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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Agron Bajrami of Koha Ditore

Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Pristina, Kosovo
July 13, 2014


Date: 07/13/2014 Description: Assistant Secretary Nuland participates in an interview with Agron Bajrami of Koha Ditore. - State Dept Image

Question: I hope you had good meetings.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: We had a really good day. We had a really good day. We had a chance to see folks from across the political spectrum, to see the president. You know, this is a really – I don’t have to tell you – it is a really, really important democratic moment for Kosovo. And you know, I’ve been coming here for 15 years and I hope the people of this country are proud of the moment that you’ve come to. Because it’s really quite spectacular, I mean, free and fair elections and now this chance constitutionally to form a new government, but it’s also very challenging.

Question: That’s my first question about this post-election situation where we somehow fear that it might grow out into a crisis of some sort and with the two rivaling blocs claiming the right to govern and some even pushing for maybe new elections. So, after you met with leaders and the president and everybody, what’s your view on the available options at this moment for us?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I have to say that I found everybody across the political spectrum to be very calm, very committed, as statesmen and as leaders to using this moment wisely. I found all of them understanding their responsibilities to bring forward a transparent, constitutional, democratic result here that the majority of people in this country will support; that they will feel takes the country forward. We made clear that we want to see a result where the dialogue can continue because the normalization between Kosovo and Serbia is essential. We also made clear that we want leaders to take enough time to get it right and to make sure that it’s stable; but we also don’t want it to take so much time that the voters don’t get what they really need, which is for a new government to come forward, to bring jobs, to bring growth, to bring opportunity, which both communities need.

Question: [inaudible] see any sort of new election happening as a positive way out?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: We want a constitutional, transparent result. We want a legal result. We are not going to plan this for the people of Kosovo or the leaders of Kosovo. If it’s constitutional, if it’s legal, if it’s transparent, if it’s broadly accepted, that’s what’s best for your country.

Question: In your tour you started with a speech in Croatia…

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I did, I did…

Question: … that we followed closely. One of the things that you said there is that the energy and economic security, as well as fighting the corruption are essential for the future of the region. What does this mean specifically for Kosovo?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: What it means for Kosovo after we have a new government is that there is enormous potential here. Not only for the energy sector to be an engine of growth and opportunity for Kosovo and for both communities here, but also for Kosovo to be an engine of energy diversification and opportunity for the region and for Europe as a whole. As you know, this trip has taken us to Croatia, to Montenegro, to Albania, here, we’re going up to Belgrade and then on to Macedonia. In so many of these countries there are energy opportunities. Here you have your lignite and your coal; in Albania there is offshore, there is the TAP pipeline. The heart of Europe needs more energy, it needs cheaper energy, it needs more diversification and the entire Balkan region can contribute to that. And there will be jobs and growth in the process if we do it cleanly and if we do it well.

Question: Hopefully without corruption.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Question: You mentioned that you are going to visit Macedonia as well. It has become a topic of the news in the last couple of days. We are quite worried about the situation there. How do you see the developments, how can we prevent some sort of outlets of violence there?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I look forward to talking to the government, to talking to both communities, to talking to opposition in Macedonia tomorrow. I don’t want to make any conclusions until I have a chance to talk to everybody. But obviously, we also - as we do here – we have a profound investment – the United States does -- over 20 years in a multiethnic and secure, stable Macedonia as well, and it’s clearly a moment of some enhanced tensions and we want to listen and we want to help.

Question: I just wanted to go to my last question which is about the religious extremism of which we have become vulnerable as well in the recent years; it’s part of a global trend, I think. What do you think can we do as Kosovo to deal with this sort of threat which sometimes becomes too painful because people from here also have been noted to be part of this extremism?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: We did talk today with everybody we’ve met with – from the president to the prime minister, to the opposition – about the importance of our continued cooperation against the challenge of foreign fighters, folks becoming radicalized, going off to join extremist causes. That’s a risk here, it’s a global risk, and it’s something that Kosovo is not unique in facing as a challenge. So we work with Kosovo bilaterally, we are also working regionally. We are working across Europe because extremists are looking to exploit the situation. But that also takes you back to the importance of economic opportunity for young people to see a positive, clean future at home so that they are not susceptible to the siren song of extremism. And the leadership that everybody has to bring to that problem.

Question: And you are positive we are moving to the right direction?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: We’ve had very good cooperation. I felt in all of my meetings across the political spectrum that folks are attentive to this problem and we are working well with everyone.

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