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, DCIt is always a great honor for me to be able to come and speak here in front of you on behalf of my country. It is not only an honor, but also emotional, because at times when we were voiceless, when our most basic human rights were being targeted in the most brutal way by the Serbian military and paramilitary forces, you all spoke up.
Honorable Mr. President,
Honorable members of the Security Council,
Ladies and Gentleman,
It is always a great honor for me to be able to come and speak here in front of you on behalf of my country. It is not only an honor, but also emotional, because at times when we were voiceless, when our most basic human rights were being targeted in the most brutal way by the Serbian military and paramilitary forces, you all spoke up. You became our voice, and our hope. You restored our faith in humanity, you restored the belief, that no matter if you are big or small, powerful or powerless, if you fight for a just cause, you are never alone.
Since 1993 this honorable chamber has adopted seven resolutions related to Kosovo. Resolutions calling for peace and putting an end to the war. For that, we will forever be grateful. Dozens of Presidential statements were made; including the one dated October 24 2005, where Security Council called to start a political process to determine Kosovo’s future status.
Honorable members of the Council,
In honoring the will of the people of Kosovo and under UN special envoy’s mediation, Kosovo has a final status; Kosovo is a free, independent and a sovereign state. And yet again at Serbia’s request, the International Court of Justice ruled unambiguously that Kosovo was within its rights when it declared independence, and it did not violate any international law, Resolution 1244 or Constitutional framework.
Kosovo today is a young republic. Facing challenges, of course, but not the kind of challenges that would require us to meet every three months, taking your valuable time, that is in heavy demand for issues of much greater need and importance.
Once, we were a nation of refugees, today we are not. But, there are 20 million refugees in the world today! The largest number since the Second World War. There are millions of women that are subjected to sexual violence in areas of conflict, just like our women were during the war in Kosovo. There are children that are in desperate need of food and medicine and shelter, just like our children once were.
The millions that are spent annually to maintain UNMIK in Kosovo could be put to a much better use. To justify my point, I am going to quote the special representatives report “a fight erupted between a Kosovo Serb and a Kosovo Albanian over a parking lot”. On a serious note, if this chamber decides to have a session each time people fight about parking lots in New York or any other place in the world for that matter, the Security Council will not have anything else to talk about. Quoting again the Special Representative’s report another example is found. “Funds were stolen from the Orthodox Monastery St. Jovan” when actually tips were stolen. Most of the incidents enlisted in the UNMIK report are of this nature, and they have nothing to do with inter-ethnic violence.
This is not to say that we live in paradise. Kosovo today is still not the Kosovo we dreamed and fought for. There is a lot that needs to be done to strengthen the rule of law, to fight corruption and organized crime, just like any newborn.
Although, together with our international partner’s tremendous work has been accomplished in this regard, but we also recognize there is still more to be done. Our citizens deserve more equal opportunities to prosper, regardless of their ethnic, religious or political background. We owe it to them, as they, every day, more and more, are giving us reasons to be proud with their hard work, selfless dedication, and sacrifice. We don’t have to look deep to be inspired by extraordinary stories of our people. Such as the story of Fahrije Hoti from the village of Krusha. Her husband, along with 241 civilians were massacred by Serbian forces in March of 1999. In that small village, 139 women became widows overnight, 500 children fatherless.
But, because of Fahrije and other women like her, Krusha is no longer known only for its tragic history. After the war, they all came back to find their houses in ashes. However, they did not despair; they did not lose themselves to hatred or revenge. They rebuilt their homes, and they started working on their farms. They opened small businesses and shops. With very little or no institutional support. Because of Fahrije and other widows of Krusha, today, there is smoke out of every chimney; there is life in that village. Despite Fahrije’s tragic past, although she was never offered an apology, she talks about forgiveness: “I will never be able to forget what happened, she says, but to forgive is human, because a person cannot live if she or he does not forgive. That would be too heavy of a burden to carry!”
Fahrije is still waiting for the remains of her husband. He is still classified as missing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kosovo is ready to move on, but Serbia needs to be ready to let go. Serbia needs to reflect on its past and learn from it. We in Kosovo don’t want to leave our children with any burden from the past. Last month, Kosovo President Mr Hashim Thaci visited and paid his respect at two memorials honoring Serbian civilians killed after 1999 in Kosovo. Two of them were children. Although we never managed to shed light, and bring the perpetrators of this crime in front of justice, and just as a reminder, these acts happened at a time when our police and justice system was run by UNMIK, nonetheless we will never condone violence by anyone, and we will continue to ask for justice to be made. As we will continue to fight for justice for the 1262 children that were killed in Kosovo during the war by Serbian military and paramilitary forces.
For most of them, no one ever went to trial, although the evidence is clear on who the perpetrators were.
While Kosovo is going to great lengths and undertaking unprecedented measures to contribute to peace and stability in the region, I must ask what Serbia is doing? They want to erect a statue revering Slobodan Milosevic. What is the message that Serbia wants to send to victims from Vukovar, to Srebrenica, to Kosovo?
Is this how Serbia views reconciliation? Rehabilitating the most notorious war criminal in Europe after the Second World War? And more importantly what message is Serbia sending to its own people? After all, Milosevic and his regime were also responsible for Serbian life’s loss as well.
As it was revealed by Serbian Prime Minister Vucic, 6 youngsters were killed in Peja in 1998, the so-called Panda case. Back then, the Kosovo Liberation Army was blamed. But the truth was, as stated by Serbian officials two years ago, that Serbian paramilitary forces were the perpetrators of that terrible criminal act.
We will not allow Serbia to drag us into a discourse of hatred and impunity. We will move forward and we hope that Serbia will join us and the rest of the region on this journey.
After all, we are neighbors. We are committed to the dialogue in Brussels, but we also believe that the process needs to become more dynamic and especially more result oriented.
Dialogue is important, but implementation and good faith is everything.
On behalf of the government of the Republic of Kosovo, I want to reiterate, that in line with our constitution, we will implement every single agreement reached in Brussels. But our job is made difficult, when Serbia continues to finance parallel institutions throughout Kosovo, and tries to build colonies in northern Kosovo, violating not only our Constitution, but also Resolution 1244.
The current situation is rather paradoxical, while Serbia takes part in the Brussels dialogue for normalization of relations with Kosovo; it continues to meddle in our internal affairs through supporting its operation of its parallel structures in Kosovo, in breach of the Brussels Agreement reached on the 19th of April 2013.
This dualism of partially implementing Brussels agreements on one hand, while maintaining parallel structures on the other hand, allows Serbia to report in the EU about progress in implementation, and maintain its interference in Kosovo intact. In some way, the implementation part becomes a cover for interference and parallelism by Serbia. On the surface it looks like the agreements are being implemented, but in reality the situation remains contradictory and far from what was agreed in Brussels.
Kosovo institutions show their commitment through acts. Since 2013, in addition to the annual budget, northern Serbian majority municipalities received an additional 10 million euros from the special fund established specifically to improve the quality of life of its citizens and to integrate northern municipalities. The EU alone invested over 54 million euros in different projects in that part of Kosovo in the last 3 years. We will not stop here. We will do everything we can to demonstrate, with actions, that any citizen of Kosovo, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, feels at home and lives without fear.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kosovo will continue to be an active member of the coalition of nations fighting terrorism. Attacks in the streets of Nice, Turkey, Afghanistan and many others these recent months, reminded us that we are fighting a borderless war. While we express our deepest condolences for all the lives lost, let me reassure you, that we will do everything we can to fight this evil that strives to implant fear and demolish our way of life.
We in Kosovo are a multi-religious and multi-cultural society. You will find in Kosovo cities where mosques, catholic and orthodox churches share the same courtyard. We have always co-existed peacefully. Today, Kosovo is a secular republic. No matter how you pray, whether you believe in God, nature, or evolution, as long as you are a law-abiding citizen, you will live in peace. These are values that we hold dear to ourselves, and we will fight to defend them. For this reason, we have taken very serious measures to fight the phenomenon of foreign fighters and radicalization.
Kosovo was amongst the first countries in Europe to adopt appropriate legislation and strategies countering violent extremism. But we have gone way beyond words. 19 NGO-s that fed radicalization, and that were financed with suspicious funds were shut down. The Kosovo Police has initiated investigations against 199 people and 102 people were arrested. 70 people were indicted, and 34 people have already been convicted. Today around 50 Kosovars are in Syria and Iraq.
But, because of the measures taken by our law enforcement mechanisms, in the last 12 months, the number of Kosovars that joined ISIS is 0. And just to quote US Vice President Mr. Biden, at his very recent visit in the region not only praised Kosovo’s actions countering violent extremism but said clearly that: “Kosovo is an example to follow.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
During the reporting period, our international subjectivity was strengthened with the recognition of Suriname, and by adhering to wider international law by becoming a party to the Apostolic Convention and by joining the International Exhibitions Bureau as its 170th member. In addition, Kosovo established diplomatic relations with three other countries, thus expanding and strengthening our ties with the free world.
While the overall political discourse in Kosovo remains fierce, and political parties are expressing their disagreements on some very sensitive and important issues, including the border demarcation with Montenegro, all of them were unanimous to condemn violence and two attacks that occurred in the last weeks, both in the parliament building and Public Broadcaster RTK. Police and other Kosovar and international law enforcement mechanisms are working hard to bring the perpetrators in front of the justice.
There is no room for violence in the new Republic as we are struggling every day to build dialogue amongst ourselves and dialogue with our neighbors; it is the only way forward.
Although the sky might seem grey sometimes, I know that there is hope for Kosovo.
I know that, because our people, our young people, are giving us shining examples every day. Doruntina Sylejmani, a teenager from Kosovo, brought home a medal from the International Math Olympics. In a tough and rigorous competition, with the best and brightest from all around the globe, Doruntina won. Although she comes from a country that still needs to do a lot to improve the quality of education, she won inspiring thousands of young Kosovar children to dedicate themselves to science.
Then, there is our golden pride, Majlinda Kelmendi, bringing home our first Olympic medal ever.
Majlinda was offered millions to play for other countries, while Kosovo was still struggling to become an IOC member. She declined these offers and waited for her chance to represent her country. She gave all of us a lesson, especially us working in the public sector, that not everything is for sale, and there are things money cannot buy. She became a hero to her people, and an inspiration worldwide, as her story was showcased globally.
Women like Fahrije, Doruntina, Majlinda are the new heroes. They push our limits and make us become a better version of ourselves. They teach us, that there is no excuse to failure. That no dream is too big and no hope is too high if we work hard and put our heart into it.
Thank you for your attention.