Looking Forward Not to the Past: Kosovo's Euro-Atlantic Future

Eleven years after the war in Kosovo, the establishment of an atmosphere of cooperation and understanding in the Southeastern Europe remains vital to the peace and security of the region. The European perspective of the Western Balkans is a powerful incentive that drives internal political and economic reforms and it is the basis for long-term stability. Turning away from the tragedies of the past, it is incumbent upon the nations of the Balkan to promote the values of cooperation, reconciliation and good neighborly relations. This can best be achieved by their inclusion in the community of Europe and the community of western democracies -- the EU and NATO.

Kosovo, however, is facing challenges in its path to join the European Union. The government of the Republic of Kosovo is working really hard to receive an EU visa liberalization roadmap this year. Ongoing delay of the process makes Kosovars more isolated than other countries in the South Eastern Europe, without the right to visa-free travel in European Union countries. Kosovo has yet to sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, a contractual relationship as a means to prepare the country for sustainable reforms and possible candidate status. It is time to move forward with all aspects of independence -- politically, economically and culturally. We are part of Europe. It is time to be integrated into Europe.

In only three years after independence, Kosovo has made significant progress in the face of difficult situation. It has established all critical state democratic institutions and implemented in practice the provisions contained in the Comprehensive Plan devised by former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari. Kosovo has adopted a constitution, which provides far-reaching guarantees for all ethnic communities and has successfully held democratic elections. Heavy turnout at polling stations during the last parliamentary elections by members of all communities shows a growing determination among all citizens in building a European future for Kosovo based on tolerance, inclusion and democracy.

The diplomatic recognition of the independence of Kosovo reflects the support the new country has within the international community. To date, seventy-five countries around the world, including all immediate neighbors other than Serbia, have formally recognized Kosovo. The most recent recognitions came from the State of Qatar, Guinea-Bissau and the Sultanate of Oman. In June 2009, Kosovo was also granted membership in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Of course the United States was one of the very first nations in the world to recognize our sovereignty.

Independence of Kosovo has been reconfirmed by the International Court of Justice, which acted upon a request of the Republic of Serbia and tasked by the United Nations General Assembly with rendering an advisory opinion on the independence of Kosovo. On 22 July 2010, with an overwhelming majority, the Court concluded that the Declaration of Independence of Kosovo did not violate International Law. Kosovo's independence has contributed to strengthening security and stability in South Eastern Europe, by putting an end to two decades of violence and destruction. Because of improved security throughout Kosovo, NATO is downsizing its forces today.

Our leadership has made cooperation with all of its neighbors a high priority. In light of this Kosovo has built very good relations with Macedonia, Montenegro, and certainly with Albania. Today a dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia on our future cooperation is underway. The dialogue will offer a chance between our two sovereign countries to settle practical and technical issues and overcome obstacles towards EU and NATO membership. Our history with each other has been difficult, even tragic. It is now time, for the sake of all who sacrificed and for our children who deserve peace, to look forward to the future.

During her last visit to Kosovo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered an uplifting assessment of Kosovo. She said, "I was impressed with the promise of such a young country. The dynamic, engaged youth who represent so much of Kosovo's future are working with civil society to build up democratic institutions, expand economic opportunities, and promote the rule of law."

It remains the hope of the Government of Kosovo that one day all countries of the Western Balkans, in spite of their unfortunate past, will live side-by-side as peaceful, cooperative neighbors and full members of the European and North Atlantic community of nations. The Republic of Kosovo looks forward to working with all of the countries to promote the shared goal of world peace and security. This is critical to our people, to our nation, to the Balkans and to all of Europe.