Political mistakes in peace I may have made, but war crimes, never!

Full transcript of President Hashim Thaçi’s address to the citizens of the Republic of Kosova

 

Sisters and brothers,

fellow citizens and compatriots, in Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Presheva Valley, and the diaspora,

I address you tonight, from this office, where for 1542 days, I have had the extraordinary honor of exercising the high duty of the President of our country, a free, independent, and democratic Kosovo.

My heart is hurt, but not broken.

My mind weighs heavy, but is not bleary.

My blood is heated, but clean and unified with the blood of my friends in arms whom I lost in the war.

It is the same as the blood of those who have loved me and supported me without reservation in this journey of state-building.

And, in these moments also those who have opposed me, prejudiced or judged me differently from what I would have liked.

Today, more so than ever before, I feel completely liberated from the worry and weight of political strife.

These worries have sometimes been given greater magnitude than what they deserved.

They have blurred, in your eyes, the simple fact that we are all sons and daughters of this land and we all want what is best for Kosovo.

But politics has these things too.

Today I see clearer than ever before, that regardless of the good intentions of each, some more so and some less so, all of us, the political leaders of Kosovo during these 20 years of effort, in certain moments, have allowed politics to damage our great and shared purpose.

It is entirely natural that at this moment, which is not easy for me, I be reminded of people who no longer live.

Others that I have known along my already long road, from the time when I was an idealistic boy who wanted to change the world until today – with the grey hair.

I have reminisced about historic moments and completely personal moments, and I have thought of my parents, my grandparents, my family and my son, Endrit.

He who today has become a man, and I can look in his eyes without blinking my eyelashes over the ostensible start of a process for war crimes!

I have understood very early on that we, the fighters of KLA, would pay a great human, familial, and political cost.

This is the price for the freedom of Kosovo.

It is just that every accusation and allegation for war crimes be brought to light, from anyone and anywhere it has happened.

My friends of war, with some of whom peace has often separated us into different political camps, have challenged with the great strength of truth many low fabrications, and their innocence has shone over the garbage of monstrous accusations in the end.

It will be the same for me and my brother from the blood of war, Kadri Veseli.

Dear citizens,

Political mistakes in peace I could have made, but war crimes, never!

Even if I were to go back to the dark ages of Milloshevic, I would do the same thing, by answering the bullet of the enemy with the bullet of the thirst for freedom and by not wronging any Serbian, Roma, or Albanian citizen.

But let me make one thing very clear:

For over two decade I have supported initiatives for the establishment of courts with international involvement or oversight.

This principle remains the same today, when it is I, Hashim Thaçi, who could personally be faced with a court for which I have given my political support, with my word and with my vote.

At that time, we were faced with only two paths.

One which I have believed in my whole life and believe in to this day – advancing toward a closer alliance with the United States and the European Union.

The second – that this issue be left in the hands of the Security Council of the United Nations where countries that oppose the state of Kosovo have powerful influence.

My decision was strategic in accordance with my vision for the future of Kosovo.

And I have not looked for daily political benefits.

Today, whoever says that I have apparently become an obstacle, even a saboteur of this court, in the best case is ill-informed and in the worst case is tendentious.

However, on the other hand, someone must assess the balance of these 21 years of investigations, processes and decisions for war crimes in Kosovo.

Dear citizens,

I would be the happiest man if I were to see that the international community is applying the same standards to Kosovo and Serbia in addressing war crimes.

Unfortunately, not only do I not see this standard and proportionality, I see the opposite. And here we are today.

Serbia advances along the road of negotiations for European membership, while Kosovo does not even enjoy the right of free movement!

Naturally, I do not see here a conspiracy against Kosovo.

But the difference in approach by the international community toward the two nations is a fact.

Undoubtedly, we have our faults and responsibilities.

Myself first, and with me all the leaders of political parties in Kosovo, who over several years have not been able to maintain political cohesion.

But no fault or mistake of ours or mine justifies the fact that, for 21 years Kosovo has continued to be confronted with processes of justice for war crimes in her space.

While on the other side, the silence of graves for war crimes has fallen in Serbia.

The silence of Serbia is made more onerous by the silence of the international community.

We have engaged, I have personally and strongly been engaged for dialogue and peace with Serbia.

But I do not agree with and cannot accept the fact that, for thousands of Albanians who are missing because of Sllobodan Millosheviç’s killing machine, the bones of whom are in the soil of Serbia, there be no even international statements.

Should we even expect the day when we will be told that we must apologize to Serbia for our missing people, for our raped mothers and daughters, for the ethnic cleansing and genocide against us?!

This absurd question arises naturally, when no one in Serbia is being held accountable for war crimes any longer!

Nevertheless, today I do not want to dwell on the subject of the comparison of the promotions of justice for war crimes, which will surely take its place in the history of international justice and politics as a gloomy page of theirs for these two decades.

Honored citizens,

During these two decades I have had the privilege of having the support of the majority of you while serving at the helm of the highest national institutions.

Naturally, during these two decades, unintentionally, I have made some slips.

I know of some of them myself today.

I did not hesitate, together friends-in-arms, to wage war against Serbia, with weapons and diplomacy, disregarding the price that I may have had to pay, even my own life.

The war is over. Kosovo is a free and sovereign country.

Thus, during the last two decades, I have worked, and will work for peace and reconciliation with Serbian and the whole Balkans.

Today I do not simply live for myself and my family, but also for the friends that I have buried during the war, for their parents, their children, their nephews and nieces.

I live for the historic mission to which I belong together with Kadri Veseli, Ramush Haradinaj, Fatmir Limaj, and many others who were first in the fight for freedom but also first to be struck and attacked after the war.

Dear citizens,

We did not go to war to win elections or to claim power. We went to either live free, or die for freedom.

We did not have anything other than the great dream for freedom and independence.

But, the passage from the paths of the liberation war, to the corridors of institutions could have not be simple or easy for us.

I can tell you that I was more afraid of these corridors, than of those paths.

During the war, I slept little, but the sleep rejuvenated. After the war, I slept little, but rose exhausted from the dilemmas of how I could do a better job at the tasks of a new day.

I did as much as I could, but not as much as I wanted to.

But today I do not want to list the achievements of my post-war career today because this is neither a message of farewell, nor a moment of work evaluation for me.

I only want to tell you that I have carried on my shoulders many accusations and many offenses over the years.

When I was at the head of the government, I have never denied, and I do not deny today that the same way there have been achievements in the development of Kosovo, I have had challenges in the governance and leadership of the country.

This is natural for a leader.

However, one thing is certain: there has not been, and could not be, even a single piece of evidence addressed to Hashim Thaçi for violations of any law.

The only law that I have trampled is that of Milloseviç.

I did not fall from the sky and am not a saint.

My fate, in entirely unique historical circumstances, has determined the trajectory of my life and my behavior.

Politics was never a source of life for me, but a holy mission to serve this country and you, dear citizens.

No one can be found, in Kosovo or elsewhere, to whom I am indebted,

But, to anyone who has even once given me their vote throughout this part of my career, which continues, tonight I wish to say:

Forgive me if I have not done what you have expected of me, but rest assured that I have not misused your trust.

I bow before your trust.

Honored fellow citizens,

Kosovo is entering a new and in no way easy chapter.

This is a new chapter for me too, and in these moments, I do not know how difficult it will be.

But I am ready to write this chapter with my truth before anyone.

I do not know whether it was chance or intrigue that, midway toward the White House, the notification for an unconfirmed indictment was released.

Will this be the last price that must be paid for the freedom of Kosovo?

The cut me off my road.

But they do not threaten my trust in the values that the United States of America and the White House represent for myself and the citizens of Kosovo.

In the practice of justice of the civilized world, the public announcement of an indictment before it has been approved by the judicial body, is a massive scandal.

No crime, alleged or even committed, by anyone, justifies public lynching.

No good intention or great will for justice can justify the fabrication of a media bomb to incriminate the head of the state of Kosovo, at the exact moment when dialogue with Serbia could enter a new phase, thanks to the direct engagement of the White House.

What justice was interested in this lighting rush and this flagrant violation of the regulations of a process for justice of an independent judiciary?

This question must be addressed at the right time and in the right place.

Whereas the short answer to this question is:

That statement, blew up and rendered impossible a very important meeting at the White House, thereby giving a strong blow to the opportunity of achieving peace between Kosovo and Serbia.

Therefore, the appeal with which I wish to close this message tonight is:

Kosovo must ensure the stable functioning of its national institutions, under any circumstances.

In this new and difficult chapter, we can only move forward united, in the national and international plains alike.

In the following days, I will consult with the political leaders about the next steps.

I assure you again, I will not face justice from this office.

If the accusation is confirmed, I will immediately resign as your President and face the accusations.

Kosovo is a new country, but its leaders must act as real statesmen.

I will carry this burden and defend myself, our fight for freedom, with every ounce of power that I have.

I will not allow these false accusations to the draw away attention of Kosovo from taking its due place in the international community, as a member of the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union.

Kosovo is the homeland of all its citizens. A European country and a multi-ethnic society.

Once again, I say NO to revenge and YES to inter-ethnic tolerance.

Only by building democracy do we build a Euro-Atlantic future.

Dear citizens,

While thanking all of you who have sent me word and encouraging messages, I wish you all the best from my heart.

Thank you for the attention!

God bless Kosovo!

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