Security Council Meeting Statement by H.E. Ms. Vlora Çitaku, Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo to the United States16 August 2017, New York
Honorable Mr. President,
Honorable members of the Security Council,
Honorable Special Representative of the Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here and to see you every three months, but let me remind you why we are here. On June 10th 1999, Resolution 1244 was adopted in order to resolve the grave humanitarian situation in Kosovo and to provide for the safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes, in the aftermath of a terrible war and ethnic cleansing.
Please try to read UNSC 1244 (1999) again just for a moment, and you will be lost as we talk about a country that no longer exists - former Yugoslavia. While UNMIK was established for an initial period of 12 months, it continued to operate not only for more than 12 years, but today after 18 years, we are still here because of this resolution - which by the way does not require the Secretary General to Report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission every three months.
Therefore, let’s keep it real and let’s bring UNMIK to an end. Times have changed since 1999. Kosovo today is free, independent, and a sovereign state. There is absolutely no need for UNMIK to be present, as it has no role, no function, except for some self-invented initiatives, that are being put in place to justify its existence. On budget terms alone, over 400 million US dollars have been spent since 2009 to maintain a mission, whose mandate was concluded years ago. Imagine ladies and gentlemen, millions of refugees all around the world, the largest number since the WW2 - 65 million of them - I am sure UNMIK’s millions and resources can be put to a much better use.
It is sad to use your tax payers’ money for repetitive and not very thoughtful projects. Instead of shrinking its budget and returning its unspent funds to other much needed Peace Keeping Missions, UNMIK invests in permanent solar panels for a rented building.
Member states should take action on what has been repeated many times in this respectable chamber, downsizing the mission on many levels and bringing it to an end.
Furthermore, at a time when the world is facing serious challenges and crises, across all its continents, we come here and take up your valuable time, just because our northern neighbour insists on a charade. Just last month, western Balkan leaders met in Trieste to discuss economic cooperation between our countries. Now, in Berlin process forums and meetings, Kosovo is an equal member. When we meet in Berlin, Vienna, or Paris, Serbia and Kosovo share the same table as equals, as two states. Our flag standing next to theirs is not a problem for Serbia. So the question is, why do they insist on asymmetry, in this format here? Why is this dichotomy being tolerated, when it is clearly being misused to project an image that does not match reality? In fact, can you guess what would happen tomorrow if this meeting did not take place today? Let me tell you, nothing would. I know that. My colleagues from Belgrade know that. We all know that. I find it not only unnecessary but also irresponsible from our side, to come here and bother you with useless debates, at a time when your attention is needed to address real challenges and problems, where the UN has an important role to play.
Kosovo, in the meantime, held democratic elections on June 11th for the third time since our independence, and these were the most successful, competitive, and peaceful ones to date. The turnout was especially high amongst the Serbian community. International observers noted that Kosovo’s parliamentary elections met the highest international standards, with the exception of northern Kosovo, where local Serbian leaders faced pressure and threats, often from the Serbian state itself.
After elections, as in all democracies, we are now in the phase of creating a government. And as we speak today, the parliamentary constitutional session continues to meet, reaching the quora for electing its bodies and later the government. Despite obvious differences and disagreements, all political parties in Kosovo share one common objective, that of Euro-Atlantic integration. On this, you can rest assured. While our path toward the European Union has been sealed with the entry into force of the SAA, we are now focused more than ever on starting the process of Partnership for Peace with NATO. In this context, Kosovo’s institutions have been working hard, alongside our partners, to conclude the process of the transformation of our Security Forces into Armed forces. We have, for way too long, been consumers of security. We believe it is time to not only fulfill our sovereign duty by establishing our own armed forces, but also to contribute to the regional and international security infrastructure. The challenges we face today are borderless, and they demand that we all work together, side by side. Kosovo cannot afford to be a silent observer. We want to be an active participant and to contribute. We are thankful for Vice-President Pence’s statement two weeks ago in Podgorica, at the Adriatic Charter summit, where the VP loud and clearly articulated the USA’s support for Kosovo’s full membership in this organization.
We will do everything on our side to convince our Serbian citizens that Kosovo’s Army will be their army too and that there is absolutely nothing to fear. It is my pleasure to inform you that we have already started to reap the fruits of our efforts. Last month, on the 7th of July, Kosovo Security Forces organized a ceremony for the graduation of 61 new cadets, 58 Kosovo Serbs, and 3 Kosovo Montenegrins. Today, they are active members of KSF, serving in all of KSF’s units. So, while we will talk to our Serbian citizens to address their concerns, we will not allow anyone to have veto power over this process.
During the last several months, we have been faced with the very aggressive and unconstructive attitude of our northern neighbour. Instead of normalizing relations, Serbia has been creating unnecessary obstacles in different regional and international forums.
Not to mention the violation of the implementation of other Brussels agreements, some of which have been completely blocked, such as the ones on energy, justice, and the recognition of diplomas. Others that have been disrupted in different phases of implementation, such as the agreement on cadastre, “civil protection” dismantlement, revitalization of the Mitrovica Bridge, revitalization of the main street in North Mitrovica, full dismantlement of Serbia’s parallel structures in Kosovo, etc. Sabotages continue, and the most concerning thing is Serbia’s duality in pretending to implement agreements and simultaneously continuing to support its parallel structures in Kosovo, including the illegal municipalities in the north and other parts of Kosovo.
Let me reassure you, ladies and gentlemen, that Kosovo on its part will implement all agreements reached in Brussels and in line with the recommendations from our constitutional court, we will establish the association of the Serbian municipalities.
We always talk about normalization, but normalization cannot be unilateral. Normalization and reconciliation cannot be achieved at the expense of truth and justice.
One of the latest shameful actions from Serbia was banning the Former President Madame Atifete Jahjaga from entering Serbia to participate at an event in Belgrade, which was meant to boost the dialogue between the two countries. Madame Jahjaga was intended to attend the promotion of a book containing testimonies from women tortured and raped during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.
Acknowledging the truth about warcrimes in Kosovo is the only way that both societies can move forward.President Jahjaga was not able to read her speech in Belgrade, therefore I wantto read a part of it here:“The storiespresented in the book are not only stories of torture and abuse. They arestories of the cruelest form of torture. These are stories of rape-rape used asa tool of war. These are stories of a truth that has been attempted to beconcealed, hidden and buried. Over the years, I have met hundreds of survivorsof sexual violence during the war, in different parts of my country. Carefullyand patiently, I have listened to their stories; I have cried for those whoneeded me to cry with them, and I have stayed strong for those who needed me tobe strong. I have heard a story of a woman from the Drenica region who wasgang-raped continuously by Serbian paramilitaries for over six months. I havespoken to a woman in Gjakova whose body was mutilated while she was raped. Justrecently, I met the child of a war rape victim who died without receiving thejustice she hoped for, for so many years; I truly hope that you read this book,share it with your friends and family, ask your government to punish theperpetrators and call for reconciliation with your neighbours. We shall not letanybody keep us hostages of the past. The victims of these crimes will never beable to find peace unless the perpetrators of these crimes are brought tojustice. This is a precondition for long lasting peace, good neighbourlyrelations and a stable future for the next generations. The future of ourcountries lies in our hands. Let it be a future of reconciliation and peace”.
Ladies and gentlemen,
No trial, no allegation, no insinuation, and certainly no speech today can change history. The war in Kosovo happened in front of the eyes of the world, in front of the eyes of this chamber. That’s why the world decided to act. Any attempt to rewrite history will fail. The KLA is not a terrorist organization, it is the most successful liberation movement in the recent history. Sami Lushtaku and Ramush Haradinaj did not travel to Belgrade to fight. They fought in their homes, in their country, with the aim of protecting civilians and liberating a nation. So, while we fuel these kinds of narrative, fake narratives, it is difficult to imagine how one is being sincere about the past. Serbia needs to deal with its own past not only because of Kosovo because you know what Kosovo has its own path now, we are free, we are independent, and that will never change. But Serbia needs to deal with its own past only and also because of the sake of their children, of their future. And denying Kosovo citizens the right to exist as a state because I am Albanian, I’ve heard that before. Actually, there was an entire operation to deport us from Kosovo because we were Albanians. Does that meant that I have to go and live in Albania? Kosovo is a state that belongs to all its citizens. Albanians, Serbs, Montenegrins, Roma, Turks, Bosnians. It belongs to all of us, and no one will ever tell me again that just because I’m an Albanian I don’t deserve to live there. We have lived there for centuries, and I don’t want to give you a long lesson in history because I’m sure you’re not here for that. But if you go for summer holidays you can find a book, there are so many books by professionals, academics, who tell the story of Albanians in the Balkans.
Ladies and gentlemen in the last couple of days, a new debate has been generated in Serbia. One initiated by the Serbian President, calling for a “historic deal” between Serbia and Kosovo, calling for a compromise. Now, allow me to state, Kosovo’s independence, as declared in 2008, is a compromise. Ahtisaari’s proposal was a difficult and painful compromise. Now all of a sudden the compromise has become our position? That will not stand.
Renewing the ideas of solutions along ethnic lines is dangerous for the entire region. If we reject multiculturalism and ethnic diversity within our own states, within our own borders, then how on earth do we plan to co-exist in the European Union, much less in an ever interdependent and ever interconnected world.
Allow me to say it loud and clear. Kosovo is not a temporary project. Kosovo is here to stay, forever. Normalization and reconciliation cannot be achieved through partition and subjugation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This debate does not do total justice to what Kosovo is today. I would be remiss not to mention that Kosovo has emerged as place where youth excels in many fields on a daily basis. Just last month six youngsters - three girls and three boys from BoneVet makerspace - constructed Europe’s first teen-built electric car in Gjakova. This extraordinary example of ingenuity not only makes us proud of the youth that we have but the teens themselves, through their innovations, educate the rest of us on civic consciousness about using electric cars, reducing air pollution and traffic noise.
Dokufest, the biggest cultural event in Kosovo, took place last week in the beautiful city of Prizren. Even though Kosovo did not have a film school, it managed to develop and host one of the top ten international Documentary and Film Festivals in the world. Dokufest each year grows larger and brings more people together to work and collaborate with, not only the best producers and artists from the region, but from across the world - placing Kosovo where it belongs on the world stage. As the slogan of this year’s edition of Dokufest suggests, (the) “Future is not dead” for Kosovars - it is very much alive. And this future is alive for all of its citizens. Albanians, Serbs, and the rest.
It is unfortunate that this chamber is being misused to promote narratives and to fuel hate in our own domestic audiences. It is true that some Serbs left Kosovo after the war, the same way they left from Croatia, or Bosnia, or Serbia itself. But, to wave here numbers that are simply not true is not correct. The only reason why Serbs did not participate in large numbers in the census is because the Serbian government called them not to participate in the census. There was massive campaigning from Belgrade’s government calling Serbs not to participate in the census. So, we have the census data which we agree needs to be revised, but then we also have election data. Who is voting on behalf of the Serbs in Kosovo? The numbers do not add up. Only in the last elections, we had around 70,000 Serbs voting inside Kosovo, only in the north. So, please let’s be realistic. Come and visit Kosovo and you will see that this debate here does no justice to it.
Again. I sincerely apologize for taking your time, but some things should not be left unsaid. First, we are very proud that in our political landscape we don’t have descendants of Milosevic. We have people, young leaders, who fought Milosevic, who fought Seselj, who were the worst criminals in Europe after WWII. So, we are proud of the background of our leadership, unlike some others.
Secondly, this is not the venue to discuss ethnic, national, civic identities and how they intertwine. It’s not the venue to discuss who was in the Balkans first, who came in the 7th century, where did they come from, whom did they find there, we can have those discussions if we decide to organize a seminar. Historians can come together, they can fight, agree or disagree. I am an ethnic Albanian and a proud citizen of Kosovo. And these identities coexist very well within me, and one does not exclude the other. Kosovo has had borders long before it had statehood. We were a federal unit in former Yugoslavia until Milosevic came into power and our borders were set long before we declared our independence.
Third, our independence is not a product of a secessionist movement. Our independence is a product of the non-consensual dissolution of Yugoslavia. It’s not only Kosovo. You have Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia. So, there is no secessionist movement.
There was UNMIK administration in Kosovo. There was a long process of negotiations under the UN hospices. And there was a proposal by former president Martti Ahtisaari for Kosovo to declare independence.
Next, there was a ruling from the international court of justice, upon Serbia’s request, to verify the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, and the ruling was unambiguous and crystal clear. Kosovo was within its rights when it declared independence. That is the International Court of Justice, not me, and you can go back and read it because apparently you have forgotten it.
Fourth, Kosovo is not a perfect place, I’m not trying to tell you Kosovo is a perfect place. We have lots of problems; we have much more to do in terms of rule of law, in terms of fighting organized crime and corruption, and creating better opportunities for all of our citizens. But these are not challenges unique to Kosovo. You find these challenges in most of the countries in the western Balkans.
Frankly speaking, Kosovo is no longer in the top 30 countries in terms of asylum seekers in Europe, Serbia is way ahead of us. Does that mean that Serbia is a failed country? No.
Again, in terms of Serbians living in Kosovo, bear with me for just one minute. This is central election committee numbers, and these are elections in 2017. Novo Brdo, 9,617 Serb votes. Shtrce, 13,902. Ranilok, 5,689. Partesh, 4,664. Klokot, 5,689,. Gracanica, 21, 411. In the 4 northern municipalities 58,138, altogether 123,074 votes. We all know people over 18 vote. So, if we have this number of voters, what is the number of citizens? Again, I’m not saying all Serbs were bad, but the numbers that were shown here are simply not real.
And finally, to conclude, please come and visit Kosovo. Come and visit Kosovo, and you will see with your own eyes what Kosovo is.