Hashim Thaçi is the foreign minister and vice-premier of Kosovo. The 47-year-old helped found and led the Kosovo Liberation Army during the Balkan war, and at one time sought asylum in Switzerland. He knows what it’s like to be a refugee, and spoke recently about Europe’s current migration crisis.
Handelsblatt: Mr. Thaçi, Europe is involved in a controversy about the right way to handle refugees and migrants. What is the position of Kosovo?
Hashim Thaçi: As a country that was devastated during the 1990s by the civil war, we have a deep understanding for the desperate situation of wartime refugees, such as those now coming from Syria. Germany is providing exemplary help. I share the opinion of Chancellor Angela Merkel that we need a joint solution in Europe. We all have to work together in order to meet this great challenge. There is no doubt that these refugees want to reach Germany, Austria and Scandinavia in order to make a contribution to freedom and peace. Therefore we must join together in Europe to help them.
But there is not much solidarity in Europe. What stance should the European Union adopt?
An important lesson that can be learned from Kosovo is to change conditions in the countries of origin. These persons have not left their country willingly. They were forced to flee. In most cases, they abandoned their previous lives in order to save their lives. It is quite probable that many will return whenever conditions in their homeland permit.
Does Europe need fixed refugee quotas for every country, such as Germany and Austria are demanding?
It is fair to expect that all countries share the burden of the refugees. The citizens’ reaction of solidarity is making it more and more clear that there is a readiness on the part of European nations to share the burden. The refugees need rapid assistance and cannot wait for complicated negotiations and decisions.
Kosovo is itself a country from which thousands flee to Germany, although they have little chance of being recognized as asylum seekers …
… Yes, last winter we had a situation with many illegal migrants from Kosovo trying to reach Germany. But as the government of Kosovo, we were successful in significantly reducing the number of people trying to seek asylum abroad.
Is there a reason Kosovans continue to seek asylum in Germany?
Kosovo is a secure country in which human rights are respected. We don’t have a political or a social or an ethnic crisis. There is no reason to go to Germany as an asylum seeker.
In the first half of this year, 45 percent of asylum seekers in Germany came from the western Balkans. What is your government doing to stop this wave of emigration?
As a government, we are working hard to cut the numbers of people seeking asylum abroad. We are running an educational program to tell people the truth, and start a personal dialogue with people who want to leave, in order to expose the lies human traffickers are telling them.
Do you expect another wave of refugees from Kosovo will come to Germany this winter?
I don’t see any reason for that. The situation is stable. Kosovo is a normal country in Europe. There are no social reasons for seeking asylum in western Europe. I am asking our citizens to be patient and to remain in our country.