Speech of Minister Hoxha upon meeting with the Prime Minister and HOMS
Honoured Prime Minister Haradinaj,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Initially, let me express my pleasure to addressing this meeting as Minister of European Integration. Also let me express my commitment to advance the European integration process, the dynamics of which I consider shall be accelerated. For Kosovo, the European integration process is not an alternative, but it is the path we have chosen and we must carry out our tasks in order to mark progress.
Besides being a success, the entry into force of the Stabilization and Association Agreement that made Kosovo for the first time to enter into contractual relations with the European Union, should also serve as an incentive to successfully implement the same in order to continue our journey towards the European Union. In addition to the SAA, let me also mention the entry into force of the Framework Agreement for Access to EU Programs, which also opens the doors of further cooperation and reconfirms the European Union as the largest development partner for Kosovo.
However, there are many challenges ahead of us. Among them, I would first mention the fact that citizens of the Republic of Kosovo do not enjoy the right to free movement in European Union countries, thus being isolated citizens of this part of Europe. The conditions that Kosovo needs to meet for visa liberalization are clear. As Minister of European Integration, I would hereby express my tireless commitment to work together with all institutions and to fulfil these conditions to enable our citizens' free movement. Free movement of citizens depends on the work and engagement of all institutions of the Republic of Kosovo in meeting certain conditions.
In this crucial process for Republic of Kosovo, the SAA implementation is our most important priority. SAA implementation now requires the approximation of legislation with EU standards and full implementation of the legislation in practice. This will require political will, bureaucratic capacities and sustainable funding.
The Ministry of European Integration is already reviewing the National Plan for the SAA Implementation, which is a regular annual policy planning process for the SAA implementation. The purpose of the review is to update this program and draft short-term measures to be implemented during 2018. In order to monitor the implementation of the SAA, the first meeting of the SAA Committee in Brussels will be held in October, while the second the SAA Council meeting will be held in November.
In order to prioritize reforms ahead of us, the Government of the Republic of Kosovo and the European Union has launched the European Reform Agenda, also known as ERA. ERA foresees implementation of 22 concrete priorities from a range of institutions. I will undertake all measures to ensure that all institutions are aware of their priorities and to provide the MEI support in the framework of this process.
We need to show dedication and seriousness in implementing priorities, specifically by promoting the good governance and strengthening the rule of law, protecting competitiveness and improving investment climate, as well as advancing employment and higher education policies. Ministry of European Integration will provide assistance in this regard and will work closely with all institutions to implement these priorities.
With regard to EU programs, following the entry into force of Framework Agreement, Kosovo institutions decided to commence the application for access to 4 programs. As Minister of European Integration, I will make sure to undertake all necessary steps to complete the negotiations for joining ERASMUS, COSME, Europe for Citizens and Creative Europe.
Participation in these programs will bring students, academy, businesses, civil society and artistic and creative community even closer to the European Union.
With regards to EU or IPA assistance, Kosovo institutions, in cooperation with the European Commission, are ensuring that EU annual assistance amounting to around EUR 80 million supports key reforms foreseen within SAA. In this regard, we have finalized the negotiation of IPA 2016 in the amount of EUR 70.5 million, where EUR 45.5 million will support reforms in increasing competitiveness and businesses, education and employment, as well as human rights. Currently, we are negotiating for direct budget support in the amount of EUR 25 million for Public Administration Reform. In this regard, the Draft Law on Ratification of the Financial Agreement IPA 2016 has already been submitted to the Government.
Finally, allow me to reiterate the MEI readiness and my dedication to work with all institutions in fulfilling all criteria required for visa liberalization process, implementing ERA priorities, as well as implementing SAA in its entirety.
Thank you for your attention!