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.
Now on BBC News...
Time for HardTalk.
Welcome to Hardtalk, I am Stephen
Sackur. 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. Kosovo
is still struggling to get on top of
endemic poverty and corruption. My
guest today is Kosovo's Prime
Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Can
Kosovo escape its troubled history?
Ramush Haradinaj, welcome to
You have had
ten years of Kosovan independence.
To the outsider it looks like a
story of hopes dashed and ambitions
thwarted. Is that what it feels like
The foundation of a state,
it is there. It is ten years, if not
anything else, it has been learning
to be ourselves. Facing and making
mistakes, learning from our
mistakes. And Kosovo exists in
Do you really
When one looks at
Kosovo today, one sees that despite
claims to independence, a
significant nation, with Russia and
China, but five Nations within the
EU do not even recognise your
This is not
the end of the project today, where
we are. Infrastructure, economy, it
exists. Institutions of the state
exist. Today, we are members of
organisations, and have been
recognised by a number of
organisations. We are in the
direction to be a member of UN and
the EU. We do not stop here.
you want to tell me is the direction
of travel is positive that if one
looks at recent developments, for
example, the European Parliamentary
reporter on Kosovo says that because
of actions your government has
taken, Kosovo is no "Off the train
of liberalisation of its
relationship with the European
Union". In other words, you are
going in the wrong direction?
some challenges, there were
different topics of discussion but
finally we are structured again,
going in the right direction.
you feel, then, when Jean-Claude
Juncker, the president of the
European Commission, says quite
openly that when it comes to the
Balkans, Serbia and Montenegro are
at the front of the queue for EU
membership. They would like to see
them inside the club by 2025 and he
gives no indication at all that
there is a target date for Kosovo.
Many people believe it is impossible
to imagine Kosovo inside the EU.
Russia, they do not even showing our
flag because they do not recognise
But their problem is your
problem, that is my point.
I had congratulations from them on
our tenth anniversary of
independence. We exist, we are a
member of the family. We have to
find a solution to be recognised and
That is something that
has to happen. You have led me to my
next question. The key to
normalisation of your statehood and
your future. That is, the
relationship with Serbia. How are
you going to move from the current
suspicion and mistrust, the
hostility, to a normalised
relationship with your neighbour?
have two strong arguments. One is
our constitution is an advanced one.
We had a very advanced Constitution.
The second is the position of Kosovo
Serbs in the country. A community
that is respected and granted the
most row is possible that a
constitution could grant their
community. Based on that, we have
cohesion -- the most rights.
one thing having constitutional
rights for the Serbian minority
written in the constitution but
another is safeguarding their
security. We did see a few weeks ago
a member of the Kosovo community
gunned down on the streets of
That is very tragic
news. The Deputy Prime Minister is a
Serb, and I have many colleagues I
work with from the north. But in
this case, nobody is pointing
But let me quote to you
another significant Kosovo
politician who has said that the
government wants to integrate the
land but not integrate us, the
people, the Serbs.
is doing, I would say, honest work
to respect Kosovo Serbs and
integrate the people, we work with
In that case, why did
you, the Prime Minister, blocks the
planned Association of Serb
municipalities. The plans for
Serbian communities, why did you
If you look at the other
cases, it did not function that
well. The cessation of
municipalities, it was presented. In
fact, our constitutional accord has
ruled on that. We are able to
implement the cessation based on our
Essentially, you need
a settlement of your hostile
relationship with Serbia and Serbia
needs at too, without it Serbia
cannot join the EU in 2025 and you
cannot get recognition and a place
at the European table. You both need
it. You prepared to cede territory,
a little portion of territory in the
north of your nation, seed it to
Serbia to settle this dispute?
are just throwing away everything in
the past. The pieces because of
people, not land or territories.
What is the answer to my question?
-- peace. Can you imagine giving
away territory to make final peace
My answer is this, this
has led to war is in the Balkans.
I'm not in favour of another one. We
are a victim, as Kosovo Albanians.
The whole wall stood with what
happened at the time. In changing
borders and mixing territories, that
is how tragedies happen.
There is a
window of opportunity here. We have
a Prime Minister in Serbia. Yes, he
was a nationalist in the past that
he has become a man determined to
take Serbia towards a European
future. Too many people that means
he appears more broody for
compromise than Serbian leaders of
the past. He has talked about
wanting to respect the needs of
Serbia's children rather than
Serbia's ancestors. He, for you, is
a window of opportunity. You
prepared to reach out to him?
interested to sit at the table, and
to finish what is left between
Kosovo and Serbia. That is the
recognition. They are part of the
forgiveness. Not to forget but
forgiveness. I believe it is the
time to do so. We are prepared for
that but this is not a trade of
This is not... You are
categorical about that. Some people
talk about a land swap that you
could give territory to the Serbs
and they can give territory to you
which is majority Kosovo Albanians.
The borders in the Balkans, and
today the territories are a result
of some wars from the past. If we
open that question it is a
never-ending story. We still have
rules, after the last tragedies. We
don't want to forget that.
about wounds and tragedies. Another
element of Kosovo moving forward is
your nation truly accounting for the
recent past. This raises the issue
of justice. For crimes committed
during the period of war in the late
90s. You appeared to support a
special legal chamber created in
2015 by the Kosovan parliament, to
investigate historical crimes. Then,
you appear to change your mind. You
told the press in January that you
were not for the court, in
opposition, and against it now. Be
clear with me, are you for or
against the court?
Kosovo was open
and transparent, for the past and
for the truth. And for the right of
victims and the rights of people and
all allegations. The United Nations
administrated Kosovo for nine years
and established courts, prosecutors
and prosecuted many Kosovo
But people watching and
listening may not know that this
special chamber, the Kosovan
Parliament approved of it, would sit
in The Hague but follow Kosovan law
and would consider specific crimes
committed in the past. Are you for
or against the court?
People in the
world deserve to know, to realise,
that this is the fourth operation to
bring justice to Kosovo. The first
was the United Nations, the second
was former Yugoslavia...
In the name of justice
on behalf of my nation.
That was run
by the International criminal Court
at The Hague.
The third is the
European rule of law...
You are not
answering my question...
fourth one, it was judged only
Albanians, only for selected crimes,
and it was out of the country.
would prefer that. But it was
ratified by the Kosovan Parliament?
Now you are denying...
No, not deniable. The court exists.
But it is good to realise when this
quarter rights, and the criticism of
this court, there is criticism of
More to the point there
is criticism of this court from your
own brother. Like you he was a KLA
fighter and recently he has said
that KLA fighters will prevent
action by anyone who intends to
profit politically from making
arrests in this special court. It
sounds like you and your family are
doing whatever it takes to block
Not true at all.
We respect the rule of law. I did it
in my time, my brother did it. We
went to trial and court...
He is not
prepared to go through this one.
profit politically, if you are
talking about justice or political
profit? There is something in these
It has become a big issue,
inside and outside of the country. I
will quote you the head of the
Kosovo Democratic Institute. He says
the government shows immaturity and
signs of panic and is risking
isolation from the international
community who helped us declare
independence in the first place.
Umm, that is exaggerated! This is
not the case of the government of
Kosovo. It is a sustainable
government. A very serious one. But
it reflects the feelings and beliefs
of the nation. It is not always the
international community. Everything
they did, they did it right.
Americans and Europeans are people
who helped deliver Kosovan
independence and... Sorry, to
continue, they say they condemn what
they see as backtracking on the
special chamber court and they say
there will be "Severe consequences
for Kosovo's International and
Yerevan antic integration if the
government continues on this course.
Can I put it more clearly? MPs of
our Parliament have criticised and
have different views to this court.
As a government, we respect
obligations that have been taken but
we have a respect for that criticism
as well. It is a well founded
criticism. In the 21st-century, it
is a mono ethnic court.
entirely clear with what you are
saying. You prepared to accept the
authority of this court and accept
We always have been.
The Kosovo government and
institution always has been. After
any result, we stay under
obligations that we have taken but
we take obligation of the court. We
have one system operating out of the
country, it is the fourth operation
to bring justice. The second is mono
And what about the specific
allegations but towards the Council
of Europe, which may well end up
before the special chamber. The KLA,
you were a senior commander of it in
Kosovo during the war, the KLA were
involved not just in murders,
torture, rape victims, but also in
organised in people smuggling and
drugrunning -- rape of victims.
Should those allegations be aired in
this special court?
would find the verdict in my case.
You would see what an honourable
Judge says in the end of a second
trial, they proved that the KLA were
not doing that. They did not find
that we have been doing that. I
believe the allegations are false.
Let's talk about the different ways
on how the international community
are concerned about backtracking
from your government. It concerns
the separate border dispute that you
have with Montenegrin. It looked as
though you, the Kosovan government
in 2015, were prepared to reach a
deal with Montenegrin --
Montenegrin. I believe that involved
sending back several thousand
hectares back to the Montenegro
government. You said that the border
agreement was not transparent to our
Parliament. Does that mean you no
longer accept the agreement?
reached consensus with the
Montenegrin government, they have
agreed to review and correct in two
directions where the dispute was. It
gives enough arguments to vote it in
our Parliament. In the next few days
hopefully we will be coming together
to rectify it.
Until you ratify, the
European Union has said it will not
consider these liberalisation is for
Kosovans who want to travel inside
of the EU. There is linkage, once
again the Europeans are judging the
Kosovan government of failing to
live up to international standards
and unless you do so, your
relationship with the EU will
clearly suffer. It is very strange,
the fact that that would happen,
Visa liberalisation. We are members
of Nato and still have disputes on
their own borders -- they are
members of Nato. It is very unfair.
But cat Brussels attitude to
Brussels -- but if you look at
brussels attitude to Kosovo today,
you are the poorest country in
Europe. According to the CIA fact
book, they release one every year
looking at the basics of every
economy, they reckon that your youth
unemployment is close to 60%. Your
average income is a tiny fraction of
the EU average. Your economy is so
far behind, it is, again, very hard
to see how you could ever get close
to acceptable convergence.
Europe, you are becoming older and
older. You are the youngest nation
in Europe, as population. And many
people had to leave the country
because there are no jobs?
case of producing an offer in your
countries, in Kosovo, they have
potential. In energy, in the mining
sector, in food production and in
innovation. Young and talented
people. They are like that because
we inherited no economy at all. The
war devastated Kosovo. No
infrastructure at all. Today, we are
nearly finishing the highways of our
country, railways need to be
constructive. Water and electricity
supply to families, not just for
houses and businesses but for the
whole country. We have an investment
in energy of 1,000,000,000.3. -- 1.3
billion. Kosovo is struggling but
here we are.
Yes, and with an
economy that is far behind the
European standard, we can agree. But
also an economy that has laid low by
corruption. Corruption is killing
economic growth in your country. I
mean, the UK ambassador recently
gave a presentation in Pristina, in
which he said "There was no need for
me to explain just how bad
corruption is in Kosovo. You all
know this phenomenon roots
democracy, prevents any economic
development and undermines where so
many of your people gave sacrifice".
In the latest ranking of countries,
we have improved by ten positions.
Kosovo has improved in the fight
That is from
appalling took what Mike Riddle not
-- that is from appalling to not
quite so appalling.
I am six months
in the job. My commitment is only to
make a difference and difference is
happening now. Kosovo has a rule of
law that fights corruption and
fights crime, and fights against
other threats that the world is
Another way in which
Europe looks at Kosovo and has
concerns is on security issues.
Kosovo is a very interesting
European nation because you are 90%,
or more, Muslim. He had very
explicitly said in the past that
there has been a problem with
radicalisation of some people in
Kosovo, some of them, hundreds of
them, went to fight with so-called
Islamic state in Iraq and Syria.
Your security agencies have said
that you are concerned that some
have returned to your territory. How
can you reassure Europe that your
government is on top of this
potentially very grave security
problem? Not just for yourselves,
but for Europe?
Kosovo is multi-year
-- multiethnic. A majority
Albanians. We have had questions
since Ottoman times. We adopted the
Muslim religion -- Chris Jones. We
are very much linked to our own
national identity as being Albanian.
It is an identity that we represent
ourselves with that.
Let me ask you
bluntly, you see the nature of the
rise of populism and nationalism in
many different parts of the European
Union. Do you believe there is a
prejudice or a bias against Kosovo,
because it is predominantly Muslim?
No, no. I think in Europe, they
realise who we are. We are
Albanians, we are the nation of
Mother Teresa, of Dua Lipa, no.
was said by the EU special
representative in Pristina. She said
there is just the other day of
Kosovo. She said there is a window
of opportunity here, if the
political establishment really takes
to heart the European reform agenda.
But it is not a very big window. Do
you think your country is capable of
seizing this moment, this
I think we are to be
applauded as a nation. To see the
war 20 years ago and where we are
today, it proved that we do find a
way, even though it is very
difficult. Our challenges are
specific but we find a way to become
a member of the EU family, and the
You don't ever doubt
that, even after ten difficult
years, no doubts?
No. Kosovo will be
a member of the EU and Nato, and the
We have two end
there, but Ramush Haradinaj, thank
you very much for being on Hardtalk.
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?