-- Translation of advance text --
Excellencies, Deputy Prime Minister Tahiri, Minister of Culture Krasniqi, Ambassador Xhakaliu, ladies and gentlemen,
Last Sunday, the Republic of Kosovo celebrated the fifth anniversary of its independence. Today Ambassador Xhakaliu has invited us to celebrate in Berlin as well. It is both an honour for me and a genuine pleasure to say a few words on this occasion.
Despite several obstacles, the Republic of Kosovo has accomplished much in the five years since its declaration of independence.
These achievements include the establishment of a democratic state based on the rule of law as well as the consolidation of the Republic of Kosovo’s statehood on the international level. Kosovo is a country at the heart of Europe, a country with the prospect of becoming a member of the European Union. We want Kosovo to be successful and we are ready to continue to do our part.
By regional and international standards, Kosovo’s achievements in quickly establishing a democratic state based on the rule of law cannot be overestimated. Wherever Kosovo’s constitution and the rule of law function effectively, respect for the dignity of the non-Albanian ethnic communities is ensured as well. We want to see this process of reconciliation continue and be supported effectively.
And we have cause for optimism: if we recall that the Republic of Kosovo’s new constitution only came into force on 15 June 2008, it is very remarkable that the international community was able to end the supervision of Kosovo’s independence as early as September 2012. In doing so, it paid tribute to a welcome success story.
As much as we recognize Kosovo’s accomplishments and progress, it cannot be expected from a country that is only five years old that all state functions work smoothly and that its political culture meets all European expectations. The key point is that things are moving in the right direction. The EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX, is providing very valuable services in this regard. It is in the interest of Kosovo and its citizens that it receive support and be defended against unjustified criticism.
For Kosovo and its citizens it is a cause for optimism that the European Union is supporting this young country effectively.
Also in its international relations, the Republic of Kosovo has succeeded in consolidating its own statehood: in 2009, Kosovo became a member of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund; since February 2012 Kosovo has had the right to represent itself at regional conferences and to conclude agreements by itself; last December Kosovo joined the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
At the same time, the number that is probably most important has continued to rise: the number of countries that have officially recognized Kosovo. The magic number 100 will probably be reached soon.
It is thus appropriate that for the celebrations in Pristina marking the fifth anniversary of independence, the NEWBORN monument commemorating Kosovo’s independence was painted with the flags of those states that have recognized Kosovo. We are pleased to see the German flag also represented up on the top of this monument.
Even if all but two countries in the Western Balkans have recognized Kosovo, its situation in the region is not yet really normal. The biggest obstacle is its relationship to Serbia, which is unclear in many respects. The political dialogue being conducted by the Prime Ministers of Kosovo and Serbia offers an important opportunity to achieve more normality step by step. This dialogue is in the interest of Kosovo and its citizens and has our strong support.
The great political challenges facing Kosovo are clear: integrating the north, the dialogue with Serbia, further consolidating the rule of law, fighting corruption and organized crime and improving the economic and social situation of the country and its citizens.
At first glance, these challenges may seem insurmountable. But if we look back five or ten years, we can see how much progress Kosovo has made. And, in my opinion, if we try to look five years into the future, we have no reason to lose courage.
In this spirit, I congratulate you, Minister, and you, Ambassador, most warmly on the fifth anniversary of the Republic of Kosovo’s independence.