It is a great pleasure for me to attend the opening meeting of the dialogue between Belgrade and
Pristina. Today's event marks important progress on the road towards greater stability in the Balkan
region. For the first time since the conflict, political leaders from Pristina and Belgrade sit around the same table. I am grateful to Harry Holkeri for all his efforts to make this possible. I am aware that the first step of a journey is often the most difficult one. But as one moves ahead progress becomes easier. I am sure this will also be the case for our dialogue.
The talks are not going to be about the Final Status of Kosovo. The time to address this issue
successfully has not come yet. Rather, the dialogue will deal with practical issues of mutual
concern. Issues such as transport, telecommunication and energy that touch the daily lives of
countless people of the region. And topics, such as "missing persons" or "returns" that are part of
the tragic heritage from the days of conflict.
It was not easy for the two sides to come together. Particularly, in Pristina the last few days have
been turbulent. Clearly, there are still great hesitations to engage in talks with the former enemy and misguided notions that Pristina could somehow continue to isolate itself from any contact with
Given this tense political context I welcome President Ibrahim Rugova's and Assembly Speaker
Nexhat Daci's presence among us all the more. I regret that others have found the journey to Vienna
I am also very pleased to see Prime Minister Zivkovic and Deputy Prime Ministrer Covic. I am
convinced that their decision to be here despite their reservation of the Kosovo delegation was the
For the EU – and I would like to underline this – dialogue is not optional. It is a fundamental
element of the « Standards before Status Policy ». More importantly, it is an essential part of
European standards, indeed of European integration. Those who declare their commitment to the
European perspective also must be ready to talk to their neighbours, regardless of any status issues. There can be no progress towards the European Union without dialogue.
We therefore expect both sides to engage seriously and constructively in the working groups that
will be established soon. This work should not be in the limelight of public attention or become the
subject of political manoeuvres. Rather it should aim at concrete and practical results for the benefit of the people on both sides of the administrative boundary.
The EU, for its part, stands ready to contribute to this process. We are ready to remain closely
involved and help with expertise and facilitation.
The beginning of the dialogue makes it even more important for both sides to show responsibility
and fully respect SC Res 1244. In particular, they need to refrain from any unilateral steps, which
intend to prejudge the resolution of the status issue.
We hope that after this difficult start the talks will gain momentum and eventually spread to other
issues and topics. Talks between Belgrade and Pristina should soon become routine and a matter of
course. This would be important progress towards greater normality in the Balkans and prepare the
ground for a successful tackling of the key political issues.
Kosovo is at the heart of the West Balkans region, not just geographically, but also in political and security terms. Developments there can have important implications for neighbouring states, indeed for the region as a whole.
Kosovo poses challenges that cannot be confronted by any party on its own. Neither by Pristina, nor
by Belgrade nor by the International Community. Only through co-operative efforts by all main
parties can we avert the risks for stability. Only thus can we help the people of Kosovo to build a
democratic and multi-ethnic society that joins the rest of the region on the road to a European