On Wednesday, 23 September 2015, CEPI in partnership with Kosovo Foundation for Open Society (KFOS) organized a public debate in Bratislava. The Slovak-Kosovar Dialogue presented an opportunity to discuss the current status of Kosovo’s association process with the EU, and to update on Kosovo’s relations with the five EU non-recognizers, including Slovakia.

The first panel, chaired by Milan Nič (CEPI), featured Ramadan Ilazi (Deputy Minister for European Integration of Kosovo), Henrik Markuš (Ministry of Foreign European and Foreign Affairs of SR) and Bernard Nikaj (former Minister of Trade and Industry of Kosovo) who touched upon the Kosovo’s perspective of integration with the EU. At the present time, the Kosovo’s association process is shaped mainly by the forthcoming signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, a framework of contractual relations, which is expected to bolster economic growth. Secondly, Kosovo also awaits the introduction of the visa free regime, which shall help overcome decades-long isolation and facilitate direct contacts with the EU for the Kosovar society.

The second panel gathered Vladimír Bilčík (Slovak Foreign Policy Association), Besa Shahini(independent analyst) and Agron Bajrami (Editor in Chief at Koha Ditore – a Kosovar daily newspaper) who reflected on what kind of working relations between Kosovo and Slovakia, a non-recognizer that is going to take over the EU presidency in the second half of 2016, can be established. During the presidency, Slovakia will be expected to exercise a managerial position in the 28-member club, which includes a wide range of technical tasks, whereas the Brussels remains in the lead of the agenda. Particularly in relation to Kosovo, Slovakia will be challenged to put aside its own position, and advocate the common EU interests instead. In broader terms, Slovakia’s worthy contribution to the presidency would be to address the issue of labor migration from the Western Balkans, as it has been on the rise recently.

As it stands today, the question of the de jure recognition of Kosovo is off the agenda of Slovak political elites. However, it does not necessarily predict a complete stalemate in Slovak-Kosovar relations. A realistic outlook on the future progress in relations suggests that the most plausible developments are going to take place on the technical level; opening of liaison offices and establishment of economic ties are now regarded as the new benchmarks in Kosovo’s normalization efforts.

The debate was part of a series of activities focused on Slovak-Kosovar relations. It was followed by a fact finding trip to Prishtina with Ľuboš Galko, ranking member of the Slovak Parliament’s Defense and Security Committee, on September 24-25. On September 29, CEPI led a hearing before Foreign Affairs Committe of the Slovak Parliament addressing the state of Serbia-Kosovo dialogue and bilateral relations of Kosovo and Slovakia.