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Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.
|F. Sejdiu: The Independent Kosovo: An Important Factor for Peace and Stability|
|By Prof. Dr. Fatmir Sejdiu, Former President, Republic of Kosovo|
|Thursday, February 03, 2011|
Address to the UPF International Leadership Conference
Dr. Fatmir Sejdiu was President of the Republic of Kosovo from 2006 to 2010. Dr. Sejdiu graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Pristina and taught there throughout his tenure as a Parliamentarian. He was an early protester against Serbian authoritarian rule and became the first president when Kosovo officially declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. He won praise from the international community for prioritizing implementation of the UN-endorsed "standards" of good governance and multi-ethnicity.
Kosovo became independent on February 17, 2008. This was a result of the unanimous decision of the representatives of the people and was done in full accordance with the United States of America, European Union member states, and many other democratic countries of the world. On July 22, 2010 the International Court of Justice declared this decision to be in compliance with international law.
The independence of Kosovo is a result of a long and wide resistance which has taken place throughout the centuries in response to the systematic oppression of its people, which culminated in the late 20th century with the brutalities experienced when Milosevic came to power. Kosovo set a rare example of peaceful resistance in independence for an entire decade until the war was imposed upon it, a war which constituted its people’s fight for freedom and existence.
Facing the risk of physical extinction through ethnic cleansing and massive killings, Kosovo was granted support from the international community, which through NATO made the historic military intervention that saved its people. It was this act which marked the crucial turn for Kosovo, but it also marked the end of a bloody chapter for the entire region (former members of the Yugoslav Federation) which unfortunately cost the lives of many. In turn, this end symbolized the opening of a new chapter, that of peace which requires daily and unceasing investments.
The development path of Kosovo, after the period of military intervention and the deployment of the international civil administration (UNMIK) until the day of its independence on February 17, 2008, has been specific. As the President of Kosovo, in these circumstances I led the most important political processes in the country, including the Kosovo delegation on status talks. Therefore, my narratives of all the developments and also the principles which have guided us are primary sources.
Supported by the international community, the UN and the EU, Kosovo set its course towards full independence, after the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General Kei Eide, by supporting the Guiding Principles of the Contact Group for a Settlement of the Status of Kosovo on November 5, 2005.
These principles, ten in total, will in fact remain the main principles governing the process of talks and at the same time a guiding document in building and maintaining sustainable peace and stability in Kosovo and in functioning as a democratic country belonging to all its citizens regardless of ethnicity or religion.
Today, Kosovo is recognized internationally by 74 countries throughout the entire world. Likewise, Kosovo has been engaged in developing and maintaining good relations with all its neighboring countries, as an important precondition for permanent peace and stability. Relations have already been established with all the neighboring countries and those of the region, except with the Republic of Serbia, with whom we believe the relations will change for good in the future.
Regardless of the birth pangs, which are a natural consequence of every country following its independence, Kosovo has passed successfully the tests of statebuilding by establishing all state institutions supported by the main principles of democracy.
Kosovo is committed to be an equal homeland for all its citizens, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, with the aim of guaranteeing them the right of representation in all decision-making institutions: in Parliament, government, and local government institutions — rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the country.
Our approach in fully respecting all human rights and the rights of the minority communities is grounded in the international standards and documents beginning with the UN Charter, Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and other such international norms. These standards have been included in the Constitution of the Republic and in the specific laws referring to the the Comprehensive Status Proposal of President Marti Ahtisaari, who headed the negotiation talks as the Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Supported by these documents, Kosovo has firmly embraced, through the Constitution of the Republic and its specific laws, the status of all its people as equal citizens. Regarding the position of minority communities, it has provided sui generis guarantees, and these rely on the following:
These principles constitute the main pillar of the principles which we find in the Contact Group Principles and also in the Comprehensive Status Proposal of Ahtisaari.
Situated geographically in the permanent 'hot zone’ of South-East Europe, or as it is said in the daily jargon the Western Balkans, exposed to difficult periods throughout its history, where many wars for existence have taken place until the most recent one, Kosovo has never had an ambition to take away the freedom of others or those surrounding it. We have always believed, as John Stuart Mill says, said: “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.” Thus, we are deeply committed to good neighborly relations and sustainable peace.
In the multi-ethnic and multicultural variety of Kosovo, a special components of this richness is the multi-religiousness of its people. The people of Kosovo believe in one God; they believe in his graciousness and his mercy.
There are three main religious communities: Muslim, Catholic Christian, and Orthodox Christian as well as the Protestant community. Kosovo has offered a sui-generis example of coherence, coexistence, and tolerance throughout centuries.
As compatriots of three religions, Muslim, Catholic, and Orthodox, Albanians coexist with other community members, including Turkish and Bosnian Muslims, Serbs or Orthodox. The people of Kosovo throughout the centuries have been living together in mutual respect. Consistently there has been an effort, at different times and by different conquering regimes, to encourage conflicts on the basis of religious divisions, particularly within the Albanians. But they have not occurred not even with the other communities.
All this sense of wisdom and tolerance has resulted in maintaining and cultivating a rich heritage of cultural and religious values as such even now enjoy the respect and care of institutions and citizens of the country, regardless of ethnicity and religion.
Unfortunately in the last war in Kosovo and in other parts of former Yugoslavia, exponents of the Serbian Orthodox Church have been found as warmongers and supporters of war.
In Kosovo, the majority of the population, 92 percent are Albanians belonging to both faiths: Islam and Catholic. In the capital, Pristina, only 2 percent are Catholics and Christians (Catholics, Protestant sects, and Jehovah's Witnesses, while the rest of Albanians are Muslim. But with a joint public initiative, in the very center of the capital a Catholic cathedral has been built bearing the name of our compatriot Mother Teresa, who said: "By blood I am Albanian. My citizenship is Indian. I am a Catholic nun. Regarding my choice I belong to the whole world."
This great premises bearing the name of Mother Teresa has added grace the city. I had the honor, as the President of the Republic of Kosovo, to declare 2010, the 100th anniversary of her birth, the year of Mother Teresa and inaugurate this cathedral. All the citizens of Pristina feel that this is a house of faith and culture, something of value from the past and for the present and future.
The Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo defines Kosovo as "a secular state and neutral in matters of religious beliefs," by regulating through special provisions the freedom of religion and offering and protecting religious autonomy and religious monuments within its territory.
The independent Kosovo, with the approval of the highest state acts, adopted even the international arrangements for the preservation of cultural and religious minorities, and I strongly believe this to be a positive example for the entire Balkan region.
I would emphasize that an appropriate action should be undertaken in relation to state institutions and religion, providing wider solutions, exceeding national ones, and not be based on a case by case basis. Being an intellectual and public community, we can help by providing encouragement and ideas that could be useful to the universal set of freedoms and inter-ethnic tolerance in all countries and for all countries of the world. Such ideas will help prevent the current practices, which in some cases are even discriminatory, and which produce conflicts and disagreements and cause tragedies among different people. Sometimes, they even cause intolerance among people of the same ethnicity.
Likewise, continued interfaith dialogue would encourage coexistence among people of not only different religions within a local area but also different cultures within a religion. It is known that the followers of a religion may belong to different cultures, and this cultural pluralism should be respected in its original form.
An active interaction would be possible in this way, and as such, conditions for the convergence of real values would be created. The styles of clothing of believers are different and they should be perceived as parts of their culture, taking into account the traditions and specificities of believers, as a diverse and ethno-cultural asset that gives a special charm to our world.
Our world today is attacked by two extremities. On one side are actions on the basis of cultural secularization, which can lead towards a damage of the values and feelings of believers, and on the other side is the spirit and activity of religious extremism, which appears with the intention to impose a certain model of faith.
I have no doubt that faith in a better world, with tolerance and religious and cultural pluralism, is the only alternative to all of us. Our world is big and rich enough to work together all around the globe for peace, mutual understanding, and tolerance.
I end with some words of the Great Mother Teresa: “Give us peace, Oh Lord so that weapons have no place or meaning in our beautiful world, Amen.”