Eleven years after the NATO entry in Kosovo, our country has undergone a complete transformation. Today Kosovo has become an important factor of peace and stability in the region, with the clear objective of becoming a member of the European Union, NATO and other international institutions, including the United Nations.
In the spring of 1999, NATO intervened to deliver the people of Kosovo from physical annihilation. We reiterate that this was a matchless humanitarian intervention, unrepeatable on account of its magnitude. The NATO has not intervened in Kosovo for military purposes solely. It has rather intervened to save a people and to protect a civilization that ran the risk of total extinction.
Such an extraordinary human dimension has enabled the KFOR members to enjoy always the sympathy and the special reverence of all the people of Kosovo. This reverence has grown year after year, because KFOR did not only stick to its primary mission i.e. to keeping and providing security in Kosovo. Rather, it provided a direct contribution to the improvement of the quality of life of all the people of Kosovo.
Many schools, bridges and other essential premises that have been constructed in the post-war Kosovo bear the stamp of KFOR. The leaders and troops of this mission helped bring back life to Kosovo, by always remaining a factor of amity, closeness and reconciliation between people of different ethnicities within the Kosovo mosaic.
Over these years, the KFOR soldiers have set an example of professional and disciplined military service. This makes them more loved by all in Kosovo. I am strongly convinced that this is how it will be for as long as the mission will remain in Kosovo.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Kosovo declared her independence on 17 February 2008, in full coordination with the countries you come from. To date, 69 independent states around the world have recognized our country and we strongly believe new recognitions are due.
The uncontestable legality of the independence and the sovereignty of the Republic of Kosovo have been utterly confirmed by the International Court of Justice too, which has announced an advisory opinion upon the request of the Republic of Serbia. As you know, the ICJ opinion was very clear, but Serbia declines to accept it, despite the fact that she has asked for such an opinion herself. Now Serbia is trying to hinder the further international recognition of the Republic of Kosovo by way of a draft resolution that she has filed with the UN General Assembly, but we are convinced that such a destructive endeavor by Serbia will encounter a proportionate response, like all its endeavors so far.
The independence of Kosovo is an internationally recognized reality. Consequently, endeavors to impede prosperity in our country are detrimental not only to us, but to the entire region. They are even detrimental to Serbia herself and her people, as they hamper the joint integration of the region into the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Kosovo is committed to strengthening her very good relations with neighboring countries: Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. We aspire to have such relations with the Republic of Serbia as well, always as two sovereign states, in order to contribute to the welfare of the people of both countries.
Even during Commander Benltler’s leadership, NATO/KFOR experts have provided an unreserved assistance in developing and professionalizing the Kosovo Security Force, so we want to express our deep appreciation for that.
The KSF is developing under NATO standards and we are positive that it represents one of the brightest chapters of the overall success story in Kosovo.
Allow me to express again, on this occasion, our good will to have the members of the Kosovo Security Force participate, be it in symbolic numbers, in the NATO peacekeeping missions around the world.
Kosovo wants to provide its contribution to peace, stability and a brighter future for all the people alike; Kosovo is ready to assume responsibilities that appertain to her as to any other sovereign state.
Last but not least, I wish good health, luck and success in his further engagements to General Bentler, to whom I have awarded the Golden Medal for Military Service in Kosovo.
Likewise, allow me to wish welcome and complete success in his new assignment to General Erhard Buhler, whom we assure of maintenance of the excellent cooperation that has always existed between the Kosovo institutions and KFOR commanders and all the members of this noble mission.