2018, the year of the first decade of the statehood of the Republic of Kosovo

Writes: Hashim Thaçi

We are on the eve of the end of the year holiday season and we all look forward to gather with our family members, and our best friends, to raise a toast. I want you to fill your glasses, wishing you more prosperity in the coming year. Upon the change of years, when we break for few moments, surrounded by our beloved ones, and escape from everyday life, we all find ourselves in a time of reflection. Therefore, I wish to share with you some reflection moments for the year we are leaving behind and for the New Year 2018.

Two events from 2017, one at the beginning and the other at the end, are a reflection of the wide range of events that have characterized the year we are leaving behind. In January we faced an irritating and irrational provocation by the train, with nationalistic slogans, heading from Belgrade towards Kosovo, which did not reach its destination, but nevertheless served as a reminder of the fragility of peace and stability. Whereas, at the end of the year, in the second part of December 2017, we received a wonderful news, that of the signing of the agreement for one of the largest direct foreign investments in Kosovo and the region. The US Company “Countour Global” will invest with an amount of 1.3 billion Euros in the New Kosovo Power Plant project and will open 10,000 new jobs.

Between these two events we had a year full of vicissitudes of various kinds.

There is no description of our recent past that would be even roughly accurate, unless it is clearly stated that we have experienced some unpalatable moments in the political arena. In addition to the foreseen local elections, we also faced early general elections. I am pleased with the fact that this year we held two elections, which were well organized, free and democratic. Nevertheless, this does not abdicate the fact that we have yet again experienced internal disunity, escalating rhetoric, which does not serve the citizens or the state interests at all. Some might say that these are the “pains of growing-up” of our growth as a state and as a democratic society. But this growth must be followed by maturity. Kosovo does not have the luxury to spend energy and time in endless debates about distinctive individuals, personalities, parties, fractions, various interest groups, etc. Kosovo has other vital problems and issues to address, therefore does not have another year to lose for small internal causes. This year will be remembered as the year of us dealing more with ourselves, but not in a constructive manner. I cannot exclude that this was influenced by external factors, but the result and responsibility remain ours.    

We have an important year ahead of us. It is the year when we mark the tenth anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Kosovo. A decade of statehood must present a tremendous opportunity. We should be focused on our common state interest and remain faithful to our goal of consolidating the state and completing our common duty, i.e. that of strengthening the state function, improving the living conditions of the citizen, improving the position our country, the region and the world. I say this from my own life experience, based on a political career full of difficulties and challenges, that only the vision, teamwork, self-confidence, preparation, moral, devotion, and loyalty to the ultimate goal, leads us to a favourable position.

There is no better celebration of the first decade of statehood than to bring to an end the internal disagreements, the fulfilment of international obligations and consequently the end of isolation, by acquiring the visa liberalization. We need to complete the work on the completion of the electoral reform process, advancement in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the establishment of the Armed Forces of Kosovo and the completion of the last phase of the dialogue on normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia through mutual recognition and the end of bilateral obstacles in the EU and NATO accession process.

All of these activities will result in an acceleration of further political and economic development and will affect the improvement of our citizens’ living standards. Consequently, ways to meet European standards will be opened in all relevant areas, since our strategic goal is EU and NATO membership. EU standards, but also NATO membership process requirements, have been an organic part of every step in the state-building of our country.

We shall focus on our common tasks related to political development, further consolidation of the institutions, and the continuation of public administration reform, further judicial reforms, and the strengthening of the rule of law. Additionally, we shall move forward in economic governance reforms, and other structural reforms should be pursued in line with EU economic criteria, namely to provide a free market economy that is able to withstand the competitive pressures of the EU single market. We still need to work towards providing economic conditions to increase our products and exports, attract foreign investment and to integrate Kosovo businesses into international markets. In this regard, we have achieved success, and this is evidenced by the World Bank’s Doing Business report, issued recently, where Kosovo recorded a significant improvement in ranking, from the 60th to 40th. But let’s not forget, there are still weaknesses to be eliminated. We still have problems with the informal economy and revenue collection, affecting our public finances. The innovation and quality of education level should be improved. We should not forget that Kosovo continues to have a high unemployment rate, which can be mitigated significantly if we seriously approach the necessary reforms.

We often feel disappointed that the European integration process is not more rapid. Delays are creating space for other actors who try to outrage our western civilization values. In this situation, we have no dilemma or alternative. The time of conjectures has ended. It is all clear how this goal shall be achieved. Messages on this topic from Brussels and the capitals of all our ally countries are clear, and we must make our moves.

Therefore, I wish all of us together shall find the energy to face such important topics. From the last day of the year we leave behind, on the first day of the New Year, we are the same people, with the same destiny, and the same opportunities and challenges ahead of us. But the good thing is that we ourselves are the ones who have the opportunity to change things for good. Therefore, I wish that all every citizen, together as a society, to work as much as possible so that in the coming year we can positively influence things in ourselves, our surroundings, and for our country.