We are at the end of one momentous year for Kosovo and the beginning of another. The past twelve months, like every year, have had their ups and their downs – their triumphs and their tragedies. But they have ended on a high – with the opening of the process to determine the status of Kosovo. The coming year will more likely see the end of that process.
Kosovo has seen challenges this year – and it has risen to those challenges with political maturity and dignity. The peaceful transition when the Prime Minister resigned in March; the rallying in support around the President following his announcement of his health problem. These and many other instances showed to the world that the people of Kosovo are looking to the future, not to the past.
In partnership with the institutions of Kosovo as a whole, the international community has continued to work on some of the challenges I spoke of a year ago: the rule of law; the protection of minorities; freedom of movement; return of displaced persons; decentralisation.
That there was progress on these issues there can be no doubt – the opening of the status process is itself evidence of that. But that there could have – and needs to be – more progress is also plain. Many of those issues that were priorities a year ago remain priorities today. The vehicle for achieving progress remains the Standards framework – a framework which will increasingly be geared towards your European goal.
Standards implementation – and improvements in the economy which are, I know, a principle concern for all of you – will stay at the front and centre of the international community’s efforts in Kosovo. They will, I know, be at the heart of the PISG’s policy as well. But for us all, the year, next year, 2006 will be dominated by the status talks.
What will the process bring? I have said before that it is to me self-evident that a sustainable status settlement must be based fundamentally on the desire of the majority in Kosovo. That desire is plain to all. But it is equally important that what the majority seeks for itself it must also seek for the minority communities – that is peace, stability, security and economic prosperity.
Minority groups often feel, and often with reason, that they and their cultures are under threat. I would like to look forward to a year when everyone in Kosovo can live freely and at ease with their and each other’s culture – and have no reason to fear the future.
For this dream to be made real, the majority must extend the hand of friendship to the minorities; and the minorities must take that hand. Another hope for Kosovo in 2006, then, must be that it is the year when true political co-operation between all communities become a reality.
These are earnest hopes – and they will be difficult to realise – but in December 2004, twelve months ago – it was equally hard to see Kosovo reaching the point it has achieved today; so if hopes can act as spurs to achievement, they are worth keeping hold of.
And so, with this happy vision in mind, I would like to wish Gëzuar Vitin i Ri, Srecna Nova Godina and Happy New Year to you all.