Speech of Kosovo’s President, Madam Atifete Jahjaga at “Women Driving Economic Growth in Southeastern Europe” Conference

Investment in women is an investment in the family, investment in the community and investment in the society. But foremost it is a guaranteed investment in our future.

Honorable Madam Verveer,

Honorable participants of the conference,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Investment in women is an investment in the family, investment in the community and investment in the society. But foremost it is a guaranteed investment in our future.

We are investing in human beings; we are investing in role models and we are unleashing a crucial potential. We are investing in the integrity and the dignity of women. We are investing in the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of all the men.

As a woman leader, I see inclusiveness go hand in hand with the establishment of rule of law. Our democracy must ensure a policy balance that meets the needs of all citizens.

The Republic of Kosovo has gone through a difficult period. The war has left nine percent of the civilian population killed. Women were used as tools of war, becoming victims of rape and violence which destroyed their dignity for the sole purpose of ethnic cleansing.

But this is the past and I am recounting it so that we can draw lessons from it. The past belongs to history, we must not let it interfere with our present and political future. We are committed to building coexistence and reconciliation. The European agenda is what unites us.

The institutions of the Republic of Kosovo have shown willingness to strengthen the participation of all the communities, to achieve gender balance and representation at all levels of decision-making.

In Kosovo, we have established a system that not only encourages but guarantees the participation of all the communities. I chair the Consultative Council of Communities and I take very seriously their demands. When I sign laws approved by the Kosovo Assembly, I ensure that among other issues, these laws are compliant with the rights of the communities.

We have pioneered some of the most effective, sustainable initiatives towards transforming gender norms. It is our belief that a sound democracy and an inclusive system is the best tool to fight corruption and other injustices in the system.

In the last general and municipal elections the representation of women increased to about thirty-five percent.

Women in Kosovo today are in key positions and are increasingly becoming an influential part of the decision-making process. Kosovo has a woman for a President and two women deputy prime ministers. A woman runs the trade and finance ministry and leads the parliamentary budget commission. A woman leads the EU integration process and also a woman leads the technical talks between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia.

They are joined by many women, who are helping to change our society by serving as role models but also setting an example of how one does business. Have patience with me as the list is long and impressive. But each name deserves recognition.

Margarita, who leads a printing business and a newspaper employs close to 100 people.

Krenare, a talented designer who runs an urban fashion studio.

Sanija, found jobs for 70 Kosovo women and leads a catering business.

Gordana, chairs an association that assists 350 members to produce and market handcrafts and homemade foods.

Bleta who runs two Leonidas chocolate franchise.

Llucija who since 2000 runs a pastry shop that employs 11 workers.

Ola, who works with 100 women of the village of Krusha to manufacture and package fruits and vegetables. These women have lost all their men during the Kosovo war. They are an inspiration. They are survivors who do great things for their families and communities. And the list doesn’t stop there…

Linda, who trades home appliances and electronic goods, promotes also corporate social responsibility.

Kujtesa created a successful beauty care business.

Gezime helps dozens of parents by running five kindergartens with 54 employees.

Ilire runs a successful family business and will soon start a pasta making company.

Valdete, an award-winning leader who dedicates every day to building bridges between communities, civil society and our institutions.

Mirlinda who facilitates women’s exposure and helps their networking. And there are many others that could not attend this conference.

Dear participants,

As we celebrate these women and all of the women across the region I want to speak to you about the paramount issue that poses the greatest threat to the future of our families, our nations and the region.

Most important of all, I want to talk with you about how we, the women of Southeastern Europe are uniquely qualified and most prepared to take on the greatest challenge there is to our common future – that is the need to fight corruption and build a culture that supports the rule of law.

The top priority of countries in transition is to build strong, democratic institutions and enact laws.

By establishing the rule of law we block corruption and organized crime.

Corruption and organized crime pollute the public sphere. They infiltrate our societies, destroy the values of democracy and undermine the balance of a countries economy.

The effects of corruption and organized crime are negative. It impacts economic development; keeps away foreign direct investment and fuels informal economy. It damages the state budget and it’s a hidden tax for all businesses and all citizens.

Consequently, the much-needed jobs fail to materialize.

We need fair and open contracts with transparent business practices, which are critical for investors. The enforcement of contracts and anti-corruption provisions help prove the country’s dedication to the cause.

The corruption in decision-making circles dictates the type of projects that will be implemented, often failing to be sensitive to women and society’s needs.

Equal representation will ensure that our policy is sensitive to everyone’s needs. While infrastructure is important for the development of economy, schools, healthcare and nutrition are equal or even more important.

We must continue to work closely with the civil society organizations, women activists and international stakeholders as we strive to build an inclusive society.

Dear conference participants,

I decided to join Kosovo’s institutions because I was convinced that this was the best way to help my country begin a new chapter in this era of democracy.

I joined Kosovo’s Police because I wanted to help establish the rule of law through an agency that is fully dedicated to that mission.

The building of Kosovo Police as the country’s most respected institution was imperative in the restoration of rule of law in Kosovo.

The rule of law is the underlying principle for a sustainable development of our countries. I am convinced that our prosperity relies on rule of law, and so does our membership in the European Union and NATO.

That is why we are updating all relevant legislation to become more efficient in fighting organized crime and corruption. For example, one of the things we are doing is drafting the law on confiscation of assets that derive from criminal activities.

We have also set a new rule. The Constitutional Court recently decided that there is no immunity for officials in public service who are investigated for corruption and organized crime.

Corruption is an issue we must address and tackle. We also need to address the misperceptions about the corruption in the Balkans.

Statistics show a discrepancy between perception and actual experiences with bribes. But regardless of its levels, we need to continue to eliminate corruption and establish the rule of law.

We need more awareness initiatives in order to educate our citizens so that they report corruption cases.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During the 6 months of my Presidency, the rule of law and good governance have been at the center of my efforts to contribute to the strengthening of democracy in the society and the stability and security of the region.

I am a firm believer that a sound democracy is not complete without the full participation of women.

In order to build transparent governance I am committed to support the drafting of regulations and laws so that the potential that women in the society hold is set free. I will reject laws that disrespect these principles.

This is closely tied to the creation of a strong, efficient and transparent judicial system, depoliticized and responsible to the needs of all our citizens.

As the President of Republic of Kosovo, I am personally committed to this cause. I appointed judges and prosecutors based on their credentials, a clean record and respect for these principles.

Within my constitutional authority, I am taking the lead for a joint institutional response to eradicate corruption and organized crime, and further best practices of good governance and oversight in our institutions.

I am committed to the continued increase of women’s participation in our institutions and their contribution to fighting corruption. In a recent survey, seventy-two percent of our public opinion believes that women are better poised to do so.

We need to utilize this expectation of the society.

With women’s voices, raised and involved, policy will go hand in hand with the needs of all citizens.

In line with this, I am putting together an international women’s conference next year in Kosovo. My goal is to increase awareness of women’s issues, and identify best practices to empower them.

I will also scout for ideas and initiatives to help support women’s economic empowerment in development projects that will ensure that revenues are equally distributed.

Regionally and internationally, we should remove political obstacles that women entrepreneurs face to market their artisan activities outside the borders of Kosovo.

I will invest my time and my engagement to help expand the regional bonds so that women entrepreneurs create alliances, collaborate with multinational companies to access global markets.

We also need to use these networks to become mentors and coaches to one another. Through them, we will share our best practices, show solidarity and come together to advance our common agenda.

We should all find the courage to seek partnerships, let our talents, experiences and natural selves build these bonds.

Women are the bridge builders between our communities and countries.

Dear participants,

In order to advance our future, the time to act is now. We can no longer waste any potential.

Having shown tremendous success in transforming ourselves, we need renewed commitment and a major push for reform.

We need the participation for our better and prosperous future in the EU.

We need to do it for ourselves and the wellbeing of our societies for this is the main undertaking that is shaping our future.

And I ask you all to stand united, strong and committed. Together, we can make this vision a reality.