European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said during his visit to Belgrade and Pristina that he put forward ideas on how to resolve the issue of free trade in the region, without providing any specifics.
Speaking at a press conference, Hahn said all EU-aspiring countries should first resolve their problems, describing the meetings with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and Kosovo President and Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci and Rammush Haradinaj, as open and constructive.
“First and foremost I wanted to reassure you that we are working hard on the European perspective of all the six Western Balkan countries. But one of the key criteria to join the Union is to resolve all bilateral issues with neighbours” Hahn said.
The European Commissioner said that the EU has allocated EUR100 million a year since 2007 for Kosovo and that it remains committed to removing all barriers to regional trade.
“Kosovo has done a lot to contribute to the removal of free trade barriers and is hosting this week’s annual CEFTA conference. We were all surprised and disappointed when it announced the 10 and soon after 100 per cent increase in taxes,” he said.
He said everyone in the EU is aware of the current difficulties in the area of trade in Kosovo.
“It is in the interest of both side to resolve these issues and I have proposed they should focus on dealing with trade issues as it means more business opportunities and jobs,” Hahn noted.
The Commissioner said efforts should be made to address those issues as soon as possible in order to contribute to the dialogue and Kosovo’s future.
“It depends on both sides and their engagement and I hope this will be done timely, without unnecessary delays,” Hahn said.
Commenting on visa liberalisation regime for Kosovo citizens, Hahn said that Kosovo did its part of the job and that the ball is now in the EU’s court.
“It is up to the European Council and it takes the most time, but I believe it will happen in 2020, but do not let numbers take you hostage,” Hahn noted
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.