Sejdiu: We are regaining our identity, stronger than ever

The President of the Republic of Kosovo, Dr Fatmir Sejdiu held his annual lecture to the students of the University of Prishtina. The lecture was held in the Amphitheatre of the Faculty of Law and the topic was “Kosovo, current developments, challenges and perspective”. Below you may read the entire transcript of the lecture:

Dear students,

I have come here to have a rather explanatory discussion with you regarding the challenges which our country is facing; to present you our vision for the path that we must follow but also to take note of your perceptions about various issues that may eventually be tackled more efficiently.

We all wish to provide our contribution and play our role in helping Kosovo, the newest country in the globe, follow the best track to its development.

I happened to be in this amphitheatre, in other amphitheatres of the University of Prishtina and in other universities before our country became independent and discuss developments at the time, great chances that we had and challenges that lied ahead of us.

Indeed, I remember clearly discussions that I had with your colleagues, which had to do with some of the most sensitive issues that were raised by each one of you and which represented a common concern for the entire country. I can also remember our anticipations for an independent Kosovo. Kosovo has done a great deal to earn the status of a free country. It has maintained an appropriate approach that was followed by proper policies. Kosovo has staged a long-lasting resistance and has obtained a strong international support for its freedom.

It is easier for us today to talk about the progress that has been made or obstacles that our country has faced since its inception.

Conditionally speaking, these obstacles are normal, because I think the challenges laying ahead of us are even more arduous, starting from the implementation of what we have come to call our general political project that we have presented to the people of our country and the international community – as a clear vision for the course that Kosovo must follow – up to dealing with domestic issues that arise in relation to the growth of our country and obstacles posed by those who oppose the independence of Kosovo, who wished for our total annihilation and who are striving for that even nowadays. But, we don’t fear them.

These problems are only a part of the entire complexity of challenges faced by Kosovo today. First of all, Kosovo, both as a formula and a reality, has gained the support of its consequent friends, especially the United States of America and EU countries. This is the best indicator that rules out all the negative predictions that following its independence i.e. following what happened on the 17th of October 2008 Kosovo would become a country of chaos, a country of infringement of human and ethnic rights and freedoms, a place of exodus, total collapse, anarchy, smuggling and disgrace. But, neither of these prognoses trumpeted by the enemies of our country became a reality. Why? First of all, because of the crucial role played by each individual in Kosovo and, above all, by the Albanian majority population, who have waited for this day for centuries, and by all other ethnic communities, with the exception of Serbs, who are still hesitating to provide their contribution. All others have been an equal part of the process of shaping a final image of a Kosovo that knows how to respect the will of the majority of its people and other ethnic communities living with them.

You may remember hard talks we had about Ahtisaari’s Proposal, the vision and the price that Kosovo had to pay for building its state institutions. I’m speaking about the local government and the process of decentralization, which we have come to refer to as the price that we had to pay. Everything else consisted in a progress made in meeting the main criteria of integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

Having said that, there is no doubt that we are not doing this only so as to have the international community think that we are in the right track, but because we know that it is in Kosovo’s best interest to set its pace in meeting the main criteria of civic welfare, human rights and freedoms, status of minority communities in our country and parallel development of civil society as an integral part of the overall public life in our country. By building on these values, our vision is to move on toward integration into NATO as well, because, since 1999, Kosovo has made headway in meeting overall requirements in this regard as well.

You remember the time of the standards, standards on status, which we have sometimes called a period of time-buying, as that was as a situation when it was not possible to find a speedy solution for an independent Kosovo which has always revolved around our heads and when we were wondering how to make the road to our independence shorter. We had a break in between though, but now our vision is clear and it has become a reality.

Certainly, there are issues and obligations that our institutions, governments and all the citizens of our county must fulfill. Wasn’t the last Progress Report on Kosovo both a guarantee and a criticism indicating that there are some things that we can do better? I say it was. We are unprejudiced when it comes to a part of what we were not able to do or tackle in the best and most efficient way in our fight against painful phenomena that tag along countries in transition and newborn countries.

There might be those that have the ambition to disregard the general national or state interests and indulge in serving their own interests in a way or another. That is why we perceive the criticism expressed in this report objectively. We don’t want to close our eyes and think that something bad that we don’t appreciate has not happened. On the contrary, we are courageous and eager to ensure that Kosovo is soon able and ready to convey clear signals that are necessary for the process of visa liberalization and other processes that require the fulfillment of necessary requirements for a country to be able to compete for its  integration, like some other candidate countries are doing.

What are advantages and shortcomings involved here?

An advantage is the fact that Kosovo’s entire legislative and institutional structures were built in full conformity with EU standards.

Kosovo has no need to revise its legislation or its Constitution, the highest legal act, or other parts of the legislative corpus, like some other countries had to.

Kosovo does not need to start anew, because we have not lingered behind. Rather, we have had a good start in building other institutions that are commensurate with those of other countries. There was a joint symbiosis that we have created by, as it were, merging our ideas with those of Kosovo’s supporters.

Kosovo needs not look different from what it is, which was a road that some other South-East countries had to tread on in order to speed up the process of their integration. From the beginning, Kosovo has demonstrated its commitment to becoming an important partner and factor of peace and stability.

Let’s take as an example the Security Force. You are all aware of the way it was transformed. The KSF criteria are strictly controlled by drawing on and checking them against the strictest principles based on which the NATO was created.

I always say that NATO is Kosovo and Kosovo will be in NATO. It is important to note that, despite obstacles that we are facing, we are regaining our identity, stronger than ever.

The New Europeans media branding campaign was launched few days ago. The aim of the campaign is to present Kosovo’s image within the political context. The aim is also to ensure a boost of Kosovo’s economic and cultural growth.

I attended the launch campaign and I told you that you are the new Europeans of an old Europe, because we are an essential part of Europe’s antiquity. I have also said that there are larger and smaller countries than Kosovo, but that there is only one Kosovo with an ancient history that cannot be disassociated from Europe’s growth and genesis.

Kosovo has positioned itself properly in unveiling its identity and adhering to the fundamental principles of international law and Roman law, such as ad persona [in person] or honeste vi vere [living with honor]. Kosovo is resolved to harm nobody, but to take what belongs to it. Kosovo has taken what belonged to it and is now an independent country.

Another important element that is crucial to a state’s existence is its financial welfare. Have we done enough? Can we do more? I say we can. A great deal has been done. Percentagewise, we had a 4% to 6% growth in recent years. Less growth was seen in 2007, more in 2008. The progress made in 2009 remains to be seen. I know this is not enough, because this is an opportunity that God has given to Kosovo and we have to seize it.

One can hardly come across a country in the South-East Europe, which has as many natural resources as Kosovo concentrated within 16,000 miles square. Kosovo abounds in mineral resources, lignite and fertile soil. It has a favorable climate. It has a young population of over 52% under the age 27. Well, these are resources that others don’t possess. But, we have paradoxes too. Our country has been facing problems with electricity supply for 10 years now. Despite many investments made, we are still facing problems with electricity. We are very much interested in finding a way out of this situation so that Kosovo won’t have to import electricity or to depend on other’s will to press a button, but to export its electricity.

There is also another problem of a rather global nature. Will Kosovo manage to solve its problems with electricity supply by relying merely on thermal resources, which entails the need of investing almost all other economic capacities, or will it have to utilize other resources as well? Global warming is a problem. I know that the civil society and other institutions have had their objections. I have followed them. Kosovo’s friends, who are very interested to help find a way out of this situation, have also made their remarks. However, I believe that by building new capacities, Kosovo will be able to satisfy its own needs and to attract and pave the way for other investments and approaches, like was the case with the New Europeans branding campaign, which was only a symbolic indicator of guarantees that our government provides to investors.                                                           

Speaking of investors, are they interested and for how long and how can they stay in Kosovo? Well, they have assurances of our serious partnership and an overall stability in our country. In terms of stronger assurances, they have a fair market economy that allows for the deployment of the most merited businesses. They will not be biased against. There will be those who will become more interested to invest, especially when they take into account the long-term sales of their products. Let this be a call to all foreign investors and Albanian or Kosovan Diaspora in different countries, because they constitute the main vessels to our country’s growth and they can contribute to exporting our products in the region.

However, this doesn’t involve the territory of Kosovo alone. Economic trends require participation in regional developments, what entails the need for a suitable political climate, an overall stability and signals of moving toward a wider market economy. What’s the main element to noticed here? There are problems. I would rather not speak about embargo on exports imposed on Kosovo by those who oppose its independence, namely by Serbia and its allies, who, here and there, breach CEFTA rules, but I would underscore that there is something that provides a psychological security to those who want to invest in Kosovo and that this is an opportunity worthy of seizing.

Kosovo’s further advancement in political and international developments is another important achievement. Its accession to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank is another great success that renders Kosovo an important partner and factor of cooperation, for one should bear in mind that only sovereign countries are eligible to accede to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. On the other hand, we are facing endeavors to prevent Kosovo’s further international recognition, Serbia’s appeal filed with the International Court of Justice, the proceedings that will commence in December and new arguments to be submitted. We have the great support that is being provided to Kosovo, but we also have geopolitical challenges posed to us by those who oppose Kosovo’s independence.

You have seen that a few days ago the President of the Russian Federation was in Belgrade. We may have an idea of assurances that he has extended to Serbia with regard to Kosovo. Kosovo is not really an issue for the Russian Federation. To the Russian Federation, Kosovo may only serve as a pretext for retaining its continuous confrontation and opposition against Kosovo’s friends, western countries, Europe and United States of America. The Russian Federation doesn’t really care about Kosovo’s status, but it is in its interest to protract an open issue. I know there are rumors about setting a new base of Russian Federation Forces or Serbian forces themselves close to the border with Kosovo, namely in Nis, which will serve, as they maintain, as a countermeasure to NATO forces in Kosovo, so as to create the impression that they consider it to be an area of special geostrategic or geopolitical importance to the region and to pretend that they are there to act in an integral territory in case a country like Kosovo happens to ‘disturb’ them. You know that Kosovo is a sui generis case and that the progress achieved here is irreversible. There is no hand that can role back the wheel of history. 62 countries around the world have recognized Kosovo so far. The Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs and other Serbian ‘missioners’ are trying to prevent Kosovo’s further recognition, but they will fail. There are countries that want to wait for the completion of proceedings with the International Court of Justice in Hague. We anticipate that the court will make a small concession or will adopt a leveled democratic approach so as to retain the previous good relations with Serbia and to prevent the termination of economic, trade and military agreements reached in the past.

And, when the time comes for an existing reality to be recognized, there are countries that become concerned with their internals contexts and that consider Kosovo to be an unfair precedent, though it is not. You were young, but your older colleagues and you have now learned that Kosovo and the progress that it has made rule out their claims. Kosovo was a part of a federation that has been dissolved. It was an equal part in all decision-making levels, with a right to veto, with a special history, but its people never had the will to be a part of another country.

There was an international intervention that aimed at saving the people of Kosovo from a genocide. The international mission was a successful investment in Kosovo. Despite some reluctance to built institutions based on the will of the people over the past 10 years, these institutions have now been created. There was a process of international talks and negotiations and here we are now. Therefore, there is no other country similar to Kosovo in this regard.

Of course, a lot remains to be done by our country’s institutions and our supporters. You know that, so far, we have established and supported our diplomatic structure consisting in 20 embassies. Two days ago I decreed the Embassy of the Republic of Kosovo in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a few days ago the one in Macedonia and we will expand our diplomatic network in a modest way, within our capacities. We also intend to cooperate with other countries in covering certain important areas, because our financial capacities don’t allow us to cover the entire territory of some countries. However, we are interested to focus on the main areas and we will maintain this focus.

There are other areas that require investment. I mentioned earlier the Kosovo Security Force, the Kosovo Intelligence Agency and the Kosovo Police which must not run the risk of operating counter to state’s or people’s will. Few days ago I paid a visit to Kosovo Police and I told them that it is not in Kosovo’s interest to become a police state or to create a politicized police. It is in our interest to build a structure of servants that will provide security to Kosovo and this involves all security agencies which should respect, above all, the will of their people, drawing on activities and developments of other sister organizations in other democracies.

Last but not least, November elections are approaching. Allow me to call on you and all the people you know to participate and cast the vote for the people of your choice. These elections represent a great challenge for Kosovo. This is the first chance to prove that our institutions can manage these elections. People should vote for the people of their choice. People should vote and exercise their constitutional right to contribute to fostering a general policy of entrusting the leadership to somebody. Though these are municipal elections, I still think they represent a great challenge for Kosovo. You might have followed the campaign. I believe that, in general terms, it is a campaign that meets the fundamental structural and legal criteria and the code of conduct. Anyways, I wish that the 16th of November will be a day of joy for all the people of Kosovo and that it will get their highest rating. I also wish that we will preserve what we have achieved in previous elections, which were announced as the best elections in South-East Europe. Why not preserve this quality? We have the political power, we have fostered a political culture, and we have a challenge lying ahead of us…