The Swedish ambassador, Jonas Westerlund, has expressed his disappointment regarding the situation in the north. In an interview for KosovaPress, Westerlund said that the situation created in that part of the country is unnecessary. He stated that there is a need for a much closer dialogue between the government and the Serbian community in the north. Also, he comments on Kosovo’s application to the European Union, as ambassador of a country that will take over the Presidency of the EU in a few weeks.
Westerlund feels at home in the Balkans. He was part of the OSCE mission in 1999 in Kosovo, while he worked for the UN for two years in 1996-1998 in Croatia as well.
Despite mentioning the big changes in Kosovo that have taken place since 1999, he does not hide his disappointment that one thing has remained the same, and that is the situation in the north of the country.
“I’m disappointed in the sense that I remember walking across the bridge in Mitrovica in 1999, and I remember walking from the south side to the north side, and immediately there were some Kosovo Serbs who came to me to check who I was, and check my passport. I cannot imagine that 23 years later I would have the same feeling when you cross the bridge again. So I’m disappointed that the Balkans has not been able to progress further. “, he said for KosovaPress.
The North is again at the epicenter of developments. The barricades have been set up for the ninth day now and Ambassador Westerlund does not hide his concern with what is currently happening in that part of the country.
“It’s a quite troublesome situation at the moment. We urge all parties to deescalate the situation, of course. This is mainly being done through the EU envoy, Lajcak, who just visited Kosovo together with the US envoy, Escobar, but Sweden of course supports their efforts, and there is a very dangerous situation, one small dispute can have serious consequences, so we urge both parties, Prishtina and the local community to deescalate the situation.” he continues.
Westerlund, in the interview for KosovaPress, declares that the situation in the north is unnecessary, as the focus should be Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the energy crisis in Europe.
He emphasizes the need for a closer dialogue between the Government of Kosovo and the Serbian community in the north of the country, despite saying that he gives the right to the executive in efforts for the rule of law throughout the territory.
“I think is very unnecessary, I think is disappointing that we have come to this stage, and there is the need here for a very much closer dialogue between the community and the government. Whom did the government consult with when they decided to have this framework on license plates, who did Serbian List consult with when they decided to leave the consultations and their cooperation with the Kosovo institutions? So there needs to be a much stronger dialogue here. Of course, this northern Kosovo is part of Kosovo. The Kosovo Government has every right to send reinforcements and the rule of law should be obeyed in these areas, but still, when you make a decision in a certain region is always good to have a dialogue with the local communities.” he said.
This week Kosovo applied for membership in the European Union. The next presidency in the EU starting from January 1 for the first six months of 2023 will be held by Sweden, and Ambassador Westerlund promises that the application will be handled professionally.
“Sweden fully supports Kosovo’s aspirations to become an EU member. We welcome their application… As you know Sweden will take over the EU presidency by first of January, after the Czech Republic… Sweden will then deal with this (the application) during its presidency in the coming six months, and we will do that in a professional manner, but of course in dialogue with all the other EU members, in particular with the five member states who have not recognized Kosovo. “, declared Westerlund.
Asked if the five non-recognizing EU states will complicate the path to membership, Westerlund affirms such a thing, but adds that the current situation in the north will also bring difficulties.
“I think it (the situation with the five non-recognizing countries) certainly complicates matters. I also think that the current situation in the Northern part of Kosovo also complicates matters.” adds Westerlund. Prime Minister Albin Kurti stated during the government meeting that recognition by Spain, Greece, Romania, Cyprus and Slovakia would facilitate the acceleration of the process of membership in the European Union.