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Kosovo's PM on one year in power

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Kosovo's PM on one year in power

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It is a year since Hashim Thaci became the first Prime Minister of a self-declared independent Kosovo. Foreign peace keepers still feature large in Kosovo, a decade after a bloody war and a NATO bombing campaign to protect the majority Albanian population from Serb ethnic cleansing. The unilateral breakaway enraged the 120,000 Kosovan Serbs living mainly in the north. Tensions there remain high today. And Belgrade still considers the unilateral independence declaration illegal. Kosovo suffers frequent power-cuts, and up to 50 per cent of people are without work. But when euronews went to the capital Pristina, Prime Minister Thaci seemed upbeat.

euronews: “One year on, Kosovo is recognised by many countries but not by all; you have an area in the north of the country that takes no notice of you; you are still enormously reliant on outside agencies – how do you view the first year of Kosovo’s independence?” Thaci: “The first year of Kosovo as an independent, sovereign and democratic country was a year of historic success. The decision for Kosovo to become a state brought more peace, stability, regional cooperation and European perspective. Our state now has unifying symbols relevant to all citizens; we have built a democratic environment with a multi-ethnic society.” euronews: “Prime Minister, what is going to happen with the northern part of Kosovo which is basically an ethnic Serb area at the moment. They do not recognise your government, they seem to take no notice of you. How will the conflict there stop?” Thaci: “The future of Mitrovica is the future of Kosovo. There are still some extremist voices there, but they do not represent the Serb population. Serbs are part of the institutions. But, EULEX (the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo) is deployed throughout the territory of Kosovo now. The institutions of Pristina are also starting to gradually deploy in the North and there will be no room for parallel, illegitimate and extremist structures. There will be only lawfulness. In this context, I believe that in 2009 we will be recognised by new countries, even by our neighbour Serbia. Kosovo is ready to open an embassy in Belgrade, in the same way that I would like to see Belgrade thinking of opening an embassy in Pristina, so that we finally close this chapter of conflict between Kosovo and Serbia and have peace prevailing in our region for ever.” euronews: “I imagine the government in Belgrade has a different view to that at the moment. How realistic is it that there will be diplomatic ties between Kosovo and Serbia, because Serbia does not even recognise Kosovo as a separate country?” Thaci: “Mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia as two separate states is the most realistic way. The leadership in Belgrade thinks about recognising the independent Kosovo, but they are still held to ransom by anti-Albanian public opinion, an opinion that belongs to the mentality of the past. Belgrade knows, is aware and has accepted it in its mind that Kosovo is an independent, sovereign and democratic country. It only needs the political decision for recognition.” euronews: “I can imagine that, comparing the current administration to that of Slobodan Milosevic perhaps would not endear you to the authority there today.” Thaci: “I am not comparing the current authority in Belgrade with Slobodan Milosevic, but in relation to Kosovo they have an aggressive attitude, an attitude of violating the sovereignty of my country, and Milosevic was responsible for the same violations. He carried out genocide in Kosovo, but the current leadership in Belgrade shows its intentions every day to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of my country.” euronews: “Do you want to join the EU?” Thaci: “By all means. The future of Kosovo is certainly European. Kosovo is implementing democratic criteria in politics, legislation and the economy. Last year there was the progress report of the European Commission, whereas this year we will have a feasibility study which, we hope, will be a realistic assessment of the good work that was accomplished in Kosovo. So, Kosovo, like all the other countries of the region, will be part of NATO and the EU. We have a certain European future. In the end, Kosovo and Serbia are not the only countries that fought one another and that can sit down together and talk about common priorities, in order to follow the path of global values. There are other countries in Europe that are part of the European family now, that had had even more severe conflicts amongst themselves, but now they work together for the same common values.” euronews: “Moving on to the economic situation in the world, I wonder how that is affecting Kosovo because perhaps it is fair to say that Kosovo’s economy was not the strongest in the world even before this economic downturn. How is it affecting the economy of Kosovo?” Thaci: “Irrespective of the global crisis of last year, we have seen economic growth of six percent. We cannot claim that the global crisis will not have an impact in Kosovo, especially when it comes to our diaspora abroad, who invest huge amounts of their money in Kosovo. It may also have an impact on international investors, although the banking sector is quite stable.” euronews: “Finally Prime Minister, ten years ago you wore a uniform. Now you are in a suit, and are prime minister of your own new republic. What do you see ten years from now?” Thaci: “I was a prime minister during the NATO air strikes, when we won the war. I was and am a prime minister from the period when Kosovo was declared an independent, sovereign and democratic country. Tremendous changes took place. It is not easy for a country, in the course of ten years, to win the war for freedom, be successful in democratic transition, declare its independence, be newly recognised by more countries and open perspectives for integration in NATO and the EU.”