Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Op-Ed Piece by Ramush Haradinaj in WSJ Europe - Independence Day

Independence Day
By Ramush Haradinaj
644 words
1 December 2004
The Wall Street Journal Europe
(Copyright (c) 2004, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- It is widely expected that I will be chosen by the Kosovo Assembly later this week as the next prime minister. If, indeed, this is the case I will take office with no illusions about the scale of the task that lies ahead.

Over the past two decades, Kosovo has faced many tragedies. Few families -- whatever their ethnic origin -- have been left unscathed. Personally, I lost two brothers in the fighting, as well as countless cousins, friends and neighbors. But I am proud of the part that I played in protecting my people from Slobodan Milosevic and his henchmen, and I am ready to defend my actions against criticism and innuendo.

I therefore welcome the scrutiny of my war record by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, or ICTY, and am confident that truth and justice will prevail. However, any attempt -- be it by the ICTY with the best of motives, or others with the worst -- to morally equate Milosevic's state-sponsored terror with the actions of the Kosovo Liberation Army in defense of Kosovar Albanians will only make the task more difficult.

For the need now is to look forward rather than back, to create an inclusive, democratic, independent state in Kosovo that respects the rights of all its citizens and is both just and tolerant. Since the end of the 1998-99 war and NATO intervention, we have been under United Nations administration pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999. We are now approaching the end of this interim status and it is time for Kosovo to take control of its own destiny.

Talks on final status will commence in mid-2005. I expect them to be difficult. There are serious issues regarding our minority communities that need to be resolved. There is, obviously, considerable residual distrust between Pristina and Belgrade. I am confident, however, that we can build bridges that will lead to trust, and upon that trust we will build the structures of a truly inclusive state.

I am confident also that we will achieve independence and international recognition very soon. It is my firm belief that independence is not inconsistent with a better relationship with Serbia; on the contrary, the issue of Kosovo needs to be resolved in the only practical way so that we can all move forward to improve the lives of our communities and establish a basis for long-term security in the region.

We have to strengthen our institutions, build a market economy, provide public services and ensure security for all our citizens. We are starting from a position that is extremely difficult, with very high unemployment and very poor infrastructure. Without independence we cannot even begin the task of attracting much-needed foreign investment and signing bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements. Our current undetermined status is in fact an economic prison that has perpetuated conditions of unacceptable poverty.

Undetermined status was nonetheless a price we accepted for an immediate end to state-terror and ethnic cleansing. History will judge NATO's intervention and the subsequent United Nations role in Kosovo as acts of great humanity, courage and wisdom. We will now work in partnership with the United Nations and the international community to fulfil the mandate of Resolution 1244 and take the next steps towards creating a fully democratic European state.

Since the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999, I have worked tirelessly with the United Nations and the international community to build a future for all Kosovars: Albanians, Serbs, Roma, Ashkali, Turks and whoever else chooses to live here. Much has been achieved in those five years but there is a great deal more that remains to be done. I am determined that we will succeed.


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