Belfast, 29 shkurt 2024
Kryeministri i Republikës së Kosovës, Albin Kurti, vizitoi mbrëmë “Queens University” në Belfast, ku ligjëroi dhe mori pjesë në diskutimin e zhvilluar me temë “Shtetndërtimi në Kosovë: Sfidat dhe Mundësitë”.
Në fjalën e tij, kryeministri tha se “Statusi aktual i Belfast-it si ekonomia e dytë me rritjen më të shpejtë në Mbretërinë e Bashkuar, pas Londrës, përfaqëson një largim të rëndësishëm nga e kaluara e tij. Në një mënyrë të ngjashme, kam gjetur se çdo mysafir që kam pritur – pavarësisht nëse kanë raportuar apo vizituar Kosovën gjatë luftës apo pas saj – ka qenë i mahnitur nga transformimi i jashtëzakonshëm nëpër të cilin ka kaluar vendi. Prishtina, ashtu si Belfasti, qëndron si një qytet i gjallë dhe i lulëzuar mes këtij evolucioni të jashtëzakonshëm. Dhe Prishtina, ashtu si Belfasti, po bëhet shpejt një qytet i drejtuar kah teknologjia”.
Ai shtoi se si Irlanda Veriore ashtu edhe Kosova gjatë kësaj kohe po shënojnë momente të rëndësishme 25-vjeçare: Irlanda Veriore ka festuar së fundmi 25-vjetorin e Marrëveshjes të së Premtes së Mirë, ndërsa Kosova këtë qershor do të përkujtojë 25-vjetorin e çlirimit. 25 vjet është e rëndësishme sepse ofron perspektivë duke ruajtur një ndjenjë të rëndësisë dhe angazhimit me çështjet e vazhdueshme.
Më tej, kryeministri foli rreth historikut të shtetndërtimit të Kosovës, dhe sfidat me të cilat është përballur shteti por edhe qytetarët që pas pavarësisë. “Epoka në të cilën po hyjmë nuk ka të bëjë vetëm me krijimin e institucioneve; ka të bëjë gjithashtu me ndërtimin e institucioneve që ofrojnë mbështetje të fuqishme sociale për njerëzit. Bëhet fjalë për krijimin e një kornize ku individët të ndjehen të shërbyer dhe të mbrojtur nga shteti,” u shpreh kryeministri.
Përmendi dhe progresin demokratik që ka njohur Republika e Kosovës në tre vitet e fundit dhe indikatorët pozitivë të dëshmuar dhe nga matjet e rangimet ndërkombëtare. “Për qeverinë time, të jesh besnik ndaj parimeve social-demokratike do të thotë më shumë sesa promovim i drejtësisë dhe barazisë brenda kufijve tanë, por edhe përtej tyre. Republika e Kosovës kërkon jo vetëm të njihet nga bashkësia ndërkombëtare, por edhe të jetë një kontribues aktiv në adresimin e sfidave madhore me të cilat ballafaqohet bota aktualisht,” tha kryeministri.
Fjala e plotë e kryeministrit Kurti në gjuhën angleze:
Secretary of State Heaton-Harris,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to address you today and to be in Belfast. I do not take it for granted how special it is to visit this place for the first time.
While I am not an academic by training, I believe I am pretty well-equipped to discuss today’s topic because I have spent the entirety of my life working on it. I have been alternately torn and put together again in trying both to practice some of the theories I’ve read, and to theorize some of the experiences I’ve undergone.
In the past days, I’ve thought a lot about Northern Ireland and inevitably how the story weaves with that of Kosova. I believe the overarching theme is the power of hope as a catalyst for transformation. Through my experiences, I’ve come to understand just how profound this transformation can be, and Belfast as well.
Belfast’s current status as the second fastest-growing knowledge economy in the UK, following London, represents a significant departure from its past. In a similar vein, I’ve found that every guest I’ve hosted—whether they’ve reported on or visited Kosova during the war or in its aftermath—has been astounded by the remarkable transformation the country has gone through. Prishtina, like Belfast, stands as a vibrant and thriving city amidst this remarkable evolution. And Prishtina, like Belfast, is fast becoming a tech-driven city.
I firmly believe that all our achievements in the end are because of the relentless hope of our people, and their insatiable drive to make progress. It’s truly striking to consider that both here and in Kosova, conflict once dominated every aspect of daily life. So change is possible, and peace is possible too.
This comparison draws attention to another noteworthy aspect: both Northern Ireland and Kosova during this time are marking important 25-years milestones. Northern Ireland recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, while Kosova will commemorate the 25th anniversary of its liberation this June. 25 years is important because it offers perspective while maintaining a sense of relevance and engagement with ongoing issues.
Now, 25 years after the NATO intervention, it’s only natural that we find ourselves entering a new phase of growth for our country. The first 25 years in Kosova were dedicated to laying the groundwork for independence and then putting that independence in action. This involved in establishing and fine-tuning domestic institutions, a process akin to weaving a delicate web that requires constant adjustment. Additionally, on an international scale, it entailed securing recognition of our right to exist in the first place. On February 17th, 2008, we officially declared our independence as a sovereign state. But it wasn’t until more than two years later, on July 22nd, 2010, that our statehood was confirmed by the International Court of Justice. The Court’s landmark advisory opinion was issued in response to a request initiated by Serbia itself at the UN General Assembly. But Serbia’s move backfired, as the Court’s resulting opinion explicitly concluded that Kosova’s declaration of independence did not violate international law.
The achievements of our country have not been without other major trials as well, the most formidable of which is the constant struggle to nurture and preserve the hope of our people. There have been periods in Kosova’s recent history where that hope risked being extinguished, with corruption emerging as the foremost threat. However, in 2019, when our government won our first election, we showed how enduring that hope is. People yearned for change, and they received it. They welcomed a government that not only represented youth in age, but also embodied a fresh perspective and innovative thinking.
So in my opinion, democracy is the best system of government through which this hope is kept alive. At times, left-leaning governments are criticized due to their lack of emphasis on identitarian values. Indeed, democracy can sometimes appears dry and devoid of feeling when compared to the emotional highs of liberation or independence, or even the alluring propaganda of a regime or fascist dictator.
However, good governance relies on everyday routine. Life’s excitement shouldn’t come from wondering if public services will work, or if human rights will be respected. Governance should be steady, making small improvements over time: a rising tide that lifts all boats, and leaves no citizen behind.
The era we are stepping into is not solely about establishing institutions; it’s also about constructing institutions that offer robust social support for the people. It’s about creating a framework where individuals feel served and protected by the state.
I am the leader of a social-democratic party. And as a Prime Minister, I have attempted to govern according to social-democratic principles. This has meant taking seriously both the “social” and the “democratic” elements of that formula. Indeed, our Government has shown how socioeconomic advancement and democratic progress go hand-in-hand. Not a development without democracy, or the other way around.
The growing success of Kosova’s democratic reforms has been independently documented. Since we took office three years ago, we’ve improved 21 places in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index; and we’ve moved up 22 places in Reporters without Borders’ Media Freedom Index. We are first in the Western Balkans, second in Europe, and third in the world for improvement in civil and political rights, according to Freedom House, as well as first in the Western Balkans in the V-Dem Institute’s Electoral Democracy Index. In 2022, the World Justice Project ranked Kosova second in the entire world for greatest improvement in rule of law, even as most countries suffered declines.
On the socioeconomic side of the equation, our democratic reforms have been accompanied by substantial increases in prosperity and wealth, widely distributed across our society. Over the past three years, we’ve increased our budget by 35%, with the greatest benefits going to the most disadvantaged citizens. In particular, we have introduced neonatal and child-care subsidies; made public higher education free of charge; improved housing conditions for ethnic minority communities; increased pensions for persons with disabilities; and provided private-sector incentives to boost employment among women and youth. According to the World Bank, Kosova has provided the most generous aid package in the Western Balkans, as a percentage of GDP, to help citizens cope with the global energy and cost-of-living crisis. FDI has doubled in the past three years, likewise our exports, while our trade deficit has shrunk by a third. And importantly, our progressive, social-democratic agenda has not been bankrolled by unsustainable spending. To the contrary, the 35% increase in our budget since 2021 has been powered forward by a two-thirds increase in tax revenues over the same period, without changes in fiscal policy. I guess when people see that there is no corruption in government they are more ready to contribute and pay taxes and eliminate grey economy. And when people are hopeful, they rather spend than save, which is good for their lives and the overall economy. This has resulted in our public debt last year dropping to a historic low of 17% of GDP — lower than any current EU country.
For my Government, being true to social-democratic principles means more than promoting justice and equality within our own borders, but beyond them as well. The Republic of Kosova seeks not only to be recognized by the international community, but also to be an active contributor to addressing the major challenges that the world currently faces.
Our determination to be a responsible member of the world community is perhaps most evident in the context of climate change. Kosova has not been — either historically or presently — a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. And yet, we have demonstrated a firm commitment to a green transition and climate mitigation. This is despite the fact that we sit on the world’s fifth-largest, and Europe’s second-largest, reserves of lignite.
Last month, we completed our first 100MW solar auction, with a number of further auctions in the pipeline for future solar and wind projects. With EU funding, we have subsidized families and businesses to take steps to reduce their energy use. We reward those who save. With support from the EU, World Bank, and EBRD, we have improved the energy efficiency of public buildings. And we have an ambitious agenda of green infrastructure projects that will significantly reduce our aggregate emissions. One such project, for example, is the Prishtina–Durrës railway. This railway will link the nearest port to our capital city, thereby drastically reducing emissions from trucks and other automobiles used for the transport of goods through the current highway we have. We are in the process of soliciting international loans and grants to contribute to this project and others like it, together with our Government.
Of course, the greatest duty that any country has under international law is that of peace. As you know yourselves, peaceful and good-neighborly relations are not always easy. In the case of Kosova and Serbia, such relations are made especially difficult by the fact that a mere 25 years have passed since Slobodan Milosevic’s era of brutal repression, which culminated in war and genocide against our people. But we in Kosova have not given up. As I stated last month in my address to the UN Security Council, we must come to terms with what has happened in the past, but we absolutely do not seek to avenge it. Just is justice by not being revenge.
Our desire for peace is exemplified by a Basic Agreement we reached with Serbia — almost exactly one year ago, on February 27, 2023 — in a process facilitated by the European Union and supported by the United States. The Basic Agreement is modeled after the 1972 Basic Treaty between East and West Germany. Back then former German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, Ostpolitik; Live and let live, mutual de facto recognition between two Germanys, which then preceded seats in the UN for both Germanys in September 1973. It expressly invokes the UN Charter as the guiding light governing the relations between our countries. As such, it is founded upon the fundamental ideal of peace between sovereign nations.
Unfortunately, ever since we reached the agreement – the Basic Treaty- Serbia immediately started backing away from it, and has even refused to sign it. At least eight out of eleven articles of Basic Agreement have been violated by Serbia and unfortunately the facilitators, the mediators in Brussels who were supposed to be referees did not blow the whistle when they noticed a breach. And ultimately, Prime Minister, Ms. Ana Brnabić, sent a letter to the EU on December 13, stating that the agreement isn’t legally binding. Most ominously, that same letter states that Serbia refuses to respect Kosova’s territorial integrity, thereby reserving the right essentially to invade our country at will.
So we have reached an agreement. President of Serbia said yes, in order not to sign and now he has this buyer’s remorse of regretting for saying yes. It is not easy to remain supportive of an agreement when the other party continuously violates, denigrates, and repudiates it. It is even more difficult to keep faith in the prospects of peace and good-neighborly relations with a country that refuses even to recognize our existence and sponsors criminal and terrorist gangs operating on our territory. But we in Kosova have an unshakable core of optimism. We can never — and will never — give up hope. The fact that we have not abandoned the agreement despite Serbia’s repeated attempts to undermine it, is a testament to our ironclad commitment to peace with Serbia — and with all the world’s states. It is also a testament to how highly we value our partnership with the EU and the U.S.
In the end, the security of Kosova is not only a national priority but also a European one. Two years have passed since the war in Ukraine began. Countless innocent lives have been lost, with 6 million refugees fleeing the country and millions more internally displaced. This tragic event has underscored that Russia’s authoritarianism poses a tangible, not merely theoretical, threat. For too long, Europe has operated under the belief that any escalation of this threat would not involve violent conflict. However, we must adapt our politics to the realities of the threats we face.
Kosova and the surrounding region are particularly vulnerable to Russia’s influence, primarily due to Serbia’s close alliance with Russia. Serbia is the only European country besides Belarus not to impose sanctions on Russia Federation. And it maintains deep economic and political ties with the country. In Last parliament of Serbia, 99 out of 250 MPs, almost 40% were also members of the Serbia-Russia friendship group. We have parliamentarian friendship groups we all the countries that have recognized us and at most a dozen of MPs are members but not 99 in any case.
Since I started with hope, I’d like to finish with that idea as well. Hope is indeed a powerful force, but it must be nurtured and maintained. Hope means work, means labor, means engagement. Within a country, the preservation of hope is upheld through democracy. It hinges on ensuring that people have faith that their contributions to the state will yield meaningful outcomes. It entails fostering an ongoing dialogue between citizens and the state, rather than erecting barriers that isolate government from its people.
At a regional and continental level, hope is sustained through partnerships and alignment. This emphasizes the importance of equal and reciprocal relationships between states. Those who are dedicated to building, safeguarding, and advancing democracies must not be left feeling isolated. The sense of being excluded despite sustained efforts is profoundly damaging to hope.
In Kosova, the prolonged wait for Schengen visa liberalization exemplified this sentiment. Despite having fulfilled the criteria long ago, Kosova took significantly longer to receive liberalization compared to neighboring countries. We had 95 criteria to fulfill in comparison to around 40 that were put for Albania, Montenegro or North Macedonia.
Liberalization finally came into effect on January 1 of this year, but our journey towards EU integration must not repeat this over-lengthy wait. Countries committed to nurturing democracies, despite facing visible challenges, must feel included in the broader community of nations. And we want to join both the European Union and NATO, and Council of Europe not simply to benefit but also to contribute.
We are no longer confronting merely theoretical threats. The rise of the far right poses a tangible danger, and violence remains a pressing concern. Our actions must rise to the occasion, and respond forcefully to these grave challenges. Only then can we keep hope alive, and turn that hope into our new reality.
Thank you very much.
(Zyra e Kryeministrit)