question, and unfortunately the text of the Constitution did not make it easy to see clearly, but the new government is in place and I will of course work together with them as I have done with the former one.
KosovaPress: Surely you are closely following the developments within Kosovo, please tell us your opinion about the impressions concerning the Hoti government?
Von Cramon: I can tell, that I am happy to see that the dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade is being resumed again by the EU, and I know that Mr Hoti is very much committed to the success of the dialogue. It is hard to evaluate their work after such a short time; especially many issues in Kosovo cannot be fixed quickly, such as corruption, rule of law, health care or education system. These reforms require longer time and deep changes, but I am full of hope, that Hoti’s government will prove its readiness to act. In the current situation we see almost skyrocketing numbers of COVID 19 cases. I has informed that the capacities of the hospitals are the limit and it is becoming even more critical. Therefore and for the sake of the citizens’ health, I really recommend to listen to medical experts and implement stricter measures to prevent more cases than we have already seen in the last days.
KosovaPress: You were also a strong critic in terms of the way the American efforts, or more specifically of Ambassador Grenell, for the restart of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. Where was the problem?
Von Cramon: Mr Grenell wanted to circumvent the EU and the former democratic government. If you looked at the timing and the method of his statements, it was not aiming to help the EU at all. I have been saying that if we want long-term stability in the region, we will need both the EU and the USA, we cannot separate them, and we need to have one dialogue, with the EU in the driver’s seat.
KosovaPress: The efforts of the European leadership to find a solution between Kosovo and Serbia have increased so much that in this process are involved the main top European leaders as: President Macron, Chancellor Merkel, EU foreign policy chief Mr. Borelli ect. What do you expect from this process?
Von Cramon: I am happy to see the broader interest for the stability in the Western Balkans. I expect that soon there will be tangible results in the negotiations, of course, I can’t say when or how exactly, but since all parts are interested in an agreement, I hope it will be possible to have a final decision, which can open up the road for European integration as a longer-term goal.
KosovaPress: Let’s talk a bit about the problem of visa liberalization for Kosovars, as you know for the people of Kosovo, this is a very big concern that among other things, in Kosovo there is a kind of offense for the fact that only Kosovo has remain without visa liberalization from all other western Balkan states. What is happening with this process?
Von Cramon: This is only up to the Council to decide, they should have decided two years ago, I hope that during the current German Council Presidency it will be brought to the agenda of the Council and soon a decision will be made. I have written a letter recently with 32 other colleagues asking Chancellor Merkel for the issue of visa liberalisation to be discussed in the next few months.
KosovaPress: Politicians in Kosovo have repeatedly justified the failure of visa liberalization with issues related to politics once the problem of the border with Montenegro, then tariffs and other things on a patriotic level. I wanted a sincere opinion from you, if the visa liberalization process for the citizens of Kosovo related to the progress in the dialogue process with Serbia?
Von Cramon: In my opinion, it is not. Certainly it should not be, because visa liberalisation has been a formal question with clear benchmarks along the process. There is no place for political considerations in a formal process like this. But then again, it is not me who is deciding on this. Last time only a couple of weeks ago in June the European Parliament has reinforced its support for Kosovo’s visa liberalisation with an overwhelming majority.
KosovaPress: Do you think that the Kosovar diplomacy has neglected the factor of Germany and France in recent years, while last year President Macron seemed to want to show that without these two factors Kosovo’s path to the EU is impossible? (I mean the blockade he made in the integration processes for Albania and northern Macedonia but also Kosovo)
Von Cramon: There are a number of factors why France is so reluctant when it comes to enlargement and with EU’s relations to the Western Balkans in general. France’s focus has been always in other parts of the European neighbourhood, mostly to Middle East and Africa and there are a number of domestic and international considerations as well for President Macron. At least they have changed their position a bit regarding enlargement; the new methodology was something acceptable for them. Many of us inside the EU but also from the Western Balkans itself are trying to convince the French public and French politicians to pay more attention to the Western Balkan countries. These six countries are right next to us, our history, economy, societies are all interconnected. If the EU cannot have one single voice in our immediate neighbourhood, in countries, which want to cooperate with us, countries that are ready to do serious reforms for better cooperation, then how can we hope the EU can have real global voice and power?
KosovaPress: In Kosovo is a general perception that after Germany took over the presidency of the European Union, the issue of visa liberalization will occur within this six-month period. In this regard, what would you say to the citizens of Kosovo?
Von Cramon: I have been trying to make sure that there are many people in Berlin, who understand the problem and I hope they will be able to facilitate a decision in the Council, because we are losing our credibility when we are not fulfilling our promise. The citizens of Kosovo have deserved it as all the other countries did before.