Statement to the Press With Kosovar Prime Minister Isa Mustafa

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Pristina, Kosovo
December 2, 2015

PRIME MINISTER MUSTAFA: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) the United States Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry – Secretary Kerry about current political situation in the country, and about the priorities of the Government of Republic of Kosovo. I thanked him as the Secretary of State, the United States Government, and the American people for the support and assistance that the United States has given and continues to give to Kosovo. This assistance has been tremendous in all our phases and was really important in clearing out foreign debt that Kosovo inherited immediately after the war; assistance in the emergent rebuilding phase, in the programs and projects of the USAID conducted in Kosovo, in building democratic institutions, good governance institutions, education sector, support for the Kosovo police, with its presence in KFOR troops, support to the rule of law institutions, substantial training and assistance for Kosovo Security Force, and for the care that the American people and the government showed to our citizens who found refuge during the war in the United States.

Dear Secretary Kerry, the people and the institutions of Kosovo value highly the support of the United States for the freedom and independence of our country. We are all very much committed for eternal friendship with the United States, and to build democratic values by taking your examples – your country. We are really appreciative and we feel responsible for all that United States has done and is doing for Kosovo. We are working with priority for the economic development of our country, stability – political stability, good neighboring policies with the regional countries, and Euro-Atlantic integration. We are continuing in the dialogue with Serbia for integration of the Serb population in the political and economic life of the country. Also, we are working on integration of other communities as well.

Kosovo is a country of all citizens. It is a multiethnic country, and we consider this as a richness and value of our country. Following the signature of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, we expect visa liberalization as another step of the unite – of the European Union. Despite the violent behavior of the opposition countering the establishment of the association of the municipalities with Serb majority and the agreement on the demarcation of a border with Montenegro, the Government of Kosovo is decisive to continue the dialogue with Serbia for the normalization of its relations, and the abovementioned agreements are to be decided by the independent bodies, including the constitutional court. The government is also ready to dialogue with the opposition on all the issues, but violence is not accepted as a political instrument.

Kosovo welcomes NATO’s invitation to Montenegro to join NATO. We consider that as a step towards peace and security in the region. We are committed to fight the organized crime and corruption in all government institutions, independent agencies, and public enterprises. We will support the judicial system so that it is more efficient in this fight, and we will work into amending the public procurement so that we can avoid further corruption practices, and we will use electronic procurement soon.

The Government of Kosovo is working on a project to build a new power plant with ContourGlobal from the U.S., and we’re creating conditions for sufficient electricity, and we are also creating conditions to attract foreign direct investments. We’re especially interested into attracting investments from the U.S. and in better cooperation in the field of higher education. Thank you very much for your support until now, in particular through Fulbright Program.

Kosovo has finally became a candidate country for the MCC, and for the first time it has passed the criteria, which are quite tough ones and substantial ones as well. We are hoping to have support in attracting funds that will ensure sustainable economic growth and strengthening in the rule of law. We highly value the role of the United States in fighting violent extremism and terrorism, and we will be your ally in this very important battle for the region and the world as a whole.

Kosovo is also interested to have good neighborly relations of peace and stability in the region. We value highly your support in building a closer relationship with NATO and membership in regional and international organizations, and to increase the number of states that recognize Kosovo’s independence and sovereignty.

Thank you very much for honoring our country with this visit, and I also want to thank you, thank the American people and the government for the entire support that we have received. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very, very much for a really generous, remarkably warm reception here. I couldn’t help but look up and I see the flag on the sides and I saw your poster and the remarkably strong-looking, impressive honor guard when I arrived. And it’s really a sign of affection and respect for our country, and so I am very grateful to you for the gestures, and I want to thank you on behalf of everybody in the United States who cares about Kosovo and the journey that you are all on. It’s an important journey and one that we have great respect and affection for.

So I’m very pleased to be here in Pristina, and I apologize up front to everybody for the brevity of this trip. Kosovo deserves a longer trip from the United States Secretary of State and it will get one. I have promised to come back when I have a little bit more time. But I thought it was very important – since I am going to Belgrade and I will meet with the prime minister of Serbia, who is part of this dialogue, I wanted to speak to both sides of the dialogue. I thought it was important to come here to make sure that Kosovo understood our respect and our commitment to this process.

And so on behalf of President Obama, I bring you his greetings and the strong and continued commitment of the United States of America to the independent Republic of Kosovo.

As the prime minister noted, we’ve just finished a very productive meeting. In the time we had, along with Deputy Prime Minister Thaci as well as Deputy Prime Minister Stojanovic, we really spoke about the full range of the issues – economic issues, security issues, transitional issues, democracy issues, the issues and challenges of the parliament. And we spoke also about opportunities. We understand that there is a large amount of the population that is young, under the age of 30 – perhaps 60 percent of the nation – and people need jobs and they want jobs.

But I’m here to say that the prime minister and the deputy prime ministers are on the right road to produce those opportunities. It takes a little bit of patience. It takes work, and there are hard hurdles to overcome. But the fact is that there are enormous opportunities for the people of Kosovo, for the people of this region, and there are many ways for our nations to achieve those opportunities if we work together.

As we discussed this afternoon, Kosovo has really made strong progress on the road to full Euro-Atlantic integration. And the recent signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union represents a very major step in that direction.

These gains are a direct result of Kosovo’s willingness to make progress in the EU-facilitated dialogue with Serbia. And we are very well aware that the agreements that Kosovo has signed have not been easy to reach. These were tough political decisions. We understand that. But the ability to make the hard decisions that are necessary for the greater good of the country is called leadership, and I’m here today to bring you President Obama’s respect and the American people’s respect for the leadership that is making these choices.

The United States has been extremely pleased to see Kosovo’s leaders demonstrate a resolve to get things done, to make things happen, to change things in the course of the dialogue with Serbia. And we support those efforts. And make no mistake, we would not support any agreement that would threaten the sovereignty or the security or the independence of Kosovo. We have invested far too much – ourselves, together – in Kosovo’s future to put it at risk.

So I’m delighted that we have a number of young men and women here today who serve as terrific examples of our shared investments in your future. Fourteen of the more than 1,000 men and women who have participated in our U.S.-Kosovo young leaders exchange program are here this afternoon. I’m going to have a chance to say hello to them after this, after we make our statements.

But among them are alumni which include people like Sali Shoshi, who participated in our International Visitor Leadership Program and is today dedicated to the preservation of Kosovo’s rich, multi-ethnic cultural heritage. That’s her work; that’s what she’s chosen to do. And Sali is leading the effort to restore the Prizren Castle – a project that is funded by the United States Embassy and the Kosovo Government.

Another example is Nora Latifi, who, after participating in our Fulbright program, now works at GAP Institute – one of the most influential think tanks in Kosovo – promoting the economic development of this country. And the United States couldn’t be prouder than to see so many men and women like Sali and Nora using what they gained from their experiences in our country to help build a stronger and more prosperous Kosovo.

Now obviously, securing the prosperous, democratic Kosovo will continue to take hard work.

Kosovars have come a long way in recent years, but further progress is going to require a deep commitment – among all citizens – to rule of law. Freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to peaceful protest, are fundamental to any democracy. Violence, however, is unacceptable.

And Kosovo’s parliament should be a place where meaningful debates on public policy are conducted, where people can listen to each other peacefully, no matter how much you object to the idea or have a different idea yourself. Freedom of expression means that people have a right to say what they think, even if you don’t like it. And this is what spurs new ideas and new efforts to help find common ground. Finding that common ground is critical.

I’ll tell you, Senator John McCain and I are different parties, we come from different backgrounds. We both ran for president at the head of our party, on different parties. But we found common ground working together to put the war in Vietnam behind us and to restore full diplomatic relations with this country with whom we had been at war.

So we understand this journey that you are on to put a war behind you and to find the future. But let me make this clear: The debate that should take place in a democracy, and particularly in the parliament – which should be a shrine to democracy, a place of reverence and of respect – that is not the place for tear gas. And it is not the place for intimidation. All parties need to renounce the use of violence in public life and commit to engaging with each other peacefully and constructively in order to resolve differences and to advance the interests of the country.

So a strong, democratic future for Kosovo will require that every citizen be treated fairly – regardless of their position on an issue, regardless of their position in life, regardless of their ethnicity, their gender, or their sexual orientation. It requires Kosovo to meet its commitment to establish a special court that can address cases stemming from years of conflict, so allegations can be resolved once and for all and the nation can reconcile itself. It will require Kosovo’s leaders to reject corruption and to insist that corrupt practices be investigated and adjudicated, and those found guilty of abusing the public trust be brought to justice.

The United States will stand by Kosovo in all of those efforts. And in the time since Kosovo’s independence, I’m proud to say that my nation has invested just shy of a billion dollars in assistance to Kosovo directly to promote governance and democracy, peace and security, social development programs, economic growth, and humanitarian relief.

We’ve also worked closely with Kosovo to address the threat of violent extremism, terrorist finance, and fighters returning from Syria, from the Daesh front. I want to say that Kosovo has set a powerful example for the region with high-profile arrests and even stronger legislation to combat terrorism. And we’re grateful, as I mentioned to the prime minister, for Kosovo’s participation in New York and President Obama’s meeting on countering violent extremism. Kosovo has set a powerful example with high-profile arrests and even stronger legislation, but I have to say this: It is obvious that more needs to be done. In fact, more needs to be done by all of us. I have just come from a meeting in Brussels with NATO where we have talked fully about the ways we all need to step up to do more to be able to destroy Daesh, and we are committed to doing so in the days ahead.

I’m also pleased to say that we reinforced the important idea of an open door for NATO with the invitation today for admission to Montenegro, your neighbor.

So we need to continue to work together in order to fight back against the false promises of Daesh, against the false promises of glory that extremists use to lure young people into a life that inevitably leads to nowhere, to a dead end.

With closer ties to Europe, with better infrastructure and a stronger justice system, Kosovo is going to attract more foreign investment. Money likes to know that where it’s going to go – the people who have it want confidence in a judicial system. They want confidence in the contracts. They want confidence that they can resolve differences, and they want confidence that if they’re going to invest their money, they’re actually going to have the best chance of being able to make some money, even as they create jobs and share the prosperity with those who get those jobs.

So the new partnership with an American company called ContourGlobal to replace the Kosovo A power plant with a cleaner, more efficient plant – with Kosovo C – is one important example of what we can do together. And we talked about other examples of things that we can do in order to encourage small business growth and development. And the United States will always favor long-term renewable energy solutions. That’s what we’re in Paris negotiating right now, and I will return to Paris in a few days to continue those negotiations because this is one of the most important national security objectives and priorities that we have in the world today. In serving Kosovo’s immediate energy needs, we believe that the Kosovo C plant and our collaboration is going to produce dramatically less air pollution and 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions from the current plant. So Kosovo will be doing its part to contribute to this global of effort of nations who are committed to dealing with climate change.

Along with new investment obviously comes new high-tech jobs. Those will help Kosovo’s best brains – those who have left to educate themselves in another country – will be attracted to return and to help grow your country and strengthen Kosovo’s prospects for a stable, multiethnic democracy. That is exactly the future that you deserve, and I know that is the future that the United States is committed to working with you to achieve.

So finally, let me just say – from Pristina I go now to the ministerial for the OSCE in Belgrade. And I very much look forward to the day when Kosovo will be there as well as a full and equal member.

Mr. Prime Minister, again, I thank you and deputy prime ministers, I thank you for your extremely generous welcome, but far more important than the welcome to me today is the partnership that we are sharing going forward. We’re proud of what you’ve accomplished and we look forward to working with you to write an even better story in the days and years ahead. Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you. Good to be with you. (Applause.)