Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci sees echoes of his country's own history in the unfolding events in Libya. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL Balkan Service correspondent Albana Isufi, Thaci likens NATO's involvement in Libya to its 1999 bombing of Serbia.RFE/RL: Mr. Prime Minister, 12 years ago freedom was the most important thing for Kosovo. Today, Kosovo is free, but what are its challenges?
Today, Kosovo is a free, independent, and sovereign state, proud of its powerful, legitimate, democratic, and multiethnic institutions. With a certain Euro-Atlantic perspective, it wants to be part of NATO and of the European Union in the near future. Its aims are development and improving social welfare. It has been recognized by 75 world states. And it is a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
It is a country of ethnic, civil, and political tolerance, willing to promote close cooperation with all the countries in the region. It aims to promote good neighborly relations between the Republic of Kosovo and Serbia. There will be reciprocal recognition between these two states, but not in the immediate future, in order to bring to an end to all the conflicts that for a century have plagued our region.
So, let integration be open to individual states one by one, so that the entire region absorbs into NATO and the EU.RFE/RL: The NATO intervention in Kosovo has been brought up again after the intervention in Libya. Like then, there is now a debate over whether the decision to intervene in Kosovo at that time and in Libya now was right. What would you say to these skeptics and to the people of Libya?
NATO intervention in Kosovo was the only righteous and humane solution in support of the freedom for the people of Kosovo and our efforts for freedom and independence. Twelve years ago, NATO intervened in Kosovo against the Serbian presence and Milosevic’s regime, not only to change the regime but also to force out of Kosovo the violent Serbian army, police, and administration.
Twelve years ago, Qaddafi was an ally of Milosevic, while Kosovo today, after 12 years, is ready as a free and independent country, to participate along with the forces of the North Atlantic alliance and give its modest contribution to the efforts of the Libyan people to gain freedom, democratic order, rule of law, and human rights. So, 12 years after the NATO bombing, Kosovo is ready to be part of the North Atlantic alliance.RFE/RL: We are 12 years into the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. When will the historical reconciliation that you have often mentioned recently be reached? Is it too distant? Will it be achieved in another 12 years?
Definitely, Albanian-Serb reconciliation should happen after conflicts that lasted more than one century. Kosovo is an independent and sovereign state. This dialogue that has started in Brussels is among equal parties -- for the first time in history. It is a dialogue between the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo and those of Serbia.
Kosovo is well prepared -- it has a plan and a project. This dialogue will be concluded with reciprocal recognition between Kosovo and Serbia and will facilitate quick and necessary integrations toward Euro-Atlantic structures. Kosovo will carry out its responsibilities. Its status has been concluded once and for all. Its territorial integrity has been recognized by the international community. Our internal regulation will be in compliance with our constitution and our laws and in line with [former UN mediator Martii Ahtisaari’s] document.
We in Kosovo are in favor of good neighborly relations with all the countries in the region. We have built excellent relations with Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro. We also want to have good relations with Serbia because our Euro-Atlantic journey is also determined by the implementation of requirements related to good neighborly relations with regional states.RFE/RL: Mr. Prime Minister, Serbian officials asked NATO last year to review the Kumanova agreement, which brought an end to the war in Kosovo as it provided for the deployment of 50,000 NATO troops. There are voices saying that this issue can be brought up in the current process of dialogue with Serbia. What are the odds of that?
We are not the ones to decide for NATO, but we can give ideas, suggestions, and advice. Our position is very clear. There should be full respect of the Kumanova Treaty
[which concluded the Kosovo war] until the issue is resolved once and for all, also in terms of the dialogue, and until a safe perspective for both countries has been opened. There should be reciprocal recognition. RFE/RL: In the end, you have been criticized for not having given a statement about the Fatmir Limaj case [a Kosovo member of parliament who has been accused of war crimes]. What is your position as prime minister?
The stance of the government has been very clear. It was clear in the past, and it is clear now -- and it will always be a position in Kosovar politics. The Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) waged a just and clean war for freedom and independence in line with all the norms and standards of international conventions. Past and present accusations against UCK leaders are unfair. The UCK did not in any circumstances commit crimes.
Even on the concrete case you ask about, the position of our government is clear. All the members of the parliament, Mr. Limaj included, have immunity. This is our and EULEX’s conclusion and the constitution and the laws of Kosovo are to be respected.