Prishtina, Belgrade, 23 July 2015 – Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo, Petrit Selimi, has given an interview to Belgrade daily “Danas”, where he emphasized that “we are that, in addition to UNESCO, Kosovo will seek membership in other international organizations”.
Below you will find the full interview.
Kosovo has been recognized by 111 members of UNESCO. Many other non-recognizers also vote for us in multilateral organizations, like they did in IMF of World Bank. We tested this six months ago when we applied for observer status in Francophonie. Despite hysterical and sad reactions of Serbian diplomats which tried to block Kosovo in Senegal, all members decided by consensus to accept Kosovo.
It was similar story in International Olympic Committee. This is a tough battle but I am saddened why Serbia is fighting to keep Kosovo isolated. Policy of trying to isolate Kosovars, is a policy that failed in the past and it even backfired for Serbia. It will backfire again. – says Petrit Selimi, Deputy head of Kosovo’s diplomacy in an interview for Danas, related to Kosovo’s bid for Unesco membership.
Danas: Why is Prishtina sure that this autumn, the mechanism of voting will be in favor of Kosovo in Executive board and General conference of UNESCO?
PS: We have worked very carefully in coordination with all of Kosovo’s international partners and always assessing when is optimal moment to apply. After careful consideration, we have already in January decided to apply now so our request can be considered at November meeting of General Conference of UNESCO. As Deputy Prime Minister Thaci indicated last week, have engaged with over 130 delegations and we have scheduled meetings with another 20 this month so after listening to the mood and interest of the national delegations, we believe that Kosovo has a very good chance to become a new member of UNESCO on the exact anniversary of this organization. UNESCO is celebrating 70 years of existence this year and Kosovo will be a nice birthday present. It’s a tough battle but our national interest is for Kosovars to have same opportunities, same tools of development and same position as all other peoples in the Balkans.
Danas: What is the answer of Prishtina on the question made by Serbian side how will the historical and religious monuments in Kosovo be protected by those that have systematically under UN protectorate destroyed them – Kosovo government has never condemned the destruction of churches – over 150 of them, of whom many are medieval?
PS: Fistly, it’s a disgusting lie that Kosovo government has never condemned the destruction of some church buildings. Actually, Kosovo government has allocated millions of Euros to repair them after the march riots of 2004. Today, it’s Kosovo police that is guarding 95% of all the Serbian Orthodox Church property and they are safely being visited by tourists from around the world.
Secondly, the only government in Balkans that has been engaged in systematic and state-sponsored destruction of religious heritage is government and army of Serbia, as proven so by several sentences in the International Tribunal in Hague. Serbian army and police completely destroyed over 300 mosques, including Bazaar mosque from 1761, Halil Efendi Mosque from 1526, Bektashi tekkes in Gjakovica from 1790, etc. So I find it very cynical and shameless to hear Djuric or Dacic speak of destruction of religious property.
Danas: Why is then Council of Europe insisting that CoE gave money for reparations of Serbian holy sites destroyed in March pogrom, which was transferred to Kosovo government, which was a formula agreed in 2005 by the Serbian Orthodox Church which signed an MoU on reparations of the Serbian churches and Monasteries destroyed.?
PS: I don’t think Council of Europe is saying any such thing. We have daily interaction with them. It’s known that Kosovo government dedicated 5 million euros for the reparations of the churches. One must add that our membership bid for UNESCO is not meant to provoke the Serbian Orthodox Church or to claim the heritage as Albanian, but to enable Kosovo’s development in education, science and culture. Heritage is a small portion of what UNESCO does. We understand that heritage is an important issue and Kosovo medieval sites currently listed in UNESCO Heritage list will always be property of Serbian Orthodox Church. Ahtisaari Plan and Kosovo constitution provides a very important constitutional protection of the SOC. Bishop Teodosije, Father Sava and many other clergymen of the church in Kosovo have been supportive of reconciliation and we must give each other hand of friendship and respect. Serbian government statements regarding Kosovo’s bid to UNESCO are not a way to build good neighborly relations. Membership of Kosovo to UNESCO will require a big effort from Kosovo diplomacy, but it’s a battle that we will win because our fight is not about politics but about enabling all people of Kosovo, regardless of religion or ethnicity access to highest international standards and mechanisms in important fields of human development. I sometimes think Serbian government started to believe in its own false propaganda. Kosovo is already member of two UN agencies of “Bretton Woods system”, namely World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Also, in September 2010, after former foreign minister Vuk Jeremic had to withdraw his unacceptable proposal for more status talks, UN General Assembly has voted on a EU-sponsored resolution that acknowledged the opinion of International Court of Justice that Kosovo Declaration of Independence did not breach the Resolution 1244 or any applicable international law and this step closed any discussions about the status of Kosovo, once and forever. Kosovo and Serbia are now talking in Brussels how to normalize relations as two independent countries. So, our application membership to UNESCO is not unusual. It will also be followed with application to many other organizations.