Two million Kosovars are unfairly isolated by the EU. Though the spite against Brussels bureaucrats is legitimate, Kosovo citizens must act to punish their political class.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama threatened that a new state where all Albanians live might be created in the Balkans – and what happens? Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, meets Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic.
Dacic, who sang a song for Edi Rama’s birthday at a summit in Paris, used Thaci’s and Rama’s statements to alarm Brussels over the the threat of the so-called Greater Albania. Hahn, who completely failed as a mediator in Macedonia, while tolerating the autocratic regime of Nikola Gruevski, appears to have taken Dacic’s petty concern about “Greater Albania” seriously, and reprimanded both the President of Kosovo and the Prime Minister of Albania.
Thaci reacted with anger, emphasizing that the EU apparently lacks leadership. Even if this was an undeniable truth, Kosovo’s dire situation is primarily a consequence of poor local leadership. And Thaci personifies the poorness of this leadership like no other politician. He has been officially in power since 2007. Since then, he has been promising to fight corruption, but it has only gotten worse. Since then, he promised that under the leadership of the so-called Democratic Party of Kosovo, Kosovo would be able to travel visa-free in the Schengen Zone “within 15 months,” but the isolation has only deepened. Since then, he promised to decrease unemployment (to create 200,000 jobs!) and attract investors, but the sad truth is that 100,000 Kosovo citizens left the country under his regime. He promised that the talks with Serbia in Brussels will have a positive effect for the citizens of Kosovo. If the positive effect is that you can travel through Serbia using the Kosovo ID card (without daring to show the passport) after removing your license plates at the border, then the people of Kosovo must be happy. But, happiness cannot be decreed, not even by the president. The citizens either feel it or they do not.
What Kosovo citizens experience is an insulting isolation from the EU. This is a collective punishment, and consequently an inexcusable mistake made by Brussels bureaucrats. The spite against the EU is legitimate, but it would be more beneficial for the Kosovo citizens to punish their political class. The Kosovo government delegation in Brussels, distinguished for its scandalous aptitude, made the border demarcation with Montenegro a condition for visa liberalisation. But, no one has guaranteed that liberalization will happen automatically after the demarcation deal is passed. The EU is informed about the situation within the Kosovo Police: the Democratic Party placed people who have been tenants to its secret service for fighting political rivals and medieval plots in key positions. The spectacular theft from the evidence room has not been forgotten. The theft of a substantial amount of gold at the police station in Peja is another scandal that occurred. Corruption affairs with biometric passports have been widely documented. There were many other misdemeanors. The massive exodus of Kosovo citizens has also not been forgotten.
If the security apparatus has been damaged by these numerous affairs, it is easy for the EU to say this draconian sentence: “The conditions for visa liberalization have not been fulfilled.” In the worst case scenario, EU bureaucrats can poke fun at political leaders like Thaci and Rama who threaten with different demarcations in the Balkans and new state projects. You cannot blackmail the EU by calling for new borders – this was Brussels’ message. Translated in clear language, this means: no one takes you seriously. And one should not immediately jump to blame Brussels for the fact that the political leaders of Tirana and Prishtina are not taken seriously by the EU.
While this political hubbub continues, Kosovo citizens live in a huge cell spanning 11 thousand square kilometers. Sun rays pass through the barred doors but they do not offer warmth. Beyond the bars lies a Europe without borders and barriers, with a border policeman here and there who rather stands fixed at where border crossings and checkpoints used to be. While in Schengen’s Europe a new generation of people who do not think in terms of borders is growing, generations of people in Kosovo who do not know free travel grow and perish; they only know long queues in front of embassies, family talks that center around visa “appointments” at the German, Greek or Austrian embassies, and family celebrations for granted visas. This is the beautiful cell within which the EU has shut the citizens of Kosovo.
Addressing Vaclav Havel more than 25 years ago, Swiss writer Friedrich Durrenmatt said: “You might ask what kind of republic I dream of. My answer is: an independent, free, democratic, economically prosperous republic which at the same time is fair socially, simply, a humane republic which serves humans and hopes that the human will give back. (…) What an individual not only can, but should ask for is exactly what you asked for, Vaclav Havel: human rights, daily bread for everyone, equality before the law, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly, transparency, the abolition of torture, etc., these are not a utopia, they are self-explanatory, human attributes, and signs of dignity …”
This dignity of the Kosovars is being violated by the EU. Whether or not local politicians are guilty – things have been clear for a long time now, just as clear of people’s fatal apathy.