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Kosovo betrayed by EU on visa-free travel, premier says

FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 file photo, Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj addresses the media during a news conference at the federal chancellery in Vienna, Austria. Haradinaj said on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, that Kosovo feels betrayed by the European Union, which it aspires to join one day, because of the bloc’s delays on enacting visa-free travel for its citizens. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Kosovo’s prime minister said Monday the country feels betrayed by the European Union, which it is aspiring to join one day, because of the bloc’s delays on enacting visa-free travel for its citizens.

Ramush Haradinaj’s comments came in a speech he made in Brussels at a meeting with senior EU officials.

Kosovo’s citizens “feel betrayed and disillusioned with the EU,” he said. “Time is not our friend. We should see concrete progress.”

Haradinaj said that though Kosovo had fulfilled dozens of requirements set by EU members, the response from Brussels is “incomplete and hopeless.”

Kosovo is the only nation in Eastern Europe not allowed visa-free travel to EU member countries.

Haradinaj called on Brussels to “speed up” the process because the end of the path “is clear but still not tangible for us.”

The prime minister said that Kosovo was “strongly committed to EU membership as a high priority.”

“We need a clear signal from you that you respect our achievements and that we have your support, in an active way, especially in realizing the free movement of the Kosovo citizens,” he added.

An EU statement said Kosovo was asked to revoke recent tariffs it set on Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and stressed the importance of the seven-year long Kosovo-Serbia dialogue it facilitates.

Last month, Kosovo’s government introduced a 100-percent tax on Serb imports in apparent retaliation for a failed bid by Kosovo for membership in the international police organization, Interpol, after intense Serbian lobbying.

“The introduction of these tariffs damages the economic interests of Kosovo and its people, reducing trade flows and diminishing Kosovo’s attractiveness as a place for investment and business,” according to the EU’s statement.

Haradinaj has said they will lift the tariffs only when Serbia recognizes Kosovo’s independence, which was declared in 2008.

Brussels has told Kosovo and Serbia they must normalize relations as a precondition to EU membership.

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