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Address of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, dr Dimitrij Rupel – Statement on behalf of the EU Council at the Plenary session of the European Parliament on Kosovo

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Dear President Pöttering, distinguished Members of Parliament, dear friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

(Time of opportunity and openness, new stability.)

If I think hard, and if I overlook a few minor details, I am forced to acknowledge that the members of my generation – and of course our younger colleagues – have been rather lucky. We have spent the best part of our lives at a time when doors and windows of opportunity were opening. This period began in 1975 with the Helsinki Final Act and the most tangible effects were felt in Eastern and Central Europe with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Communist system in 1989. The demolished wall, and the doors and windows opened up in the Eastern facade of the Euro-Atlantic community revealed a new perspective. We saw the vast, sunny and varied landscape of a united and free Europe, which is embodied most excellently in this magnificent building of the European Parliament. When I was young, I could not imagine ever having the opportunity to speak here.

In Slovenia, the period of the 1980’s and early 1990’s is called the Slovenian Spring. Unfortunately our democratic awakening was affected at its very inception by the Yugoslav crisis, when attempts were made to arrest any democratic development. This in turn caused the Western Balkan nations to lag behind in a major way. The majority of Eastern and Central European countries – I refer to the first ten new EU Member States – accepted the historical challenge. In the Balkans, however, time stopped.

(EU Policy towards the Western Balkans.)

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC), of which I am currently President, has many difficult tasks, including the implementation of the European perspective for the Western Balkans. This means the integration of countries such as Croatia, Macedonia/FYROM, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Albania following the procedure of partnership agreements, candidate status and, ultimately, membership of the European Union.

There must be an end to the Yugoslav crisis. Let us open the doors and windows and bring down the walls for the States and peoples of the Western Balkans too.

In the Thessaloniki Agenda 2003, the EU announced that the Western Balkan countries would sooner or later become EU members.

Now is the time to recall our commitments.

We must do our best to enable Macedonia /FYROM to enter into negotiations for EU membership this year. Serbia needs to free itself from the burdens of the past, of the fears and ghosts of the Milošević regime. The stagnation of the Western Balkans was attributable chiefly to Milošević. Nor should we forget Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo.

In this context, the EU-Western Balkans Forum to be held in Slovenia in March will be of great importance. Together with the Slovenian EU Presidency, the European Commission is preparing a special communication on the Western Balkans. The discussions at the Forum will also focus on strengthening regional cooperation in different areas (transport, civil protection, research and development).

In compliance with the January GAERC Council conclusions, the European Commission is holding talks on visa liberalisation with all the countries in the region. We should not underestimate the importance of the gradual abolition of visa requirements for the region. In this context, we would like to draw attention to a peculiar paradox: until 1990, citizens of the former Yugoslavia were able to travel to most European countries without a visa. Now the younger generation which grew up after that ground-breaking year for Europe needs a visa to travel to Europe.

(EU Policy towards Serbia.)

At the January Council Meeting, the EU Foreign Ministers unanimously invited Serbia to sign a political agreement constituting a new step towards EU membership. The victory of the Europe-oriented candidate Tadić at the presidential elections then filled us with hope that Serbia would soon join us after years of slow development and isolation.

As regards Kosovo, the EU has already announced an ESDP mission. The establishment of relations with Kosovo is an individual decision for each Member State, although our basic assessments will probably not differ much from the forecasts of the December European Council. It is essential, in this process, to take Serbia into consideration. The EU needs Serbia and Serbia needs the EU. Intercultural dialogue is not just a cliché. Negotiations may have come to a standstill, but opportunities for dialogue have not. The time has come for true dialogue between the Serbs and the Albanians in Kosovo, between Serbia and Kosovo, between Serbia and the EU.


The fate of Kosovo weighed heavily on us for years. At one time, Kosovo was a part of the federal Yugoslav State but, after 1974, its status was made practically equal to that of other Yugoslav Republics. At the end of the eighties, Slobodan Milošević withdrew its autonomous status, and then in 1999, he occupied it with military forces, sparking off a tragedy of global dimensions. The case of Kosovo is truly unique, because the international community had to step in to protect it on humanitarian grounds, and proceeded to manage it for nine years. The decision taken on Monday by the General Affairs and External Relations Council was not an easy one. However, like the declaration of independence in Priština, it was not unexpected. It was motivated by the following facts:

  1. it had become clear that reverting to the previous status was not acceptable, nor was the existing status quo. Neither side was able to find a new formula for the status of Kosovo and, clearly, none would be produced by continued negotiations;
  2. since 1999, Kosovo has been under the administration of the UN and, in accordance with Resolution 1244, Serbia has not had effective authority there;
  3. prior to this year, Kosovo, or more specifically its majority population, was subject to systematic repression, even ethnic cleansing and humanitarian disaster.

All the above facts, initially agreed upon by all members of the Contact Group, including the Russian Federation, support the argument that Kosovo is a genuinely unique case – sui generis – and as such it does not call into question the validity of the principle of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.

The Council has long been convinced that the European Union must assume responsibility for Kosovo. We confirmed as much at the February session of the GAERC Council by adopting the resolutions of which you know. Even though a lack of unity was predicted, we nonetheless demonstrated our unity. The resolutions were – after a lengthy process of negotiation and concertation – adopted unanimously

(Unity of the European Union.)

The EU is an interesting and unique community. Beyond any doubt, we share common interests and common values. The latter also include respect for and acceptance of differences. One could say that we are linked by our differences. At the end of the February GAERC, we adopted a common position. The main point was that, with regard to the recognition of Kosovo, we expected that each Member State would act in accordance with its own national practice. There may have been some expectations that the European Union as such would recognize Kosovo, but this is not possible since the EU is not a State.

Wherein lies the essence of the new European unity? The European Union adopted a common position on the situation in Kosovo and the Western Balkans:

  1. the EU noted that Kosovo had adopted a resolution on independence;
  2. the EU took note that the resolution committed Kosovo to democratic principles, including the protection of the Serb minority and cultural heritage;
  3. . the EU reiterated its commitment to the international mission there and its readiness to play a leading role in the region;
  4. the EU reaffirmed its commitment to the European perspective for the Western Balkans;
  5. the European Commission will prepare specific (economic, etc.) measures for the wider Western Balkan region;
  6. the EU is well aware of the principles of the international community, but considers that, due to its sui generis character, the case of Kosovo does not call these principles into question.

In Kosovo, there is a Serbian people, heritage and culture. They represent an especially valuable part of European culture.

Many European nations, including Slovenia, have important cultural and ethnic heritage monuments outside their State borders, a fact that – in the modern Europe – is not so much an obstacle as a link. The same goes for ethnic minorities.

We are convinced that, at this moment in time, it is essential that Serbia should not close the door to the European Union by its reactions to the declaration and recognition of Kosovo’s independence. We would reiterate that the Kosovo issue is not linked with the issue of Serbia’s incorporation into the EU. Serbia should not link the two. From that point of view, it does not make sense for Serbia to oppose an EU mission in Kosovo, since such a mission would be primarily in the interests of the Serb population there.

The European Union is one of the most successful peace organisations in the world. In a spirit of solidarity, European nations and States have a unified view on peace and prosperity. This embraces tolerance and generosity and, above all, understanding and sympathy for other people.

Let us, therefore, keep the doors and windows open for the Western Balkans and Kosovo.


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Date: 20.02.2008