Remarks With Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Government Building
Pristina, Kosovo
October 31, 2012

The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

PRIME MINISTER THACI: (Via interpreter) Honorable Secretary Clinton, allow me to express my condolences and those of the Kosovar people for the consequences of the hurricane. We pray for them, and we are visit the U.S. – will soon (inaudible) after this hurricane.

Honorable Lady Ashton, Secretary Clinton, 13 years ago, Kosovo was a country that was totally devastated with over a million of its citizens driven away from their homes and thousands of people missing, many unspoken. Thirteen years ago, Honorable Secretary Clinton, you visited my citizens in refugee camps here. Those pictures are unforgettable. Today, you visit them in their own state in the independent and sovereign Kosovo. Kosovo and its citizens will be eternally grateful to the United States of America and the countries of the European Union for the powerful support that they gave to Kosovo on its long journey to freedom and independence.

Despite the significant progress we have made in – together in these 13 years of freedom and the four and a half years of independence, today Kosovo is still not the Kosovo of our dreams. We are persistently working for a European Kosovo, for a Euro-Atlantic Kosovo. We are conscious that we need to do more. There’s a lot of work to do in the rule of law, combating corruption and organized crime. Much work is still expected from us increasing the welfare of our citizens, and (inaudible) including minority communities in the public and institutional (inaudible).

Although extraordinary success has been made in integrating Serbian citizens in the south of the country, still a challenge remains in the north. I am a Prime Minister, Prime Minister of all citizens, both the citizens in the north and in south. And I guarantee (inaudible) to all. We will work extensively in attractive development projects for our citizens in that part of the country as well. We will continue to extend our hand of cooperation and provide services to all. But despite our willingness, the presence of illegal structures financed by Serbia makes our work very difficult there.

Honorable media representatives, I assured Baroness Ashton and Secretary Clinton that the institutions of Kosovo will meet all criteria in order that we may implement the will of the citizens of Kosovo and our vision to integrate as soon as possible in the European Union and in NATO. EU integration has no other alternative. Honorable Ashton, I assure you that Kosovo will continually provide positive arguments so that your work in pushing Kosovo’s EU agenda forward will be easier. We elaborated together, together with Secretary Clinton and Baroness Ashton, that the process of normalizing relations between the State of Kosovo and the State of Serbia is a determining factor of the Europeanization of the region. Kosovo is determined in this process. But let us be clear that (inaudible) will not go back; the state of Kosovo is being consolidated and strengthened every day. Kosovo’s independence and its territorial integrity and the (inaudible) state organization are internationally recognized facts and undisputable.

There are, however, many things that are in the interest of both countries and in the interest of the citizens of both states. Dialogue is the only way forward to integrate into the EU, and it is the main determining catalyzer to integrate in this – in the EU. And normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia, it goes in the best interests of Kosovo, of Serbia, of the region. It is also in the best interest for powerful investment from the EU and the U.S., and also in the interest of peace and regional stability and also for the Euro-Atlantic perspective.

So citizens in Kosovo, in Serbia, and in the region, after opening this chapter, will have more hope and more confidence in the future – Euro-Atlantic future of Kosovo.

MODERATOR: Now we invite the Honorable Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton for a press statement.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. And Prime Minister, I’m delighted to be back in Pristina. I am also reminded, as you did, of my visit 13 years ago to refugee camps where the people who are now proud citizens of a new, independent state had fled to save their lives. I’m not sure any people has made as much progress in such a short period of time as the Kosovar people. The United States has been with you on every step of your journey, and we will remain as your partner and your friend as you continue forward.

Ever since I visited two years ago, I’ve been looking forward to returning and continuing the conversations that I’ve had over 13 years with the leaders and people of Kosovo about the future that you are building. I’m here today with the High Representative of the European Union, Cathy Ashton, because the United States fully supports the aspirations of the Kosovar people to be integrated into Europe and the Euro-Atlantic Alliance. We believe the dialogue that the Prime Minister has begun with Cathy Ashton and the Prime Minister of Serbia is absolutely essential. It provides the path to long-term stability, prosperity, and peace for people here and throughout the region. So we are working closely with the European Union and High Representative Ashton to advance the political dialogue that has begun.

And I personally want to commend the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Thaci took a political risk – I know a little bit about political risks – in going to this meeting in Brussels. It was the right decision. It was courageous and it was smart. I also want to commend your President. President Jahjaga has represented Kosovo very well around the world. She has changed minds and hearts about Kosovo and about your future.

My message yesterday in Belgrade is the same as my message here today in Pristina. The United States urges all parties to continue to work to implement the agreements reached to date, to reach agreements in new areas, and to advance concrete measures to normalize relations. Normalization of relations is key to future progress for both Serbia and Kosovo. But we believe in the United States that these steps taken by Kosovo are especially important for you. We think that moving toward the European Union will give you the rewards for the hard work, the sacrifice of the people of this generation and the past and future generations to come. So I urge Kosovo’s leaders to continue to carry out negotiations in good faith. Certainly, addressing the concerns of the Kosovo Serbs will be critical. I will meet with a group of ethnic Serb returnees later today, and will convey America’s commitment to helping build a future in Kosovo and throughout the region where all people of all backgrounds have a chance to succeed.

Let me be absolutely clear, not only here in Pristina but to anyone listening or watching throughout the region: The United States is firmly committed to Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to seeing the rule of law extend throughout Kosovo. We oppose any discussion of territorial changes or reopening Kosovo’s independent status. These matters are not up for discussion. The boundaries of an independent, sovereign Kosovo are clear and set. I appreciate the Prime Minister saying that he is the Prime Minister of the north and of the south, and we look forward to assisting the Prime Minister, his government, and the people of Kosovo as they translate that commitment into reality in both the north and the south.

The United States is very proud of our friendship with Kosovo. We see a country that is young not only in terms of years of being a state, but in terms of demography. You have a young population. The young men and women of Kosovo whom I had a chance to meet with two years ago, when I was here, deserve to be fully integrated into Europe. And that is our goal for you. We want to continue working with you to build and strengthen your democratic institutions and advance the economic welfare of your people. I believe in Kosovo’s future, and the United States remains deeply committed to your success.

Now for me and my family, and many of my fellow Americans, this is more than a matter of foreign policy. It is deeply personal. As I was driving in from the airport last evening, I saw that enormous statue of my husband – (laughter) – standing next to the store called Hillary. (Laughter.) I had a chance to visit both of them last time. It looks like the store is doing well, which I was very happy to see. But we have a personal commitment to your success, and we also know that getting into the European Union is not easy. There have to be changes made. And it’s not only changes by the government, but also changes by the people. But we also know Kosovo’s future lies in Europe, and we are anxious to see you move as quickly as possible in that direction.

So we will stand with you as you make key reforms to improve governance that brings you closer to full Euro-Atlantic integration. We will stand with you as you work with Serbia to resolve practical problems and overcome obstacles, and we will be there for you as you take the necessary steps toward the future you so richly deserve.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Now I would kindly pass the floor for a press statement to Honorable Lady Catherine Ashton.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Well, thank you very much. Can I first of all say how delighted I am to be back, and especially delighted to be back with Secretary Clinton, my friend Hillary, who I know has a very special place in the hearts of the people of Kosovo. Prime Minister, it’s always a pleasure to see you and to have the opportunity to continue our work together.

On this particular trip, a common theme has been our view of the importance of seeing the countries we visited being part of the European Union. And to the people of Kosovo, I say the same thing: Your future lies with the European Union, and we are eager to see you realize that ambition. As Secretary Clinton said, the road is not easy. Every country that comes into the European Union will tell you it gets harder before it gets easier. There are many things that need to be done. But they’re worth doing because at the end of it, you will have a country that is stronger economically, stronger politically, where the rule of law is observed correctly, where human rights are fully respected. And though I would also say that all countries need to continue to be vigilant and to continue on the journey that they are to take in these regards, nonetheless you will arrive at the European Union with great strength. And I personally look forward to that day very much.

The dialogue that we have begun is not easy. It’s not easy for the Prime Minister; it’s not easy for the Prime Minister of Serbia, Prime Minister Dacic, either. And I know that for the people of Kosovo, with the history and the fears that you have, it’s not easy, either. But we commit to you that this dialogue is about making lives better. It’s about normalizing life so that the people who live in the north can go about their daily lives feeling part of a community, feeling part in their lives of a society. And it’s about doing so by sitting down and talking, and talking openly and freely.

And I have to say to all of you that I believe your Prime Minister was extremely brave to come to Brussels and to be willing to come into the room and have that conversation. I also believe the Prime Minister of Serbia was brave, too. It was a good meeting. It was a first good meeting. There will be more, and soon. And its purpose will be, as I have said, to make things better. I hope you will give him your full support. I hope the Prime Minister can count on all the politicians and the people to go forward, and in doing so, to know that it’s not just the European Union that will be working hard on this, but that we will be in close contact with our friends, our partners in the United States of America, who play such a vital role in supporting not just Kosovo, but actually the European Union as a whole.

So thank you very much, Prime Minister, for all that you’re doing. Secretary Clinton, as this is our last press conference on this particular trip, what a pleasure it’s been to travel with you and to work so closely with you. And to all of you, I wish this country every possible success.

MODERATOR: Thank you. (Inaudible.)

# # #

PRN: 2012/T73-11