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DR. VJOSA OSMANI SADRIU
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOSOVO
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REMARKS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOSOVO, MRS. ATIFETE JAHJAGA, DURHAM UNIVERSITY

Thank you very much for the warm welcome!

It is a great honour to be with you today, here at Durham University, with all the students and the distinguished professors. I always feel particularly honoured when I find myself among students because it draws me back to the youthful days of myself and my generation, and of a number of generations of the citizens of my country, who made a grand sacrifice for the good of the country, for its freedom and for a better future. As some of you may know, during the apartheid in the 1990s, schools became an important part of our civil resistance against Serbia’s oppression.

I am particularly pleased to be welcomed at one of the great institutions in Great Britain, a country which the people of Kosovo hold dear to their hearts, a country that has helped Kosovo in the darkest time of its history, to share with you Kosovo’s transformation from a battlefield to a democratic country that has assumed its rightful place among the free nations. And just so you know, the spirit of Durham University, the academic excellence you offer, lives on in Kosovo through your Kosovar alums who are contributing to the state-building process tirelessly and transforming Kosovo into a truly democratic country.

No doubt, this journey to get Kosovo where it is today – a free and independent country – was long not so much because of the time span concerned, but because this journey has demanded much effort, determination and sacrifice by a series of generations in Kosovo, and trust by the international community and the leaders of the democratic world that the responsibility to save and protect human lives exceed the principle of sovereignty, that Kosovo’s freedom was worth the investment of our allies.

It is this conviction held by the United Kingdom, United States and other European countries for a safer and a peaceful world that helped my country and its people open a new chapter. Kosovo gained its freedom, as well as the chance to draw from some of the best examples in building a new state.

Today, I stand before you as someone whose past and present has been shaped by these events – war and peace-building – seen repeatedly in the 20th century. The very last conflict, in 1999, touched me, my family, our country—directly, and for many tragically.

Wars leave huge consequences for a society. They destroy people’s lives, leave behind destruction of property and they bring to an end every means of communication between different communities. This is exactly what happened in Kosovo.

Kosovo has gone through difficult times – from war to peace, from a state-controlled economy to free market, from dictatorship to democracy.

But the processes which are set off by the end of a war are complicated but of crucial importance for the society. Along with reconstruction, the process of democratization, security and the establishment of rule of law and economic development are interdependent.

We were left to rebuild, to develop, to remember, and to not repeat the mistakes of the past. And perhaps most importantly, our experience will always be a testament to the international engagement and intervention on preventing and ending conflicts but also an important lesson to all of us grappling with the questions of how to rebuild a society’s destroyed bonds, how to create viable and sustainable countries.

There is a lot of hope and enthusiasm when you set out to build a democratic country, because when it comes, democracy is a revelation. For a nation that suffered repression for decades, free speech alone, as the most basic right, seems glorious. Often for the first time, people may speak openly and genuinely.

But democracy is also complicated. There are elections to hold, politics to create, rights to assert, grievances to settle and institutions to build. To many it’s exhilarating. For others it can be disappointing, when it turns out that democracy doesn’t immediately translate into better living standards.

There are no early gains and its sustainability is only ensure through time, and this for the most part held true in Kosovo.

Our revival has been enduring and painful; building of a democratic state to us meant searching for best international practices and their adaptation to Kosovo’s specific circumstances. From a country in isolation, neglected and deprived of freedom to choose its own fate, Kosovo has in these fourteen years become a success story of state building, a country which aims to guarantee a more prosperous life to its citizen and which aims to ensure peace prevails in the region.

This work was carried through with unprecedented commitment. In achieving this goal Kosovo was guided by a strong and important international presence, civilian and military, which was particularly helpful in the first phase of the post-conflict as the country went through the period of emergency and completed its reconstruction phase.

The international presence has laid the foundations of the self-government by Kosovo authorities, creating the conditions to gradually transfer the power to the people of Kosovo. Electoral processes in Kosovo – local or central – were initially led by international authorities for the citizens of Kosovo and with the participation of Kosovo’s political parties.

The political plurality in Kosovo was built alongside the democratization of the society, an important and inclusive process, although the mistrust between different communities in the post-war period was deep.

Comprehensive aid in post conflict states is vital. International assistance in Kosovo was essential to deal with the difficulties of transition and revival.

The international community, which was deployed in Kosovo, also acted as a bridge between different ethnic communities and was a guarantor of security, of a safe and secure environment within the borders of Kosovo, while simultaneously preserving Kosovo’s internal stability.

Development and security are tightly linked and they should be considered jointly because Security determines the development of a country. Kosovo had a strong correalation between domestic and international mechanisms of security. NATO’s peacekeeping force, deployed in Kosovo since the end of the war, often has played the role not only of the guardian of Kosovo’s borders with its neighboring countries, but it also helped the communities in Kosovo to facilitate their lives and rebuild the ties between them.

Which brings me to security and inclusion. Societies across the world are rapidly changing as new ways of thinking, new forms of self-expression, evolve. People historically placed on the sidelines by social convention and personal prejudice—concerning gender, race, youth, sexual orientation, and disability–are stepping forward to take their place at the table.

We must make room, for we are all enriched by their inclusion, which breeds security.

Security is the foundation of the state-building process. Security means economic development and investments. And security guarantees the construction of a strong and respected society. Kosovo is a developing country, which has laid the foundation of a just country, seeking to create equal opportunities for all its citizens.

We have built a sound legal system and related mechanisms that guarantee the implementation of the rule of law.
For many years, in my country, the uniform symbolized violence and brutality. But, in the last decade Kosovo has become a country in which its citizens perceive the police force as their own, a force that looks after their security and rule of law regardless of which ethnic community they are serving.

And please allow me to stop for a second and acknowledge my dear friend, Richard Monk, who is among us here today, a man of vision who invested his knowledge and talents to helping Kosovo build a professional police force, of which I was a very proud member. It is because of him and many other man and women from many countries in the world, that Kosovo Police continues to be the most trusted institution in the country.

Distinguished participants,

As we take toll of Kosovo’s transformation, I believe it’s important also to recognize that the international presence in a post-conflict country must have a timely conclusion. The premature withdrawal from a post-conflict country may trigger instability and block all developments, including the democratic process that the society is undergoing. But the prolonged international presence in a post-conflict country may as well damage these processes and create dependency on international aid, which hinders the proper development of the host country’s capacity.

Host-country governments like Kosovo are both partners and beneficiaries of assistance providers. But international community must recognize that development is a balance between the short-term and long-term. It also needs to learn when it is time to end an engagement as well as when to step in because when international assistance goes on for too long or becomes too pervasive, a well-meant intervention can become counterproductive.

At times this dual role of being a partner and a beneficiary can confuse expectations about what governments are supposed to accomplish and, how they can deliver. Go too slow in transferring development responsibilities to local institutions and they can become too reliant. Go too fast and countries may become unstable. Acknowledging this duality is an important element to maximizing development strategies because if a country remains dependent on others to tackle its main priorities it may never develop the ability to do so for itself.  We need to recognize that over time governments, and indeed the private sector and civil society, should assume full responsibility for the development of their countries.

The period of emergency after the war in Kosovo has lasted longer than expected and this has slowed down the development of the country in many areas, making it more dependent on outside aid than anticipated.

This economic and political dependency has at times slowed down Kosovo’s state-building process and consolidation of the country’s political class. Kosovo’s development, however, is a joint success story although the engagement and the role of the local forces should have been more powerful and direct in all the phases of Kosovo’s consolidation.

For over nine years Kosovo was under international administration and its full state-building process began after the declaration of independence on February 17, 2008.

We are a multicultural country-  a state, whose citizens have experienced distrust of each other during a time period but are today attempting to live a different life, in understanding and good faith.

No individual’s freedom begins where another one’s freedom ends, and we in Kosovo know this the best. Hence, we like our country to become a country to all those living in it, as equals.

We are a civic state, where obligations and responsibilities for the development and democratisation of the country are carried by each and every one equally. Inclusiveness and tolerance is our response to each demand for the return to the violent past.

Kosovo is a state for no longer than five years. Declaration of the independence in 2008 was made in full coordination with the international community and in compliance with international law and norms, following UN-mediated talks. However, challenges to the statehood of Kosovo have continued after this period, despite the legitimacy granted by the International Court of Justice three years ago.

We have had a period of difficult relations with the Republic of Serbia, a neighbouring country, despite attempts to reach common ground on issues related to the wellbeing of our citizens of both our countries.

Two months ago our countries signed an agreement, which will lead us towards a process of normalisation of bilateral relations. We view this EU-mediated agreement as an accord that leaves the history of violence and hatred behind and which looks towards a different kind of future.

It is difficult and often daunting to establish and achieve understanding. In February I met with Tomislav Nikolic, the President of Serbia, in the first meeting ever between the Presidents of both countries.

Meetings of such nature, of Presidents of the countries who have icy relations, are difficult, but they can also mark the turning points for the leaders to change the viewpoints about the present.

The most difficult part of these meetings, which aim to lead towards normalisation of relations between states, are the open wounds of the society in Kosovo and the sufferings which are still fresh on people’s minds. It is difficult to rebuild the shattered lives of the people in less than fifteen years, and even more difficult when the justice has not been served.

But it is my firm belief that the solution is to be found in dialogue. As leaders we need to demonstrate courage for the sake of our citizens and to show responsibility in ending the vicious cycle of violence, which will eventually help to overcome the pain of the past and not to pass on the burden of the old animosities to coming generations.

Even though the agreement reached between Kosovo and Serbia does not include the immediate recognition of the independence of Kosovo by the Republic of Serbia, it does accept the reality on the ground and changes the perception on the Europe’s youngest state.

It removes the existing barriers between the institutions of Kosovo and its citizens residing in the northern part of the Republic, who are members of the Serbian community, who have yet to perceive Kosovo as their own country. For over fourteen years they have lived in uncertainty, in insecurity and intimidation by different groups of criminals. They were left with no perspective, in a limbo, torn between the Republic of Kosovo, where they belong, and Serbia.

In Kosovo we are aware of the tasks that await us. We must make up for the lost time in the past fourteen years. We must support each citizen as it seeks a better life and we are attempting to do this at each corner of our country. The responsibility for citizens of the Republic of Kosovo, even those in the northern part of the country, rests with us. Responsibility for economic development, for creating new employment opportunities, for the wellbeing of each and everyone, for their future.

We are shouldering this responsibility with the utmost dedication. Responsibilities for each of our citizens are the same, regardless of ethnicity: each one wants a better life and a decent job. Each one wants the freedom of movement and safety.

This is why I say this at every single meeting with anybody, whether in Kosovo or abroad, that agreements reached at the dialogue process with Republic of Serbia must be implemented for the sake of the wellbeing of the citizens and for the sake of the normalisation of relations between our two states. This normalisation will require a lot of time and commitment. It will require giving up on the past dreams and building of mutual respect. And in any case, it will require an energetic attempt for reconciliation, by not forgetting the past but building the future for the sake of the next generations.

Because our right to live in the independent state of Kosovo is an undeniable and unalienable right. As much as the right of each citizen of the Republic of Kosovo to be an equal part of this independence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I approach the end of my speech, I was to turn your attention to the future and elaborate Kosovo’s vision for the future.

We are an inseparable part of Europe and we continue to feel ourselves as Europeans, part of European Union, of the progress and a promise of a better life. Citizens of Kosovo, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, have their common denominator – the path of European integration, a process on which they speak in unison.

Because they are devoted European citizens, who share their common values with all European nations and are eager to exchange these values with them.

Even though European integration is our primary target, integration of our own citizen into institutional life of Kosovo is crucial. Faster integration of the Serbian community in the north of Kosovo into Kosovar society would signify an attempt for coexistence in our common country and a faster pace towards the EU.

My country has entered a process of deep reforms in every field. These reforms – in security, judiciary, education and health – are in compliance with the criteria and standards required for EU membership, but we are committed to carry them through not to simply tick the boxes, but because we deeply believe that they will ensure a more sustainable future for the young generations in Kosovo.
There must be no short cut on this path.

EU membership has no other alternative!

And this is why Kosovo needs the international backing and support. And above all why Kosovo needs to become part of the various regional and European mechanisms, in particular, of those in the field of security and rule of law, in order to successfully combat crimes of transnational nature.

This is why the fight against corruption and organised crime has turned into the most meaningful battle of our country. One of the toughest battles but one which cannot be lost. Because upon this victory depends the future and the functionality of our state.

I am confident that we will demonstrate that Kosovo is our joint success story, of the institutions and its people and the international community.

Honourable friends,

I spoke to you so far about the processes through which Kosovo has gone and is going through.

And when I spoke about the democratic developments of the country, I must say that Kosovo today has changed as much as the circumstances around the world changed. From a country with a patriarchal tradition, Kosovo has changed perceptions on gender equality and has worked actively to turn this principle into reality.

I am today the first female President in the history of my country, but I would also like to mention the fact that I am the first female President in the history of the whole Balkans. In my country a number of women hold key positions in government and other public offices. In Kosovo’s parliament, women hold 30 percent of the seats.

I stand here before you, as a woman President, who has in over two years met a large number of world leaders and discussed with them issues that concern not only Kosovo but each corner of the world and I still stand convinced that these issues are not gender specific.
World does not belong only to a single gender. We share the world and its development depends on all of us.

Honourable friends,

Thank you very much for your attention and I would gladly share the next few moments with you in order to discuss with you any interest you might have on my country and its development.

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