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Interview with Ambassador Rohde for „Gazeta Express“
Botschafter Jörn Rohde zum TDE 2020, © Deutsche Botschaft Pristina
1. Germany is leading the EU Presidency during the second half of this year. Why hasn’t Germany pushed forward the issue of visa liberalization for Kosovo?
Germany wants progress on this issue and has put it on the agenda in Brussels. However, not all EU Member States are fully convinced yet. At the same time, it is important for Kosovo to also engage directly with sceptical countries in order to convince them.
2. During the Biden presidency how do you expect the cooperation between the EU and US to be, especially regarding the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, and do you think that the formula for a final agreement will be found during 2021?
It’s simple, really. Despite some hick-ups lately, both the EU and the US have the same aim: full normalization between Kosovo and Serbia. The US also supports both countries’ full integration into European structures. I therefore count on close and successful cooperation between the EU and the US with respect to the dialogue, and joint efforts for a final agreement in 2021.
3. Do you think that a greater involvement of Germany is necessary in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia during the EU mediation?
First and foremost, it is Kosovo and Serbia that need to agree on the different issues. Germany has thrown its full support behind EUSR Lajcak’s continued efforts in the EU-facilitated dialogue and we will continue that support. My appeal to both sides is the following: Since both governments committed once again to be serious about the dialogue in early September, now show that you walk the talk and build trust! For example: There are plenty of commitments that were agreed to in Brussels years ago, but some have never been implemented, either by Kosovo, or by Serbia, or by both. Some of them are not even linked directly to the dialogue, but they stand in the way of good neighbourly relations. Implement them now and create trust that will then help the dialogue to succeed where it fell short in the past.
4. President Emmanuel Macron has announced a new summit similar to the one in Paris, to discuss the progress of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, is Germany also invited and what can we expect from this?
I believe no date has been decided on such an event, but yes, I suspect that what the French President and the Kosovo Prime Minister were discussing is another summit similar to the ones in Paris and Berlin. If that is the case, I am sure Germany would participate. We are committed to contribute to find a sustainable solution and we are continuously working closely together with our French partners.
5. How do you see Kosovo politics without the people who have been protagonists in the war, and do you believe that the Special Court will bring justice?
On the question of Kosovo politics let me give you a very generic answer: In a democracy one thing is for sure: generational change will come sooner or later. In most European countries, the so called baby boomer generation born after world war two has now largely left the active political scene. For Kosovo, a much younger state with a much younger population, such a generational change is still to happen and it is for the Kosovo voter to decide when this should happen.
History is full of surprises and such turns may happen quite unexpectedly: For me personally it is still one of the greatest domestic policy upheavals when the British voters just after the Second World War ousted Prime Minister Churchill, who just won the war, and replaced him with Clement Attlee, as if to say: Churchill was our leader for the war and, now, for peace, we need someone else.
As for the question regarding the Special Court, let me start with a quote by the renowned East German civil rights activist Bärbel Bohley who said some years after the fall of the East German regime: „we expected justice and got the rule of law“. Meaning no court can undo what happened or bring loved ones back. What a court, firmly based on the rule of law, can achieve is to assure that there is no impunity for the crimes committed by individuals. That takes time, but it will instill trust that justice can be served.
6.The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, while talking about the Nagarno-Karabak conflict, said that Kosovo should not be left in a frozen conflict with Serbia either, as it could erupt, are these comparable cases and do you think that Vucic should be more careful with his war rhetoric?
I do not see any merit in comparing these cases. And I’m not willing to enter into second guessing. What I do know is that both countries have committed themselves to the opposite path: that is to a dialogue process of peace and reconciliation to fully normalize their relations with the ultimate aim to achieve EU membership.
7. Should Kosovo find political unity to elect a new president?
The question is what is meant by unity. In a democracy, for sure, that does not mean that 100% support a candidate. That would be a worrying sign of an autocracy. Unity means for me that everybody plays by and accepts the rules, and that the selection process is transparent.
8. How do you see the government's work in managing the Covid-19 pandemic?
First let me say that no government in the world was without faults when confronted with this unprecedented pandemic. Everybody was and is still in a trial and error period. Also in my country there are continued discussions on the best measures, for example when it comes to decide on the severity of a lockdown. Let me also underline that, in a democracy, governments very much rely on the cooperation and discipline of its citizens to follow the decisions taken. The Government’s responsibility is to show leadership and then implement and enforce decisions taken. As I look at the current numbers in Kosovo, whether it is new infections, the percentage of positive tests or the record of active cases and its burden on the hospitals, I do see the need both for more action by the government and more discipline by the citizens.
Also in Germany we are discussing how we can get the numbers down to not overwhelm the systems. For the next few months it will remain important that we continue to keep a distance which includes refraining from travelling and visiting friends and relatives – to protect each other - I know this is particularly hard when we are talking about the upcoming holiday periods. But for sure there will be better times ahead when we can finally roll out the vaccine and can visit each other again.