The indictment that aborted a peace and dialogue process that has to start anew

Press conference by Prime Minister Edi Rama following the 24-hour official visit to Pristina, Kosovo:

Good afternoon everyone!

Thank you everyone for taking the trouble to accompany me at every stop and station of my 24-hour visit here to Pristina, about which we have come together to make a summary and of course answer all the questions.

We have confirmed very important and long-waited and welcomed news about the joint interconnection line between Albania and Kosovo that has finally become operational, also thanks to Kosovo’s eventual inclusion in the common energy market. It is very good news for the fact that we know how long it took us to wait, since we set this huge investment in motion and until it completed, yet it was still a switched-off lamp system that is now fully operational starting today.

I would like to first make a communication and we can then continue with the question-answer session, which will certainly complete the framework of this visit.

First of all, I would like to clarify and make it clear that I am here today to serve a national need, I believe, and show full support to Kosovo and all its political representatives, given that something serious and deeply unjust has happened.

For around two decades, the process of restoring justice and doing justice for the war crimes in Kosovo has been conceived, supported and has taken place as process that is inseparable from the state-building process, the process of interethnic reconciliation, the process of European integration, and the process of dialogue and normalization of the relations with Serbia. The European Union’s enlargement strategy with the Western Balkans has been formulated this way too. Meanwhile, it is quite understandable that the difficult process of reconciliation is not only a matter of dealing with the past through justice, but it is also a matter of building the future through politics. The so-called “communiqué”, which for me is a big-character poster, tantamount to the “public communiqués” issued during the popular Chinese revolution, a page of which we have experienced under the period of dictatorship in Albania, is like no other and combined with the moment of its communication constitutes a reason, no matter whether it was randomly or intentionally published on the eve of an important meeting at the White House to say that the history of the next Specialist Tribunal began to be written with an act that aborted a political process that it is about peace.

The White House meeting represents a crucial moment. It is a continuation of an effort that goes through many stations, but also which represents an opportunity to take the process to a completely new level with the direct U.S. support.

In this respect, I would say it is a privilege to be in the position I am today and be granted the chance to contribute to what it was and is still today the historic value of Kosovo’s Liberation War.

I want to make it very clear that I am sincerely sorry seeing at various reactions – and here I mean reactions at the civic level – how “the poison” of everyday political life has permeated the basis of national politics, which doesn’t help to understand, but, on the contrary, distorts the essence of the concern that we should have today as a nation, and which is irrelevant to two people, to their political career and their advantages or flaws in times of peace, it irrelevant to sympathies, convictions, support or political disagreements of electoral nature, but it is related to one of the most important values the Albanian nation has created, the value of the war for freedom of Kosovo, a decisive part of which is the Kosovo Liberation Army.

I think this is a moment when we certainly face a multifaceted crisis triggered by this big-character poster, but also the time of a great opportunity to highlight not only the values of war, but once again the fundamental truth that Kosovo was the victim not the aggressor, to highlight all the values developed and fostered in this state-building process as an expression of Kosovo’s readiness for justice, and the upset balance between Kosovo and Serbia in relation to justice for war crimes.

You are witnesses and as such you have closely followed this story and in fact for 21 years now Kosovo has given support through its authorities and institutions to the international justice, which through specially established structures has judged, retried what were considered to be ‘war crimes’ and the innocence of some of the main KLA figures, as are Ramush Haradinaj and Fatmir Limaj two examples either for their position in the war or their ordeal of facing justice, is in fact another accusation for the efficiency of international justice.

For me, today is a great test not only of the political nature, but also of the national, moral, human nature that whoever speaks Albanian because this is their mother tongue, not to use the mother tongue divide members of this community, the representatives of various political forces, different beliefs into patriots and traitors, either honest or thieves. This is not the case!

Because, the history of Albanians on both sides of the mountains should have taught us there is always time to fight each other over ideas, beliefs, politics, and whatever else, but there must be times when we should all unite for our history and for the sake of future generations. Whoever thinks, propagates even with an innocent, naive, thoughtless, hasty comment on social networks as an individual that this is about an act against some individuals or that this is about using this tool to clear the political scene, is either naive or extremely blinded by anger.

-Mr. Prime Minister, you said that Albanians and Kosovo’s political leaders in particular should unite. Over the past two days, you met the main political figures in Kosovo, not together, but in separate meetings. Did you fail to bring leaders of Kosovo politics together about such an incredibly important issue?

-Another question for Mr. Cakaj: You were on a U.S. trip recently. Did you discuss, or were the Americans interested to know what has happened in Kosovo following the already public indictment?

PM Edi Rama: I did not come here to unite and bring together all political parties or their leaders at a table because, first of all, this is not my duty and, secondly, this would transcend the ethical framework within which, in my opinion, a Prime Minister of Albania should act when it comes to Kosovo or a Prime Minister of Kosovo should act when it comes to Albania. I have never thought positively about anyone who by doing the Prime Minister’s role has sought to tell others in their own country what and they should do. Albania is obliged to unconditionally support Kosovo. However, Albania has not taken over the role of the keeper, the tutor or of the mentor who tells Kosovo’s leadership what they should do.

I didn’t come here to unite political forces or in the capacity of the person with the competences or the duty to do so. But, I came to listen to their opinions and views on the situation. We know not everyone naturally thinks the same way about this situation. We do of course know very well that not everyone thinks equally the same about everyone in this situation and, of course, in order to develop a real sense of political reality in line with the entirety of these views and opinions of all those who represent certain parts of the society.

I am very grateful to everyone for the hospitality, the straightforwardness in sharing opinions and I can tell you that, after 24 hours, I now know more than I knew 24 hours ago about this issue and the situation. Of course, it is up to the local political leaders to make their decisions and carry out the necessary processes, according to them. Of course, I do not hide the fact that I have my own opinions, but again my opinions are that of a brother, if you will, who lives in another house. We are brothers, but we have two states and two houses. This is not a problem, but a privilege created thanks to the liberation war, because today we could have had neither two homes, nor the independent and democratic Kosovo.

Many may have forgotten or many are not willing to take the trouble and look at the context in which the resistance of Kosovo people took place, from Ibrahim Rugova’s Gandhian movement to the liberation war. But many years have passed since then and many could see Hashim Thaçi, Kadri Veseli and Ramush Haradinaj or others through the eyes of what they properly did or didn’t do while in government.

Nobody should wrongly think that this was to happen anyway. That former Yugoslavia’s disintegration would lead to the sovereign state of Kosovo. This would absolutely not be the case if it were not for the fact that when they came to Pristina with the Liberation Army, they were called mountain boys who waged war not only against Slobodan Milosevic, but they also waged a war on the wall of international silence. They decided to wage a war on the stereotype very firmly entrenched in the international community, to those who later intervened to launch a bombardment campaign, but to whom the option of an independent Kosovo before the creation of the Kosovo Liberation Army was merely an insane heresy.

Today it is time to recall the fact that these people who embarked on an adventure, which took an incredibly extreme courage and for which they were declared enemies of the Belgrade’s regime, were branded terrorists by many capitals of the democratic world. They branded them terrorists, Marxists, Leninists, criminals. Therefore I think that beyond them as individuals, beyond them as state authorities is Kosovo. Any attempt for self-restraint by everyone – and I am not talking about politicians, but the citizens and the Kosovo people first and foremost, who have been subjected to a barbaric ethnic cleansing operation and could have been part of the one million people who were displaced from here, of course with the peace restoration and the democratic developments in the county have embraced various political beliefs, (even though the Albanian politics is not the best place to provide examples of good conduct to others) – but however self-restraint is needed today and focus is needed due to the fact that “big character poster” has hit higher than the forehead of Hashim Hashim Thaçi and Kadri Veseli. This is about the high-level political leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army and this is an attempt to accuse KLA as if it was a regular army of aggressors coming from Belgrade.

Acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Gent Cakaj: My visit to Washington had been planned much earlier, but it has been practically important to take place due to the pandemic. My visit is not directly related to the Kosovo issue, because I was there to discuss a series of bilateral projects and a string of other issues concerning our international commitments. We have discussed the final preparations to establish the Academy of Transparency. We have provided updated information on Albania’s progress on the path to EU membership. We have also discussed coordination in the framework of Albania’s OSCE Chairmanship. Of course, part of my commitments was also securing support for our historic goal to take the seat of the non-permanent member of the Security Council for 2022-2023.

Indeed, the only meeting about Kosovo was the meeting with the US Special Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Richard Grenell, at the White House, where I received three messages:

First, there are no hidden deals and there is no need to abuse an issue of national interest just for internal political consumption.

Second, there are no plans for the division of Kosovo and nobody believes that the government of Albania –I am availing myself of this opportunity to underline this since a lot has been speculated about this – and nobody in Kosovo makes plans to divide Kosovo for personal interests. This should be clear to everyone and I am conveying it also as a message from Washington.

 And third, there is no rush for a swift deal to the detriment of Kosovo for any electoral interest in America, because we will really understand the position we hold  in international agendas, but we must keep in mind that coordination with the US is vital and to the best interest of Kosovo.

I don’t want to interfere in Kosovo’s internal affairs and politics and these are messages conveyed by Washington and which have been consistently communicated by President Trump’s special Envoy. Any other attempt to communicate the truth beyond what I really said is just intentions to cause internal misunderstandings for short-term political gains to the detriment of long-term state interests.

Me poshte vijon pjesa e dyte e konferences se shtypit te KM Rama ne Prishtine:

-Certain voices and individuals from the Self-Determination Movement here in Pristina have described the agenda of your visit as a pilgrimage to defend President Hashim Thaçi. Which are the conclusions you have drawn as you are concluding the visit to Pristina?

PM Edi Rama: Voices come and go. History should be a subject of the endeavor to write or rewrite it through voices that come and go. To put it bluntly, we didn’t come here as a team of defense lawyers of Hashim Thaçi or Kadri Veseli. We are not here to morally stand by two people, who are also institutional figures, above all, the head of state above all, but we came here because I strongly believe that we are at a critical moment that could bring about serious repercussions on Kosovo unless we fail to clearly distinguish between justice and injustice at this moment.

My reaction in Albania and my visit here does not mean any kind of effort, no kind of opinion to question the necessity of dealing with justice for those issues that are subject to it and which have received the political and institutional support of Kosovo through its sovereign parliament with the creation of the Special Court. It is as simple as that. My speech at the Assembly, my coming here and my attitude is related to injustice.

For me, the communiqué that announced to the world that an indictment is expected to come, which has not been formalised by the court, is not only a flagrant violation of any good practice of international justice but also a brutal act against Kosovo itself. Moreover, I don’t know whether the legal framework on this Specialist Court adopted by the Kosovo Assembly stipulates that investigations should be conducted into how and how strongly certain individuals defend national interest or their own personal interest. Such categorizations of the people’s activities by an institution called Specialist Prosecutor’s Office belong to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the era when we used to live in Albania of the glorious Sino-Albanian relation under the slogan “fighting personal comfort and personal interest,” or I don’t know what and the whole society was as such built on the principle of prejudice and punishment when one ventured to say: “Listen, your personal interest conflicts the interests of the people.”

What are these terms?

How could this happen to a state that, I reiterate, was born out of a Liberation War?

Kosovo is not a state that has been forced to withdraw within its borders as a result of war for freedom by others, but it is one of the states created from the war for freedom against that state with a barbaric regime in Belgrade that had enslaved it. I am sorry but I believe that every Albanian, despite their political beliefs and affiliations should feel outraged due to the fact that the text (indictment) sounds as if you are reading about Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia and not about Kosovo of Adem Jashari. One should not forget that Kosovo has gone through a 20-year discrimination of international justice, an unprecedented one in history of the international justice with an internationalized criminal court by UNMIK under the supervision of the United Nations Organization, then a criminal court run by EULEX under the supervision of the European Union, the Hague Tribunal and the hybrid panels that always included international judges and then the local courts. This is now the sixth instance court. OK! It has been agreed on that. But could this 21-year readiness to say “yes” to everything, to doing this and that, is a reason to maltreat Kosovo, globally hitting Kosovo’s head of state through hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of media reports in every continent, while the indictment has yet to be accepted by the court?

I don’t believe this should calm, provide relief or make a single Albanian happy. Every Albanian who thinks this is the day to retaliate or execute his or her political revenge, find relief for soul and excited rub hands that the day for Hashim Thaçi or Kadri Veseli finally came, I would tell them please don’t remind me of Gjergj Fishta who has once said: “Albanians are exactly the way their enemy wants them to be.”

–Mr. Prime Minister, in your opening remarks, you dwelled upon the Kosovo Liberation Army, but I believe that Kosovo people, as well as those who have contributed to Kosovo’s liberation know quite well the KLA’s contribution and, just to inform you, when publicly announcing the indictment, the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office said the indictment is not filed against neither KLA, nor against the Albanian people, but just two individuals, namely Hashim Thaçi and Kadri Veseli. My question is why are you exactly now so concerned about the work of the Specialist Court, while everybody knows that the court was established in 2015 through the persistence of President Thaçi, as well as many other politicians. At that time, Kadri Veseli served as Speaker of the Assembly. I am interested to know whether there has been a proposal, because you dwelled on the need to deal with justice and criticized international justice, have you tabled a concrete proposal to oppose the Specialist Court, either to change the court’s location, or include Serbia’s crimes? I also have a question about the issue of unification. How much did you succeed in unifying Kosovo’s leadership, given that you have been engaged in disputes with most of them, except Thaçi and Veseli. Finally, I don’t know if you have tried to meet Mr. Haradinaj, whom you are expected to face in court soon? Thank you!

PM Edi Rama: Just to inform you, I believe I am as good a reader of the Albanian language as you are and I believe that we have read the same text. But the difference between you and me, just for the sake of information, is that where you see merely a press release, I see brutality for an entire story and I already provided my explanation why.

If it was not for this indictment, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t address Parliament and just like everyone else I normally believe, despite of what I really think, I would have been forced to patiently wait for the process. But just to inform you, I am not talking about the indictment, but a big-character poster. That (the indictment) is a big-character poster, an international brutality and whoever sees it differently he is either a naive or he is full of anger. It is as simple as that!

Otherwise you ought to inform me whether there is any other precedence in the world – I have searched but I haven’t found any – where this has happened previously and I want you to inform me why a very well-known Croatian lawyer event went further by saying that the prosecutor himself – not the ones the prosecutor wants to be held responsible – should be held accountable for that announcement, as you name it, and the big character poster as I describe it. Why? Just for a very simple reason, because in no practice of international justice an institution has become a news portal.

It represents a flagrant violation of human rights and freedoms, which in this case entails a profound obligation as it is not about two ordinary individuals, but the head of a sovereign state founded after a liberation war is targeted and the KLA’s highest political leadership is assaulted.

I wouldn’t wish, and hopefully it will never happen that you and I one day would find ourselves in the face of an accomplished fact that from this brutality another brutality ensues to consider the whole KLA a criminal organization as a result of the incrimination of its leadership. It is as simple as that.

As far as what you termed as ‘big clashes” are concerned, I want to tell you I am not involved in “big clashes”. I don’t think one would call “big clashes” what I am referring now to, at least what I can recall now. If you recall any of them, you can inform me, because I don’t remember any, but in today’s conditions, yes it can be named as “big clash”. Facing a reality, where everyone, including you, should do whatever it takes to distinguish between justice and of course the need and support for a fair legal process to shed light on any allegation, including the fabricated and over -commented charges that have become nonexistent facts within our lands. However, on the other hand, we need to unite and come together to internationally and globally demonstrate that we have come to a point where it is no longer acceptable that for 21 consecutive years leaders and protagonists of KLA have one by one stood trial and everybody knows, each of you knows, I know that none of the allegations have been proved.

I would tell you that my reaction and our joint reaction is irrelevant to any attempt to question, let alone undo the Specialist Court, nor to interfere in its affair, but this is to react against its method. This is an unjust method. It is a brutal, discriminatory method, which, according to me, doesn’t create the atmosphere for a fair and equal legal process. In his stories – because I am not going to offer my stories in the sense of the man who has heard and read a lot about what has happened in the dictatorship-era Albania or in other countries – but I would illustrate it through Solzhenitsyn’s stories, where one is found already guilty prior to the prosecutors’ investigation. This is what I see. This is what I understand. I have consulted not only with legal experts in Albania or Albanian-speaking experts, but also international experts and I haven’t found one yet. I would be very grateful if you could help me.

It is time to focus on some simple truths. And since we are talking about “my clashes”, I think defamation is one of the worst things Albanian politics both in Albania and Kosovo have committed against people and the younger generations, including all young media professionals, by embedding completely the opposite of what our and your parents have tried to teach us when we were little kids and by legalizing it as a political and media tool, one of the most heinous acts a man can do, which is slandering. Defamation has become so normal and moreover in a world like ours, where not only the Albanian-speaking space, but the whole world is under the aggression of defamation, that I really understand how people can even be surprised when it comes to a libel lawsuit.

I have filed 22 defamation lawsuits. The lawsuit I have filed against Ramush, of course it has caused uproar, since it is unusual that a Prime Minister files a lawsuit against another Prime Minister. However, there are 22 libel lawsuits against mainly politicians and these lawsuits are in the process. Not all of them have been made public. I haven’t filed the lawsuits for them to be made public, but I want to allow my little son have the opportunity or inherit him a bundle of sheets of papers that would help him figure out how to explain and interpret “the indefinite news stories” he will certainly come across whenever he would access Google and search the name Edi Rama, and where he would read about “a monster of all possible evils one can imagine,” when he may not have the opportunity to ask me in person, because we don’t know, or you may never know what happens in our lives. This is the reason why I have filed 22 defamation lawsuits and I will keep filing more in the future. I pick them carefully and I don’t file lawsuits against everyone.

What do I do regarding this concrete case?! The defamation in question is not a usual one, although the common defamations should not exist. Just like the entire political mythology based on a supposedly secret deal on territories is absolutely not a common one. It is a disgraceful and filthy slander about which I am convinced history will prove how a space of debate was transformed into an arena where some Albanians tried to kill some Albanians, not physically, but morally. While I don’t think people are divided into patriots and traitors just because they have different opinions.

However, I asked Ramush for a meeting, just like with everyone else, and visit him at the party’s headquarters or his home, just like I had the pleasure to visit Isa Mustafa at his home. As a plaintiff visiting the defendant, I believe it is me who would lose.  Moreover, I wanted to discuss with him this issue that is much bigger rather than me and Ramushm Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli or anyone else, because this story will bring about dizzying repercussions for Kosovo in the future. I have informed them in advance that I would not communicate with the media during the meetings, but a news conference will be held to conclude the visit, where I would publicly announce the decision to withdraw the lawsuit. I will quit the lawsuit not because it was something unimportant to me, but because what should unite everyone today is a much bigger issue.

I don’t know how much the decision will influence the relations between us, but as far as I am concerned, excluding this part I already commented, everything is okay. Moreover, no matter whether there is or there is not a lawsuit against him, to me, Ramush Haradinaj is not the Prime Minister, the politician or you name him, but he is one of the historic figures who deserve their place in history, despite how bad a Prime Minister he was. So, the lawsuit will be formally withdrawn.

-You said that differences in their opinions have emerged during your meetings with Kosovo’s political and institutional leaders. Could you tell us what these differences are and, if you would allow us, we want to ask you about Kosovo-Serbia dialogue?

-The United States and the European Union differ when it comes to the aspirations the state of Kosovo wants to fulfil at the negotiation table. Who do you think Kosovo should side with in this process, given that two separate processes are taking place, in Washington on one hand and the Paris Summit on the other? Thank you!

PM Edi Rama: I respect an ethic, which is the most normal ethic in international relations, as well as in human relations. Comments ensue after meetings, when an accord on issuing comments is reached. We haven’t discussed issuing comments, because I just wanted to listen and make a summary of this visit for you and I am not here to comment on our meetings or the differences. You already know and see these differences for yourselves, and I haven’t discovered something new in terms of the main differences you publicly know, but it is very important that by discussing and listening you learn, understand and you can become helpful if needed and if they ask you to express any opinion. So in that sense, don’t ask me to comment on the meetings.

As to your question, my opinion is simple.

First, Kosovo should not barricade itself.

Second, Kosovo should not stop dialogue.

Kosovo should not underestimate the risk and the implications stemming from this brutality for which I am here today.

I will tell you a fact. You remember it quite well.

When Kosovo, just like other countries, was asked to deliver on the criteria for visa liberalization, though all the conditions were met – I believe you all agree on that – another condition was imposed, the approval of the agreement on border demarcation with Montenegro. We know that politics was the only correlation to be found between the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and the visa liberalization process. There were no technical reasons. I don’t know whether a road stretches on that part of the border to link Pristina with Paris or London. I don’t think there is such a road. Visas have yet to be liberalized.

Do not be surprised if we underestimate this brutality today and if today we do not use it as a nation – but Kosovo first and Albania has the obligation to provide support – this moment, to bring it back to the eyes of the whole international community, the generation that has waged war is no longer there. The vast majority of them are retired, I mean the internationals. Others, some of them know and some have no idea. Everyone, I tell you, does not know at all, and I mean high-level officials, have no idea about the history of international justice in Kosovo and what is the history of international justice on Kosovo’s war against Serbia. Less than 10 Hague rulings have been made on Serbian authorities for forcefully displacing 1 million people, without taking into account, but they should, 20,000 cases of rape and then all those killed or missing. Meanwhile, let’s count the number of persons who have been prosecuted in all these instances of court, both here and in The Hague, by the Kosovo Liberation Army. How is this report built?!

How many Serbians have stood trial under war crime charges? You know very well that Serbia has committed war crimes not only in Kosovo? What is their number? So, there is a colossal disproportion in terms of the number of cases against war crime suspects. Of course, it is true that Milosevic, the president, the deputy prime minister, the minister of interior, the chief of general staff have stood trial in the Hague Tribunal, but it was a police, military and aggressor state with a military formation that acted vertically and committed an ethnic cleansing that lead to displacement of one million people. If we are to turn the mirror on our side, Kosovo, the situation is alarming in this aspect. If we were then to look into the way how the processes were carried out, they were all conducted under international supervision. I don’t know whether the state of Kosovo has had the authority to deviate, close, or obstruct those processes that have been all under international supervision. And not only supervision, but also international action. This situation should be made public and included on the agenda as a need to better understand that Kosovo cannot become a cannon fodder consistently. I see here young boys and girls, who I think are younger than the state of Kosovo itself, but do you think it is reasonable that you are not allowed to travel freely to Europe, whereas your parents were allowed to do so when Belgrade was governed by Slobodan Milosevic?

This is for political reasons and because of internal dynamics in Europe.

Yesterday I was communicating with Brussels officials about the list of the countries that will be allowed or be banned to enter the EU member states upon the border reopening in the first two weeks. A debate is taking place in Brussels, with certain European countries saying we don’t care about figures, lists or whatever else, we don’t want infected people from the Balkans, Turkey and the rest of the world. Yes, this is politics.

I think Kosovo should be represented as united and aware that it should engage in three processes simultaneously;

The process of raising awareness among the international community on the need for international justice to be fair and about the need to understand why a scrap like this is insulting to the Albanian nation. Why it is offensive to the war, why it is offensive to those who no longer live today and not just for the fact that the head of state is taken and treated as a man-eating monster.

Dialogue should continue with full capacities. I am not the one to decide how, who, when and what.

And Kosovo’s stability in the process should be definitely shown from inside-out, because it cannot come from outside-in.

-Mr. Rama, many issues regarding your visit were already clarified. In such circumstances, I would like you to provide a comment, because a lot has been speculated about your visit. Would you please tell whether you were really wearing a bulletproof vest or not, because a lot has been speculated on the media and there are many curious people about this. If yes, what is the reason? Do you feel threatened during this visit to Kosovo?

PM Rama: I couldn’t prove it yesterday, but I would be happy to do it today.

Because you know I have no problems with my body. I have shown it.

-Would you please make another comment regarding your opinion about the decision of President Thaçi not to resign during this period when the indictment against him was made public, but which has yet to be confirmed? Have you advised or instructed President Thaçi?

PM Edi Rama: I?!Should I instruct the snake? This was his wartime nickname, wasn’t it?

I instruct nobody!

I have seen in Kosovo all kinds of instructors to the people, but I am not that kind. I don’t think that the proletarians of all countries should unite. I think we should all unite around a goal. Of course, everyone has their own point of view on achieving that goal, but of course, we must be respectful of each other even though we think differently from each other. Can’t we? At least when it comes to these major topics! This is our major issue today. There could be no other topic as big as this. EU integration of Albania and Kosovo is of course a very important topic, but it is not as big as the final recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign state by Serbia. At this point, we are too few to be divided into enemies and traitors. Usually, the ones playing the greatest patriot in these cases are indeed the most suspected of incompetence for the future.

-Mr. Prime Minister, you are now aware of the opinions of the political parties and you have now a clear idea. What will be your next concrete move action regarding the current situation and do you think that your role in this situation will be misunderstood by the European chancelleries, especially after the statements you made in parliament about selective justice? And secondly, since you have already talked with Kosovo leaders, have you communicated with Mr. Vucic? Or will you? Thank you!

PM Edi Rama: What I have learned while serving as Prime Minister over the past seven years is that the biggest misunderstandings with the international partners are an outcome of the intrigues among Albanians. I told you, Gjergj Fishta has once said: “Albanians are exactly like their enemy wants them to be.” If Albanians who can communicate with the foreigners, all together, we would have done what many other nations, the representatives of other countries do to achieve the success they have already accomplished, not to translate into English whatever divides us when speaking Albanian, then our nation, Albania and Kosovo would have progressed a lot more thanks to the international friends we both have. But, it is Tirana, and unfortunately here in Pristina too, where the poison is produced to inject into the blood of the international friends. As far as the relations, understanding and misunderstanding are concerned, I am never afraid of expressing my opinions and I know how to defend my truth and even impose it on the international friends, if necessary. I have no problems about that. This is a fact!

This is a terrible truth that the ease with which Kosovo has been brutalized through that big-character poster is intolerable! That’s it! Let anyone show up and say this and that. I am sorry to have across some statements hailing this brutality as a step forward. By no means, NO! This is unacceptable!

As to “my brother Vucic,”  – this is one of the labels invented by one of the political factories to disseminate via the social media. I remain who I have always been and I am who I am, whoever does not change his mind is not necessarily a wise man, but as far as I am concerned the Balkan Schengen is in the strategic interest of both Albania and Kosovo. With the summer season already underway, you will be visiting Albania, because the sea of our lands is to be found there, not here. If we hadn’t lost time with every kind of non-sense, border tales, and conspiracy theories, the border would have been yet there and it would have been like coming from Pristina to the airport, no controls for people on both sides of the border, because this is also included in this process and  in this process, we must not forget that we are at peace and the lanes are divided for the treatment of war crimes and other aspects that have to do with the recognition and the economic and social aspects. One cannot choose the neighbour. We do not elect the President of Serbia, but what we choose is our strategic interest and sincerity in intentions and means to fulfil our strategic interest. Balkan Schengen is a strategic interest of Albanians. Through the Balkan Schengen, all countries have common entrances and exits

The Ministries of Interior of Albania and Kosovo have been working and have already prepared a platform of security perimeter. What does a perimeter of security mean? It means that with the Balkan Schengen, all countries of course, but I am focusing on Albania and Kosovo, will have common entrances and exits. Under the free movement deal, whoever lands in Adem Jashari airport, he would be able to travel freely to Saranda without having to undergo any passport checks. Of course, if someone violates the road speed limits, then of course this is something else. Whoever enters Albania through its south-easternmost border, namely the Kakavija border crossing point, they will travel to Brezovice without undergoing any checks.

However, their registration on the common database takes place in one border crossing point only. We cannot afford discussing the idiocy about the supposed deals with Vucic and the alleged annexations, while time goes by and the need for unification and development in the region is absolutely great. Of course, we cannot afford wasting time to comment on the philosophies of the narrow electoral interest of the political parties, like the decision to indefinitely maintain the 100% tax rate that was not properly exploited or the other stories about establishing a Schengen-like system with Bulgaria and Moldova. I think we cannot afford wasting time to comment on these, but of course, as I already reiterated, we have two states and two different homes, and it is Kosovo authorities and not me the ones to decide about this home.

-Mr. Prime Minister, you have previously issued statements about the Mini-Schengen. Do you think this initiative will be successfully finalized? And what is the place of Kosovo in this story, given the Kosovo authorities have in principle opposed this idea when Ramush Haradinaj was in office. You earlier stated that the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade should continue, so that Serbia would recognize Kosovo. Have you talked with Vucic? Have you just cited what he has told you? Thank you!  (via translation)

PM Edi Rama: Again, I believe that whoever takes pride of using the wartime tools at peacetime, he is to be comforted, not to be admired. Peace is associated with other conditions and requirements, and moreover the battle with Serbia has shifted from the battleground of the war for freedom to the arena of diplomatic lobbying for recognition and the effort to resolve this historic stalemate and, to the best of my knowledge, diplomatic war can be won by barricading yourselves and declaring traitors up and down. Barricading can be part of the strategy at some point, someone can be barricaded, someone can keep talking and so on, but still what I believe is that the Balkan Schengen, why it is called Schengen, is simply and just to put a reference point in place regarding the space where all the 4 freedoms of the European Union are applicable, until we fully join the EU and then will not need the Balkan Schengen anymore, because we will be part of the whole space; freedom of movement of people, freedom of movement of goods, freedom of movement of capital, freedom of movement of services. What’s the pointing of involving Vucic here? For a very simple reason: if we want to open the border and guarantee the 4 freedoms within our borders and we have tried this before, you have heard others say they will open on January 1, on December 31. It is us to say that, it is not Belgrade to tell us that this is not viable; it is endorsed by Washington and Brussels, Belgrade of course. Then, we must continue to stay that way with closed borders and become complacent with the relief that at least there will be one check. When we enter Kosovo it will be done from the Kosovar side, when one enters Albania it will be from the other side or we will remove it at all. It’s very easy. On the other hand, there are a number of agreements.

On the other hand, there is a very simple question: Why can’t the agreements be more efficient? Because we did not create a framework and we took the path the opposite way for objective reasons at that time through agreements to go towards the framework. We started with culture, and then with economy, if we create the framework that will apply to this space, the 4 freedoms of the European Union will be implemented, it’s done. The other thing that is yet more important: what’s the point of so many forces mobilizing to lie, to slander, to mislead public opinion by showing the opposite of the truth. For a very simple reason: there is no argument against the Regional Schengen, there is no argument against the unification of the Albanian space, there is no argument against the unification of the regional space to socio-economic and political benefits. There are no arguments.

If we succeed in developing the framework in this space, the four EU freedoms will be implemented. Next, which is even more important, why should so many forces have to commit themselves to lying, slandering to undermine public confidence and manipulate public opinion. This is for a very simple reason. There are no arguments against the regional Schengen. There are no arguments against unification of the Albanian space. There are no arguments against unification of the regional space in the framework of social, economic and political development. There are no arguments. Lies, libels, manipulations, just to invent the internal enemy that collaborates with the external enemy, which should both be attacked and annihilated. History is a big word.  Sooner rather than later, time will show that everyone will enter this process. Kosovo, too, has no other option, because it cannot be secluded. Especially when it comes to this process. Nobody is asking to do so, because these are the conditions we have imposed, or Albania has imposed in this process and they have been admitted by other side. Nobody is asking that in order to do this should do also something else. No, every country will be free to do what it wants to do. It was the time when the 100% rate tax was still in force, but no conditions were imposed. The only condition between us with Serbia and North Macedonia was that “none of the countries would impose conditions on others.” Do they wish to maintain the tax? This is a bilateral issue between the two countries.

Mr. Prime Minister, in your capacity as older brother what would you suggest to your younger brother, Kosovo, so that Kosovo emerges more powerful given that an unconfirmed indictment has been raised against President? Should Kosovo create a team of immunity or an inclusive government? How do you see this?

PM Edi Rama: In my own family I have learned from my younger brother that the older brother should be careful, because he tries to tell his smaller brother what to do, he should think twice and regret for being the older brother. This is my short answer.

-Mr. Rama, I am interested to learn from you how do you see the fact that the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo, the country President Thaçi was heading to in order to normalize the relations between Kosovo and Serbia, has described the indictment or the big-character poster, as you call it, I quote, “a step forward in the process of justice and reconciliation in the Western Balkans.” At this point, a politician you just met here in Pristina, Shpend Ahmeti has said that Kosovo currently resembles to a child whose parents are about to divorce. What is the truth you see in this process?

PM Edi Rama: I gave my contribution. I see no steps forward in this. I see a brutal show that want do any good, in the best case scenario, and will have serious repercussions for Kosovo, not because a justice process has been launched, but because an injustice has been done before a justice process is launched. Concretely, the indictment has aborted a peace and dialogue process that has to start afresh. This is what I see, with all due great respect for the United States, for the White House and U.S. Embassy in Pristina.

–Mr. Rama, you talked a lot and made every comment about the indictment, yet you didn’t talk about a key element. Do you have any idea to share with the public as to who lies behind all this?

PM Edi Rama: For this, there are conspiracy theorists in Kosovo and they can probably provide an answer. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I think that the more we are pushed towards the labyrinth of guessing of whom lies behind this, the more we make mistakes, because it could turn out that it is us all behind this. So, I’d rather suggest not entering that labyrinth. It doesn’t matter at all who stays behind this all, because it is not the case of fake news. Frankly speaking, while reading that big-character poster, it sounded identically to the statement by the Japanese Nobel laureate, who said that Covid-19 was manufactured in laboratory and if what he said is proved false he would withdraw from the Nobel Prize. Such statement was disseminated around the world and everyone commented it, yet he latter reappeared to deny his statement. This is not important, I said first. It is impossible that a justice body can issue such a piece of rag and I thought it was fake news, invented to cause the turbulence it actually cause and throw a handful of mud all over the continents. Then I soon verified it and turned out to be true.

I want to reiterate and it is necessary to reiterate, because it looks like to me that some Albanians are hastily writing and sending text messages to the U.S. Embassy in Pristina, “Look, Edi Rama said you are wrong.” Not at all! I want these things to be divided. If U.S. through its Embassy in Pristina welcomes the start of a process about which the state of Kosovo has invested in it through vote in Parliament, then Ok, I agree. If they hail that big-character poster, sorry, I’m not with China.

Thank you!