On 15 March, The Hague Institute welcomed President-Elect of Kosovo, H.E. Hashim Thaçi for his first international speech after being elected President. Thaçi spoke on the topic “Kosovo: Working for the Future,” as part of the Institute’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
In his remarks, Thaçi emphasized the need for regional cooperation to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the Balkans. He acknowledged the difficulties of setting aside the past in order to secure the future, saying “It was not easy for Kosovo to talk to former enemies, just as it was not easy for Serbian leaders to meet me, [the] founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army.”
Thaçi highlighted the signing of the Brussels Agreement for Normalization in April 2013 as a historic moment, noting that this was the first time that Kosovo and Serbia had come to an agreement in peacetime. As a result, he argued, the agreement set a precedent for inclusive cooperation that has already contributed to the improvement of relations in the region. To create a permanent framework for peace, Thaçi proposed four key elements of cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia to which he will commit himself during his Presidency.
- Firstly, Kosovo and Serbia must seek to address constructively European concerns such as immigration and religious extremism. Furthermore, the two countries must cooperate to increase integration of the region into the European Union and NATO, as according to Thaçi, “there is no future outside Euro-Atlantic cooperation.”
- Secondly, Thaçi, proposed increased cooperation and focus on economic development, including the opening of chapters of negotiations with the EU for Kosovo. There is a need for a long-term perspective rather than a short-term one.
- Thirdly, Thaçi, noted the importance of the regional context and finding solutions that include Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia. He highlighted the example of the Border Demarcation Agreement with Montenegro, an agreement described by President Obama as ‘historical.’
- Finally, Thaçi drew attention to the importance of efforts to strengthen the rule of law, including the establishment of the special court in The Hague. “Kosovo is creating a very transparent and international court process to establish the truth. We have nothing to hide” he stated. Thaçi emphasized that he would welcome similar initiatives from Serbia.
“The past is in the past. We will not forget but we will not take revenge. Reconciliation is the only way forward and it will happen.”
In his response to the President-Elect’s remarks, Dr. Abi Williams, President of The Hague Institute, asked about the role the special court will play in Kosovo. Thaçi reiterated his commitment to international law and stated that “the establishing of this court is an opportunity and advantage for Kosovo, not a punishment.”
The afternoon was concluded with a lively Q&A session with the audience, where questions spanned a range of topics, including the special court and witness protection in Kosovo, President Elect Thaçi’s sources of inspiration during the reconciliation process, and the consequences for Kosovo in the case of a possible Brexit.