Thursday, July 05, 2012

Five lessons from Kosovo

Young country demonstrates that democratisation, reconciliation, free markets and the rule of law are the right way to go for nations young and old
  • By Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister, Kosovo
Five lessons from Kosovo’s experience
  • Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News
At a time when many countries are coping with economic problems, ethnic strife and governmental gridlock, one of the world’s newest countries can offer lessons in peacemaking and problem-solving.

On July 2 — two days before the US celebrated its Independence Day — Kosovo marked a milestone on its journey to self-government with a meeting of the International Steering Group, which decided to end the international supervision of Kosovo’s independence. The final decision is expected in September.

Recent history offers few more inspiring examples of how the values of liberal democracy can prevail with a strong commitment from the international community. Founded after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia two decades ago, Kosovo has endured war, genocide, apartheid and inter-communal conflict.

True, Kosovo still struggles with the aftermath of the war. Tensions continue between ethnic Serbs and Albanians, especially in the north. And the economy has a mountain to climb. Kosovo is the poorest country in Europe and has Europe’s highest unemployment rate.


Despite these challenges, Kosovo has rebuilt not only its houses, roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure, but has also built a new state while striving to reknit its social fabric. Now that the process of state-building is almost completed, Kosovo is ready to move forward as an independent country, recognised by 93 nations, including 22 of 27 EU states, 24 of 28 Nato states, and 30 of 57 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation states.
Its optimism is fuelled by the fact that Kosovo is not only one of the world’s newest countries, but also one of its youngest: 75 per cent of its population is under 35. It can transcend the tragedies of the 20th century because most of its people will live most of their lives in the 21st.

While every country travels its own path, Kosovo can offer five lessons from its own experience:

1. Respect the rule of law: In 2007, UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari put forward a plan including the principles of individual and community rights. Working with the EU’s International Civilian Office, Kosovo’s leaders made the Ahtisaari Comprehensive Provisions part of their Constitution, laws and daily life.

2. Heal the wounds of war: Learning from the experience of societies such as South Africa, I recently proposed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examines the actions of both sides during the war. It was established on June 4. The point is not punishment, but purification so that members of every ethnic and religious community can move forward towards reconciliation.

3. Offer everyone a seat at the table: Kosovo is protecting the rights of ethnic Serbs and other minorities and working hard to integrate them into society and the state. Twenty of 120 seats in parliament are reserved for minorities, including 10 for ethnic Serbs. Three Kosovo Serbs serve as cabinet ministers, including the deputy prime minister. Six new Kosovo Serb municipalities have been established.

4. Encourage enterprise: Rebuilding an economy during a global recession is a daunting challenge. Kosovo is striving toward a free-market economy with low taxes, sound banking, protections for investors, and legislation compatible with the EU. It is aggressively seeking foreign investment and wooing companies in agriculture, clean energy, mining, manufacturing, and tourism.
5. Understand that independence and interdependence go hand-in-hand: With full independence, Kosovo will make every effort to work with its neighbours and the entire world. It is striving to convince Serbia and Russia that Kosovo can contribute to stability in the western Balkans. Kosovo is eager to work with the EU and the UN as a full member of the European and international communities.
Almost two decades ago, conflict served as a catalyst for Kosovo’s democratisation and European integration. Now, working with the EU and the UN, Kosovo can demonstrate that democratisation, reconciliation, free markets and the rule of law are the right road for countries young and old.
— Christian Science Monitor