Press Statement
William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Pristina, Kosovo
February 18, 2012

I am very happy to be in Kosovo. I am also pleased that my visit follows so closely on the celebration of your Independence Day yesterday. I want to extend my warmest congratulations to the people of Kosovo and reiterate Secretary Clinton’s message that the United States is honored to be your friend and partner. We stand firmly with you today—just as we have stood with you in the past—as you work to build a more secure, peaceful, and prospering Kosovo.

I just concluded a productive round of meetings with Prime Minister Thaci, President Jahjaga, KFOR, EULEX, and the EU’s new representative to Kosovo. I also had the opportunity to meet local leaders in Gracanica and visit the beautiful monastery. Though my time here is short, I have been impressed by the progress that has been made in building a Kosovo that is inclusive and respects the rights of all its citizens. Like the United States, Kosovo benefits from a diverse and rich cultural heritage, and like the United States, it must work every day to preserve it.

The United States’ strong and enduring friendship with Kosovo is well-known. We are deeply proud of it. We remain committed to Kosovo’s independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty.

We share the same vision for your country—to see Kosovo take its rightful place in Euro-Atlantic institutions, including NATO and the European Union. We will continue to work with Kosovo leaders and institutions on meeting their obligations in order to end supervised independence and advance Kosovo’s European perspective.

To this end, the United States actively supports the strengthening of democratic institutions in Kosovo. We believe that it is deeply in the self-interest of all who live here—whether you are Serb or Kosovar—as you build a better and more promising future in Europe. In particular, we believe it is extremely important for any democracy and any society to focus on the importance of rule of law. If you look around the world, it is hard to find any example of a society that is successful in combating a problem like corruption unless you have an independent and objective media and an independent judiciary to hold people to account. That is much easier said than done sometimes, but it is an extremely important goal.

The United States is also strongly committed to supporting Kosovo in its work in the EU-facilitated dialogue with Serbia. While the people of Kosovo will obviously judge for themselves what is in their own national interest, the benefits of making progress through this effort are clear. As the United States and our European partners have said many times, we are asking both sides to be flexible and creative to ensure that both Serbia and Kosovo are able to participate in regional fora. Both sides must find a formula with which they can be comfortable.

Let me add that I realize very well how sensitive and complicated this issue is. But it’s important also to realize the opportunity that is now within reach. From our perspective, this whole issue is about how Kosovo can win the right to represent itself in regional organizations and how to lay the foundation for closer relations with Europe. Winning that right, winning the chance to participate as an equal and to represent yourselves, is a major gain for Kosovo. It’s real progress on the road on which Kosovo and the United States have worked so hard together. All the other symbolic and technical questions which attract so much commentary today are less significant in comparison to having your own voice, your own seat at the table. That is what sovereignty is all about.

Finally, let me reiterate that, as Kosovo continues to build on the achievements of recent years, as you chart a path to a more prosperous and peaceful European future, you can count on America’s enduring friendship and support.

[This is a mobile copy of Statement on Kosovo]

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