President Thaçi’s speech to the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs in Canada
Honorable Chairman Nollt,
Honorable Vice Chairmen, Mr. O-Toll and Honorable Ms. Leverdier,
Honorable MPs, members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs,
It is a pleasure to meet with you today and to talk about Kosovo, but also about the whole region of Southeastern Europe, about our achievements but also the challenges for building peace and reconciliation. But also about our bilateral cooperation, between Kosovo and Canada.
I am glad that my visit is taking place at the time when Canada marks its 150th anniversary.
Canada is a strategic partner for us with whom we share common values, principles and aspirations.
As a Kosovo, we are grateful for the support Canada has provided to Kosovo for decades.
Particularly it is worth to mention the acceptance of 7,000 refugees from Kosovo in 1999.
I had the chance to meet some of them in Halifax, to visit the military base where most of them were expected when they arrived in Canada.
It was a touching moment to remember the days of war but also a moment of joy and pride to see how well they are integrated into the Canadian society and contribute to the Canadian state and society.
They are now a linking bridge between our two peoples.
Canada’s support has been important even after the war, in rebuilding the country and building peace.
We are grateful that Canada has been among the first countries to recognize Kosovo and continues to support Kosovo in consolidating its citizenship.
Our bilateral cooperation is growing, especially in economy, with particular emphasis on the mining industry.
I am glad about the opportunity that Kosovo and Canada will sign an Investment Protection Agreement between our two countries.
Last month I had the honor to decorate the former Foreign Minister Aksuorthi with the Medal for Contribution to Peace and Democracy, and I am glad to see the MP Vandenbeld in the Committee, who was decorated by the Canadian Government for the contribution to peace.
Let me say a few words about the past of Kosovo, about the present and especially about our aspirations for the future of Kosovo and the region of South-eastern Europe.
In February we will mark the tenth anniversary of Kosovo’s independence
The declaration of independence came after a long international process that sought solution for Kosovo’s international political status.
This international process began in the 1990s with the United Nations Security Council resolutions condemning the violence and repression of Slobodan Miloševic’s regime.
It continued with the International Rambouillet Conference in the spring of 1999, in which the international community sought a solution for Kosovo.
Miloševic’s regime not only didn’t cooperate with the international community but continued the campaign of violence and repression escalating into an attempt to genocide.
This forced NATO to intervene to prevent another genocide in Europe’s land.
This led to the establishment of the International Administration in Kosovo.
In 2005, the United Nations appointed President Ahtisaari, Nobel Peace Laureates, to seek a solution to the status of Kosovo.
In a UN-led process, where, especially the United States of America, the EU and Russia have actively participated, President Ahtisaari recommended that the best solution for Kosovo is independence.
In accordance with Ahtisaari’s recommendations, in February 2008, Kosovo declared the independence.
Today we can freely say that there has never been a more multi-lateral and more internationally coordinated declaration of independence than in the case of Kosovo
The last seal to the independence for Kosovo was given by the International Court of Justice which in August 2010 said clearly that the declaration of Kosovo’s independence was in line with international law, after Serbia had addressed the International Court of Justice with the question of whether Kosovo had violated the international law when it declared independence.
Where is Kosovo today?
Without having completed a decade as a state, Kosovo has signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, which is the first step towards building a cooperation that will ultimately bring membership to the European Union.
Kosovo has been admitted to the US Congress Millennium Challenge Corporation Program and has started implementing MCC projects.
Both successes have been achieved only after the achievements in comprehensive reforms in the economy, rule of law and the building of democratic institutions have been confirmed.
Kosovo has been recognized by 114 countries and has joined many regional and international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or the Venice Commission.
In accordance with the Ahtisaari Package, we have built comprehensive governing institutions in which all communities living in Kosovo are represented.
In the Kosovo Assembly with 120 seats, 20 are reserved for non-majority communities, 10 for the Serb community and 10 for other communities, to guarantee their political representation.
We have installed affirmative practices in education, employment, language use in the administration or even in the public media, to guarantee education, employment and information for all.
We have installed communication, dialogue as the only tool to find solutions to every issue.
We promote the dialogue between religions, best represented with the Inter-Faith Conference held annually, and which brings together religious leaders, politicians, and scholars from around the world discussing the dialogue between religions.
We are proud of the tolerance and coexistence between the religious communities that we have in Kosovo.
This is a value that is an example for the region and beyond.
We have initiated the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a tool for internal dialogue between ethnic communities to close the war chapter and to open the chapter of peace, dialogue, cooperation, coexistence in a multi-ethnic, democratic, comprehensive society.
We have consolidated Kosovo’s statehood within, extending the sovereignty across the entire territory of Kosovo, including the northern part of Kosovo.
Thanks to the dialogue and affirmative measures, today this part is also involved in Kosovo’s institutions.
Elections were held under Kosovo’s laws and the elected leaders operate within Kosovo’s institutions and according to Kosovo’s laws.
This is the result of the dialogue that Kosovo develops with the state of Serbia with the mediation of the European Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This brings me to another important point for Kosovo, the promotion of dialogue and finding solutions for the region.
For 5 years, Kosovo and Serbia are involved in the process of dialogue, with the support of the EU, which has brought many agreements that have improved the lives of our citizens and have improved the relations between our two countries.
For the first time, after 100 years of conflict, in April 2013 we signed an international agreement for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
This has contributed not only to the strengthening of peace between Kosovo and Serbia but also to the strengthening of peace throughout the region.
Today, I as President of Kosovo, together with the President of Serbia Vucic and the EU High Representative, Mogherini, we are looking for a new dynamic and quality for the dialogue process.
We are working to reach a comprehensive Agreement for full normalization of relations, for good neighborly relations and for reconciliation between our two states.
We also promote dialogue and cooperation in our relations with other countries in the region.
We have good relations with Macedonia, with Albania, with Montenegro.
We respect the territorial integrity of Macedonia and call for the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement as the best way to accommodate all communities living in Macedonia.
We have good relations with Albania and we work not to change the borders but to open them according to the European Union model.
With Montenegro we have excellent relations and we have expressed our joy about Montenegro’s NATO membership as another step towards strengthening peace and security throughout the Western Balkans region.
It is true that as a Kosovo we have not yet ratified the Agreement on the demarcation of the border with Montenegro.
But this is due to the political competition inside Kosovo and is not due to any dispute between Kosovo and Montenegro.
We are an active participant in regional forums in which we promote good neighborly cooperation and good relations with the whole region.
Allow me to also talk a bit about the future, challenges and aspirations.
Continuing reforms in all sectors of life is our first aspiration.
The Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union is a guide to these reforms.
Kosovo’s governments are committed to implement these reforms and include the Stabilization and Association Agreement in government programs as well.
In Kosovo, the international community has led justice, 8 years as United Nations and 9 years as the EU Rule of Law Mission, EULEX.
This has resulted in the best legal framework in the region, but also with local capacities ready to implement these laws.
The EU and US State Department reports regularly follow and report on the achievements of our justice system, as well as all other social sectors.
In the framework of the rule of law commitment, we have also established the Special Court to pursue war crimes committed after the war in Kosovo.
But one of the key challenges for Kosovo remains the international consolidation of Kosovo’s statehood.
I say nothing new if I say that not everyone supports the project of the independent, democratic, multi-ethnic state of Kosovo.
Here, in particular, I am talking about Russia, which fights the West by preventing projects for sustainable peace and stability in the South East Europe region.
Russia has tried to make a coup in Montenegro to prevent NATO membership.
It has also tried to hinder the democratic elections in Macedonia to prevent the country’s reforms towards NATO and the EU.
Russia hinders Kosovo’s membership in international organizations, starting from the United Nations.
I was glad to listen in Halifax to the NATO Secretary General who warns of the Russian threat to NATO and the West.
But the main reason why Russia has extended its influence in the Balkan region is the delay of the European Union and NATO to include the region in the integration processes.
This is paving the way for other influences, whether of Russia or of other ideologies.
In the Balkans, we have also seen efforts to infiltrate fundamentalism and radicalism.
We are not only a country of origin of extremists who have joined ISIS but also a target country for terrorist attacks.
We have been successful in preventing some terrorist attacks on Kosovo’s territory, but also in the region.
We are an active member of the Global Coalition Against ISIS and leader in the region in combating terrorism, radicalism and extremism.
But our efforts are hampered by the lack of membership in INTERPOL and other international security mechanisms.
It is therefore important to support us in Kosovo’s membership in these mechanisms.
To strengthen the security infrastructure, we have initiated the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into the Armed Forces of Kosovo.
This will be done with the consent of all communities in Kosovo and in full coordination with NATO and our international partners.
Here we have asked from Canada to deepen cooperation with the Kosovo Security Force and to help especially in community engagement and gender equality.
Kosovo has moved a long way for a decade.
It is no longer a country devastated by war, but a country that works for NATO and EU membership and which successfully completes reforms in the economy, justice and democratic institutions.
In all polls, the citizens of Kosovo come out as the most pro-NATO and pro-European citizens.
We are determined that our future is in NATO and the EU, in peace, dialogue and cooperation.
We are on the right path that from a security consumer to become an example and promoter of peace, dialogue and cooperation.