Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to Parliament in Pristina, Kosovo

27.08.2010 - Speech

--Translation of advance text--

Mr President,

Mr Speaker,

Mr Prime Minister,

Members of Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I view it as an honour and a privilege to address you in this House today. Thank you for your invitation.

Here in this House you will be charting Kosovo’s path to a democratic and peaceful future.

Also as Foreign Minister, I remain a convinced parliamentarian.

What’s so special about a democracy is not that it has a government.

What’s so special about a democracy is that there is a parliament in which the whole nation is represented. In a democracy it is parliament that controls the government and not vice versa.

In parliament there is both a majority and a minority; that is where supporters of the government and representatives of the opposition debate how best to deal with the problems facing their country. Parliament is the living heart of any democracy. It is here that the nature of the relations between the majority and the minority in a country is decided.

As Members of Parliament you bear great responsibility for your country’s welfare. You will be judged by Kosovo’s citizens by how you live up to this responsibility.

I wish you and your still young Parliament a great future.

Now the International Court of Justice has delivered its opinion, it is clear that Kosovo’s declaration of independence is in accordance with international law.

The Court has upheld the interpretation of the law shared also by the German Government.

Kosovo’s independence does not signify any change in international legal norms.

The principles of the sovereign equality of states and the inviolability of borders are not compromised by this decision.

Germany was one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo as an independent country. This recognition marked a high point, yet certainly not the end point of our solidarity with the people of Kosovo, our support for a free, democratic, just and dynamic Kosovo.

Germany will stand by Kosovo also over the years ahead.

The independence of Kosovo closes the chapter of border changes and secession in the area that was once Yugoslavia. The map of the Western Balkans has now been redrawn. The independence of Kosovo and its territorial integrity are practical facts.

In the 20th century disputes over borders and areas of settlement served time and again as a pretext for armed attacks, bloodshed, war, murder and genocide on an unimaginable scale.

In the Europe of the 21st century there must be no repetition of these tragedies.

It is important to remember the past with all its suffering, yet this must not deflect us from building the future.

Anyone in Belgrade and Pristina who wields influence and wields this influence responsibly can have no interest in any escalation in Kosovo.

I would like to pay tribute to all those who ensured, with a true sense of responsibility, that the situation in Kosovo did not escalate following the country’s declaration of independence.

I say this also and in particular in the direction of Belgrade and in the direction of the Serbs in Kosovo. I am confident it is now widely recognized that violence and destruction will do no one any good in the long run. To ensure that all ethnic groups in Kosovo can live together in peace is one of the great challenges facing political leaders.

With independence, Kosovo-Albanians became the majority population.

Every country that recognizes Kosovo does so in the expectation that this new status quo will be used responsibly.

The way national minorities are treated is an important yardstick for evaluating how humane a society is. The constitution of 2008 contains all the principles and guarantees needed to ensure that everyone in Kosovo, including the Kosovo Serbs as well as the Roma and all other minorities, can live in security and enjoy the same rights as their fellow citizens.

What is crucial now is to translate these constitutional principles into constitutional practice.

Kosovo has the means as well as an obligation to promote good relations between the country’s different ethnic groups. I very much hope that Kosovo will one day be cited as an example of a functioning multi-ethnic society.

Accomplishing this is not going to be easy. Decades of being fettered and oppressed, and of retaliation, too, have inflicted deep wounds.

No one is calling for members of minority groups to give up their identities and from one day to the next to see themselves solely as Kosovars. To demand any such thing would also be wrong. A person’s identity cannot simply be relabelled. Identity has many different facets. One of them is nationality, others are language, culture and family.

The 20th century saw plenty of experiments in which governments sought to make their citizens into the New Man and New Woman. All these experiments involved coercion and all of them failed.

The state cannot and must not impose any identity, but it can and must create the framework in which a sense of identity and belonging can grow.

That can happen only if all citizens enjoy the same rights and can all rely on the state to protect them.

People will feel they belong if they know their name and background is no bar to them becoming a judge or police officer, for example, and hence both a part of and a representative of the state.

Every government of Kosovo will also be judged by how far it lives up to its responsibility to protect the Serbian Orthodox monasteries and other cultural monuments here. It is right that this is now the job of Kosovo’s police force. Nothing else would in the long term be compatible with Kosovo’s sovereignty.

In Belgrade people are watching very closely to see how serious the new Republic of Kosovo is about protecting these monasteries and cultural monuments. These sites are part of your shared history, testimony that the Balkans have for centuries been home to many different peoples. I am confident that trust will develop between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the authorities in Kosovo.

In the EU and NATO the issue of who should be responsible for the security of the monasteries and cultural monuments was discussed in depth.

That KFOR has now handed this responsibility over to the Republic of Kosovo’s security forces underlines our confidence in the Kosovo police force and our expectations of its performance. This responsibility means first and foremost an obligation. There must be no repetition of the kind of assaults and violence that took place in March 2004.

Reconciliation between the different ethnic groups requires time and patience. The suffering, humiliation, devastation and murder wrought by the Balkan wars must not deflect the region, however, from building a better future.

Perhaps only the children born in 2010, members of a generation with no first-hand experience of the past, will be able to feel this legacy as less of a burden. Reconciliation is vital, that is the only way everyone in Kosovo can live in peace and security both now and in the future.

The day will come when a representative of Kosovo sits around a table in Brussels with a representative of Serbia to discuss the future of the European Union along with Germany and the other member states.

Just a few years ago this would have seemed utopian to most people, but the history of European integration has shown that utopias can become reality.

After the devastation wreaked by two World Wars, many probably felt revenge, not reconciliation, was the better course. But despite the indescribable suffering Germany and the Germans had visited on them, Germany’s neighbours chose the path of reconciliation.

It is impossible to overestimate how important this decision was for Europe’s future. Over the decades this spirit of reconciliation generated the mutual trust which made European integration possible.

The history of Europe and the history of Germany teach that conflicts must be resolved peacefully. If that fails, in the end it will mean on both sides first and foremost victims, mothers and fathers who have lost sons, girls and boys who have lost fathers and brothers.

In Germany especially there was a long and heated debate in 1998 and 1999 over how we should respond to the looming catastrophe in Kosovo. The decision to send Bundeswehr troops into an area that was once Yugoslavia was not one that anyone in Germany took lightly.

But just as I am convinced that war signifies political failure, so I am equally convinced that Kosovo today can look forward to a European future because KFOR has done a good job.

That is above all due to the soldiers who have served with the Force. They include members of the Bundeswehr, to whom I offer my heartfelt thanks.

Today we don’t hear much about KFOR outside Kosovo and that’s a very good sign. The main stories in the media concern other international issues and conflicts. Violence and clashes in Kosovo are no longer headline news. That shows how successful KFOR has been.

Let me encourage you to pursue your road to Europe with confidence and a firm sense of purpose.

We all know that on this road towards Europe Kosovo still has tremendous challenges to overcome.

Here you can count on Germany’s support.

Any company will take a close look at the situation in your country before investing money here. Although the recent global economic and financial crisis has not made international investors particularly risk-prone, they are nevertheless keenly interested in making strategic investments. German companies, too, have indicated their interest.

The more transparent tendering and procurement procedures are, the more companies will come. Other important factors in attracting investment are independent and functioning courts as well as fair and predictable customs procedures.

German support for the development of a multiethnic justice system and police force and an effective customs service helps make investing in Kosovo more attractive.

It is crucial that Kosovo should address the problems that are hampering economic growth. In its 2009 progress report the EU Commission noted deficits in combating corruption and organized crime. In this area more still needs to be done.

Over the past eleven years Germany has provided Kosovo with 340 million euro in bilateral aid to deal with the consequences of decades of neglect and to help build a new Kosovo.

When the banking system collapsed in the aftermath of the fighting, German money helped establish the first post-war bank in your country.

Today small and medium-sized enterprises and private households have access to credit.

When water and power shortages were a daily problem, Germany stepped in, too. Our Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau KfW is now working with four of the seven regional waterworks to improve the situation.

Last year Germany pledged a further 42 million euro in assistance. In the future, too, we will support infrastructure improvement in the form of more long-distance heating and environmentally sound water and power supplies.

What is important is that people in Kosovo feel things are moving forward. It is up to the politicians to prove it’s worthwhile for them to roll up their sleeves, work hard and build a better future for their country. People need to get out of poverty and into paid work.

Women and men with good ideas are already making the most of Kosovo’s new economic freedom. Individual initiative and the emergence of a middle class will drive the country’s development forward.

Even now growth and new opportunities are evident especially in smaller enterprises, in commerce, agriculture, the trades and manufacturing.

Kosovo urgently needs economic growth if it is to offer its young people a future. These young men and women need to feel they can make a life for themselves in Kosovo. That’s why Germany has since 2007 made education the priority area of our bilateral cooperation. We are advising on how to develop vocational training, on training programmes for teachers and adapting the vocational training system so that it meets local needs as well as normal EU standards.

The more Kosovo’s young women and young men experience Europe as an area of freedom, the greater the commitment they will bring to building their European future. When I talk of freedom here, I most definitely mean also freedom to travel. The faster reforms become practical reality, the faster Kosovo’s citizens can enjoy visa-free travel in Europe.

On my way to Pristina I visited Zagreb, Belgrade and Sarajevo. Everyone I talked to there fully realizes that it’s good for everyone if their neighbours are prospering.

Stability throughout the region is of vital importance to all countries in the Western Balkans. This is a priority for the EU and this is a priority for me, too, as German Foreign Minister. With the necessary basis – good-neighbourly relations – in place, the integration of the Western Balkans countries into euro-atlantic structures can become reality.

Kosovo is now already a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

Germany will continue to work and campaign for the Republic of Kosovo to take its rightful place as soon as possible as a full member of the family of nations. Kosovo’s future lies in an integrated Europe.

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