In their historic visit to the United States, Kosovo’s President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci proudly detailed the benchmarks achieved by the new republic since declaring independence in February 2008. The former Yugoslav entity and UN transitional protectorate can now usher in with dignity a peaceful and prosperous century following conflict throughout the 1990’s. Although there are many challenges affronting the young nation in achieving universal recognition both leaders remain optimistic for the bright future of Kosovo. On July 22, the couple met with some of Washington’s brightest at CSIS to present their triumphs, setbacks and concerns.
President Sejdiu began the event by stressing the importance of crafting a “peaceful definition” of Kosovo to help garner international support and respect for the new nation. Its new constitution, Sejdiu insists, will push Kosovo in this direction. Just approved in June, this charter is strongly based on both the principles guiding other democratic constitutions and Athisaari’s comprehensive proposal to create a decentralized and multi-ethnic society. The new constitution strikes a balance between offering Kosovo Albanians independence and granting Bosnian Serbs extensive rights, a compromise which will further the nation’s agenda of fostering privileged relations with Serbia. Although Sejdiu speaks sanguinely of Kosovo’s progress, he is quick to list road blocks from Russian and Serb forces.
Even though many opportunities await the new nation, its future as a democratic and peaceful republic will be hugely dependent on coordinated international efforts and investments. To ensure the success of collaborations, Prime Minister Thaci stressed the importance of combating the perception that Kosovo’s government is corrupt. His proposal: accounting for all internationally pledged money to rebuild the nation, and strengthening the position of the Serb minority both in government and civil society. Only then will Kosovo receive the aide and guidance it needs to strengthen its economy and make a smoother transition into self-dependence.
There are serious obstacles facing new leaders, such as the looming fear of dissent in Northern Kosovo; but President Sejdiu assures that his presidency has the determination to settle them both peacefully and diplomatically. With heightened support from individual nations as well as membership in international bodies like the World Bank on the horizon, both Sejdiu and Thaci believe that Kosovo’s progress will surpass all initial expectations.
Date: July 22, 2008
Time: 10-11 am
Representative Attending: Elizabeth Caniano