Members of the Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to participate in this first meeting of Council for European Integration. I welcome the fact that your Council includes a broad range of views from politics and civil society. I believe that such an inclusive approach is essential for Kosovo to accelerate its progress towards the European Union. As you know, the General Affairs Council held on 28th February confirmed the Commission's intention to launch a feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo. This is the path followed by all of your neighbours and marks the beginning of a new stage in the European Union's relationship with Kosovo.
I am pleased to be here today to officially launch the feasibility study. It is important to understand that the feasibility study will look at Kosovo from a different perspective than the annual Progress Report, which takes stock of developments over the past 12 months. The feasibility study will make an inventory of where Kosovo stands overall in terms of political, economic and legal approximation, and will assess what Kosovo will need to do further to be in a position to negotiate and implement a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, for which trade will be a key component. We will also look into the legal aspects of an agreement with Kosovo. Let me mention some of the issues in the feasibility study that I think are particularly important:
First, on trade, it is essential that Kosovo continues to follow up on the Commission's recommendations of May 2011. This will be at the core of the feasibility study. We will send a further mission in June this year - it is important that you prepare the ground thoroughly to ensure a positive outcome from this mission and we are ready to support you with your work on this. Second, progress on public administration reform is key. The study will assess Kosovo's capacity to negotiate a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. This is a major challenge for your young public administration and you can count on the European Commission's support as you face this challenge.
Third, the aim of this Council is to foster a broad consensus across the political spectrum and with civil society on Kosovo's European agenda. In this spirit, I would urge you to come rapidly to a common view on electoral reform so that Kosovo meets international standards.
Fourth, on the rule of law, I want to launch a structured dialogue with Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci and Minister of Internal Affairs Bajram Rexhepi in Brussels at the end of May. I look forward to seeing significant progress in Kosovo on this crucial issue by then.
Fifth, minorities need to be further integrated. I would urge you to reach out to Serb communities across Kosovo, implement your own commitments and address the challenge of property rights.
Now it is for Kosovo to deliver. You need to help us to help you. The recommendations of the study will depend on what you can deliver in the coming months.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The launch of the feasibility study is an important step and part of our ambitious agenda for EU/Kosovo relations. This year, we aim to make decisive progress on visas, on trade and on the participation of Kosovo in European Union Programmes.
I am very pleased that Commissioner Malmström launched the visa dialogue in January. The discussion on the roadmap with Member States is ongoing. I confirm what Commissioner Malmström has already said - we expect the roadmap to be presented to Kosovo by the end of spring.
It is important to have realistic expectations. Significant reforms need to be introduced and implemented, on document security, on border and migration management, on fundamental rights, and on the fight against organised crime and corruption.
On European Union Programmes, we intend to adjust our proposal and we will resume our discussions in Council. I am optimistic that with the help of the new formula agreed in the dialogue with Belgrade, we can make decisive progress during the next few months.
As concerns the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, preparation and timing are key. I am optimistic that there can be a positive outcome this year. We will support your efforts in preparing and implementing a long term and inclusive agenda for the north. Steps need to be taken to increase trust and promote mutual confidence. It is essential that all political forces in Kosovo support this effort in an inclusive manner. It is time for communication and integration, not for confrontation. Our meeting today marks the start of a phase of intensive cooperation and hard work. That is why I welcome the establishment of your Council. It presents a great opportunity to build a broad consensus on all sides of the political spectrum in Kosovo. As the experience of the new Member Sates has shown, consensus is the fastest road to the European Union.
Thank you very much.