"A conclusion of the dialogue with Serbia is of core national interest to Kosovo"

Statement of ambassador Per Strand Sjaastad at a RIDEA conference on the dialogue.

The normalization dialogue, facilitated by the European Union, has been a key feature in Kosovo – Serbia relations.

A conclusion of the dialogue is of core national interest to Kosovo. It will shape the future of your country. It will provide new opportunities – so-called “peace dividends” – and open doors that today are closed for Kosovo.

Many have seen this year – 2019 – as a window of opportunity to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

The RIDEA research institute has made a survey about the views of ordinary citizens. The purpose of the survey is to give decision-makers a point of reference when conducting the dialogue, when mapping out options and when making priorities. The survey is part of a more comprehensive RIDEA project supported by the Norwegian Embassy.       

From the survey, it is interesting to note that the vast majority of Kosovo citizens supports the dialogue. The main message is that people want change – to continue status quo in relations with Serbia, is not an option. 

For the moment, unilateral actions are making it difficult to make further progress in the dialogue. I hope that all parties will give the dialogue a fair chance to succeed.

Kosovo needs more consensus and engagement across party lines. Political parties agree on the need for mutual recognition. There is, however, no consensus on the time line or on possible concessions and solutions.

It is not for me to say what Kosovo should choose – that is something you have to decide yourself. However, one must  be aware that all options have a price: Reaching an agreement with Serbia means that Kosovo has to make a difficult compromise - not reaching an agreement means that important opportunities to integrate Kosovo in the international community and economy, will be lost.  

Solving the conflict with Serbia, would also make more room for other pressing issues on the political agenda in Kosovo, such as education, health and employment.

Regardless of what the position is, the Government must ensure an inclusive dialogue process and build trust. Not only key policy makers should be included, but also other stakeholders and civil society. Everyone should engage in a constructive way, in the parliament and other arenas of relevance. Fragmentation will only make Kosovo weak – more consensus will make Kosovo stronger.

I trust that the RIDEA project and this survey will be useful for the on-going debates and discussions on the dialogue in Kosovo.