Dear Mr. Prime Minister Mark Rutte,
From July to October 2022, Kosovo’s capital Prishtina welcomes visitors from all over the world to visit the 14th edition of the nomadic urban arts biennial MANIFESTA. 25 venues lead us not only through countless expressions of modern artists from across the globe, but also through centuries of history and architecture left by the Ottoman Empire, three Yugoslavias, and the creative minds of several generations.
However, while the world is free to travel to Kosovo, its citizens remain sidelined when it comes to European interconnectivity and exchange. As is the case for alle other countries in the region, it was promised visa liberalisation for the European Union, and the European Commission recommended the step already in 2018. However, the government of the Netherlands together with other EU member states did not concur with their assessment, and while both requirements – border demarcation with Montenegro and a better track record on tackling high-level corruption and organised crime – have been fulfilled, visa liberalisation has still not been granted to the roughly 2 million inhabitants of Kosovo who are the last ones to be excluded in Europe.
While the Russian war against Ukraine seemed to direct increased attention to the importance of European unity and the volatility of the Western Balkans’ current situation and many European leaders’ support for visa liberalisation during the June 23-24 summit, the Dutch veto remains intact. However, as a recent policy brief by Clingendael Institute suggests, a new momentum could arise during the Czech EU presidency after Kosovo’s progress report by the Commission expected on 22 October. You yourself, Mr. Prime Minister, have suggested that liberalisation could be granted as early as the end of 2022.
Kosovo is the youngest country in Europe – not only by status, but especially given a population half of whom is under 30 years old. We urge you and your government to provide these young people the equal chances they deserve, the opportunity to be part of and actively shape the future of Europe, and to overcome a division that harms the prospects for this future. We therefore kindly urge you - please support visa liberalisation for Kosovo during the upcoming Council Meeting under the Czech Presidency!
The next MANIFESTA will take place in Rotterdam in 2024. We hope that by that time, it will be as easy for all citizens of Kosovo to visit the festival as it is for the rest of Europe to visit Prishtina this year. We thank you for your consideration and close with a recent quote by Hedwig Fijen, Director of Manifesta 14 in Prishtina and Officer in the Order Oranje-Nassau by the appointment of H.M. the King of the Netherlands:
“The lack of visa liberalisation means that Kosovo’s cultural and artistic communities face the most basic technical obstructions, which restrict their capacity to conduct and maintain constructive dialogues with the rest of Europe, let alone the rest of the world. Stimulating such intercultural dialogues have been core to all editions of Manifest; for Manifesta 14 Prishtina, we knew we must raise the issue of how to grow and sustain cultural discussions and social debates – to open Europe and the world to Kosovo, and the world to see and hear loud and clear all that it has to offer, especially the energy of its young generations. We hope Manifesta 14 Prishtina can generate cooperation and facilitate inclusive conversations around the free travel of ideas, people and goods, in Europe and beyond.”