Honourable Speaker of the Assembly of Kosovo, Mr. Konjufca
Honourable Prime Minister Mr. Kurti,
Honourable Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers, members of the Government Cabinet,
Honourable ambassadors of amicable countries in our Republic,
Distinguished representatives of the political spectrum of the country,
Distinguished local government representatives,
Twenty-three years ago this train composition nearby, as well as many others, was the means by which Kosovo was almost completely emptied of its inhabitants. Nearly 1 million Kosovo Albanians during March '99 and onwards were forcibly expelled from the Serbian genocidal regime to neighbouring countries such as: North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, European countries, the United States of America, and all the way to Australia. The exodus of biblical proportions had only one goal on the part of Serbia at the time: the extermination of the Albanian people in Kosovo and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo by Milosevic's regime.
This place where we are gathered today has become synonymous with the Kosovar Golgotha, in which entire families experienced forced eviction from their homes just because they were Albanians. This place was a refuge and hope that separated people only a few steps from the feeling of security, in the lands of the neighbouring state, North Macedonia, where a number of many Kosovar refugees stayed, and others were scattered around the world waiting for the freedom of Kosovo.
Today, we are honoured to have a strong woman among us, who in 1999 experienced one of the most difficult days of her life. With her six-month-old daughter by her side, she had been part of a caravan of refugees who had been forcibly expelled from their homes by forces of the Serbian genocidal regime, forcing them to flee to North Macedonia.
A photo taken by a Reuters photographer made it to the front page of Time magazine, which faithfully portrayed the struggle for survival of a woman who during wartime breastfed her daughter, who was born six months ago before the war would break out and they would be expelled.
This woman is Sherife Luta and with her photo that has made the rounds on the front pages of the world media that can be seen even here today, she had become the portrait of Kosovo at that time, but also of our stoic women, who did not surrender in the war, as they do not surrender even today in peace.
Sherife was forced to part ways with her husband, who had joined the battle of the Kosovo Liberation Army for the freedom of our country. But the two were united by a dream and a belief in freedom.
23 years ago, her dream, but also that of all the inhabitants of Kosovo, began to become a reality, when NATO troops, a few kilometres from here, landed on the land of Kosovo starting the entry into Kosovo to end the oppression and attempt of the Serbian regime to exterminate us.
On June 12, 1999, the killers ended up outside Kosovo, NATO peacekeepers entered Kosovo, and forcibly expelled citizens began to return to their homes.
That day freedom came, oppression and murder ended, and the creation of the youngest state in the world began. The dark hour of history for us ended.
Milosevic's genocidal regime received the deserved punishment for our people's struggle for freedom. The civilized world sided with us, so the concept of freedom as a fundamental value triumphed over barbarism!
Endless gratitude and thanks to our allies, because not only did they save us, but they saved democracy and civilization!
Thank you infinitely KLA and thank you NATO!
The state of Kosovo is our most important project built upon great sacrifices, but also the most important project of American and European foreign policy, as well as of all those who stood by us, alongside freedom and democracy.
Today we are here, not to be held hostage to history, but to remember our glorious past, to remember the women and men of the KLA and the women and men of the North Atlantic Alliance, who made possible the realization of the centuries-old dream of freedom and state.
We are here to look ahead and to remember the emblematic figures of our struggle for freedom, independence and state-building.
We will always remember the diplomatic, wise and persistent efforts of our historic president, Dr. Ibrahim Rugova for Kosovo a state.
We will always live with the memory of the heroism of the legendary commander Adem Jashari and his family, who became the cornerstone of our freedom.
We will always live with the memory of over 3 thousand KLA martyrs, 13 thousand civilians killed, close to 20 thousand women and men raped and over 1600 forcibly missing.
We will not stop seeking justice for abused women, for the missing through violence, as well as for all civilian victims.
We will keep alive the stories of all those who contributed and sacrificed, who fell for freedom and whose fate remains hostage, to preserve the memory, but we will have the orientation ahead because we are a nation who looks and walks towards the future, always realizing that peace is not possible without justice.
If in 1999, the French philosopher and writer Andres Glucksman said that “Europe is born in a free Pristina”, today Europe is reborn in a Kosovo integrated into the family of the European Union. This goal of ours should not be held hostage so visa liberalization should happen as soon as possible and Kosovo becomes part of the Euro-Atlantic structures, where it belongs.
Kosovo has made substantial steps towards its Euro-Atlantic future.
Being a country dominated by youth, our constant effort is to make Kosovo a place where they create and have their own perspective.
We are doing this every day. The potential of Kosovar youth is extraordinary, so they should be given and given the opportunity.
Our young people can contribute anywhere with their talent, helping not only themselves but their entire state.
Kosovo has the greatest wealth of children and youth. We must create the right opportunity and space for them to develop in a safe environment, as a precondition to fully realizing their potential.
Therefore, as freedom once was, for us today it is necessary to provide space for action for the youth because it is the true transformer of our society and state.
Kosovo youth have the power to honour the nation and the state.
The successes of our girls and boys have become the inspiration not only for the youth but for every inhabitant of our state. They are raising the flag of the state of Kosovo, they are the image of today's Kosovo.
In 1999, images of war were broadcast from Kosovo but 23 years later, success stories of our youth are broadcast from here.
Kosovo today has a clear ambition. To integrate into the community of civilized European nations, to contribute to peace and security, and to strengthen democracy, the rule of law and the state in general.
We have built a state, a common shelter for all who live here, without distinction. We will keep it that way and develop it even further.
Kosovo is a determination, it is a dedication and it is our permanent commitment. At this turbulent time not only for our continent, but our desires and prayers are also for peace. 23 years ago, the civilized world stood with the people of Kosovo. Today, we have joined the democratic world to stand with the people of Ukraine, proving once again our Euro-Atlantic orientation, but above all the pro-democratic and humane orientation of the Republic of Kosovo.
On this day of freedom and peace, I cannot close this speech without quoting our Saint Teresa: “We do not need to destroy to bring peace, it is enough to gather together, to love each other and thus bring peace and joy… ”.
God bless the friends of the Republic of Kosovo!
God bless Kosovo and its people!