Security Council Meeting
STATEMENT by H.E. Ms. Vlora Çitaku,
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Embassy of the Republic of Kosova in the United States
7 February 2019 New York – Honorable Mr. President,
Honorable members of the Security Council, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As always, I am honored to be here with you today. And it is precisely because I truly respect and value this honorable chamber, that I cannot quite comprehend why it is that we are actually here today.
Kosova is certainly not a novelty topic for the chamber. For many people around the world, it was the war of the late 1990s that put Kosova on the map. However, the war itself was not an isolated formative experience for my people. This war was predicated by years of oppression, segregation, and exploitation. Years when we were denied our most fundamental rights. No right to read and write our own language in schools, or to sing songs out on our streets. Years of being silenced by the deafening noise of Serbian guns. Years of tremendous suffering that only came to an end when your predecessors, sitting around this very table, two decades ago, gave a voice to me and my people.
As we mark the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Kosova, we also celebrate the role that the United Nations have played in Kosova. When one million refugees were returning back to their homes, the UN and its agencies were there, in Kosova, waiting for them, readily offering their support. Our country has risen from the ashes of war, and it was the UN administration that lifted us up.
Throughout the many years of UN administration in Kosova, this chamber has provided guidance and facilitated a healthy debate about Kosova and its future. It was actually UN special envoy, Martti Ahtisaari that recommended independence as the final status for Kosova. And it was upon Serbia’s request that the International Court of Justice ruled clearly and without any ambiguity that Kosova was within its rights when it declared independence.
I don’t have to remind you that the ruling of the court was accepted by the UN General Assembly, recommending the launch of a dialogue for the normalization of relations between Kosova and Serbia.
Ladies and gentlemen,
With these facts in mind, I address you with the absolute candor and correctness that this forum impels, in saying that I can seriously not understand why on earth we are here for the third time in four months to talk about Kosova again. It is astounding. Simply unbelievable, that this council has convened more sessions to talk about Kosova, than it has for Syria, Yemen, or Venezuela.
There are real problems out there, real challenges that require your valuable time and attention. Real people who need your help, as we in Kosova once did. It is preposterous and absolutely unacceptable that his chamber be turned into a theater by our northern neighbor. That this esteemed forum become a stage for Serbia to tell its fairytales to the world. Fictional stories that they don’t even believe for themselves. It is shameful that, yet again, this chamber is being misused, purely for domestic consumption.
UNMIK has no role, and it no longer has a mandate in Kosova. These sessions have lost their purpose. In fact, the charade that is being put on here is yet more proof that Serbia is not genuine in its articulated intent to engage in dialogue with Kosova about the normalization of relations between our two countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The dialogue between our two countries was not, is not, and will never be about Kosova’s right to exist as a free nation under the sun. Let us not distort the facts here. Eleven years ago this month, a new and young republic was born in Europe. And Kosova will not, never, not today, not tomorrow, we will never negotiate our statehood.
We want and we are prepared to talk about building constructive relations as neighbors. As equals. However, this is exactly where the problem lies. Serbia is inherently opposed to the idea that Kosova is its equal. That is why they create unnecessary drama everywhere they can about anything that makes them view us as their equals. It is pervasive, we see it everywhere, we see it in sports, and arts, and politics. There is a stubborn refusal to accept us as their peers.
But, frankly speaking, that is Serbia’s problem. What I cannot understand is why we have to meet here so often and entertain their ideas about a parallel universe that they chose to live in. It is peculiarly incumbent upon you, the members of this forum who have strength to set an example of propriety to stop enabling this parody.
Always, every single day, Serbia continues to create artificial drama in order to avoid accepting reality. We have gotten rather used to it. It is hard for them to surprise us with their absurdity anymore. However, if they think they can condition the dialogue with us relinquishing our right to exist as a sovereign state, they are in for a fast approaching awakening. We are not going to freeze our existence until Serbia has an epiphany and decide it is time to accept Kosova as an equal.
First, less than two months ago, we were summoned here for an extraordinary session to urgently address the most natural and ordinary of decisions that our institutions undertook when we established our army. The decision to establish the army was a legal, constitutional, and prudent obligation to create the requisite security mechanisms that will enable Kosova to contribute and be part of the regional and Euro-Atlantic security alliances. Furthermore, it is a decision which demonstrates the maturity of Kosova as a state. It is a paradigm shift of no small proportions for us to transform from consumers, to contributors of security.
Now, they are conditioning the continuation the continuation of the dialogue with the removal of tariffs.
Honorable members of this chamber,
The decision of our Government to impose tariffs on Serbian goods was not a decision that we took lightly. However, the question at hand should be why that decision was made in the first place. The tariffs were a direct response to the aggressive and brutal campaign of the Serbian Government against Kosova. One cannot use one hand to fight our existence with everything that they have at their disposal, and extend the other one with the pretense of being earnest about normalization and good neighborly relations. In addition, political arguments aside, this decision was based on economic factors as well. No product that is labeled Made in Kosova can pass the Serbian border. None whatsoever. Why should Kosova extend Serbia a courtesy that they do not reciprocate?
Ladies and gentlemen,
The tariffs are not the problem. The tariffs are merely an excuse to refuse to come and sit with us at the table in Brussels. At the end of the day, the real economic effect of these tariffs is minimal. It is negligible for Serbia.
Serbia exports weapons all around the world, even to countries that are under EU and US embargo, and they sell cookies to Kosova. Only 3% of Serbia’s exports are to Kosova. There is no humanitarian crisis of any kind in Kosova. Please come and visit Kosova for yourselves, and you will witness the unquestionable reality with your own eyes.
The bottom line is, Serbia will us any excuse that they can find and make up more that they don’t have only to delay the inevitable. The recognition of Kosova as a free and independent state. All the excuses and all the delays do not alter the fact that Kosova is free nation. Hence, dialogue should not be conditioned with excuses. Because, at the end of the day, Kosova actually has real and painful reasons to condition the process. We have 20,000 reasons, for each of the women that were raped by Serbian military forces. We have 1,370 more, for each of the children that were killed in Kosova by Serbian military forces. We have 1.600 reasons, for each and every one of the people who are still missing today.
Even here today we had attempts to rewrite history. The war in the Balkans, massacres from Srebrenica to Recak and Izbica had one perpetrator. Serbia. Belgrade. We all now how the perpetrators were. And we know the victims.
KLA was not a criminal or terrorist organization. It was a liberation movement. They were young women and men that took up arms to fight Milosevic. We are proud of them.
Yet, Kosova has never conditioned the dialogue process, because for us, building a prosperous Kosova, at peace with its neighbors is the best way to honor the sacrifice that was made. And though our scars may never fully heal, we will not be hostages of our pain.
Instead of ceasing this opportunity for redemption and peace, Serbia chooses obstruction. Even if the government of Kosova were to suspend the tariffs, Serbia will find some other excuse to inhibit the process. What is their excuse for the lack of implementation of almost everything that we have agreed to in Brussels? What is their excuse for the lack of the implementation of the agreement on energy? What about the agreement for the recognition of diplomas? What is their excuse? None. The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that until the day that Serbia recognizes Kosova as its equal, our part of the world will sadly keep producing endless and pointless drama and conflict.
The most recent iteration regards a legitimate and constitutional decision of the institutions of the Republic of Kosova about the Trepça mines. Belgrade’s reaction to this decision revealed in the most blatant and brutal form the true neocolonial attitude that Serbia harbors visa vies Kosova. Kosova will not negotiate with Belgrade about Trepça or any other of our resources. They are in Kosova, and they belong to the people of Kosova. The times when decisions about our resources were made in Belgrade ended a long time ago.
Serbia needs to want peace. They need to want an agreement. If they truly do, then they need to act on it. Our Serbian citizens in Kosova are the ones that are suffering the most in this situation. And make no mistake, there is only one government that exercises pressure on them. That is the one sitting in Belgrade, not the one in Prishtina. Any member of the Kosova Serbian community who dares to think differently or independently of the government in Belgrade is subject to systematic intimidation.
From hand grenades thrown at the homes of Serbian members of the KSF, to the detention of Serbian MPs who dared to challenge the government in Belgrade, Serbia has left no stone unturned in its attempts to obstruct the integration of the Serbian community in Kosova. Belgrade does not view them as people who need their support. Belgrade only views and uses Serbs in Kosova as instruments for their destabilizing foreign policy. And we have seen similar scenarios in Bosnia and Hercegovina as well.
Just the last session that we gathered here, we all demanded progress in the investigation on the assassination of Oliver Ivanovic. The Kosova Police and other law enforcement mechanisms worked hard to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. Arrests were made. But, lo and behold the irony, the main suspect is in hiding. In Serbia. And Serbia is refusing to hand him over to the Kosovar authorities. I will refrain from commenting any further on this matter and allow you to make up your own minds as to what this means.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we prepare to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Kosova, I cannot help but reflect on the future. Regardless of the roadblocks and despite all the obstacles that we face, we remain determined to do all that is in our power to achieve and cherish a stable and lasting peace. For the sake of our children, our athletes, our artists, our scientists, who are undaunted by the temporary constraints of our current circumstance. They transcend the borders of prejudice and the scale the walls of politics to raise our flag around the world. For the sake of our brave women who challenge the status quo to transform social norms and break glass ceilings. For the sake of the fallen, who made the ultimate sacrifice. We continue to strive for a better tomorrow. And even though we still have a long way to go, I am just as hopeful for our young republic today as I was on June 12th, 1999 when Kosova was liberated from Serbia.
Dear members of the Security Council,
It is time for Serbia to liberate itself from Kosova now. For the sake of peace and stability in the region. We all must show courage and end this conflict. Kosova is ready. Your turn.
Thank you for your time and attention!