Special Interview with Democrat Congressman Eliot Engel, New York, co-chairman of the Albanian Issues Group in the U.S. Congress, June 8 elections in Kosovo/
Interview by Beqir SINA/
Engel: These elections represent an important step for Kosovo’s young democracy, normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and moving forward on Kosovo’s path towards Euro-Atlantic integration.
In an interview with the reporter from Capitol Hill Beqir Sina, Democrat Congressman Eliot Engel, New York, co-chairman of the Albanian Issues Group in the U.S. Congress issues these statements for the general elections in Kosovo June 8
Mr. Engel has called on the people of Kosovo to come out massively to the polls on Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Kosovo, and that for these elections to be peaceful and democratic, adding that “on June 8 I believe that the elections will be free, transparent and fair “. “These elections represent a significant step forward for Kosovo’s young democracy, the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and Kosovo’s path toward Euro-Atlantic integration. ” says Mr. Engel, a well known friend of the Albanian community.
New York Democrat Congressman Eliot Engel said: ” The U.S.-Kosovo relationship is strong, and Prishtina has a friend and ally in the United States. I am confident that the U.S. will continue to stand with Kosovo as its democracy further develops and flourishes, and as it increasingly integrates with Euro-Atlantic structures. ”
B.S When we talk about elections in Kosovo in this interview, I’m taking into account how they’ve developed in the past. I would like to call them a model throughout the region – even better than in Albania, Macedonia and Serbia. What do you expect from the general elections in Kosovo that will be held on June 8, 2014?
Engel : Given that last November Kosovo held peaceful and orderly local elections, I am very hopeful that the voting process in these elections will be transparent and well-managed. I also hope the turnout will be relatively high. These elections represent a significant step forward for Kosovo’s young democracy, the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and Kosovo’s path toward Euro-Atlantic integration.
B.S Do you think that the Kosovo institutions have taken the necessary steps to make sure that these elections are free and fair?
Engel : It is critical that the Kosovo authorities do everything in their power to make sure that their citizens are able to exercise their fundamental right to freely elect their representatives. I also urge the authorities in Belgrade to cooperate fully with Prishtina in encouraging Kosovo Serbs to vote in all of Kosovo, including the north. I believe that a successful electoral process will be another important step forward for the young multiethnic democracy and will also advance the prospects for stability in Kosovo and the wider region.
B.S As a Congressman and a friend of the Albanian commuity, what do you believe are the greatest challenges for the future of Kosovo’s institutions?
Engel : Given where Kosovo was just a decade ago, I believe its progress is remarkable. But even with its achievements challenges remain: unemployment is still high, corruption remains a concern, and interethnic trust and cooperation needs to improve. Continuing to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia is key to both countries’ development, as well as wider regional stability. Kosovo must also strengthen its efforts to integrate Serbs and other minorities. Finally, Kosovo should continue its work to consolidate its democracy and security in order to fully integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
B.S What is the commitment of the U.S. in these elections? Why did the U.S. not send a group of observers to monitor the elections this time?
Engel : The Unites States remains actively engaged and is following the developments very closely. Our embassy in Prishtina has organized several observation teams to help monitor the elections.
B.S The American political stance towards developments in Kosovo is of great importance. Please comment on U.S.-Kosovo relations?
Engel : The U.S.-Kosovo relationship is strong, and Prishtina has a friend and ally in the United States. I am confident that the U.S. will continue to stand with Kosovo as its democracy further develops and flourishes, and as it increasingly integrates with Euro-Atlantic structures.
B.S There are still some issues with Kosovo’s constitution that need to be resolved, including the political parties who insist on having more reserved seats for themselves, as minorities, in the assembly. Additionally, some minority members in the assembly refuse to support the Kosovo Armed Forces law in order to get increased minority representation. What is your comment on this?
Engel : The issue of reserved seats for minorities is an issue for the Kosovo people and government to work out internally. As for the armed forces, Kosovo is a sovereign and independent country and has a right to establish a military like any other European country. It’s my hope that following the elections the assembly will approve the creation of a military.
B.S It is said that Serbia and Kosovo should go together in Europe; however, Serbia is closer to the EU accession and Kosovo is still not seeing the green the light from EU?
Engel : Membership in the EU and NATO are not free. Kosovo and Serbia will need to do the hard work to meet the requirements of both organizations. There must not be a situation where Serbia can enter the EU and then block Kosovo’s membership. I believe that it should be a condition of Serbian accession that it recognize an independent Kosovo. And while it is deeply unfair, Kosovo’s road will be even steeper because of possible opposition from member states which un constructively still refuse to recognize Pristina. But I have every confidence that Kosovo, with its continued hard work and its growing support, will successfully meet the requirements for both the EU and NATO.
B.S Thanks for giving us this interview, would you like to give a final message to our newsletter readers?
Engel : I would like to say that I am moved by the incredible progress Kosovo has made since it declared independence in 2008. I know there are numerous challenges ahead and problems to overcome, but the United States has stood by Kosovo as its people have triumphed over incredible adversity. I look forward to seeing our partnership continue to flourish as Kosovo builds a prosperous and secure democracy within a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.