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Speech to the Assembly of Kosovo - Commissioner Chris Patten

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Speech by The Rt Hon Chris Patten, CH
Pristina, September 11, 2003 - Check against delivery

Mr. President, President of the Assembly, Mr. Holkeri, Ladies and gentlemen,

As the Secretary Generals Special Representative said it is two years to the day since the atrocities in New York and Washington, and it is perhaps a particularly grim day of remembering this date. As today has also seen the death of Ana Lindh murdered in Stockholm. For all democrats it is a pretty gloomy occasion. For all who believe that politics is an honorable adventure. It was certainly an honorable adventure for Ana Lindh who was brave and committed and charming, a wife and mother as well as a formidably effective foreign minister of the country. So for all who knew her and for all of us who are democrats it is a pretty gloomy moment. A reminder that violence does intrude into politics. But whenever violence intrudes into politics it leaves misery and poverty behind.

Despite those shadows I am very pleased to be back in Kosovo.

- When I first came here, and I think I am being now in double figure since I came for the first time in 1999, I didn't think I would have dreamt that one day I would be addressing an assembly of democratically elected political leaders here in Prishtina, and perhaps it takes an occasional but enthusiastic visitor and a well-wisher to be able to see the progress that you made in partnership with the international community. I want to share with you my thoughts on your partnership with the EU, which is a subject of interest to all of us. And I want to say it is a point to which I'll return with some fairly blank language a little later on but now, I am now in the end of my political carrier beyond political ambition I feel entitled to say things as I see them. The discussion of final status of Kosovo isn't yet on the table. But what we all know absolutely clearly is this: that your future lies in Europe. That was the commitment of the entire European Union at its meeting at Thessaloniki in June and I am happy to confirm that promise today.

- Next year the countries of Eastern Europe will join our European family. It seemed a hopeless dream ten years ago but they transformed themselves into democratic states with market economies with our help. They managed and so can you.

- The role of this Assembly is particularly vital to realise this European future of Kosovo. You are the democratically elected representatives of the people of Kosovo. It is your responsibility to bring Kosovo along the path of stabilisation, democratisation and modernisation. You are here to work for the well-being of all the people of Kosovo, regardless of ethnic, political or social background.

- This Assembly is the centerpiece of Kosovo's democracy, the forum in which you discuss and argue in a democratic and civilised manner. Though I would be surprised if you aren't occasionally noisy. Noise in the assembly is as we all know a noise of freedom. I am not using these words likely: I used to be a Member of the British House of Commons - the oldest Parliament in Europe - and I do know how crucial a functioning Parliament is to make a democracy flourish. As members of this Assembly, you have a special role to play. And I hope you'll never forget that.

Security and Returns

- It has been a year since I last visited Kosovo but I have followed events with close interest. There have been, as I said earlier many positive developments you can be proud of - but there have also been continuing tragedies such as the recent killings of innocent children. These horrendous events are not just tragedies for the victims, but indeed for Kosovo as a whole. They are a blot on the reputation of Kosovo. The violence that Kosovo is witnessing not only could have severe implications for the peaceful coexistence here, but could also have serious consequences for the whole region. So you have to do everything that is in your hands to hold the current wave of attacks and counter attacks. I know that many Kosovan politicians have spoken out against the attacks and I praise those of you who had for having done that. As representatives of the whole people of Kosovo, all of you have a special responsibility to denounce without equivocation the evil man who murdered their fellow citizens. Let me also urge you to redouble your efforts to make sure that your words are matched by actions that make a difference on the ground and in doing all of this you have to work hand in hand with your estimable Special Representative of the United Nations.

- You and UNMIK should be ambitious and aim at more than simply halting the current circle of violence. Let me ask you therefore to reinforce your efforts directed in creating a society where everyone is equal not just before the law but also in practice.

- Only then those who have left the province out of fear and despair will have trust in the very encouraging message that you addressed to the Displaced Residents of Kosovo living outside the province, and will be confident that they can return to their homes in peace.

- I know that a lot has already been done by this Assembly, the Government, and your partner, UNMIK, but the reality shows that much more needs to be done. Not just from you, at the top, in Pristina, but municipality by municipality across Kosovo. There is no more important duty for a Kosovo that wants to demonstrate that it is committed to a peaceful democratic future.

Future of Kosovo

- I know and this returns to the point that I made outside. I know that you are all concerned about final status. That is not a subject for today although it is obviously not a subject which can be delayed indefinitely. The important point is that everyone whether in Belgrade or frankly here in Pristina should stop taking actions which cause an increase in tension. That is the point that I intend to make crystal clear in Belgrade tomorrow. Parliamentary declarations against independence are to put it mildly not helpful but neither would be parliamentary declarations of independence. Neither will have the slightest impact on a final decision.

Dialogue with Belgrade

- What is on the table today is the start of a new and constructive dialogue with Belgrade. This should be the priority for all institutions of Kosovo and for UNMIK: to begin the dialogue with Belgrade about issues that concern the everyday life of all Kosovo's citizens.

- The launch of the dialogue would send a very positive message to the international community, as it would show that your leaders are capable of assuming their responsibilities in a constructive manner. It would clearly show that when we say that Kosovo is on the path towards Europe it is not solely because geographically and politically you are part of the old continent but because you are mature enough to talk to those with whom you have extremely strong disagreements.

- You are not alone in this dialogue. UNMIK will be by your side to support you. Initiatives, such as the training for civil servants that will be conducted under the auspices of OSCE in cooperation with the US Institute for peace, will help your administration for this and other challenges.

- But I want to make this point very strongly. The international community, your friends in America, your friends in Europe, who are absolutely of one mind on these issues can't provide the political will to take things forward which must come from you. Because a difference between being able to facilitate and sitting down at the table yourselves will a actively support and help your dialog because we are fully committed to the western Balkans region. We have demonstrated that emphatically through our extensive financial assistance as well as our political involvement. We will not only play a role in the dialogue because we want to continue our help, but also because the EU has a unique expertise in creating consensus among various parties with drastically different positions and because we have a strong interest in ensuring that this region achieves progress towards the European Union in a peaceful and cooperative way.

EU Approximation

- A lot has been done in Kosovo in the past four years. A point that I made earlier. But more can and should be done to make the daily life of Kosovans easier. And there are no shortcuts for that. Because boring as it may sound, a coherent and efficient legal and administrative system has to be put in place, so that Kosovo becomes credible place to attract and secure domestic and international investment.

- Donors here are willing to help you and your UNMIK partners achieve this goal. We are proposing that you approximate your standards to our own. We do not pretend that our laws are always easy to implement. But when we stress the need for EU-compatibility, we do it because we believe that this will give you a competitive advantage, which will be beneficial for your economic development, not just because it is a requirement for ultimate membership of the Union.

- Implementing the reforms similar to those in the rest of the region will bring you closer to Europe. You will be able to benefit from the advantages of the regional cooperation that is being established in South East Europe. A clear example is the Free Trade Agreement that UNMIK has just signed with Albania, under the auspices of the Stability Pact. Participating in this network of agreements will improve your market access and will make Kosovo more attractive for investors.

- To that end, the EU has launched this year, in cooperation with you, the PISG, and UNMIK, the SAp Tracking Mechanism, to which Mr. Holkeri referred, to guide you closer to the EU through a process that will sometimes, frankly, be arduous. I have been extremely pleased to hear about the great personal engagement that the Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues have shown to this. You have clearly seen the importance, both short and long-term, of this process, which will simultaneously provide you with an assessment of where reforms stand in Kosovo and a map of where you need to go.

- Let me emphasize that the STM process will also be of help to you and UNMIK in the implementation of benchmarks that will measure your progress on the road to the normalisation of Kosovo.

- You have to be ready because this process will only become more difficult as it goes along. There is, as I said no short cut through reforms - the same democratic / political, economic and social reforms are needed everywhere from Vilnius to Tirana, from Ljubljana to Sofia. But all that hard work will undoubtedly pay off, as the upcoming enlargement clearly shows.

- Let me insist again that not only we in Europe, but our US partners, the IFI's and all other donors are also behind you and behind the EU in supporting Kosovo's journey towards our family.

Long Term European engagement

- The reforms are ultimately your responsibility. I hear that you are already on the right track, let me mention for instance how impressed I am to learn about the "Omnibus Anti-discrimination Law" that the Government is drafting, taking into account European standards. I can only encourage you to continue in this direction and assure you that the European Union has been, and will remain ready to assist you, every step of the way. Let me mention in this connection, that the European Agency for Reconstruction is actively assisting the PM's office and various ministries with expert advisors and is beginning support to this Assembly with assistance for the development of administrative and technical support services which are essential if you are going to be able to manage an ever-increasing legislative workload. All this of course is done in coordination with our EU Member States and other partners in Kosovo so we can help you to undertake this challenging task.

- I think we in the European Commission have demonstrated its full commitment to the region through extensive financial assistance, to the tune of, if you include humanitarian assistance as well as the reconstruction assistance to which the Special Representative referred, the tune of over €1.4 billion of its taxpayers' money since 1999, most - though not all - of that managed by the Agency. You know of many of these achievements already, but I never tire of repeating them as testimony to the practical reality of the EU's commitment to Kosovo:

- Housing for approximately 120,000 vulnerable people

- Improved water supply for 500,000

- Repairs to 400km of road and the reconstruction of a number of bridges

- Completion of over 150 municipal infrastructure development projects

- Rehabilitation of Kosovo's coalmines and the Kosovo B power-station (with the fire damage of July 2002 almost repaired )

- Establishment of a civil legal aid service that has assisted almost 11,000 vulnerable people to date

- Over 5,200 loans have been provided to farmers and small rural businesses.

... and there is more, there is much more....

The future of Kosovo

- I want to say one final word, a final word about where I believe you're heading and what is required. When I was meeting your ministers earlier as I pointed out to them, I was sitting next to my friend and colleague Nikolaus Lambsdorf, the son of the great German political leader and statesman whom I know well, and I reminded the Prime Minister and his colleagues of what the EU is in essence. The EU is the best-institutionalized example of a historic reconciliation. My father-in-law was killed just before the end of the last war, and at his old college at Cambridge University there is a memorial to all the students from that college who died in two world wars and the names go on and on and on. They are mostly of course British names but there are also German names among them. British and German who studied together and then finally found them selves shooting at one another. Why? Because of the crudest and most violent expression of nationalism. The EU was founded to prevent that ever happening again. The EU is a union of minorities. A union of minorities who tried to find a way in which through magnanimity, generosity of spirit, they can provide a peaceful future for their citizens. So don't be surprised when here in Kosovo or in Serbia or elsewhere in the region we talk as we do about reconciliation, we talk as we do about horrors of ethnic violence, of ethnic hate and ethnic conflict. You have a real chance here in Kosovo with the international community wanting desperately for you to succeed. You have a real chance of demonstrating to the world that here you've been able to burry the animosities of the past and you've been able to create a future which is fair to everyone whatever their ethnicity or religion, a future which gives an equal esteem to everyone whatever their religious believes or whatever their parentage.

- I very much hope that you can rise to that challenge, it is an enormous challenge, it is an enormous adventure, but one reason why a lot of us are in politics which is very often criticized, because it should be an honorable adventure as Ana Lindh in her short political life demonstrated. I hope you ensure that Kosovo can rise to this challenges in a way, which is honorable, and in a way which means that, your sons and daughters have a much better future, a much better society to live in than you sometimes had to endure.

Mr. President thank you very much.