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Foreign Secretary visits Pristina

Foreign Secretary William Hague met with Kosovo Prime Minister Thaci Pristina to discuss Kosovo's progress towards EU membership.

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Speaking after the meeting the Foreign Secretary said:

“I’m delighted to be here in Pristina. This is my first visit to your country, but the United Kingdom is one of the strongest supporters of Kosovo anywhere in the world, and so I come here very conscious of the strong bonds of friendship between our countries.

I’ve just had a very useful meeting with Prime Minister Thaci, and I had a good discussion with President Jahjaga last night.

I welcome the fact that on 10 October the EU gave Kosovo a clear commitment to open Stability and Association Agreement negotiations. This will be the first milestone in Kosovo’s journey towards eventual EU membership. For as well as being a firm friend of the people of Kosovo, the United Kingdom is a leading supporter of EU enlargement to all the countries in the Western Balkans. So I am delighted to be able to discuss Kosovo’s EU future here today.

Kosovo has made impressive strides over the last four and a half years since independence, and I congratulate Prime Minister Thaci and his Government once again for meeting the conditions to end supervised independence earlier this year.

As I have discussed with Prime Minister Thaci, a new chapter in EU/Kosovo relations is opening. This is enormously positive for Kosovo. But Kosovo will now need to make progress against the same conditions and be treated the same as any other country in the Western Balkans.

Progress towards EU membership will benefit all of Kosovo’s citizens. But it will require hard work and fundamental reforms in areas such as the economy, rule of law, the fight against corruption, electoral reform and public administration. I am pleased to have discussed some of the plans for these reforms during my meetings and welcome Kosovo’s commitment to the reform process.

The path to EU membership is rewarding, but it is not necessarily quick or easy. It will take sustained and hard work. Kosovo can count on UK support as it takes forward work in key areas such as rule of law, corruption and minority rights.

I am looking forward to discussions with representatives from Kosovo’s minority communities later today. It is clear that these communities still face real challenges to their well-being and security, and I have urged the Government to take visible action to reach out to those who feel marginalised. It remains important to take concrete action to address the challenges minorities face. This is particularly true in northern Kosovo.

Finally, I have stressed to all those I met in Kosovo that dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo on normalising relations is essential for both countries as they move towards EU integration. I welcome the recent meeting facilitated by Baroness Ashton, and urge all sides to maintain the momentum. As I leave Pristina for Belgrade, I look forward to delivering the same message there.

So thank you once again Prime Minister Thaci for the warm welcome to your beautiful country.”

Published 25 October 2012