"Freedom, sovereignty and responsibility are inextricably linked" - speech given by Wolfgang Ischinger in Pristina on the occasion of the end of supervised independence

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, in this picture addressing the audience at the Opening Session of the 48th Munich Security Conference in 2012. Picture: Frank Plitt

In the course of a festive ceremony on the occasion of the end of supervised independence of Kosovo, Wolfgang Ischinger spoke in Pristina yesterday. Ambassador Ischinger, the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, used to be the EU representative in the so-called Troika talks on the status of Kosovo. "This is a day of congratulations to Kosovo, to its parliament, its government, and most of all to its people", Ischinger said. "All the laws and principles that have been established need to be filled with life and meaning every single day. After all, to be free, to be sovereign as a country means to assume responsibility – responsibility for every single citizen in your country as well as responsibility for fruitful relations with your neighbors."

The full text of the speech follows:

 

Speech by Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger on the occasion of the end of supervised independence

Parliament of Kosovo, Pristina, Kosovo – September 10, 2012

 

When the Hanseatic City of Bremen was confronted by demands from its larger neighbours, around 1860, the Mayor of Bremen, Arnold Duckwitz, invented the Duckwitz doctrine: “ A small state such as Bremen must always try not to be seen as an obstacle. It should position itself in a way that its independence be considered a blessing for all, and its existence a necessity by the neighbours. This is the best guarantee for our future prosperity.”
 
The Duckwitz doctrine has served Bremen well. It also holds a few interesting lessons for Kosovo.
 
Kosovo has undoubtedly come a long way since its declaration of independence on February 17, 2008. In the past four years, it has developed into the viable democratic and multi-ethnic state that Martti Ahtisaari’s “Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement (CSP)” envisaged.
 
We are joined here today in recognition and celebration of this achievement, and it is an honor and a privilege for me to participate in this ceremonial session of parliament. Thank you for your invitation. This is a day of congratulations to Kosovo, to its parliament, its government, and most of all to its people. I am happy to be here today with all my Kosovar friends.
 
The Ahtisaari proposal and the Kosovar constitution of 2008 contain all the principles and guarantees needed to ensure that everyone in Kosovo – Albanians, Kosovo-Serbs as well as other minorities alike – can live peacefully and in safety and enjoy equal rights for all citizens.
 
Let me begin by paying tribute to this Parliament: This Parliament has played a significant role in turning these constitutional principles into actual practice. In the past years, it has filled the principles of the Ahtisaari proposal on the rights of the minority communities with life. It has worked on improving the protection of the Serbian-Orthodox cultural and religious heritage. It has developed strategies for reconciliation.
 
In the past weeks and months, it has completed the transformation of the remaining elements of the Ahtissaari proposal into Kosovo’s constitution and legal framework.
 
Last week, it has finally adopted those constitutional amendments that remove the International Civilian Representative from the constitutional framework. It has thus prepared the ground for the end to supervised independence declared earlier today. And in the future, a significant part of the responsibility for safeguarding and building upon what has been reached will lie with this House.
 
Credit is due also to Pieter Feith, who tirelessly worked towards fulfilling his mandate, thereby rendering his role and that of his office superfluous.
 
In this context, I would also like to mention KFOR, including, of course, the German contingent. KFOR has contributed immensely to establishing an ever more safe and secure environment in Kosovo since 1999.
 

A New Chapter in Kosovo’s history: Freedom and sovereignty as responsibility
 
This new chapter in the history of Kosovo will be no less challenging for its people and its political leaders than the last one. All the laws and principles that have been established need to be filled with life and meaning every single day. After all, to be free, to be sovereign as a country means to assume responsibility – responsibility for every single citizen in your country as well as responsibility for fruitful relations with your neighbors. Freedom, sovereignty and responsibility are inextricably linked.
 
After decades of oppression and also retaliation, deep wounds remain. Thus, the unfinished work of reconciliation is critical – and needs to be continued. Reconciliation takes time, effort, and the willingness and ability to forgive. It must be actively fostered, both by the government and by the citizens. It must be enshrined in the curricula of the schools – teaching ethics, empathy, history, the different languages – and it must be lived in everyday life, in the towns and villages, in the songs that are being taught to young children, for instance.
 
It would be wrong to demand of the members of minority groups to give up their identities and all of a sudden see themselves solely as Kosovars. The state cannot and must not impose an identity, but it can and must create a framework in which a sense of belonging can grow. It can and must reach out to all of its citizens with an offer of participation and inclusion, an offer based on respect for their backgrounds and identities.
 
This holds true in particular for the North of Kosovo. Important steps have already been taken that can now be built upon. But there will be no easy fix. I believe that those who cause most of the problem should be made part of the solution as well: There will be no way around addressing the issue of the North with Belgrade, too. A sustainable solution will need to be inclusive, not exclusive.
 
Also, further strengthening the rule of law must not be neglected. This House has a special responsibility in this regard as well. A continued commitment to the fight against corruption and organized crime is crucial for creating a better Kosovar society – and forms the basis for attracting the foreign investors needed for a sound economic development. Also, incidents of interethnic violence must be fully and impartially investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.
 
EULEX has an indispensable role to play in both regards. I was thus relieved to hear that this parliament laid the basis for the continued EULEX engagement a couple of days ago. This was a crucial signal of support for this important mission – to the success of which all 27 EU member states are committed and which remains a linchpin of Europe’s involvement in and for Kosovo.
 
The impending closure of the International Civilian Office merits the question of where the focus of the international community’s engagement with Kosovo will lie in the future. While KFOR will of course continue to play its role in securing a safe and secure environment particularly in the North, the answer can only point to EULEX and Europe. Kosovo’s future lies within the European Union, just like the future of all of its neighboring countries. The celebration of Kosovo’s full sovereignty today should also lead to a renewed effort to obtain Kosovo’s recognition worldwide. I urge those countries inside and outside the EU who have not yet done so to consider recognizing Kosovo now! And I deplore the fact that a few countries continue to prevent the EU from presenting a fully unified and powerful position on the future of Kosovo, and thus of the entire region!
 
I am convinced that one day a representative of Kosovo will sit at a table in Brussels side by side with a representative of Serbia, both countries prospering, and discuss the future of the European Union, together with all the other EU member states.
 
To turn this vision into a reality requires substantial steps ahead in two ways:
      - Firstly, Kosovo and Serbia need to normalize their relations,
      - and secondly, the European Union has to strengthen its ties with Kosovo.
 
Regarding the relationship with Belgrade, the initiative of the European Union’s High Representative Lady Ashton to lift the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue to a political level represents a great chance to achieve real progress. Kosovo only stands to gain if it wholeheartedly and constructively embraces this opportunity. Kosovo should come up with creative and constructive ideas – such as the German-German model we discussed five years ago. Let me repeat what I have said to my friends here in Pristina many times before: Always try to be a little bit more pro-EU, more pro-dialogue, more pro-solution, more pro-normalisation than your negotiating partners in Belgrade: Then you will be moving in the right direction, and you will be on the right side of history!
 
Fortunately, the momentum on Kosovo’s path to Europe has increased over the past months: the opening of the dialogue on visa liberalization and the Commission’s feasibility study which is soon to be concluded represent important milestones. I am convinced that the EU member states gathered here today will continue to press for further progress. It is up to Kosovo to show its commitment to its path towards Europe by sticking to its reform agenda.
 
The “Newborn” obelisk located not far from where we are gathered today is not quite as shiny, new and immaculate as it was when it was unveiled on 17 February 2008. But it still holds a promise: that this country can truly develop into what it has set out to be: a democratic, undivided, multi-ethnic and prosperous state enjoying good-neighborly relations throughout the region. Even more than yesterday, the 
responsibility to make this promise come true is yours. The international community will continue to stand by your side – and eagerly look forward to continued progress.
 
Use your sovereignty responsibly! Try to be a blessing for all your neighbors! And do not forget the Duckwitz doctrine – Kosovo will enjoy a brighter and brighter future.

11 September 2012, by MSC

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