Fjalimi i Presidentes Jahjaga në Institutin Harriman, Universiteti Columbia

In mid-1999, we inherited a country destroyed: Thousands of civilian deaths, and a legacy of ethnic hostilities.

Dear Mr. Coatsworth, Mr. Bardos thank you for the invitation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the warm welcome and for joining me today.

I am a firm believer in the importance of free and open debate, and I welcome the opportunity that the World Leaders Forum and Harriman Institute have given me to talk about my country.

Nearly twelve years ago, Kosovo was targeted for ethnic cleansing by the Serbian regime. NATO intervened to protect civilians.

This humanitarian intervention became the precedent for the development of the norm of responsibility to protect, or intervention in defense of victims of mass killing and gross violation of human rights by their state.

It is this line of thinking that led NATO to intervene again recently in Libya and this is why the experience of Kosovo carries relevance for the world and future engagements in state-building efforts.

In mid-1999, we inherited a country destroyed: Thousands of civilian deaths, and a legacy of ethnic hostilities.

Recovery was not easy. It took a lot of help and a great deal of patience.

The emerging democracies have much to learn from our experience.

But first, let me share with you my own experience.

I joined Kosovo’s police force in 2000, an institution we were building from the ground. You may ask what is so special about joining a police force?

My father was born in a prison because my family opposed the communist regime and was persecuted by its repressive police force, which was a tool of the state against the people, exclusive, violent and corrupt.

I grew up at the height of the police repression, and I wanted a different police: fair, lawful and trustworthy.

Over the years, Kosovo’s police became just that – a microcosm of the Kosovo I envision: multiethnic and inclusive, effective and professional, uncorrupt and transparent.

In Kosovo Police force, through my hard work I succeeded at the top. I became a major general, the highest police rank.

When I was approached to become a candidate for Kosovo’s President, to help my country avoid a political crisis, I stepped up to this call.

I saw it as an opportunity to be a unifying President that enjoys the support of the main political parties and communities.

I committed myself to the call of duty to serve my country and my people in harmony with the ideals and values that I believe in.

Here I am today, the President of the Republic of Kosovo.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thanks to the efforts of Kosovo’s people, its institutions and international partners, the Republic of Kosovo today is a very different place.

Today, the Republic of Kosovo is an independent country. The United States, the leading European countries – 22 out of 27 – and more broadly a total of 82, have recognized Kosovo as a state and we’re working toward gaining more recognition for our statehood.

Kosovo’s independence is irreversible and we have established ourselves as a factor of peace and stability in the Balkans.

In 2008 when we declared independence, we set clear objectives in partnership with international community: To build a democratic and inclusive country and to protect minorities.

These objectives are laid out in the Comprehensive Status Proposal, know as the Ahisaari Plan and they are inscribed in our Constitution.

Today, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. We have accomplished most of those goals.

Kosovo’s Constitution, unlike others in the Balkans, is based on a civic idea of citizenship. Article One clearly states that the “Republic of Kosovo is a state of its citizens.”

It does not favor one ethnic group at the expense of others. On the contrary, it includes strong provisions to protect minorities.

That is why our communities are represented in the Assembly through a system of guaranteed seats.

Out of 120 seats, 20 are secured for the ethnic communities that make less than 10 percent of Kosovo population.

Serb representatives hold the majority of the reserved seats in addition to seats they gain from participation in the election. Three ministers are Serbs and one is Turkish.

There is a strong affirmative action program in place throughout the civil service so that institutions such as the Kosovo Police force reflect the nature of Kosovo’s population.

To ensure the legal protection of the communities, they can veto any amendment to the Constitution and laws that may impact their rights.

As part of the decentralization process we have undertaken, we have built five new functional municipalities run by minorities in various parts of Kosovo, which are equal in the exercise of power with the rest of the municipalities in the country.

For example, in Gracanica, a 6-minute drive from the capital Prishtina, Serbs and their elected representatives run their municipal affairs.

They also regulate their cultural and religious affairs, education, healthcare and appoint their local police commanders.

As institutions of the Republic of Kosovo, we have also recognized the legitimate right of Serbia to show interest about the Serb minority in Kosovo.

That is why we have established provisions that regulate those links in a transparent manner through Kosovo’s institutions.

Kosovo’s citizens, regardless of their ethnicity and religion, their size or their percentage, are now equal by law.

Freedom of movement has been accomplished. Anyone is free to travel, work and seek opportunities across Kosovo.

In Kosovo, the police have not recorded any ethnically motivated crime in the last seven years, and this holds true for the Kosovo Serbs.

More in general, Kosovo is working on strengthening its rule of law, addressing corruption and the challenges of the economic development.

As you said, Mr. Coatsworth, I have dedicated a part of my career to building Kosovo’s police force – the most trusted and respected institution in Kosovo - because I am convinced that our prosperity relies on security, and so does our membership in the European Union and NATO.

That is why we are updating all our legislation to become more efficient in fighting organized crime and corruption, like the law on confiscation of assets that we hope to complete by the end of the year.

And this is not just a verbal commitment.

Our police and judiciary, as well as the international investigators, who work along us in Kosovo, cooperate with regional countries to prosecute transnational crime.

We have established ourselves as a reliable partner of the American government in preventing terrorism as several recent arrests that are a result of our cooperation have confirmed.

Government officials who are investigated for corruption cannot remain in office.

But, allow me to explain that organized crime and corruption are not a Kosovo-specific problem; they are a characteristic of countries in periods of transition.

To fight them we need a joint regional response.

That is why at this crucial juncture, to be more efficient in fighting organized crime and other transnational threats, Kosovo as a state needs to be included in regional and international organizations that focus on fighting these threats despite the political disagreements.

The rule of law is at the center of my efforts to establish a stable state and to contribute to the stability and security of the region.

It is from this premise that I supported the joint Kosovo Police, EULEX and KFOR operation in the northern part of Kosovo last week.

The action installed custom officials in the two border-crossing between Kosovo and Serbia that were outside of government reach and became havens of smuggling.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I, as the President of the Republic of Kosovo, guarantee that we will remain focused on this course because no matter what is our standpoint, where we come from or to what ethnic group we belong, despite our disagreements about how we got here, we can build up on our ambition for the future.

We want Kosovo and the whole region to be prosperous, democratic, a member of the European Union and NATO as the main guarantee of peace and stability in the Balkans by being active contributors and respondents to this process.

It is in this forward-looking spirit that we have approached the dialogue with Serbia.

Through it we hope to find solutions to practical problems that would facilitate the lives of our citizens despite our political disagreements.

As a result of these talks mediated by the EU, the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo can now travel with Kosovo documents and Kosovo-issued license plates to Serbia.

Kosovo’s educational degrees that were not recognized are now accepted by Belgrade.

The latest agreement on the custom stamps will enable the free and legal movement of goods between both countries.

And we look forward to the return of all the documentation that were seized by Serbia at the end of the war to be returned to their home in Kosovo.

These agreements are a means to normalize the relations between our two countries.

They are a pragmatic approach to some real concerns.

They do not infringe upon Kosovo’s sovereignty and they do not contradict the Constitution or the laws of my country.

The society, too, has made progress.

To be clear, our society has not completely healed from the war. As I speak, thousands of people across Kosovo continue to be tormented about the fate of about 1,800 loved ones still missing. They have been robbed of closure.

Yet, the society’s desire to move on and reconcile is inspiring.

In a recent effort by the civil society to sign a petition for the process of regional reconciliation in four former Yugoslav units, Kosovo met the targeted support relative to the other countries in the region touched by wars -- an indication of the strong will of Kosovo’s citizens to work towards the future and leave the institutions to deal with the prosecution of the crimes of the past.

But, Ladies and Gentlemen, this does not mean that there are no challenges or dangers that could reverse this progress.

Our challenges today in Kosovo are threats to this stability - remnants of unfinished business.

In three municipalities in northern Kosovo, radical Serb elements, which are connected to criminal networks, have rejected the Kosovo government.

They have set up parallel security structures that have obstructed and undermined our efforts to reach out to this part of the community. 

Our position on this remains very clear: we will continue to work very hard to integrate all the communities.

We will continue to extend to the Serb community, which has been held hostage by these structures, the rights and the benefits that Serbs elsewhere in Kosovo are enjoying.

We call upon Serbia to help in dismantling these illegal security structures.

In the coming months, Kosovo’s institutions, in partnership with international actors, will seek to engage with this Serb community in the north in order to best address their concerns.

We want free and fair elections in northern Kosovo to elect legitimate representatives that will abide by the laws. This will bring normality in the north from which all the citizens will benefit.

What we want is achievable, but we cannot do it alone.

We need the support of the international community, including Serbia, as foreseen in the Ahtisaari Plan.

But, I will not agree to any violation of Kosovo’s sovereignty.

I firmly reject Kosovo’s partition, its internal territorial rearrangement or exchange of territories between countries.

I am committed to this vision for my country and the region: multiethnic, multicultural, a place of many faiths and traditions, where different cultures are a source of enrichment, where all the citizens live with dignity and pride.

Dear friends,

This is the age of integration: ideas that divide people run contrary to this trend.

We need to find ways to respect our divergence and build upon our joint future.

I believe in our ability to raise above the differences and find strength in drawing lessons from the past and build the future by not repeating the past.

I thank you for your attention and I hope to welcome you to Kosovo, the country of the young Europeans, so that you can see for yourself how a nation has built itself and what a tremendous success story it has been.

Thank you!

And I welcome your questions.