Lecture of the President of the Republic of Kosovo Dr. Fatmir Sejdiu at the Oxford Union Oxford, 4 November 2009 on Kosovo: its developments and its prospectAll these developments are key to our success and they will assist us in making our path into the EU and NATO quicker. Thank you for your attention and thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide you with an overview of the achievements and the challenges that remain for Kosovo.
Dear President of the Oxford Union, Mr. Dray,
Dear Students of Oxford University colleges,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour to speak today as the President of the Republic of Kosovo, before this great audience at this prestigious debating society which has hosted great leaders of this world. I use, with utmost delight, this opportunity to give an overview of the accomplishments and the challenges that lay ahead of this worlds newest country.
Today, Kosovo is an independent and sovereign state recognized by 62 countries all over the world with twenty (20) Embassies in four continents. It is, indeed the greatest example of vast investment by the international community, especially of the United States and the European Union countries. It is the best story that disproves of all alleged predictions that after the independence, Kosovo will be a place of chaos, disrespect for human and ethnic rights, a country of huge exodus, of anarchy and smuggling. None of this has taken place.
In the contrary, in these twenty (20) months of independence, Kosovo has shown great state maturity and development. It has adopted its Constitution; the act which establishes the foundations of our democratic state and it established its Security Force, Intelligence Agency, Constitutional Court and the National Security Council.
The Constitution incorporates recommendations of the International Envoy on the Status, President Martti Ahtisaari, and grants guarantees to all communities regardless of their ethnic, religious and gender backgrounds. The entire legislative framework, which is already in place and it is being implemented, urges their active participation as equal citizens of Kosovo. We have nevertheless paid even greater attention, through the enactment of special laws, on the encouragement of the participation of minority communities in decision-making levels guaranteeing them reserved seats in the Parliament and the Government; a number many times higher than their share of percentage of the population. Our main goal is to prove, yet again, our commitment that we are building a free and democratic Kosovo where all the citizens will have equal opportunities.
Challenges remain with a part of Serb citizens of Kosovo who hesitate to integrate further due to Belgrade destructions which have been continuing throughout the post war period. I call upon the attention of the international community in urging Belgrade to positively encourage these people. Kosovo is their home and their future and they must be given the chance to shape that future.
As a sui generis case in its entirety, Kosovo continues to remain a sui generis case even as it develops the democratic institutions and builds itself up as a democratic and sovereign country. Our independence is supported on the principle of the international presence, the EULEX, which has a supervising role in the areas of security and rule of law. Kosovo people and its institutions have welcomed EULEXs presence and continue cooperating with it to ensure a proper functioning of the rule of law throughout Kosovo.
The EU presence will aid Kosovo reach quicker its top priority: integration in the European Union. Last month, the European Commission came forward with its 2009 progress report Kosovo outlining the progress it has made and issues it remains to complete.
It is of great importance that Kosovo has maintained its stability and has been able to reach among others progress in functionalizing its governing institutions and in enhancing its legislative corpus. Kosovo has also managed to maintain the overall stability creating opportunities for further strengthening of this key component.
But, we are also aware of the downfalls that have hindered a quicker fulfilment of the membership criteria. Kosovo, as the entire region, in no immune to corruption, poor functioning of the rule of law and, organized crime. We know nevertheless that these challenges will not prevail over our strong commitment to ensure a functioning rule of law throughout Kosovo.
Economic development also remains a challenge and that is expressed in the Progress Report, too. Kosovo has created a good legislative framework that has aided the internal competition of the banking system, its GDP grew by a modest 5.4%, and public investment grew by 194%. Still Kosovo GDP per capita remains at 1700 Euros; lower than those of other European countries, unemployment remains at a 40% high mostly affecting the youngsters, and private sector investment decreased by 10%. This needs to be strengthened together with the mechanisms for greater competition. So does the need to spur the creation of SMEs. Yet a great support for Kosovos economic development is its accession into the IMF and World Bank early this year.
A great asset for Kosovos development is also its young population; the youngest in Europe. More than 50% are under 27 years of age. Yet, what we need is greater education opportunities and greater labour opportunities for them. We are committed to creating a closer cooperation between these young people and the private sector and in harmonizing teaching curricula with that of the labour market requirements. I am confident that very soon these people will be able to compete with their peers within the European Union.
We also welcome the additional document, the Study of the European Commission, which aims to identify the challenges towards integration and offer mechanisms to address those challenges so that Kosovo can raise its socio-economic development. In this regard, I welcome the ECs proposal to bring our citizens closer to those of the EU through a visa dialogue with Kosovo and its assessment that a trade agreement will drive Kosovo further in fulfilling the economic criteria. We remain hopeful that Kosovo will soon be part of this final process of free movement and will be guaranteed access to the European market. But, Kosovo needs a clear Roadmap that would guide it in fulfilling the necessary benchmarks for visa liberalization and it needs continuous support in reaching its economic criteria.
Kosovo has also proven seriousness in cooperating with the neighbouring countries in the interest of overall peace and stability in the region. We are aware that peace and stability in the region, which will contribute to the general welfare of Europe and wider, rests on the establishment of great relationships with all neighbouring countries, a long-term commitment of ours. I urge the European Union to demand that Serbia plays a constructive role in such regional cooperation initiatives which unfortunately has not been the case until today. We strongly believe that the future of Kosovo lies within the EU, as does that of the entire region and for that vision to become reality the regional countries need to settle their mutual issues beforehand. A great example is the signing of border demarcation agreement between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia last month along with the establishment of diplomatic relations among our two countries. I believe the establishment of diplomatic relations with Montenegro will follow very soon. This will complete the set of diplomatic relations between Kosovo and all regional countries, except Serbia with whom we are very much interested and committed to developing the same relationship.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kosovo will be holding its local elections in two weeks, these will be the first elections to be organized and managed by the Kosovo authorities. As such, we are doing our best to show to the world that Kosovo is able to develop in the best way its first elections as a sovereign and democratic country. On my constitutional capacity, I have been urging all minority communities to vote in these elections so they can define their wellbeing and their future. Kosovo is strongly committed to respecting the will of each and every citizen.
All these developments are key to our success and they will assist us in making our path into the EU and NATO quicker.
Thank you for your attention and thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide you with an overview of the achievements and the challenges that remain for Kosovo.