LECTURE HELD BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOSOVO, DR. FATMIR SEJDIU, AT THE HARVARD UNIVERSITY REPUBLIC OF KOSOVO – A CONFIRMED INDEPENDENCE

Dear friend, Mr. Nicholas Burns, allow me to express the respect and the appreciation of my people and I for your deep and constant determination for the freedom and independence of Kosovo. Honorable colleagues, professors and students, Dear friends,

As President of Republic of Kosovo, I feel privileged to be appearing here before such a respectable audience, at this very prestigious institution, which, owing to scientific researches that it has carried out and numerous generations of students that it has taught, has left multidimensional traces which are impossible to hide.

Moreover, today I have the pleasure of providing you with a short overview of the progress made by my country, the youngest state in the world, the Republic of Kosovo, and of its objectives for the future, near the historic city of Boston, which is known as the genesis of the great processes for the freedom and the independence of the United States. 

As you know, Kosovo has won its independence on 17 February 2008, following century-long sufferings and sacrifices. The independence of Kosovo was declared in full coordination with the United States of America, the countries of the European Union and other world’s democracies.

The independence of Kosovo has resulted from a comprehensive centuries long resistance staged against a systematic oppression that was being exerted upon its people, which culminated with an unseen brutality, particularly by the end of the 20th century, with Milosevic’s advent to power, which imposed  an eventual armed resistance by the people of Kosovo and of the determinant intervention by NATO, which brought the ethnic cleansing to an end and delivered the people of Kosovo from annihilation.

The sovereign and democratic state of Kosovo has been recognized by 70 countries around the world so far.

In this context, besides the United States of America, which was among the first to announce the recognition, Kosovo has been recognized by over three-thirds of the EU member countries, most of the OSCE member countries and the vast majority of the NATO member countries, namely by countries that together produce more than 70% of the global nominal GDP.

Dear friends,

Irrespective of all the challenges that we have had and are still facing as a young country, the Republic of Kosovo has become a story of success of a vast investment by the people of Kosovo and international community, especially by the United States of America and the European Union.

Firstly, an overall political, economic and social sustainability and stability constitute the best and most direct indication to such a success of the independence of Kosovo. The success has been manifested particularly in the completion of a cycle that has consisted of the creation of our state and the establishment of democratic institutions, which have emerged from the free votes of the people of Kosovo, irrespective of ethnicity. The work of these institutions is based now on a modern legal framework, including the highest legal document, the Constitution of our country.

Secondly, with the aim of building a democratic state for all the people, Kosova has, in practical terms, proven wrong all the ominous prognoses of opponents of independence.  In their efforts, they had been continuously launching dark predictions, mainly accusing the Albanian majority of intent to commit acts of revenge upon the Serbian minority. To the contrary, there was no exodus from Kosovo, or a backlash, or a persecution against minority communities or the Serbian community, in particular. Rather, our institutions have adopted a most positive approach in providing for a civic equality, in paying a particular attention to the process of minority integration and in providing substantive legislative and constitutional guarantees, in the light of the provisions of President Ahtisaari’s Comprehensive Proposal. By these practical and affirmative legal documents and acts, which are often perceived in Kosovo as acts of positive discrimination, we have provided strong proof not only of minority representation in our institutions – like in the Assembly, in the Government and in the Local Government – but we have also tried to make sure that minority community members embrace Kosovo as a joint homeland and feel equal and beneficial to their own and our common perspective.

Thirdly, being strongly committed to peace, stability and neighborliness in the region, the Republic of Kosovo maintains excellent relations with its neighboring countries: Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, as well as other countries of the region.

These relations are being cemented day by day in terms of bilateral agreements on many fields. We have already started to apply a passport-free movement policy with Albania and Montenegro and a similar agreement with Macedonia is due, as a sign of closeness and security between the citizens of our two countries.

In this vein, as early as two years ago, during a visit to Tirana, I proposed the creation of a mini Schengen zone between Balkan countries. The initiative, which presidents of these countries have hailed, reaffirms our strong commitment to be open and to contribute directly to the freedom of movement of people and goods, because this is where the foundation of our development and progress towards the future lies, as well as serving as a direct proof of our maturity in our Euro-Atlantic integration efforts. 

Fourthly, despite a period of devastation and its terrible aftermath, human toll (more than 15,000 killed – today, the fate of over 2000 missing people is unknown) and destruction of economic potentials, Kosovo has started to recover since the end of the war and up to the recent years that have followed our independence. It has undertaken major steps in transforming its economy, in line with the trends of the market economy.  I would like to point out that Kosovo has almost completed the privatization process and it has achieved a constant growth of 4-5% in its annual GDP.  Kosovo has shown maturity with regard to respecting and implementing modern policies of market economics and as a result has become a member of the World Bank group and the International Monetary Fund, and aspires quick membership in other international mechanisms. 

Honored Audience,

Despite such an approach adopted by the institutions of our country and despite the international support and investment, the reluctance of some members of the Serbian community to integrate themselves has represented a challenge so far. Indeed, through parallel structures at Belgrade’s conduct, they have tried to promote policies that have aimed at hampering a progress in Kosovo and at keeping, first of all, the Serbian population under pressure.

In this very context, the Serbian diplomacy has also tried to block a further international recognition of the Republic of Kosovo and its accession to international institutions. The request that it has filed with the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the legality of declaration of independence of Kosovo represents such an endeavor.

Dear audience,

As you are well aware, on July 22, the International Court of Justice announced its advisory opinion, which answers positively for the full compliance with international law of the decision of the representatives of the people of Kosovo for the independence of the country.

Accordingly, the International Court of Justice has found that:
1. The independence of Kosovo did not violate the general international law;
2. The independence of Kosovo did not violate the SC Resolution 1244;
3. The independence of Kosovo did not violate the Provisional Constitutional Framework;
4. ICJ also concluded that the independence of Kosovo is a result of specific circumstances, thereby confirming the sui generis nature of Kosovo, as the Special Envoy to the UN Secretary General, Mr. Marti Ahtisari has maintained, and it does not represent a precedent to other countries or areas, as some people caution without a reason.

One finds the sui generis nature of Kosovo intertwined as a symbiosis between many elements, starting with historic, legal and constitutional ones – with Kosovo being an equal constitutive part of the former SFRY federation - up to other elements that relate to the times of genocidal acts that the people of Kosovo have experienced and that have necessitated a humanitarian intervention by the international community to deliver the people of Kosovo from annihilation and genocide.

Such a professional, unbiased and explicit opinion has served to confirm Kosovo’s decision on independence, taken by the representatives of its people, and we believe that it represents a substantial argument to remove dilemmas among certain countries that have hesitated to announce the recognition pending the ICJ opinion.

Despite this very clear opinion of the Court, unfortunately, Serbia continues to make efforts to distort the conclusions contained in the opinion and the unequivocal position of the International Court of Justice.

Nevertheless, the later developments, such as the adoption at the UN General Assembly of the Resolution on Kosovo, co-sponsored by the EU and Serbia, give weight, de facto and de jure, to the meritorious opinion of the ICJ. Therefore, despite its hesitations and its previous draft-resolution, Serbia has directly recognized the ICJ opinion, which, as I mentioned before, qualifies the declaration of independence of Kosovo as an act that complies with the international law. Accordingly, through the resolution, Serbia has, therefore, recognized the reality of Kosovo’s independence.
 
Ladies and gentlemen,

During both negotiations on the status held before the declaration of independence and all other periods that followed, Kosovo has affirmed its commitment to good bilateral relations with the Republic of Serbia. Despite tragedies that we have suffered and the fact that Serbia has not apologized for the crimes committed in Kosovo, which cannot be forgotten, we are strongly committed to giving the cooperation between our two countries a chance, but always as between two equal and sovereign states.

It is our very aspiration to rise above tragedies that we have experienced and to give the civic reconciliation a chance that reveals our long-term objective of building a firm foundation for peace, stability and an overall development in the region.

We have always maintained that there are many issues which our two states can discus and that are in the interest of the people of both countries.
Why not discuss freedom of movement of people and goods? Why not discus economic cooperation and cooperation in other fields? Why not discuss facets of cooperation in supply with electricity in the region? Why not discuss return of the people to their own homes and estates? Why not discuss missing people? Why not discuss mutual recognition of official documents and many other issues that may come up in the course of time?

In our opinion, resolutions to these issues depend on the willingness of our countries for a treaty of neighborly relations. Kosova is ready to discuss a wide range of issues of common interest to the people of our two sovereign countries.

Thus, I state that Kosovo has welcomed the text of the resolution in its entirety, as an important UN document, that opens a new epoch of cooperation between parties (Kosovo and Serbia) and that the dialogue and cooperation among them can only contribute to the development of important processes, of international cooperation and good neighboring relations.

However, at the same time, Kosovo is never ready to discuss with Serbia issues that were settled once and for all, such as its political status as a sovereign and independent state, its territorial integrity or other issues that relate to its domestic legal and constitutional order.

Dear friends of Kosova,

Kosova has a clear vision for its future and sufficient resources to accomplish that vision.

The rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, which compose the most powerful guiding triangle for the American democracy and freedom, remain the North Star in our work and determination for the future.  This formula has not lost its value in the past centuries.  Indeed, to the contrary!

Thank you!