President Osmani's address at the high-level 2022 "Green Energy Days" Conference
Representatives of institutions from Kosovo and the region,
Distinguished representatives of academia, civil society and the media,
Representatives of the European Union in Kosovo,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have the pleasure to proclaim open today the conference which marks the Green Days and which focuses on the commitment of institutions, of civil society and other relevant actors in Kosovo and in the region towards meeting the objectives of the Green Agenda.
The new reality is such that the green agenda has already become part of every discussion but also part of every cross-sectoral policy and goes far beyond the exclusive focus of the energy sector and the environment, as has been the practice over the years.
Today, therefore, I want to thank in the first place the civil society and the many activists, in particular the environmental activists, for the fact that they have made sure and also remained committed that the policy-making, but also the law-making in our country goes in favour of advancing the green agenda. So today, I say thank you to you who are in this room, but also to many others who are not with us today, for the commitment, for the tireless work, but above all, for the unwavering faith in this cause.
These are not the easiest of times. On the contrary, these are indeed very challenging times for Kosovo, Europe and beyond. The war in Ukraine followed the energy crisis in Europe, deepening it even further and putting in front of us numerous questions on ensuring energy security. The removal of Russian gas from the energy system of EU countries is of course the most appropriate and strategic decision of in current days. But, the great dependence built over the years on Russian gas by some of the EU countries brings the whole continent to a crucial situation when quick, smart solutions must be made, which as much as affect the economy and energy sectors and they also convey a clear geopolitical message.
And while Europe must find the right balance between quick solutions in guaranteeing uninterrupted supply of electricity, and in parallel to ensure that it does not jeopardize the objectives of decarbonisation and climate action, the challenges in our country, and they also remain as serious issues in the whole of our region.
Dependence on lignite has been synonymous with the energy system in our country for a very long time. Although this has protected us to some extent in the face of recent developments in energy markets, it has also shown us how problematic the lack of diversification of energy resources is. As a result of the demolition of our already extremely antiquated power plants, our country was forced to turn to imports. Along with electricity imports, the high electricity prices were also imported and not only that. This was the high price that Kosovo paid this winter due to the lack of diversification of energy resources. However, coal dependency has had just as much impact on the environment and our health over the years. Respectively, it has significantly affected the pollution of air, nature, as well as water, and consequently has had an equally negative impact on our health. We are seeing the consequences every day and they are becoming even more serious.
Unfortunately, for way too long the energy sector has been seen as an isolated sector, refusing to understand the close interconnectedness it has with the health of the economy, with the health of the environment and with our health. Facts and statistics speak for themselves. Alarming excess of particulates, a high number of respiratory diseases, dusty public spaces and urban chaos are a direct result of negligence in prioritizing environmental protection. These are the result of wrong and long-delayed policies in the energy and environment sectors.
Today we have the opportunity to do things differently. At such a crucial momentum for the future of energy in our country and beyond, we have the opportunity to do things much better than they have been so far. Therefore, I strongly believe in the green agenda and we will work together to help it in order to be implemented in our country in the coming years.
During my address today, I will not talk about figures, laws, and the findings of academic and scientific research and what you have done today in this room. Sometimes images speak louder than numbers, more so than every word and every statistic. Above all, today we also have invited field experts who will give us a clearer picture over the coming hours. But today I am here to convey the clear message that despite the fact that the present may seem extremely challenging, the future must be clear: the future is green and sustainable.
In this regard, we need fast, bold, wise and affordable solutions. And while the modalities for achieving these goals may vary and we do not all see them the same, we need to be clear that investment options that we will not regret are already before us. Such are investments in renewable energy sources and in the application of energy efficiency measures. So, as long as we identify long-term scenarios for the development of the energy sector, these are some of the answers we have ready now.
But, in this journey we shall not succeed alone. Therefore, I want to emphasize and re-emphasize the extremely important role of regional cooperation in meeting these challenges. Much has been said and written in this regard. But if we do not prove ourselves with proactive policies and actions, it will be the market that will send us clear messages concerning this.
I am also clear about the importance of ensuring energy independence, but I am equally clear about the importance of regional cooperation in the spirit of enabling an easier and more affordable energy transition. Therefore, I encourage you today to also speak and act, not for a moment eliminating the importance of neighbourly cooperation in ensuring fair, affordable and sustainable decarbonisation. I encourage you to cooperate in the field of air, water and nature protection.
I hope we all know that our decisions today are the most accurate indicator of our responsibility to the future and to the following generations. I want all of us to be clear that this journey will have its challenges. And the strategies we adopt and the laws we adopt do not suffice, but just as important are the designs of appropriate policies in the education sector, and as mentioned- social policies, communication between our citizens so that we can all serve the green future we aim for together.
The pandemic has made it clearer than ever the direct and close connection between man and nature. But, it has made it just as clear to us that health is the most valuable asset we have in our lives. While COVID-19 has so far been a raging pandemic, let us not forget for a moment the pandemic that is developing more and more silently: climate change. In the face of this undeniable reality, we cannot be indifferent either as Kosovo or as a region. Even if our contribution is unmatched by the world average, the impact of climate change will not spare us. We have these challenges in common, so we need to come together and see how we can identify and push forward the right solutions.
For this reason, I am happy that we are here together today to discuss the following concrete steps. And just as happy that these discussions are becoming more and more present, more dynamic and more concrete in our country, and in our region.
Finally, while the signing of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans in Sofia is our commitment, let it be our future, that of our children, and of the nature that surrounds us, our motivation and our daily guide. If we are to be guided by these motives, I am convinced that the journey ahead will be clear, just, and accurate.
Thank you for the invitation. I wish you substantive discussions in the coming days.