Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has promised U.S. backing for Kosovo’s drive to join the European Union.
Speaking in Pristina October 31, Clinton said normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is key to Kosovo’s entry into the EU.
“I urge Kosovo’s leaders to continue to carry out negotiations [with Serbia] in good faith. Certainly, addressing the concerns of the Kosovo Serbs will be critical. I will meet with a group of ethnic Serb returnees later today, and will convey America’s commitment to helping build a future in Kosovo and throughout the region where all people of all backgrounds have a chance to succeed,” she said.
Kosovo fought a bitter war of secession and unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo have not been fully integrated into the rest of Kosovo.
With Clinton and EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton standing beside him, Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi declared that he is the prime minister of all people of Kosovo.
“I am prime minister of all citizens, both the citizens in the north and in the south,” he said. “We will continue to extend our hand of cooperation and provide services to all.”
Thaçi said that after nearly five years of independence, Kosovo is determined to implement rule of law and combat corruption and organized crime in order to gain admission to the EU.
Clinton said that the United States opposes any discussion of changing Kosovo’s boundaries or reopening its independent status. “These matters are not up for discussion,” she said.
The secretary praised the political courage of Kosovo’s prime minister for going to Brussels October 19 to meet Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić under EU auspices for direct talks aimed at eventually resolving the differences between the two Balkan countries. “It was the right decision. It was courageous and it was smart,” she said.
The EU’s Ashton said Kosovo’s path to entry into the EU is not easy, but the ultimate rewards make the efforts worthwhile. She said that when Kosovo one day gains admission to the EU, it will be stronger economically and politically and will be a country where rule of law and human rights are fully respected.
“To the people of Kosovo, I say … your future lies with the European Union, and we are eager to see you realize this ambition,” she said.