Find out the latest on EU-related activities and events in the Western Balkans
Thank you very much. It is very good to be back in Pristina and to see you again. Indeed, we had a very good meeting with intensive talks and we took stock of the progress that Kosovo achieved in the past year. And there was a lot of progress, you are absolutely right. You have been working hard. I know that your country continues to demonstrate an enormous commitment to the European path. You have shown time and again your commitment to the values of the European Union. And especially most recently again, with your full alignment with the EU sanctions in response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. You are undertaking ambitious reforms. I know that this is easily said but difficult to be done, and I really commend you for that. And this hard work that Kosovo has undertaken is reflected in our last enlargement report, which is very positive for Kosovo. Your efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law have been recognised. You have also made a lot of progress and efforts on fighting corruption. So, that is all very good. You are building, step by step, not only the judiciary but also a very solid market economy. This part is also highly recognised by the European Commission and it shows in the report.
I hear you loud and clear on the topic of visa liberalisation and you know you have an ally in the Commission, and in me personally, on that topic. You are right, I think Kosovo deserves the visa liberalisation. I know how important it is for you. You have fulfilled all the benchmarks. Indeed, it was our assessment already in July 2018. But we have now reaffirmed that you have fulfilled all the necessary criteria and we stand by it. Now, our task is to convince the whole European Council. Many members of the European Council are on your side. It is very good that these discussions have restarted. We will work very intensively with the Czech Presidency. It needs a lot of diplomatic effort and explanation and work, back and forth. You can count on me personally, you can count on us in the Commission to do everything to help you on your way, knowing that you are doing this impressive work.
You are doing all this impressive work against a very difficult backdrop. And that is the atrocious war that Russia has unleashed against Ukraine. It is sending shock waves through the entire world. And it is unbelievable how cruel and brutal the destruction that Russia brings onto the Ukrainian people is. Russia is terrorising the citizens of Ukraine, deliberately bombing and targeting civil infrastructure in the attempt to cut off Ukrainian men, women and children from electricity, water, heating, with the winter approaching. And we see that Russia is using energy very strategically as a weapon, manipulating the markets. And you also feel here in Kosovo, of course, the knock-on effects of this unbelievable behaviour – with the rising energy prices and the difficulties in security of supply. And you have been affected, too, as you said.
But rest assured, the European Union will never give in to this blackmail. And we are in this together because we are in one Energy Union. So we stand side by side. And our response is unity and it is solidarity. We have to tackle this crisis; we will tackle this crisis. And we are in this together because we are in one Energy Union. So for you, it is important that you have full access to the joint procurement of gas. I know that is important for the region, not so important for Kosovo, but you are invited to join the platform for the joint procurement of gas. You will of course benefit from the discussions and the legal proposals, which we have in the European Union concerning caps on gas prices at the so-called TTF level, but also from the discussions on the influence that gas prices have on electricity prices. In other words: We are doing everything necessary to tame the high energy prices and the high electricity prices. And of course, as we are in one Energy Union, you will benefit from that, too.
But right now, you need immediate support, immediate financial budget support. So we will grant EUR 75 million for the immediate support to vulnerable households or vulnerable businesses. And we will finalise all the necessary procedures until the end of the year so that you can get the funding for your budget as of January. Then, there is another piece of investment in grants, these are EUR 500 million for the whole region, where we indeed want to support you on your path towards energy independence and security of supply. This is the investment in renewables first and foremost, but also in energy connections throughout Europe, more energy efficiency. But, as I said, the most important for us is the investment in renewable energy. Because renewable energy is not only good for the climate, it is good for the independence of our region. These renewables energies are home-grown and they create good jobs here at home. The support will be channelled under the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans. As you mentioned, I know that a lot of important work is already done here in Kosovo on the energy efficiency measures, in the building sector. I commend you for the plans of installation of photovoltaic panels, the upgrade of the district heating with clean energy in eight cities in Kosovo.
I am very curious to go to the project that I will visit soon, the Faculty of Architecture of Pristina, a very important project that we are funding and which enables to switch from heavy-fuel oil to waste heat energy. So it is really a double approach: Getting rid of the waste but in a sustainable way. And you get out of it the heating for the district heating that you need. So this is improving not only the environment, but also the life of the inhabitants of Pristina.
To reconfirm: Kosovo’s place is in the European Union. I am deeply convinced of that. And you are showing it on a daily basis. I will always say that Europe is not complete without Kosovo. That is very clear. And with Russia’s war waging against Ukraine, our relations with our Western Balkan partners are more important than ever and have to be intensified. You said, rightly so, that it is an investment in peace, stability and prosperity of our shared continent. So rest assured that the European Union is more committed than ever to the enlargement process. We will support you as well as possible to join us in the European Union. For that, I know a lot of topics are still to be tackled. But thank you very much again for the very good talks we did have. We went in detail into the different challenges. And I am very confident that by working together, we will move forward and one day you will be a member of the European Union. And I am waiting for that as much as you are.
Thank you very much.
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