Ramush Haradinaj - Prime Minister of Kosovo HARDtalk


Ramush Haradinaj - Prime Minister of Kosovo

It is ten years since Kosovo became Europe's newest nation. Stephen Sackur speaks to Ramush Haradinaj, Kosovo's prime minister. Can the country escape its troubled history?


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five in Poland, two in Romania.

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Now on BBC News...

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Time for HardTalk.

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Welcome to Hardtalk, I am Stephen

Sackur. It is ten years since Kosovo

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became Europe's newest nation. It

has not been an easy decade.

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Relations with neighbouring Serbia

remain hostile, and international

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recognition has been patchy. Kosovo

is still struggling to get on top of

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endemic poverty and corruption. My

guest today is Kosovo's Prime

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Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Can

Kosovo escape its troubled history?

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Ramush Haradinaj, welcome to

Hardtalk.

Thank you.

You have had

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ten years of Kosovan independence.

To the outsider it looks like a

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story of hopes dashed and ambitions

thwarted. Is that what it feels like

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to you?

The foundation of a state,

it is there. It is ten years, if not

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anything else, it has been learning

to be ourselves. Facing and making

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mistakes, learning from our

mistakes. And Kosovo exists in

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strong foundation.

Do you really

think so?

Yes.

When one looks at

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Kosovo today, one sees that despite

claims to independence, a

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significant nation, with Russia and

China, but five Nations within the

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EU do not even recognise your

sovereign independence.

This is not

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the end of the project today, where

we are. Infrastructure, economy, it

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exists. Institutions of the state

exist. Today, we are members of

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different international

organisations, and have been

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recognised by a number of

organisations. We are in the

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direction to be a member of UN and

the EU. We do not stop here.

What

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you want to tell me is the direction

of travel is positive that if one

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looks at recent developments, for

example, the European Parliamentary

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reporter on Kosovo says that because

of actions your government has

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taken, Kosovo is no "Off the train

of liberalisation of its

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relationship with the European

Union". In other words, you are

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going in the wrong direction?

We had

some challenges, there were

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different topics of discussion but

finally we are structured again,

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going in the right direction.

How do

you feel, then, when Jean-Claude

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Juncker, the president of the

European Commission, says quite

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openly that when it comes to the

Balkans, Serbia and Montenegro are

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at the front of the queue for EU

membership. They would like to see

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them inside the club by 2025 and he

gives no indication at all that

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there is a target date for Kosovo.

Many people believe it is impossible

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to imagine Kosovo inside the EU.

In

Russia, they do not even showing our

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flag because they do not recognise

us.

But their problem is your

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problem, that is my point.

Yes, and

I had congratulations from them on

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our tenth anniversary of

independence. We exist, we are a

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member of the family. We have to

find a solution to be recognised and

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with Serbia.

That is something that

has to happen. You have led me to my

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next question. The key to

normalisation of your statehood and

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your future. That is, the

relationship with Serbia. How are

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you going to move from the current

suspicion and mistrust, the

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hostility, to a normalised

relationship with your neighbour?

We

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have two strong arguments. One is

our constitution is an advanced one.

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We had a very advanced Constitution.

The second is the position of Kosovo

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Serbs in the country. A community

that is respected and granted the

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most row is possible that a

constitution could grant their

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community. Based on that, we have

cohesion -- the most rights.

It is

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one thing having constitutional

rights for the Serbian minority

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written in the constitution but

another is safeguarding their

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security. We did see a few weeks ago

a member of the Kosovo community

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gunned down on the streets of

Mitchell Beazer.

That is very tragic

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news. The Deputy Prime Minister is a

Serb, and I have many colleagues I

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work with from the north. But in

this case, nobody is pointing

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fingers.

But let me quote to you

another significant Kosovo

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politician who has said that the

government wants to integrate the

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land but not integrate us, the

people, the Serbs.

This government

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is doing, I would say, honest work

to respect Kosovo Serbs and

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integrate the people, we work with

the people...

In that case, why did

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you, the Prime Minister, blocks the

planned Association of Serb

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municipalities. The plans for

Serbian communities, why did you

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like that?

If you look at the other

cases, it did not function that

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well. The cessation of

municipalities, it was presented. In

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fact, our constitutional accord has

ruled on that. We are able to

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implement the cessation based on our

Constitution.

Essentially, you need

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a settlement of your hostile

relationship with Serbia and Serbia

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needs at too, without it Serbia

cannot join the EU in 2025 and you

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cannot get recognition and a place

at the European table. You both need

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it. You prepared to cede territory,

a little portion of territory in the

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north of your nation, seed it to

Serbia to settle this dispute?

You

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are just throwing away everything in

the past. The pieces because of

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people, not land or territories.

What is the answer to my question?

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-- peace. Can you imagine giving

away territory to make final peace

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with Serbia?

My answer is this, this

has led to war is in the Balkans.

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I'm not in favour of another one. We

are a victim, as Kosovo Albanians.

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The whole wall stood with what

happened at the time. In changing

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borders and mixing territories, that

is how tragedies happen.

There is a

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window of opportunity here. We have

a Prime Minister in Serbia. Yes, he

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was a nationalist in the past that

he has become a man determined to

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take Serbia towards a European

future. Too many people that means

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he appears more broody for

compromise than Serbian leaders of

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the past. He has talked about

wanting to respect the needs of

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Serbia's children rather than

Serbia's ancestors. He, for you, is

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a window of opportunity. You

prepared to reach out to him?

We are

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interested to sit at the table, and

to finish what is left between

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Kosovo and Serbia. That is the

recognition. They are part of the

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forgiveness. Not to forget but

forgiveness. I believe it is the

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time to do so. We are prepared for

that but this is not a trade of

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territories.

This is not... You are

categorical about that. Some people

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talk about a land swap that you

could give territory to the Serbs

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and they can give territory to you

which is majority Kosovo Albanians.

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The borders in the Balkans, and

today the territories are a result

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of some wars from the past. If we

open that question it is a

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never-ending story. We still have

rules, after the last tragedies. We

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don't want to forget that.

You talk

about wounds and tragedies. Another

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element of Kosovo moving forward is

your nation truly accounting for the

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recent past. This raises the issue

of justice. For crimes committed

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during the period of war in the late

90s. You appeared to support a

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special legal chamber created in

2015 by the Kosovan parliament, to

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investigate historical crimes. Then,

you appear to change your mind. You

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told the press in January that you

were not for the court, in

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opposition, and against it now. Be

clear with me, are you for or

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against the court?

Kosovo was open

and transparent, for the past and

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for the truth. And for the right of

victims and the rights of people and

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all allegations. The United Nations

administrated Kosovo for nine years

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and established courts, prosecutors

and prosecuted many Kosovo

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Albanians.

But people watching and

listening may not know that this

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special chamber, the Kosovan

Parliament approved of it, would sit

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in The Hague but follow Kosovan law

and would consider specific crimes

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committed in the past. Are you for

or against the court?

People in the

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world deserve to know, to realise,

that this is the fourth operation to

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bring justice to Kosovo. The first

was the United Nations, the second

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was former Yugoslavia...

You have

two trials.

In the name of justice

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on behalf of my nation.

That was run

by the International criminal Court

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at The Hague.

The third is the

European rule of law...

You are not

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answering my question...

On the

fourth one, it was judged only

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Albanians, only for selected crimes,

and it was out of the country.

I

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would prefer that. But it was

ratified by the Kosovan Parliament?

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Fair enough.

Now you are denying...

No, not deniable. The court exists.

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But it is good to realise when this

quarter rights, and the criticism of

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this court, there is criticism of

this court.

More to the point there

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is criticism of this court from your

own brother. Like you he was a KLA

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fighter and recently he has said

that KLA fighters will prevent

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action by anyone who intends to

profit politically from making

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arrests in this special court. It

sounds like you and your family are

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doing whatever it takes to block

these activities.

Not true at all.

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We respect the rule of law. I did it

in my time, my brother did it. We

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went to trial and court...

He is not

prepared to go through this one.

Why

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profit politically, if you are

talking about justice or political

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profit? There is something in these

answers.

It has become a big issue,

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inside and outside of the country. I

will quote you the head of the

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Kosovo Democratic Institute. He says

the government shows immaturity and

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signs of panic and is risking

isolation from the international

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community who helped us declare

independence in the first place.

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Umm, that is exaggerated! This is

not the case of the government of

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Kosovo. It is a sustainable

government. A very serious one. But

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it reflects the feelings and beliefs

of the nation. It is not always the

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international community. Everything

they did, they did it right.

The

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Americans and Europeans are people

who helped deliver Kosovan

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independence and... Sorry, to

continue, they say they condemn what

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they see as backtracking on the

special chamber court and they say

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there will be "Severe consequences

for Kosovo's International and

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Yerevan antic integration if the

government continues on this course.

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Can I put it more clearly? MPs of

our Parliament have criticised and

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have different views to this court.

As a government, we respect

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obligations that have been taken but

we have a respect for that criticism

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as well. It is a well founded

criticism. In the 21st-century, it

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is a mono ethnic court.

And not

entirely clear with what you are

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saying. You prepared to accept the

authority of this court and accept

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its judgments?

We always have been.

The Kosovo government and

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institution always has been. After

any result, we stay under

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obligations that we have taken but

we take obligation of the court. We

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have one system operating out of the

country, it is the fourth operation

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to bring justice. The second is mono

ethnic.

And what about the specific

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allegations but towards the Council

of Europe, which may well end up

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before the special chamber. The KLA,

you were a senior commander of it in

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Kosovo during the war, the KLA were

involved not just in murders,

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torture, rape victims, but also in

organised in people smuggling and

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drugrunning -- rape of victims.

Should those allegations be aired in

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this special court?

Many people

would find the verdict in my case.

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You would see what an honourable

Judge says in the end of a second

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trial, they proved that the KLA were

not doing that. They did not find

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that we have been doing that. I

believe the allegations are false.

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Let's talk about the different ways

on how the international community

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are concerned about backtracking

from your government. It concerns

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the separate border dispute that you

have with Montenegrin. It looked as

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though you, the Kosovan government

in 2015, were prepared to reach a

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deal with Montenegrin --

Montenegrin. I believe that involved

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sending back several thousand

hectares back to the Montenegro

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government. You said that the border

agreement was not transparent to our

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Parliament. Does that mean you no

longer accept the agreement?

We have

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reached consensus with the

Montenegrin government, they have

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agreed to review and correct in two

directions where the dispute was. It

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gives enough arguments to vote it in

our Parliament. In the next few days

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hopefully we will be coming together

to rectify it.

Until you ratify, the

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European Union has said it will not

consider these liberalisation is for

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Kosovans who want to travel inside

of the EU. There is linkage, once

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again the Europeans are judging the

Kosovan government of failing to

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live up to international standards

and unless you do so, your

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relationship with the EU will

clearly suffer. It is very strange,

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the fact that that would happen,

Visa liberalisation. We are members

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of Nato and still have disputes on

their own borders -- they are

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members of Nato. It is very unfair.

But cat Brussels attitude to

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Brussels -- but if you look at

brussels attitude to Kosovo today,

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you are the poorest country in

Europe. According to the CIA fact

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book, they release one every year

looking at the basics of every

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economy, they reckon that your youth

unemployment is close to 60%. Your

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average income is a tiny fraction of

the EU average. Your economy is so

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far behind, it is, again, very hard

to see how you could ever get close

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to acceptable convergence.

OK... In

Europe, you are becoming older and

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older. You are the youngest nation

in Europe, as population. And many

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people had to leave the country

because there are no jobs?

In the

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case of producing an offer in your

countries, in Kosovo, they have

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potential. In energy, in the mining

sector, in food production and in

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innovation. Young and talented

people. They are like that because

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we inherited no economy at all. The

war devastated Kosovo. No

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infrastructure at all. Today, we are

nearly finishing the highways of our

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country, railways need to be

constructive. Water and electricity

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supply to families, not just for

houses and businesses but for the

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whole country. We have an investment

in energy of 1,000,000,000.3. -- 1.3

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billion. Kosovo is struggling but

here we are.

Yes, and with an

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economy that is far behind the

European standard, we can agree. But

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also an economy that has laid low by

corruption. Corruption is killing

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economic growth in your country. I

mean, the UK ambassador recently

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gave a presentation in Pristina, in

which he said "There was no need for

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me to explain just how bad

corruption is in Kosovo. You all

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know this phenomenon roots

democracy, prevents any economic

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development and undermines where so

many of your people gave sacrifice".

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In the latest ranking of countries,

we have improved by ten positions.

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Kosovo has improved in the fight

against corruption.

That is from

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appalling took what Mike Riddle not

-- that is from appalling to not

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quite so appalling.

I am six months

in the job. My commitment is only to

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make a difference and difference is

happening now. Kosovo has a rule of

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law that fights corruption and

fights crime, and fights against

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other threats that the world is

today facing.

Another way in which

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Europe looks at Kosovo and has

concerns is on security issues.

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Kosovo is a very interesting

European nation because you are 90%,

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or more, Muslim. He had very

explicitly said in the past that

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there has been a problem with

radicalisation of some people in

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Kosovo, some of them, hundreds of

them, went to fight with so-called

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Islamic state in Iraq and Syria.

Your security agencies have said

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that you are concerned that some

have returned to your territory. How

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can you reassure Europe that your

government is on top of this

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potentially very grave security

problem? Not just for yourselves,

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but for Europe?

Kosovo is multi-year

-- multiethnic. A majority

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Albanians. We have had questions

since Ottoman times. We adopted the

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Muslim religion -- Chris Jones. We

are very much linked to our own

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national identity as being Albanian.

It is an identity that we represent

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ourselves with that.

Let me ask you

bluntly, you see the nature of the

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rise of populism and nationalism in

many different parts of the European

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Union. Do you believe there is a

prejudice or a bias against Kosovo,

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because it is predominantly Muslim?

No, no. I think in Europe, they

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realise who we are. We are

Albanians, we are the nation of

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Mother Teresa, of Dua Lipa, no.

This

was said by the EU special

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representative in Pristina. She said

there is just the other day of

0:23:170:23:20

Kosovo. She said there is a window

of opportunity here, if the

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political establishment really takes

to heart the European reform agenda.

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But it is not a very big window. Do

you think your country is capable of

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seizing this moment, this

opportunity?

I think we are to be

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applauded as a nation. To see the

war 20 years ago and where we are

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today, it proved that we do find a

way, even though it is very

0:23:500:23:55

difficult. Our challenges are

specific but we find a way to become

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a member of the EU family, and the

United Nations.

You don't ever doubt

0:24:010:24:08

that, even after ten difficult

years, no doubts?

No. Kosovo will be

0:24:080:24:13

a member of the EU and Nato, and the

United Nations.

We have two end

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there, but Ramush Haradinaj, thank

you very much for being on Hardtalk.

0:24:210:24:25

Thank you.

0:24:250:24:35

It is ten years since Kosovo became Europe's newest nation. It has not been an easy decade. Relations with neighbouring Serbia remain hostile and international recognition has been patchy, with Kosovo is still struggling to get on top of endemic poverty and corruption. Stephen Sackur speaks to Ramush Haradinaj, Kosovo's prime minister. Can Kosovo escape its troubled history?


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