STATEMENTSecurity Council Meeting
H.E. Ms. Vlora Çitaku,
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Republic of Kosovo in the United States
16 May 2017
Honorable Mr. President,
Honorable members of the Security Council,
Honorable Special Representative of the Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to be here with you today, and I sincerely appreciate you for giving me this opportunity out of your very valuable time. I know, as we speak, the world has many pressing challenges and problems to address.
It was in 1993 that this honorable chamber spoke about Kosovo for the first time. At a time, when only because of our ethnicity, we were exposed to apartheid, imprisoned for our political beliefs, expelled from our schools and rightful jobs – this chamber spoke up. Later in 1998-1999, when we were living in the nightmares of brutality, this honorable chamber adopted 7 resolutions calling for peace and the end of the ethnic cleansing. For that, we will be forever grateful. You all spoke on our behalf. You were with us when around one million Kosovars, half of our population, was deported, assisting us in the refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia. And you were with us, when we returned home. Although we found everything in ashes, we rebuilt our homes and our lives, with your help and support.
You were there for us, in the most difficult days, but now, it is simply unnecessary, counterproductive, and frankly speaking, cynical, to come here every three months, repeat the same old stories, just because of purely political reasons and power play.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The 18-year-old Resolution 1244 expired a long time ago. First of all, it refers to a union that no longer exists. I am sure you have heard of Montenegro’s recent NATO membership. Well, according to Resolution 1244, Montenegro is part of a union called “Serbia and Montenegro”. Second, it was precisely this chamber that on 24th of October 2005 adopted a presidential statement, calling for the start of a political process to determine Kosovo’s future status.
It was precisely the Secretary General’s special envoy, the wise President Ahtisaari that, after very intensive and extensive process of negotiations, proposed Independence for Kosovo as a final solution. It was precisely International Court of Justice, that, at Serbia’s request for review, specifically and unambiguity stated that Kosovo was within its rights when it declared independence, and that our independence did not violate the international law.
I invite you all to come to Kosovo, and see the reality, because trust me, the conversations in this chamber do not match it. I have said it before, and I will say it again, just because Serbia does not recognize us as a state, it does not mean that we are not within our rights to be an independent state and people. Just because we are not a UN member yet - for purely geopolitical power plays beyond us - that does not make us any less of a state. And yes, we are not a perfect state. We have way too many challenges; we have a lot that remains to be done. But we all know, that the reason we come and sit here today and every three months, is not because we are not perfect, we all know that.
Let’s take the example of minority rights. If the situation of minorities in any given country would be the criteria to come and meet here every three months, trust me, Kosovo would be far down on the list. Not because the situation with the integration of the minorities is perfect, but because we have gone at great lengths to accommodate their needs. Serbs in Kosovo are the most privileged minority in Europe. And do you know where the most discriminated community in Europe lives? In Serbia. In Preshevë, Medvegjë, and Bujanovc, - where Albanian community is faced every day with all forms of harsh discrimination. I’m not talking only about high levels of intolerance or hidden discrimination, which is installed since ever, but visible and constant discrimination of ethnic Albanians especially in the field of economy and education, followed by under representation at the local and central level of public sector employment and many other restrictions they face on daily basis.
I know that, because I visited them myself. Yet, there is no Security Council session or discussion for their rights.
The bottom line is, Serbia uses this honorable platform and somehow insists on an asymmetrical representation. Somehow insisting that we are not equal, that somehow they are superior. Well, allow me to say it again, loud and clear, we are independent, equal, confident, and we are not inferior. There is something inherently racist in this attitude. Somehow Serbia always tried to portray us as an unworthy class of people, with no culture, a second class. Go and say that to Majlinda Kelmendi, our golden medal champion, or Petrit Halilaj, who was honored last week in Venice Biennale, or Mergim Cahani who, three years ago had just one idea, and today is running the fastest growing IT company in the region; or the newly graduates I met the other day at the American University in Prishtina, who were full of hopes, dreams and curiosity, no different from their peers in Europe and America.
What I am trying to say is, that, although Kosovo has many challenges, this honorable chamber is not the venue to address them; Furthermore, spending your valuable recourses in a mission that no longer serves the purpose would be injustice to all those people that today are in need of your help. UNMIK has no role in Kosovo. That is why we were surprised to see that the budget and staff of UNMIK for next year is increasing. You can choose to keep an expansive mission in Kosovo, but there is no role for them to play in their current form.
Last Security Council Open Debate on peacekeeping missions, initiated by the US Mission, in the presence of the Secretary General, and supported by the esteemed members of this Chamber, highlighted the conclusions that the approach towards peacekeeping missions should be changed – precisely what we have been calling for a long time now. By not undermining the vital importance that peacekeeping missions have for security in general, the mandates of a certain number of missions have been drafted years and some even decades ago – UNMIK being an example. Therefore, I would like to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to Ambassador Haley and Ambassador Delattre for their statements, when they expressed that this is the right time to close the United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo.
The second thing I want to talk about is dialogue with Serbia. While we are and will remain committed to the dialogue, we are tired of double standards, double games, and ambiguity. Serbia, in one hand, comes and tells us that they are for peace and reconciliation, on the other hand, they are misusing the everyday INTERPOL Red Notice system, and issuing warrants against our leaders and freedom fighters, who defended our people from atrocities, which this honorable chamber and the entire world is well aware of. This seems to be an old pattern of brutality mixed with fake bureaucracy which tormented Kosovars for decades- after beating, humiliating, killing, in best cases expelling Albanians from Kosovo, Serbian police would draw up terrorism charges against them to prevent them from returning home or having a normal life.
The last episode with the former Prime Minister of Kosovo, Mr. Ramush Haradinaj, thankfully ended, and although it took few months, he was finally been released by authorities in France. What happened to Mr. Haradinaj speaks a lot about the state of mind that prevails in Serbia today. Mr. Haradinaj was twice acquitted from The Hague Tribunal.
Serbia knows very well that they have lost the battle with Kosovo. Militarily, they lost in 1999. Politically in 2008. Juridically in 2009, with the ruling of International Court of Justice. And now, it is clear, they want to win the moral challenge, somehow by artificially trying to impose a moral parity between themselves, and the rest of the countries in former Yugoslavia. That is simply false. There was one aggressor in the former Yugoslavia, and that was Serbia. There was one military that fought for expansion and committed genocide. The rest of us – Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Kosovo – we were fighting for freedom and our lives. Even today, Serbia refuses to accept the historical responsibility for what has happened. The point I am trying to make is that for reconciliation to happen, Serbia needs to accept Kosovo as equal, as a state. And, they also need to accept the historical responsibility. Do you think that the reconciliation between France and Germany would have ever happened if Germany would have denied their responsibility in the Second World War?
Serbia has failed to deal with its own past. It has failed to deal with the real, not fictional, but real and well-documented crimes that were committed in Kosovo during the war. Center for Human Rights in Serbia published a shivering report, demonstrating with facts and figures unprecedented measures that Serbia undertook to hide traces of the war crimes, going as far as erecting constructions on top of the mass graves. Imagine for one second ladies and gentlemen, imagine those thousand families in Kosovo that demand answers, that demand a proper burial. Instead of finding strength to deal with their own past, instead of catharsis, Serbia chose the path of denial. Zero is the number of Serbians charged or convicted for crimes committed in Kosovo. Instead, they are being promoted to high level positions, like is the case of General Dikovic who, as documented, is responsible for killing of 1,400 civilians.
But regardless, we will not allow Serbia to deter us from our own commitments. Only between 2009-2015, Kosovo institutions have issued over 20 indictments for war crimes. Every life is important, and every death should be properly investigated. We will remain committed to peace and dialogue, just like we have always been. And we will work harder and harder to become a responsible member of the family of the free nations of the world.
We also want to become contributors in the regional and global security. Hence, in accordance with our laws and constitution, we have initiated the establishment of the Kosovo army. We will engage on an intensive and serious effort to convince the local Serbian population to support this project. All other minorities in Kosovo support it. But we will not allow anyone to hold us hostage, and we will not give a veto power to anyone about this. We will push for constitutional changes, but if it becomes obvious that Serbia is interfering and not allowing local Serbian MP’s to decide on their own, then we will move ahead with legislative changes.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are not buying MIG-s, so there is no room for panic. This is a small defensive force, which will complete our state security infrastructure, in accordance with the security sector review that was conducted together with NATO.
As you may already know now, after the motion of no-confidence last week, Kosovo will have early parliamentary elections in June this year. We have invited international observers to monitor the process. For Kosovo, the credibility of the electoral process is far more important than the outcome. Way too many challenges lay ahead this year, and the new government will need full credibility and legitimacy to push forward the agenda.
Furthermore, while there are obvious differences between the political parties in Kosovo, just like in any democracy, there is a fundamental agreement and broad social consensus about the Euro-Atlantic future of Kosovo.
Thank you again for your attention and your time!