Just over three months after taking up office, Hashim Thaçi, Kosovar Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, paid his first official visit to the Federal Foreign Office on Monday (2 March).
“We have been through tough times,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier said in reference to the struggle for statehood and the recognition of Kosovo as a state. He said that he believed Germany had been a “reliable partner” to the country in the past years.
The talks at the Federal Foreign Office focused on current issues in bilateral relations between Germany and Kosovo, as well as on Kosovo’s further development in the regional context. Steinmeier and Thaçi also discussed regional and international affairs.
Thaçi thanked Germany for its “continuous support” and underlined his government’s ongoing commitment to undertaking political and economic reforms. With regard to the “much‑debated issue” of what has recently been a large wave of emigration from Kosovo, both ministers agreed that this was detrimental to the country.
Federal Foreign Office to provide a further million euros for projects in Kosovo
Describing the large numbers of people leaving Kosovo as a “haemorrhage”, Foreign Minister Steinmeier underlined how important it was to make further efforts to offer people better prospects in their home country. He announced that the Federal Foreign Office would shortly provide a further million euros for projects in Kosovo. From March on, this funding can be used in projects to reintegrate returnees and to help people to set up their own business.
Steinmeier said the Kosovar Government was making great efforts to inform the population and reiterated that it was irresponsible to create false hopes among people.
Those who have not been politically persecuted will not be granted permanent residence in Germany or in any other European state when they apply for asylum, but will be sent back to Kosovo instead.
Closer association between the region and the EU
The two foreign ministers also discussed the process of normalising relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Underlining that the political dialogue was of benefit to both sides, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said this path must be “pursued with the necessary patience and the willingness to be realistic and to compromise”. Foreign Minister Thaçi underlined that Germany was an important partner on Kosovo’s path to EU accession. He also described the process of normalising relations between Serbia and Kosovo as “very important” for the “shared future of the region” in the EU.
Looking at Bosnia and Herzegovina, Foreign Minister Steinmeier touched upon the country’s closer association with the EU. He said that Germany and Great Britain had recently launched a joint initiative aimed at reviving the stalled process of EU association “because it would be good and helpful overall for the stabilisation of the Western Balkans if we resolve problems arising from political processes as much as possible”.