Photo: Urim Krasniqi / BIRN

EU Special Representative for Kosovo: Fighting corruption needs constant attention

In an interview with BIRN, Tomas Szunyog, the EU Special Representative for Kosovo, addressed the ongoing visa liberalisation saga, the EU-facilitated dialogue with Serbia as well as internal issues including tackling corruption and moving away from coal.

During an interview for BIRN, the EU’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Tomas Szunyog, stated that he understood the frustrations of the Kosovo public in relation to the visa liberalisation saga. “The situation is not positive [and] I hope that it will be solved quite soon,” he told BIRN’s Jeta Xharra.

Szunyog reiterated that the process led by the European Commission concluded that Kosovo had met all of the conditions for its citizens to be granted visa free travel in the Schengen zone. 

However, the decision now rests with the European Council, which is made up of the foreign ministers of each of the 27 member states of the EU, and there is currently still no consensus  amongst the Council to remove the visa regime for Kosovo citizens.

The EU ambassador told BIRN that the Council makes decisions based not only on the European Commission’s findings, but also on experts advising the 27 ministers. “Some of those experts are not persuaded that the European Commission evaluation was done correctly,” he said.

Szunyog refuted the idea that visa liberalisation was being used as a carrot in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, describing the two as completely separate processes. He added that Kosovo needs to continue to focus on the criteria set out by the European Commission, despite being given the green light in the past.

“Some of those criteria remain and require constant attention,” Szunyog told BIRN. “Let’s say that criteria is the track record on fighting organized crime and corruption. This is something which is not just one thing fulfilled five years ago. This needs constant attention.”

The EU ambassador refused to be drawn on giving a prediction as to when visa liberalisation may be achieved, but stated that a positive decision can be seen if Kosovo does its homework and engages with member states.

Turning to the dialogue, Szunyog welcomed the introduction of a Kosovo government likely to serve its full term, with a solid parliamentary majority. 

“There is no excuse that things cannot be delivered because the majority in parliament is not there,” he said, adding that he is “pleased that we have a Government which is active in the dialogue, and raising its own issues and agenda.”

The EU Special Representative went on to defend the achievements of the EU-facilitated dialogue, pointing to successes in integrating Serbs into the Kosovo Police, and the establishment of the Common Crossing Point in Merdare. 

He also rejected the notion that pressure was not being applied to the Serbian side to implement agreements, and argued that in some cases it was Kosovo that had failed on implementation, citing an issue over car registration plates that violated the Brussels agreement.

“The car plate agreement was that Kosovo should be using those Kosovo plates until September this year,” Szunyog told BIRN. “The previous Minister of Interior unilaterally cancelled this obligation and decided that all Kosovars may use only Republic of Kosovo plates, which was a clear violation of the agreement.”

The EU ambassador also defended the practical nature of the talks, arguing that it was the European Coal and Steel Community that was the basis of the European Union itself. “[The] logic of European Integration started with very practical issues of economic cooperation, trade, [and the] common use of natural resources like coal and steel,” he said.

One of the key stumbling blocks in the dialogue has been the formation of an Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, which was a key part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Principles for the formation of an Association were agreed in 2015, but were declared contrary to the spirit of the Kosovo Constitution by the country’s Constitutional Court.

In his interview with BIRN, Szunyog was keen to stress that the Constitutional Court’s decision did not declare that the Association could not be formed, nor did it void obligations from the 2013 agreement. “It also says that the statute of association should be prepared and again subjected to review by the Constitutional Court,” he said. “Actually, the Constitutional Court is expecting the statute to come and be reviewed again.”

The EU Special representative added that a working group to draft the statute of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities established by a previous government still exists, and that from his perspective, the Kosovo Government implementing its own laws is of vital importance.

Szunyog stressed that he was not suggesting any specific method for establishing the Association, but stated that the EU would not automatically reject something similar to a National Minorities Council, comparable to that which exists in Serbia for ethnic non-majority communities, as was suggested by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Brussels in June.

“I would say, first of all, we need to see more details for this proposal. It was presented in one sentence and we need to see more,” he said. “The second thing is that if this is something which is in the context of the agreement from 2013, then why not?”

The ambassador also reiterated the maxim of Miroslav Lajcak, the EU’s Special Representative for the dialogue, that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” in regard to the comprehensive agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

“[The] Association is part of the agreement,” he said. “If it is proposed and agreed as a text, it would not be operational and would not be requested to be implemented until the whole deal is signed.”

A greener and cleaner Kosovo

During his interview with BIRN, the EU Special Representative also addressed a number of domestic issues within Kosovo, including the ongoing fight against corruption and environmental issues.

In terms of tackling corruption, Szunyog highlighted the courts’ failure to utilise legislation that allowed for the confiscation of property following a criminal conviction, which was introduced in 2018.

“We are disappointed that this very good, modern, new law, which is fully compatible with the EU acquis, is not being used,” he said. “If you look at the level of confiscated property it is very low. The first step is to start using existing legislation.”

In regard to oversight of the judiciary, Szunyog stated that the system deployed to assess the integrity and performance of prosecutors and judges must start becoming more functional, adding that a good system exists but is not being used properly. He added that a new vetting system, as promised by governing party Vetevendosje during the most recent election campaign, would not add much to what is already in place, and will be slow and difficult to implement.

As for the environment, Szunyog stated that the EU’s position is very clear in regard to new coal based energy sources – there is no way it can support it and no European bank would fund it. 

“There is no future for coal in the long-term perspective,” he said. “What we are talking about with the government is how to transit from a coal-based energy system to a new one. We understand the reality in Kosovo is that 97% of electricity is generated by coal power plants, which has effects on the environment, but also on the health of the population.”

The ambassador stated that so far he has not yet seen a green policy in Kosovo, but acknowledged that there was a willingness to engage from the prime minister, president and other government figures. However, he added that there was still work to be done across the board for a greener future.

“There needs to be a push for energy efficiency and savings, that’s important,” Szunyog told BIRN. “But there also needs to be more educational campaigns [towards] individuals, as this is also an individual responsibility.”

A video and full transcript of the interview are included below

Question: I want to start with the declaration of Mr. Cameron who talked about visa liberalisation. Can we clarify, have we fulfilled conditions for visa liberalization as a state, or have we not?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Hello, it is good to be here with you. On visa liberalization I would like to say that I personally understand the frustration of the population of Kosovo. It is real, the situation, which is not positive, but I also hope that it will be solved quite soon. 

As for the conditions, the European Commission started the process some time ago. Kosovo went through the reviews, changes of legislation, changes of rules and regulations, and at the end of this process led by European Commission, European Union experts came to the conclusion that the conditions were met. All of them. 

But, this is just a proposal by European Commission which needs to be formally approved by the Council of the European Union, which is basically the meeting of 27 Ministers. Each of those ministers has their own advice and opinion on this topic. Unfortunately, there is still no consensus on this among 27 Member States, so that’s the reason.

Question: So if you were to simplify it for the general audience and citizens, the average citizen of Kosovo, what would you say these Ministers are looking for? Is this a political decision by every country on how they see Kosovo? Is this about technicalities and meritocracy regarding Kosovo in terms of does Kosovo deserve to have it or… What is it?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Well, obviously it’s the Council of European Union, which is a political body. It obviously also decides based on experts’ opinion, opinions of those 27 Ministers, who review the position of the European Commission but also ask for the position of their own experts. Some of those experts are not persuaded that European Commission evaluation was done correctly. 

Question: What would you say to cynics who say that visa liberalisation is being used as a carrot to push Kosovo to sign an agreement with Serbia? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I don’t see the linkage, and it is completely separated. Again, it started already years ago, and it is a process which deals with complete and different formats, so there is no linkage on this. 

But, again as I said, it is a decision of 27 Ministers. This is the Council of European Union, which is chaired by rotating presidents. So it is now Slovenia that should decide whether to put it on the agenda of the meeting or not. Of course, they would need to consult bilaterally with all of those remaining 26 ministers on whether they agree or not. 

I would also say, it is very important, that of course Kosovo needs to maintain its focus on those criteria, because they are not just the boxes to be ticked once.

Question: But you just said that the criteria are fulfilled? What is the focus there?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Yes, but, some of those criteria remain and require constant attention. Let’s say that criteria is [Kosovo’s] track record on fighting organized crime and corruption – this is not something which is just one thing fulfilled five years ago, it needs constant attention. There are some other issues, related to, again, organised crime and corruption, but also migration that need to have a good track record of maintaining those issues for some time. So Kosovo needs to focus on their own tasks and work. But also, I think it is important, as I mentioned, those 27 Member States, and that there is a certain dialogue between the Kosovo Government and those 27 Member States.

Question: Mr. Szunyog, I remember two of your previous predecessors were sitting in the same chair you are sitting and they both said that it would be their dream and legacy to leave Kosovo with visa liberalization. You seem much more careful from the initial statement you just gave. Does that mean that you do not predict that during your stay in Kosovo, for several years, you will not live to see visa liberalization?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Well, I still have three years of my mandate, but I am careful simply because it is not in my power to decide on that. It is simply the 27 Member States that need to be persuaded. 

Question: Okay it is not in your power, but give me your prediction. Do you think in these three years Kosovo will have visa liberalizations? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I think if Kosovo really seriously engages with those 27 Member States and deliver also in their own work, like, again, the fight against organized…

Question: But you said Kosovo delivered, and can we be honest? Because we at BIRN have looked at all of the targeted cases for visa liberalisation, and these reports on visa liberalisation cases have proved that many of them are not resolved, are not finished, and there is no final decision in many of them, the majority of them. Then why tell Kosovo that we have fulfilled our obligations? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Again, once you do your homework, and once you engage with member states, I think that there can be progress, and then we can see a decision which will be positive. Again, I am not planning to give any predictions on how it goes but I am confident that it can be done, if there is a focus on this. 

Question: Okay so let’s move on now, onto Kosovo having a new government. You are a new head of the EU, having both of you stabilized in the position that you are in, what are the priorities you want to see happening with this Government? Since it has been in power for 100 days now. 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: For us the basic framework of bilateral relations between Kosovo and the EU is the same. It is the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) signed in 2015 and came into power in April 2016. We actually commemorated last April five years of implementation. Frankly speaking, we are not satisfied with implementation.

Question: Is there anything to commemorate and celebrate?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Well, it is five years so we kind of reminded everybody…

Question: Can you remind us where we are lagging behind? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Well there are a number of things and if you look at agreement, of course it is structured exactly to cover most of the relevant issues. We have a part on rule of law and justice, we have a part on trade and economic relations, and we have a part on education, environmental protection, agriculture so it covers all areas. We have seen, unfortunately, that Kosovo has delivered on some of those issues, but sometimes what Kosovo has delivered was an easy part which means drafting a strategy, preparing legislation, and adopting some rules. What we have not been seeing is the proper implementation of some of those strategies and proper implementation of legislation. Formally, the agreement actually is signed for 10 years so we have celebrated five years as a half time but certainly it is not 50 percent. 

Question: Is it 25 percent? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Probably. 

Question: Just. If you were to blame someone, maybe it is not diplomatic to blame, but nevertheless, we as citizens of Kosovo would like accountability over non-fulfillment of that agreement. Who do you think it is to blame for not fulfilling that agreement?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I wouldn’t like to blame anybody specifically. What I would say is that if you look back at, let’s say, the development of Kosovo since 2016: I think the problem was general political instability, a lot of changes of Government, a lot of preliminary elections, a lot of problems of getting a majority. Basically, I think what we have been missing was this long-term stability and secondly the focus on the European Agenda. I think there were some other issues which were probably distracting Kosovo politicians in a way – that they were not sufficiently focused on those issues related to the European Agenda. And I would say that probably is understandable in a sense – that European Agenda is not something which can be delivered quickly and easily. It requires a lot of attention, a lot of work, a lot of implementation and following the implementation. Maybe in some cases, they can deliver the results in 5, 10 years. 

Question: Okay, let’s move on to what actually has been the pressure on this Government, it is not the European Agenda it is actually the push to finalise an agreement with Serbia – this is on the agenda now. You asked for a stable Government, meaning not only you, the international community, wanted a stable partner. You got one and as soon as you got one, you got a Prime Minister that went to Brussels asking for four new things to be discussed in this new dialogue. I am interested to know if there is a discussion among the EU about the four proposals that Kurti gave in the last Vučić-Kurti meeting.  

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Well, first of all, I would say that the dialogue is closely linked to the European agenda because if dialogue can succeed to deliver what we expect, which means this comprehensive legally binding agreement which would solve all open issues, that would open a road to other steps on the EU road of Kosovo. So I believe it is very much interlinked with the EU agenda as dialogue is a prerequisite for further steps. 

By the way, not only for Kosovo but also for Serbia. It is obvious that without dialogue there would not be sufficient progress on both sides. So that’s one thing. Second thing, is that we really are pleased to see a Government which is probably there for four years, historically, for the first time in the history of independent Kosovo, and which more importantly, has a solid majority in the Parliament. So there is no excuse that things cannot be delivered because the Parliament majority is not there. 

Question: But this is a Government that wants its own agenda delivered to the EU, does not want to implement what others have signed that has been clear.

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I think that on that, again, I am pleased that we have a Government which is active in the dialogue and raising its own issues and agendas. 

Question: Even though it is disputing what has been signed before?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Well, that’s the other thing. I would insist that from the point of view of Government operation and state operation in a sense, it doesn’t matter who is personally Prime Minister but there are certain agreements which are legally binding, regardless of the government. There is this Latin expression in international law, pacta sunt servanda, which means agreements must be observed. 

Question: I agree with you. Let’s recall in 2011, the first agreements were signed, Mr. Szunyog, it has been 10 years. People watching us know and have seen about 30 agreements signed since 2011, and that’s why the majority might listen to us tonight and think it’s hopeless – in 10 years only four agreements have been fully implemented. Why, people would say why continue with the process, when it was delivered so little? When in 10 years only 25-30% of agreements have been met…

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: On that I would say two things. One is that from my perspective actually dialogue has delivered a number of things. You probably are forgetting the situation as it was in 2011, but for example, Serbian policemen are fully integrated into Kosovo Police. When I go to the north, to Mitrovica North, I see Kosovo police there…

Question: Yeah, but you also see crime blooming. 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Also when I go to this Common Crossing Point in Merdare, I see Kosovo police there, I see the trade. Of course, I am not saying that there are no problems with the trade, but the trade is going on. Kosovo citizens are able to communicate using phones with Kosovo numbers and there are other very practical steps which have been achieved. So, I would say that there are certain achievements. So that’s one thing. 

Of course we need to look into how and who fulfilled those agreements. The Kosovo Government produced quite a useful analysis of the fulfillment of agreements, but the dialogue has been delivering. Of course it is still not able to deliver on those big things, and we are hoping that two sides can agree on this comprehensive agreement. 

Question: It is great that you remind me of the other side. I want to add to your list, apart from the police, Serbian judges have been installed without a proper system of recruitment just because they are Serbian judges. The majority of people would say that the part that Kosovo was responsible for it delivered on. The parts where Serbia was responsible – the energy agreement, cadastre, diplomas, missing persons, because the majority of people are still missing in Serbia, but also there are those in Kosovo – they have not been delivered.  So the impression from the majority of Kosovo is that there has been pressure on Kosovo to deliver because internationals are far more authoritative in Kosovo, and there is not enough pressure on Serbia to deliver. Why should we continue if there is not enough pressure on Serbia to deliver on these agreements? Why should we continue implementing new agreements? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I would kind of disagree that there is not enough pressure on Serbian side. There is a lot of pressure. On some of those agreements our assessment is that the Kosovo side has not delivered. We are talking, for example, about car plates. That’s something which there are issues with. We are talking about energy, there are again issues on the Kosovo side as well as on Serbian side. 

Question: Can you tell me what the issues with the car plates are?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: The car plate agreement was that Kosovo should be using those Kosovo plates until September this year. The previous Minister of interior unilaterally cancelled this obligation and decided that all Kosovars might use only Republic of Kosovo plates, which was a clear violation of the agreement. 

Question: But the Kosovo car plates were not allowed to go into Serbia….

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: No, Kosovo car plates yes, but Republic of Kosovo no. 

Question: Why should Kosovo allow Serbian car plates to come in if Serbia doesn’t allow Kosovo car plates to come in?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Because again those Republic of Kosovo car plates are not in line with Brussels agreement, and this was clearly stated in several letters that my good friend Miroslav Lajčák sent to both the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of Kosovo. So there are issues on the Kosovo side, with the car plates by the way. 

Question: Okay so, in your analysis there are issues but let’s be detailed about it, because we’ve been doing the dialogue for 10 years. What percentage of the agreement is Kosovo responsible for not implementing, and what percentage Serbia? Let’s be exact and mathematical. 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I have no exact figures on that. My understanding is that tomorrow deputy Prime Minister Bislimi will be meeting Mr. Petkovic together with EUSR Lajčák, and this is exactly the point they are going to discuss: What is the implementation of the previous agreement? So, I would underline that there are those previous agreements, some of them are actually legally binding, some of them are even ratified by the Parliament of Kosovo’s constitutional majority. So they are there and you cannot just say it’s nothing which was agreed before, or that everything that was agreed before disappeared. It is still in Kosovo’s legal framework.

Question: Since you might have more information, we’d like you to give us information about what you know about missing persons agreements, because this issue is very politicized and we would like to know on a very operational level. Are Serbia and Kosovo at all working on giving information to each other about the burial of many people who are still missing?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: On missing persons, it is a very important issues, I understand the importance of it. I also served as an Ambassador in Sarajevo, it is exactly the same issue which has been burdening the situation not only here but in the whole region. It is and has been high on the agenda of the dialogue. It was actually agreed to open discussion on that last July between President Vucic and Prime Minister Hoti. There were several rounds of discussion on that topic, and they were able to agree on the text which was supposed to be part of this comprehensive agreement. So there is a preliminary agreement in that it included Institutions of Kosovo, and Serbia, but it also includes ICRC as a very important and generally respected organization dealing with those issues. This was something which was preliminary agreed upon. We are now looking into how to re-engage these two sides to continue this agreement. 

Question: We are talking about heavy subjects such as missing persons but, Kurti suggested something very basic in Brussels which is signing a peace agreement between Serbia and Kosovo that they will not invade or attack each other. This seemed very basic and Vucic seemed to object to it. What do you think about this suggestion?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I am happy that Prime Minister is active and proposing new topics for discussion. This is something which is quite important because there are two sides who are owning the process, so both sides need to be active, both sides need to come up with a proposal.

Question: Don’t you think it’s illogical to continue to talk to a country about energy, diplomas, cars, if that country is not committed to not attacking you?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: The two sides need to sit down, and I hope again this is a plan for tomorrow, and agree on the agenda. If the two sides can agree that this should be a topic to discuss.

Question: It is very interesting you saying if two sides can agree. So, if one side wants to attack the other side, you are okay to just continue….

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: No, I am saying that they need to agree on the agenda, if both sides agree that this proposal should be a topic for next discussion, president and prime minister, fine.

Question: You think that peace is the basis of everything? If we just think of the history of the EU, if Germany and France didn’t have a peace pact would there be any economic agreement or EU to be formed? Can you imagine 45, 60 years ago for this to happen without a peace agreement? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Well, I can imagine it very well, because, also to remind ourselves that the EU integration process started before Rome Treaty, which was signed in ’57, with this agreement between France and Germany on the common use of steel, so it was the first ever practical arrangement. The first step towards the European Union was actually an agreement on how to use steel.

Question: But before that have they made peace with each other?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I think that EEC agreement actually followed the agreement on steel. 

Question: So first there was a peace agreement, and then there was a steel agreement?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: No, first there was a steel agreement, and then …

Question: Talking about which year for steel agreement?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: 53

Question: ’53 but the war ended and the winners and losers were clear in ’45 right? By ’53 there was already peace between the countries? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Basically, European Integration, that the is logic of European Integration is that it started with very practical issues on economic cooperation, trade, common use of natural resources like coal and steel, which led in ’57 to an agreement on a European economic space. So it started from small steps and then came to big political agreements. 

Question: What big political agreements were signed after that?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Again this was this ’57 agreement on establishing European Economic Community, and in the ’90s this was transferred to European Union with a number of agreements. This is called the Monet method. It’s basically to start with solving practical issues which normal people are concerned with. Freedoms are basically the issues which are dealing with the daily life of everybody concerned.

Question: There was another diplomacy that had a similar view and signed the Washington agreement, and that agreement also is largely based on economic deals. But, now people see a competition. There is a Washington September agreement, there is the Brussels agreement, which is the priority for Kosovo and where does the hierarchy lie? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I think that we now have a very clear position on that and it was confirmed by Matt Palmer when he visited Kosovo. There is only one process and that is EU-facilitated dialogue, which has the full support of the USA. Of course, part of that US support can also be the fact that the administration of the current president also believes that this Washington agreement should be fulfilled. It is not something which would conflict with our generally very excellent cooperation – transatlantic cooperation and the full support of the US Government for the EU-facilitated dialogue.

Question: I want your position on something that is considered the most sensitive topic in Kosovo and that is the pressure on Kosovo to deliver on the Association of Serbian Municipalities agreement. How come that the EU insists that an agreement, which has broken the Kosovo constitution on 23 points, should be implemented?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: First of all, this is not just external pressure. The 2013 agreement on the association is something which was agreed, signed but also ratified by Kosovo Parliament with a constitutional majority. So it is actually a law of Kosovo.

Question: But a Kosovo court has returned it as ….

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: There was a general obligation to create this Association [of Serb-majority Municipalities], which is a 2013 agreement. There was a consequent agreement from 2015 which specified some of the principles this association should be established on. This was a subject to be reviewed in the Constitutional court, and the Constitutional court has never declared that this cannot be done. It just said that some of those principles are probably not in line with Kosovo Constitution, but it does not void this agreement from 2013. 

With the general obligation of Kosovo to establish this association – and I just read recently this decision of the constitutional court – it also says that the statute of association should be prepared and again subjected to the review of the Constitutional court. Actually the Constitutional court is expecting the statute to come and be reviewed again. By the way, if you read this 34 pages of information which was sent by the Government to the Kosovo Parliament on implementation of the previous agreements, you will discover that there is a working group existing, which is from previous governments, but the working group is still there. 

Question: (Considering) you’ve read these documents, can I exercise the idea that in Kosovo we already have an Association of Municipalities, not Serb (municipalities) but just a general one. Thus, are there any objections from your side to register (create) an association (such as the one) that exists already but called “Association of Serbian Municipalities”?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: From my perspective, what is really important is that Kosovo Government implements its own law. 

Question: Are you suggesting that Kosovo Government, there is a lot of confusion so I would like to stop in details, are you suggesting that Kosovo does not need to form a new level [of governance] at the regional level, because we don’t have one. There’s local governance, there’s central governance. Are you suggesting that under these two existing governances, and systems, we could form the association?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I am not suggesting any specific way to do it, what I am saying is that it would be also tactical advice to move on this issue, and to propose something, it is a dialogue where two sides come to an agreement.

Question: I don’t want to be their advocate on this but if [a representative of the] government was here they would probably say “we suggested the national minorities’ council as one of the four suggestions/ideas” that Kurti gave in the last Brussels meeting. A National Minorities’ Council that is similar in form to what Croatia has for Serbs, with what Serbia has, for Hungarians, Albanians. Why would the EU object to EU practice like this of councils that exist in former Yugoslavia and in Europe. 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: On that we would not object a priori. I would say that first of all, we need to see more details of this proposal. It was presented in one sentence, and we need to see more. The second thing is that if this is something which is in context from the agreement from 2013, then why not? But finally, one needs to recognize that Kosovo maybe has a different treatment of non-majority communities than some other countries in the region. This was reflected in Ahtisaari’s package and there is a special treatment of non-majority communities, including giving them special reserved space in parliament, but if it is in compliance with the 2013 agreement, why not. 

Question: Mr. Szunyog, I agree with you. Why not? Why not? But Kosovars are wondering if they form the association, what do they get back? Kosovo feels it has constantly given concessions, through Ahtisaari’s package, and we still don’t get recognition from Serbia. So why do anything else if one does not get recognition from Serbia?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: The important thing to underline is that what we are now working on is a comprehensive agreement, legally binding, that would solve other issues.

Question: But it doesn’t guarantee recognition.

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: First of all, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The Association is part of the agreement, if it is proposed and agreed as a text, it would not be operational and would not be requested to be implemented until the whole deal is signed. 

Question: The ‘whole deal’? You refuse to say until recognition of Kosovo happens? You see everybody refuses because they know that it is never going to happen, not very soon.

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Let me put it this way, we are working on agreement which would solve all open issues. There would be only one agreement, and two signatures, it would not be you form an association and nothing is agreed. It would start implementation of this agreement after everything is solved. Your prime Minister is in power to sign or not to sign, regardless of whether there is a preliminary agreement. Logically, if you are not happy you just don’t sign. 

Question: What you are saying now is a bit different to “you signed (Association of Serb Municipalities in 2013, now you have got to implement it” because people don’t want to sign another concession without the guaranteed recognition of Kosovo. Thus, are you saying to Kosovars that it is fair to condition the formation of this Association with recognition of Kosovo as a country?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Again, the Association will be part of the comprehensive agreement. A comprehensive agreement will be possible if both sides sign it and ratify in their parliaments, and this agreement would solve all open issues.

Question: One of the issues that is also mentioned, people see internationals, not yourself only, commenting on the issue of property of the Decani monastery. We never hear internationals commenting on Albanians’ land and discussing the lands lost north of Kosovo, houses and land in the north of Mitrovica [where Albanians have been kicked out]. There is an imbalance in how much you care about the property of the church versus the property of the normal people, who also lost their property in the north of Kosovo.

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I would say three things on that. First, it is not about the specific substance of this decision, it is a basic rule of law issue, it is about implementation of the decision of Kosovo Constitutional court. Yesterday I met with the newly appointed president of Kosovo Constitutional court. There are very few decisions which are not being implemented. The keystone to any rule of law system is that CC decisions must be implemented, and I can have a personal opinion on a number of, for example, I am Czech national, so on Czech constitutional court decisions, but I always know that to start questioning the decision of CC is not good for rule of law. It is about ROL and implementation of decisions from the CC, the highest court in the country. 

Secondly, we are also quite involved in these issues of property throughout Kosovo, not only in the north. I am involved in the Kosovo property restitution commission, my representative sits as an international presence together with representatives of Greece and Sweden on this commission. We are working very hard on these issues, it is a challenge also partly because some of those issues of cadastres are not solved. We are working throughout Kosovo not only in the north but in the south or here and there. We work on that with the Kosovo administration and special agency.

The third thing is that it is also part of the dialogue debate on property and financial claims. It was agreed last year that it should be discussed on a technical level and there were several rounds of discussion on how to deal with property claims. My understanding is that even though the experts were not able to conclude this finally, they made progress on cadastre including on financial things.

Question: To most people listening, what you are doing with cadastre is internally important (for Kosovo), because a lot of corruption scandals, such as money laundering, has been happening, because we don’t have transparency who owns land, buildings, how (our) politicians who were poor in the ‘90s have millions today in their declaration of assets, so I want your comment on the fact that this government has suggested confiscating the wealth of people who cannot justify their wealth. What are the struggles you have in the registering of cadastre in Kosovo, without putting in the equation here. In Kosovo there is resistance (to resolve this), let alone talking with Serbia. 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Last words on cadastre, we are working with Kosovo Cadastre Agency closely. We are funding the projects focused on first of all an electronic version of cadastre which should be available to everybody. 

Question: Mr. Szunyog, I know you are working for a long time, they have not made [cadastre] very transparent, thus, why do you tolerate this agency? You are building their capacities, they continue to be non-transparent. Why do you tolerate this?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: We are in intense discussions with this agency how to make it fully transparent and fully available to general citizens.

Question: Don’t you see that they are lying to you? They don’t have (any) interest in making it transparent because they are involved in hiding the ownership. This is what we think from the outside. This is what it looks like. Maybe we are wrong but it looks like this.

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: On the confiscation of property that’s an important issue and my understanding is that it is important for the government and ministry of justice. I have met several times with ministers and our experts, and I would like to say two things about that. 

One is that Kosovo has very good legislation from 2018 which allows for confiscation of property after criminal conviction. There is a possibility since 2018 if this is a part of criminal court decisions. We are disappointed that this very good, modern new law which is fully compatible with the EU acquis is not being used. It has not been used almost, there are few cases. If you look at the level of confiscated property it is very low. The first step is to start using existing legislation. 

Question: I would add to what you are saying that there are 19 institutions in Kosovo including Tax, financial intelligence, customs, prosecution, 19 in total which can confiscate or reveal who owns what. No financial investigations are taking place. How would you justify this?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: That’s something which we are looking into, on an expert level. We advised special training for prosecutors and judges also, as we see that it is an important exchange of information. Sometimes we discover that those databases of information which those individual organizations have are not being exchanged.

Question: Mr. Szunyog, just to add that we have found in our court monitoring, EU-funded, that people that have been trained in financial investigation with expertise have been transferred to war crimes, deliberately not to investigate [financial crimes]. [They] have been stopped halfway. Why are you continuing to fund this dysfunctional system? I know it goes against Kosovo’s interests what I am asking you, but, how do you oversee that the people you trained don’t get sidelined?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Again, we are looking into it at the expert level. I am by nature optimist, I hope that the system can improve. There is an additional layer to this question. Government is keen to institute non-criminal confiscation and civilian confiscation of property. On this I would say that this is a system which is not usual in the majority of Member States. There are some that use this model, but not everybody. There is no good acquis. On criminal confiscation everybody does and there is a general join…

Question: The problem is that our prosecutors just don’t have the courage to do it. It seems like what do you do? Put yourselves in the shoes of the new government, where the majority of this corruption should be chased by the rule of law institutions, government and politics should not interfere. When judges resist doing the job as it should be done?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Let me finish on civilian confiscation. We are talking about that. We have seen some concepts already approved by the government. We are waiting on specific legislation, draft legislation on that, so we will see how it goes. For us there are two important issues to mention. 

One, it still needs to be done by the justice system, prosecutors, judges. Second, the burden of proof should be on the justice system not on someone who is accused, as that would be very unusual. For example if someone comes to my house and asks for a receipt of my car and I cannot find it… for it to be confiscated, that is not the usual European way of doing things. But you also touched on another very important topic, the integrity of the judges and prosecutors. Again, I am repeating myself, but there is already a good system to check the integrity of judges – you can check their performance. There are already ways you can access those judges and prosecutors. 

Question: That’s exactly what I wanted to ask you. You mentioned performance… Throughout the years there’s been performance evaluation systems, none of these judges and prosecutors came out badly. They don’t put criminals in jail, or they don’t confiscate any property, yet they don’t get punished (or badly evaluated). You have said in your progress report that “disciplinary and accountable mechanism systems of judges and prosecutors are dysfunctional.” This is a very real report! Because of precisely this, the government has suggested to start a Vetting System. What is the EU’s position on vetting judges and prosecutors? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: We basically, believe as I said, that system of checking integrity and performance of prosecutors and judges must start working. We also believe that the system is there and it is not used properly. What we would suggest, as in the case of confiscation issues, is to use the system that is there. We don’t really believe that a new system of vetting different to what is there, would be easy to put into place and to start working. Secondly, we really don’t see this as an easy thing to do, or a quick thing to do. 

Question: Are you saying this is not an easy thing to do because we need two thirds of the votes including minority votes, in order for vetting to be efficient?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: My understanding is that there is an option paper produced by the Ministry of Justice which suggests that the easiest way to do it is through a constitutional amendment. Obviously, the constitutional amendment requires a certain constitutional majority. It is up to the government, to the political parties in the parliament including some of the opposition parties to agree on that. This is something which is a political issue, it was a very important part of the election campaign. Vetevendosje got the trust of the people to implement this program and we are ready to assist in the implementation of some of those key points. We also would like to say we have some expertise regionally, and we have quite strong advisory capacity not only on how to do it, but we can also fund some projects, some technical assistance, even some experts as a part of twinning programs. So we can advise, and we would like to continue this dialogue with the government on how to improve the performance of the judges and prosecutors and of the whole system in the best way for Kosovo. 

Question: As you said, you would give assistance, but your biggest assistance and donations have come in two fields that I would like to discuss now, which is the environment, you have been funding big projects on environment, and health. Can I just please in the beginning talk about the environment because this interview is coinciding with the Green Energy Days campaign that is ongoing at the moment. Initially, the elephant in the room is the fact that this government has not excluded building new coal capacities for Kosovo. What is the position of the EU on this?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: The position of the EU is very clear on that. There is no way the EU would support new coal based energy sources, as clear as that. We also understand that there is a general agreement that no European bank would fund anything like that, as part of the Paris agreement. We are now preparing for this Glasgow meeting in the fall, and this is the general agreement of the developed world. There is no future for coal in the long-term perspective. What we are talking about with the government is how to transit from the coal-based energy system to a new one. We understand the reality in Kosovo is 97% of electricity generated by coal power plants, which has effects on the environment but also on the health of the population. That’s important to underline. 

We are not saying that this must be done overnight, but we want to talk to the government, ensure that it will come up as soon as possible with a clear new energy strategy which would be based on the decarbonisation of Kosovo’s economic requirements for carbon neutrality within a reasonable period of time, promote alternative sources of energy, including market regularization of energy and also a clear system of subsidies of alternative sources of energy. But also I think we need to look not only at this macro level of strategic decisions. There needs to be some kind of push for more energy efficiency and savings, that’s important, but also more educational campaigns for individuals, as it is also individual responsibility.

Question: Is the EU doing anything to help Kosovo become greener and pushing this education?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I think we are doing a lot but we still believe we can do more, but we still expect some level of ownership on the Kosovo side, we are also…

Question: Do you see a green policy in Kosovo? Do you think this government has that? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Not yet, but I have met with number of ministers, I have met with the prime minister, president, everybody else, so we see this readiness to engage. We are not saying it must be done overnight, it must be a good strategy.

Question: But now, on a personal level, how long did it take you to adapt to the air of Kosovo, to the garbage in Kosovo? Can you be direct and not politically correct?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Well I spent 5 years in Sarajevo, so I am adapted already and we all have this competition with my good friend in Sarajevo, Johan, during the winter time whether the figures are higher here or in Sarajevo. No, but I do really see that this is also something for the citizens to decide because there needs to be a new approach on how people treat the waste and how they treat nature.

By the way I would also like to say on these big issues, we are offering alternatives to Kosovo. We are implementing this big project on filters at the Kosovo B power plant, but we are also offering, and this is part of the European investment plan. Alternatives, meaning, we are ready to fund the gas pipeline coming from the south of Skopje to Pristina and to use gas not as an alternative forever, but as a transitional alternative. My understanding is that some of those technologies can be transformed from coal to gas. And certainly gas is again not a carbon neutral fuel, but it is better than lignite which is here. 

Secondly, we are also looking into other options for the next generation of fuel, for example hydrogen, which is part of European investment plan. This is one of the flagship projects. I must say that so far we had no specific discussion on how to proceed exactly. Today we have a seminar together with the Ministry of Economic development on how to shape this new energy strategy, but we are not only talking about it but offering assistance which is quite significant. 

Question: I was quite amazed to read from the data we collected, how much money you gave for health issues in COVID recovery. It is over 165 million euros. For people watching Mr. Szunyog, this is an impressive number but people watching would be just amazed that in the last year we had health centres without soap and water, we had Kosovo Public School toilets without soap and water, we had the majority of the Kosovo budget being approved for asphalt while you gave this government over 100 million euros to spend on COVID recovery and COVID issues. How do you just morally justify even to your own taxpayer? Giving money to a government which ends up spending more on asphalt than the health of its own people? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I would say that, of course, already last year when I was not here, we focused on how to assist the region, and Kosovo in particular, so we generated such a substantial amount of money. Part of that was directly channeled to the health sector, it helped quite significantly in the first phases of the COVID-19 crisis. I must admit that the majority of those funds are not focused only on the healthcare sector but also on general economic recovery after or during COVID. That’s also part of the discussion we had on a Green Deal, we don’t want Kosovo to return to an economic system of pre-COVID, we want to use this opportunity to reshape Kosovo’s economy to be more green, more digital, more connected. 

Question: But it has not happened. The latest investments from this government are promoted in the army. Investment in health and education are not growing. Why are you not conditioning your funds to go into green, into education, and into health… Why are you not conditioning it?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I wouldn’t say conditioning, but our messages are quite clear. We want Kosovo to be a future member of the European Union, we want Kosovo to align with European Union priorities. EU priorities of this Commission are very clear: Green Deal, Digital, high-tech.

Question: But you gave 100 million euro in loans without any conditions, why leave it to the message and to goodwill? Why not condition your money? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: this was a general kind of decision to support macro financial stability.

Question: So they can give money to us to build another highway? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Related to economic recovery- it was basically a concern, that the economic depression caused by COVID can cause serious social and financial problems for citizens, so that’s the reason behind giving macro financial assistance to stabilize Kosovo’s budget but for the future I would like to say one thing: We are now in the new phase. 

Since January this year we have IPA III (Instrument for Pre-Accession) which is the major financial instrument we are using for the whole region. This IPA III is a new system because IPA II and IPA I were based on financial envelopes for countries in the region. IPA III is different, it is based on the sectoral priorities and it is a competition among 6 countries. Basically, we are now engaging with experts, but also on political level on preparing IPA 21 and beyond, it is 7 years starting this January and it depends on the Kosovo Government if they prepare good projects in line with our priorities, again, Green Deal, digital, connectivity, and if they are good in a sense of also technical preparation then they can compete with other countries in the region.

Question: A simple standard which I think is also an EU standard because we cannot aspire to be in the EU if we’ve got public toilets of schools and health centers the way we have them. I’m sorry to be banal but can I ask you to make an IPA III a condition that no health center or public school toilet should be without soap and water. Is that too banal to ask?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Well, it is not too banal and I agree with you that this is something that is important. Again, our assistance works based on what the Kosovo Government asks us to do. Of course, it is a dialogue, we need Kosovo Government leadership and ownership. If we are approached by the Kosovo Government saying for us the most important sector is healthcare, we would be very happy to assist. If the Kosovo Government says the most important sector is education, we would be agreeing 100% given the youth of Kosovo population.

Question: Has the government of Kosovo come to you with these priorities until now?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Not yet. 

Question: So this government hasn’t come to you with what it wants to focus on in terms of priorities?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Not yet. But we are expecting them to be ready as soon as possible, because our deadline to start working is early next year. 

Question: To start working on IPA III? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Yes. We need to have clarity on what exactly we are doing and an agreement with the government. We are also assuming again that the Kosovo government would look very closely into the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) and the level of implementation of that. We have also implemented a tool for SAA which is called the European Reform Agenda. We are not expecting the government to deliver the action plan updated on how to implement, and better implement the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA). And if you look at what is in the SAA, what are the priorities of the EU, it is not really difficult to come up with those priority areas and priority sectors and obviously rule of law is a priority, Green Deal is a priority, digital, education, social and health care services are priority.

Question: Did you ever find out why Kosovo, in your conversation about health and priorities of this Government, why Kosovo ended up being the last country in the region to get COVID vaccines? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: It was a combination of different factors, one of which is that Kosovo for political reasons refused to engage with non-European vaccines or non-European or American vaccines, so that was part of that. Also part of the problem was simply that there was a lack of production capacity for vaccines, it was a problem for the EU, and it was a problem for other countries in the world, so it was a combination of different factors. I wouldn’t say that the government is to blame primarily. I would say we do miss, apart from this leadership and ownership of approach of the Kosovo government, we very often also do not have sufficient coordination of donor activities, in a sense that there will be someone from the ministry of health coming to us to…

Question: Are you saying now that even the Prime Minister’s office does not have a donor coordinator?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi, one of his many roles is donor coordination, and he has done quite an excellent job particularly on the vaccines and other things. But it is a new position, only 100 days, it was not there before, well there was a certain co-donor coordinator, on the expert level, but not on this politically in a sense that Minister of Health would invite us, the UN, USA, Germany, and other countries and say: ‘we want this, this and that.’ It was not working before, and not only the healthcare system but in other things, we have seen sometimes actually Kosovo government asking different donors for the same project.

Question: Asking different donors for the same project? You have seen that? Have you seen this from this government? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Not yet, but again there is a mentality of trying two, three different options for the same thing, might be still there.

Question: For the end of the interview, I want to ask you about a feature of our political class which is advancing its own militants into positions of public service & servants. Last week we reported an advancement of a militant of Vetevendosje into a post at Kosovo post. I want to ask you how much meritocracy is important for the EU and what will you say if this government will support its militants rather than meritocratic people to get in power?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Public administration reform is one of the most important parts of our assistance and in our cooperation with the Government. I must also say that I have been institutionally, but also personally frustrated, with how this reform is not being implemented. It’s a typical Kosovo story that there is new legislation which is more or less okay in line with the EU standards. We are still missing some of those lower level kind of regulations and decisions but it is there and it is quite good. At the same time we understand the reform cannot be completed because the constitutional court voided this proposed law on the salaries of civil servants and that needs to be somehow solved in a sense of proposing new legislation and passing this legislation compatible with Kosovo constitution also in the parliament. 

At the same time, we have seen particularly after this merger of public administration with the ministry of interior that things were not working properly in the last year. Because of this lack of focus and attention, Kosovo lost millions in EU assistance already, simply because Kosovo is not able to deliver on the benchmarks we ask them to deliver.

Question: What particularly were those millions about?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Public Administration Reform. We basically committed ourselves to deliver. I think 20 million EUR ….

Question: So which government lost this money? Hoti or Kurti? 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: It was already the previous one, the last year. 

Question: So which government lost this money? Hoti or Kurti? Because we had two governments last year. 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: It was the whole year, it was not implemented. By the way we have by December new benchmarks, and if those are not met …

Question: We risk losing 20 million again?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Not 20, again it was partial, it was 10, 5, 8 or something but there is a risk by December if certain issues are not delivered.

Question: So what are certain issues Kosovo has to deliver again? Public administration reform?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: New legislation on the salaries of the public servants; new regulations and those decisions which are implementing the legislation which is necessary. There is now a new department within the ministry of internal affairs, which is specifically charged with recruitment of new civil servants. This department has unfortunately not been working very well, so we have not seen a proper recruitment of new civil servants in the last months let’s say. And there are a number of other things so we have the list of benchmarks – if they are not met and delivered by December, sorry we would send the money back to Brussels. 

We are encouraged. I’ve met with the minister of interior, who specifically talked to me about the public administration part of this work. I am encouraged that there is a new deputy minister specifically charged with the public administration reforms, and he apparently is someone with some expertise on public administration, so we are hoping for things to change. For me, and I understand some of those things which are also probably rooted deeply in across our society. It has been one of the areas which has been quite frustrating for everybody working in the EU office. 

Question: Thank you for bringing that to our attention, we will be watching that reform. Finally, we have local elections coming up in October. There has been a dismissal of the head of the Central Election Commission. The EU has not commented on it, but I want to know whether you can expect any militantism or just irregularities during the next elections and how the EU will be monitoring these elections?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I need to say that I commented actually on that, I said that it was important that all those changes made in line with Kosovo constitution.

Question: And the case is that the Opposition has sent it to the Kosovo Constitution, have we seen the decision?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I am not sure that they succeeded in sending it there, but we will think on that, because I don’t think they have sufficient number of votes yet, but we will see on that. What is important for us is that we have, as the EU, observed elections since the very beginning. We have sent a number of recommendations from those observations suggesting that the current framework for elections is not good enough. Unfortunately, since 2013 none of those recommendations were actually implemented in the change of legislation. We believe that there are a number of things which are related to the fact that there is no change of legislation, a lot of things related to elections are not regulated by law, but by decision of the CC, which is also not good. 

What we would like to see is a comprehensive reform of election legislation as soon as possible, which implies that it probably will not be done this year. We also would like to see that this is done in the Parliament by more than a Government coalition, so engagement of the opposition, ideally creating a committee in Parliament for election reforms. My understanding is that there are some precedents from the past. To see probably next year, and I hope that there would be no elections next year, some comprehensive proposals that can be voted on, again, not just 61 but more than that. On the observation, just one last point, we have received and we are thankful for an invitation from the President to monitor elections of course a lot of things would depend on the COVID situation but provided that the COVID situation is as it is, and provided that vaccination in the Member States but also hearing Kosovo progresses sufficiently we would like to ask everybody to get vaccines. It is not just because of the health of individuals but it is the health of the whole society. 

Question: Not to talk only about the technicalities of the election, it is interesting because you are an EU representative, I’m going to ask a blunt question. How much are Kosovo cities, EU cities? What do we need to see from the next candidates in October, candidates who want to become Mayor? What sort of programs would you think we Kosovo should deserve to see from these candidates for our cities and towns to become more European?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I would just finish advancing, so we got invitation we are planning to have a full-fledged observation mission through whole of Kosovo.

Question: Meaning, how many people are fully-fledged?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: Hundreds. 

Question: So you’ll be watching this government?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: We’ll be watching not the government but the elections. For us it is also important that it is done, we are not interested in results, we are interested in seeing the process is done correctly. Kosovo cities, of course, since there are COVID restrictions and I have been here for only 10 months, I haven’t visited all Municipalities yet. I’m planning to go on Thursday to Leposavic, so we will see. But my general impression is that when I am talking to mayors, regardless if it’s big mayors or small municipalities mayors, they seem to me quite engaged on the EU agenda. They actually…

Question: When you go outside and walk do you see sidewalks that you cannot walk with a child, to carry on, or a pushchair?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: On that I am quite impressed ….

Question: Do you see how little green spaces there are? I know you are impressed with Mayors but citizens are not impressed with the quality of public spaces, public services, garbage out there, cleaning… How do you square this with your satisfaction?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I can see on this municipal level sometimes much more concrete proposals for different projects than on the Government level. I always tell them you need to go and apply for these projects through the national coordinator for IPA funds which is the office of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration. But they are interested, they ask for exactly what we want to produce: alternative heating for example, in Prishtina with this Termokos but we also have quite a significant investment in Gjakova and other places. They want to deliver the water, but also a water purification system, for wastewater. They all want the waste management system. We are now in the process of finalizing a big waste management project for the four municipalities in the north with the big landfill, waste trucks, containers, everything. 

They are all very clear and they are all asking me exactly for the things we would like to do: environment protection, social services, education services, so a lot of those regional representatives are well informed about our priorities and are sincerely trying. Of course, not everything is ideal, that’s probably impossible, but it is not just that I go somewhere and no one is asking for anything. It is just the opposite. 

Question: I appreciate your optimism Mr. Szunyog. I hear you are learning Albanian, would it be optimistic to say that we will have a final interview before you leave in three years in Albanian, or is it too optimistic?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: If you tolerate some mistakes, probably we can agree on that. 

Question: I presume as you are Czech you understand Serbian, this is why I am not asking you about Serbian. 

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I have to say since 5 years in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina I speak Bosnian.

Question: So how difficult is Albanian for you right now to learn and how often are you learning it? Are you serious about it or not?

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: I have two weekly lessons, and I am quite serious 

Question: That’s more than your predecessors.

Ambassador Tomáš Szunyog: It has been a challenge also because it is a completely different language in a sense that it is unique and not a part of some group of languages. When I look at some media, written media, I can understand basic things. For speaking it is much more difficult because my impression is that you speak too fast, to be able to distinguish exactly what you are talking about.

Interviewer:  In Albanian: good luck with learning Albanian and best wishes in your endeavors Mr. Szunyog. I hope to host you soon.

04/08/2021 - 10:47

04 August 2021 - 10:47

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.