PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo's president on Tuesday openly called for international missions to leave the country and complained that the international community is discriminating against Kosovo when it comes to war crimes investigation and the process to join the European Union.
Hashim Thaci told security force troops that the "time of the international missions in Kosovo has passed." Complaining of their "unjustified number" operating in Kosovo, he said now "accountability for our path, for the present and the future is in our hands."
After NATO's 78-day air campaign to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists ended in June 1999, Kosovo was governed by a U.N. mission. It still operates but in a more minor role since the country declared independence in 2008.
Kosovo is recognized by 114 countries but not by Serbia.
Thaci said the six-year EU-facilitated negotiations with Serbia should end with a "bilateral recognition." He said that Kosovo's goal is EU membership and "not to have its lifelong missions (in its territory)."
The president openly complained about the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a court based in The Hague, Netherlands, with international judges. It has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under Kosovo law which allegedly occurred between Jan. 1, 1998, and Dec. 31, 2000.
Thaci said the court wouldn't "strengthen the feeling of justice for the war victims" since its focus will only be on Kosovo Liberation Army fighters. He said that 100 such courts need to be created to cover all the war crimes committed by Serbia and that the international community is discriminating against Kosovo.
He also said that the EU door to Serbia, which he blamed for most of the war crimes in the Balkans, "is open ... while Kosovo is isolated."
Thaci considered unfair that Brussels has linked the visa liberalization for Kosovo to the approval of the border demarcation deal with Montenegro, signed in 2015 but harshly contested by the opposition.
"Does Kosovo enjoy a European prospect, or not," he asked.
Thaci was pleased the mandate of the EU mission supporting Kosovo's path to European integration in the areas of rule of law and fighting corruption since independence in 2008 would be over next year.
Thaci didn't complain, however, about the presence of around 4,500 troops from 31 countries deployed in Kosovo since June 1999.
He said that the country's security force would turn into an army in close cooperation with NATO and other Western forces.
Associated Press writer Llazar Semini contributed to this report from Tirana, Albania.
Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lsemini