Kosovo and Serbia: Open letter to the European Union

, by Burim Ramosaj

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Kosovo and Serbia: Open letter to the European Union

Dear Ms. Mogherini,

Dear Members of the Commission,

I was born in Germany and I have Kosovar-Albanian roots. My parents migrated to Germany during the 1970's as skilled workers within the former working agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Former Yugoslavia. Since then, my family has established strong roots in Germany, integrated pretty well in the German society while perusing academic education in Germany, the United States and in UK.

Differently to the people of Kosovo, I had the opportunity to visit relatives and friends, to study at highly ranked universities across the globe, especially within the EU. And above all, I had the opportunity to enrich my personality by getting in touch with different cultures and people across the world.

These experiences made me feel truly European, understanding the idea of Europe, the idea of being free in a sense of choosing what suits you and your family best and above all, what contributes most to enrich the society you live in. Hence, it motivates me every day to give my best to let people know that the European Union is a great organization, from which every individual benefits.

Unfortunately, this European idea has not reached the people of Kosovo and it makes me sad to read in the news or to hear from relatives stories that Kosovar students could not start their studies abroad due to visa denials. Closely related to that, I want to tell you a personal situation: I have attempted to invite my grandmother several times to visit us here in Germany, however, her visa application was always refused. This, because of "concerns regarding their return to Kosovo" as formally argued by the corresponding embassy in Pristina.

My grandmother was 72 at that time. Now, 19 years later, my grandmother has passed away long time ago. Hence, the only things that remain in my memory are the short summer trips and the short visits I had with her. The first time, I somehow feel the European Union has left me and my family alone. When I imagine that all Kosovars have the potential to experience the same problems, I wonder where the European Union remains in a small country like Kosovo?

Kosovo has declared independence from Serbia in 2008, supported by most of the Western countries, like the United States, and most of the EU-countries. Since then, every time I visit the homeland of my parents, I could see progress. Some of the progress is perhaps not visible to high officials like you and your team, but for me as an individual, I was free to talk Albanian, free to say that I have Albanian roots and above all, I felt secure in a very young state that protects me from discrimination and arbitrary assassination. For the first time in my life, I have felt the European air blowing in Kosovo, after a brutal war in 1999 leading to almost 15,000 victims, while 2,500 are still not found and are suspected to be in mass graves in Serbian territory.

The European Union has applied a criteria catalog to the government of Kosovo, knowing its record number in criteria for visa liberalization. After successfully achieving all requirements for visa liberalization and after the positive feedback of the European Commission regarding the fulfillment of the criteria, I sadly read in news that the European Union is still hesitating to let the people of Kosovo travel freely within the Schengen zone. I am wondering, why all other states in the Western-Balkans are free to do so, but not the people of Kosovo?

Beside my personal concerns about the EU foreign policy towards the Kosovar visa liberalization issue, I want to express also my deepest concerns regarding your latest statement directed to the government of Kosovo to "withdraw taxes on Serbian goods" Kosovo has done its maximum to normalize relations with Serbia after the brutal war, but normalization was never a term for the Serbian side.

Regarding the latter, I also want to tell you a personal story: According to the Kosovo-Serbia agreement signed in Brussels, both sides obligated themselves to normalize relations while guaranteeing the free movement of persons. I want to express my thankfulness for the EU commitment for this agreement. On my regular summer trips to Kosovo, I have decided to use the route through Serbia in order to visit my relatives in Kosovo while saving travel time.

During the regular border controls, I was regularly oppressed by telling me that "all Albanians should be killed and deported from Kosovo", or by applying illegal fees paying the police officers extra money to grant me access while being thrown by stones during the entry in Kosovo on the Serbian side. This country called Serbia has achieved EU-candidate status and is working through its chapters for full EU-membership.

In Germany, I have learned that such a behavior faces severe sanctions because that falls under felonies such as corruption, personal defamation and discrimination of ethnic groups. Since then, I avoided that route and take the one through Croatia and a small piece of Bosnia. The discriminating behavior of Bosnian police officers, however, is also realizable by applying illegal fees for no reasons during my travel. This is just a short story from a bunch of experience most of Kosovars experience during their travel.

The taxes applied on Serbian goods is only a small reaction of Kosovo to protect their people from the Serbian state after aggressively undermining our independence by paying countries to revoke their recognition, by harming Kosovars financially and physically during their travel to Kosovo and by giving its maximum to avoid any membership of Kosovo towards international organizations.

As Mr. Thaqi said, the latest attempt to bring down the Interpol application of Kosovo from the Serbian side, is only a victory of crime, and not a Serbian victory, as the Foreign Minister Mr. Dacic said. Serbia has proven during the last 20 years that they simply do not care about normalization with Kosovo, while the European Union never officially damned this behavior. Instead, accession negotiations for Serbia is running actively, while for Kosovars, the EU is hesitating the elementary right of free movement. I feel that the European Union has left the people of Kosovo alone, after all their attempts and pro-European attitude. For this reason, I am asking you and the European institutions, to take these issues seriously by:

1. Condemning the aggressive Serbian foreign policy against Kosovo and its people while respecting Kosovo's right of existence, self-determination and the right of participation, as also confirmed by the ICJ on the legitimacy of Kosovo's deceleration of independence.

2. Granting the people of Kosovo free access to the Schengen area by approving visa liberalization. I hope this letter achieves you personally and I remain very grateful for your time.

Best, Burim Ramosaj

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