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Security Council Meeting STATEMENT By H.E. Ms. Vlora Çitaku, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Embassy of the Republic of Kosovo in the United States Washington, DC

It is with great honor and pride that I speak in front of you today. I am honored because this chamber has been a venue of many important discussions that lead to the freedom of my country. I am proud because these last weeks have proven that Kosovo is on an irreversible path towards being embraced as an equal member of the big family of the free nations of the world.

Honorable Mr. President,
Honorable members of the Security Council
Honorable Special Representative of the Secretary General
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
It is with great honor and pride that I speak in front of you today. I am honored because this chamber has been a venue of many important discussions that lead to the freedom of my country. I am proud because these last weeks have proven that Kosovo is on an irreversible path towards being embraced as an equal member of the big family of the free nations of the world.

I belong to a generation that has gone through the worst, witnessed genocide, massacres, rape, exclusion and discrimination. My generation still has a fresh memory of the time when we were denied education, when our schools were closed.

When walls were built to divide the privileged minority and discriminate the majority. We were denied access to a shared public space. We were denied even the right to play. We all still have fresh memories of our youngsters being beaten and arrested by the Serbian police just because they were playing football.

But, I am also fortunate enough to belong to a generation that has witnessed the birth of our state. A generation that defied all odds. We are a generation that struggled to exist however we know has witnessed what was considered impossible become possible.

Our resilience was tested, fought, and defied. However we succeeded. Not because we had the power. But because we were right. Because we dared to dream and we had hopes. Hopes to be equal. Hopes to be free. Hopes to play.

It is my pleasure to inform you, that these are no longer hopes. We are equal. We are free. And we will play.

Last week Kosovo was accepted in FIFA (International Federation of Football Associations) and UEFA (Union of European Football Associations).

This is a great victory for equality. This is a great victory for the sports. Once more this is a testimony that sports have no boundaries and talent has no boundaries. We are proud that our young talents will no longer feel isolated and excluded. We are proud that the overwhelming majority of FIFA and UEFA members supported our cause.

Nevertheless, it is disturbing to see our northern neighbor Serbia outraged by all this wonderful news. While our Federation President Mr. Vokrri’s dream was to bring people together through football, his homologue from Serbia was delivering a politically loaded statement, saying that we could only dream that their fight is over and our UEFA membership is definite. Furthermore, Serbian Prime Minister stated that they ‘will fight, and we will fight fiercely to reverse the decisions made in UEFA’.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Serbia, still wants to deny our kids rights, our youth to feel equal, to compete and to excel.

I have only one message for them, live and let live.

Kosovars deserve a chance. And when they are given a chance they don’t shy us out [they shine]. They come home and make us all proud. Just like Majlinda Kelmendi, did last month re-wining the European golden medal in judo.

We are appalled by the statements made by Serbian officials last week.  Instead of remorse and apology for denying generations of Kosovars their right to play and compete, we hear rhetoric belonging from the last century.

While young Serbian sportsman and woman excel in different sports, the Serbian government wants to deny the same privilege to Kosovo’s young people.

Kosovo being expected, as a full member of UEFA and FIFA, takes nothing away from anyone, it’s simply makes it possible for Kosovo citizens to show their amazing talent to the world, equally as the rest.

Honorable members of the Security Council,

Another important achievement for Kosovars was the recommendation of the European Commission to grant us visa-free travel to the EU, allowing strengthening business, social and cultural ties between the EU and Kosovo.  Kosovo institutions had to work hard to reach this goal. We were given 101 criteria, twice as more than the rest of the Western Balkan countries.

But, hard work did pay off at the end. This is yet another reason for us to feel equal. We grew up as a generation being treated as second-class citizens in the former Yugoslavia. We are now equal citizens of the European continent, sharing the same space, and the same opportunities to travel. For us, this has an added value, as one third of our population lives in EU countries.

While we are aware that visa liberalization is not the solution to the many challenges we have, in creating a better environment and better living conditions for our citizens, we are absolutely sure that visa liberalization will help our people move and travel freely, experience their continent and feel equal.

Kosovar institutions, and all political parties, in the government and opposition worked hard and supported this objective. While our political class has their obvious disagreements, there is no division on our fundamental strategic orientation and aspiration for Euro-Atlantic integration.

Our path towards European integration was sealed 1st of April when Stabilization and Association Agreement between Kosovo and EU entered into force.

As HR Mogherini said, “this agreement opens a new phase in Kosovo - EU relationship and represents an important contribution to peace, stability and prosperity in Kosovo and the region at large.”
 
Ladies and gentleman,

While we celebrate these great achievements, and Kosovars have many reasons to feel proud, there are families in Kosovo that are still mourning. For whom the war never ended. These are the families of the missing people. As is Mrs. Cerkezi, 17 years after the war, she still serves the table for herself, and the remaining members of her family that are still missing: her husband and her four sons. They were taken from the Serbian military and paramilitary forces in the spring of ‘99. She still waits for them. And she needs them back.

She along with thousands of mothers from Kosovo still wait for a clear truth or at least a proper burial. They want a place where they can mourn their loved ones. They demand answers. It is imperative that Serbia opens its files and archives to help close this painful chapter in our recent history.

The Serbian state, as it has been documented, undertook unprecedented measures to hide the traces, they went as far as removing corps from one mass grave to the other, and erecting huge constructions on the places of the remains of human beings.  Like it is the case in Rudnice of Raska, where despite the expectations and statements issued by the Serbian authorities that 250 corps remains of the victims will be identified, only 54 Albanians are found and reburied, they were innocent people executed in the massacre of Rezalla and massacre of Cikatova.

We cannot build peace and reconciliation by burying the truth. Truth must be told. And truth must be accepted. No matter how painful or shameful it is. Denial is not the answer.

Kosovo wants good neighborly relations. Kosovo wants a new chapter in the region. But that requires same level of commitment from all sides.

The inter-state dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, facilitated by the European Union, is not an objective on its own, if it fails to normalize the relation between people.

On behalf of institutions of Republic of Kosovo, let me reiterate that in line with our Constitution we will implement every single Agreement we have reached with Serbia in Brussels.

How can we say we are normalizing the relations, if the Serbian President compares Kosovo to ISIS? Just last month, the President of Serbia, made that claim in Indonesia, and this was not the first time such a comparison was made by a high level Serbian official.

There is something pathological in the way our Serbian neighbor treats us. We were historically labeled.

Now, allow me to state loud and clear. Kosovo is a European country, that aspires to become an EU member.

We share the same values, and most importantly, we share the same aspirations with the rest of Europe.

Trying desperately to label us for something we are not, trying to portray us as a nation that has no European cultural identity, is not only inaccurate, it is also unworthy of a country that is an EU candidate.

Quite the contrary. Kosovo is an active partner of the Global Coalition of nations countering ISIL. Since the beginning we have aligned to the UNSC provisions and adopted the legislation on prohibition of joining the armed conflicts outside state territory.

We have put in place the right mechanisms, legal acts and strategies countering violent extremism. We have gone way beyond words. Tens of NGO-s that fed radicalization were shut down. After large number of arrests, including imams, people are in trials for sowing intolerant attitudes and influencing vulnerable persons. And in the current year, no single Kosovar joined ISIS.

Kosovo sees ISIS as a common regional threat, a threat for Kosovo, for Serbia and the rest of the Balkans, but unfortunately terrorism is not the only threat we face, keeping alive Milosevic’s dreams, hate speech and rhetoric, is equally dangerous.

Kosovo has never, been and Kosovo will never be a source of hatred towards others or a source of destabilization. We are Europeans, not only by the mere fact that we live in the European Continent, but we are Europeans in ideals and aspirations.

There is a strong commitment from all levels of our institutions, all parties, and civil society, to combat this global threat.
 
You should only visit Kosovo, and witness first hand how proud we are of our multi cultural and multi religious society. We are a secular republic that has become a champion in the region for the inter faith dialogue.

You will find in Kosovo many cities where the masque, the catholic and orthodox churches, share the same yard. But, unlike our northern neighbor, we will never use or allow the religion to divide and incent hate.

You should only visit Prishtina and see the biggest asset we have. Our youngsters. Generations, unlike mine that dreamed to survive, feel free and equal, who wants to excel, innovate, compete and contribute.

Visit Innovation Centre of Kosovo, in Prishtina, and you will find young women and men that through science and research develop startups and much more aiming to solve global problems. This is the strong Kosovo’s innovation community oriented towards the future, based on knowledge and new technology, which started to by recognized widely by international community and started to be awarded for their excellence.

Visit Kosovo, and you will see hope. But a different kind from the one my generation had. A better one! An enthusiastic generation of hope and desire to excel and contribute to the community and the world.
 
Of course we have problems, just like any new born. We still have to work hard to strengthen the rule of law, fight corruption and organized crime. Some very important steps were taken recently.

In terms of legislation with law on electronic procurement, and in concrete steps with arrestment of more than 50 people, including high-level officials involved in organized crime.

We are fully aware of the challenges that lay ahead of us. And we commit to address all of them. It is our duty, as a generation, to leave behind not only a free and independent Kosovo. We are aware that independence and freedom are not self-sufficient, they are just precondition for creation of other values.

Our duty is to leave behind a Kosovo that is more prosperous. In peace with all its neighbors and an active member of the global family. That’s the goal worth fighting for.

Thank you for your kind attention