Press Releases

    19 November 2002


    NEW YORK, 18 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Kosovo Art Gallery in Pristina, 18 November:

    I am delighted to be among friends in Kosovo again.

    I can think of no better place for us to come together than this art gallery, for there is surely no language that speaks more powerfully of our common humanity than the language of art.

    I am delighted that artists from different ethnic communities have joined us today, as well as representatives from a wide range of civil society.

    There is no greater priority in Kosovo than for all its people to embrace both their common humanity and their cultural diversity as a source of strength and beauty. That is true around the globe in today’s increasingly integrated world. It is especially important in Kosovo, where such an approach is key to ensuring continuing international support and integration into the European family.

    The vigorous civil society and vibrant cultural sector, that we can see represented here this evening, show us that Kosovo has the energy and vision it needs to meet the various challenges ahead. I applaud the many initiatives which non-governmental organizations have taken in building bridges and bringing together members of all communities -- particularly the youth of Kosovo, to whom, of course, the future belongs.

    Since my last visit two years ago, Kosovo has come a long way -- as is plain to see in areas ranging from new roads to freshly elected municipal assemblies.

    This was made possible by working in partnership -- partnership among international organizations here, and even more important, partnership between the international community and Kosovo’s leaders, new institutions and people.

    Let me thank my Special Representative, Michael Steiner, and all his colleagues in the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union, as well as our friends in the Kosovo Force (KFOR), for their contributions.

    I would also like to thank all the political leaders, religious leaders and members of civil society who worked with UNMIK from the very beginning, including the joint administration, right through to the establishment of Kosovo’s own institutions.

    Let me commend, in particular, members of minority communities for their courage in accepting to work through Kosovo’s institutions. I know this has not been easy. It is, however, vitally important. For how the future takes shape from now on will depend on a partnership that engages all the people of Kosovo.

    Though Kosovo has already covered a lot of ground, it is now that the really hard part begins. The part that is about building more than houses, roads, infrastructure and even new institutions. The part that is about overcoming the legacy of the past and building a society anchored firmly in the rule of law and democratic institutions, mutual respect and trust.

    The elected leaders of Kosovo carry a great responsibility. They are charged with sustaining a multi-ethnic society where relations are fragile. That requires leadership based on tolerance, acceptance and dialogue -- among communities here in Kosovo, as well as with Belgrade and neighbours in the region. It requires a concerted effort to ensure that the gains made here reach all Kosovans. And it requires translating into reality the rights of all communities, including the right to return.

    The eight benchmarks that have been established to guide Kosovo’s efforts have the Security Council’s and my full support. Of these, none is more important than institutionalizing the rule of law -- the indispensable foundation for progress in all other areas, including economic development and integration with the rest of Europe.

    How the benchmarks are achieved, and how quickly, will be up to the institutions and the people of Kosovo. Indeed, the people of Kosovo carry no less of a responsibility than do their elected representatives -- the responsibility of full and constructive participation in Kosovo’s political life.

    No one is born a good citizen. No society is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that evolve over a lifetime -- or even many lifetimes. The municipal elections of last month were an important step forward in political participation, and I congratulate those who exercised their precious right to vote. The decision of those who did not vote is a cause for regret, but it should not deter us from pursuing our vision of a multi-ethnic Kosovo.

    The people of Kosovo now look to a future of hope -- a future of security, stability and real opportunities. The blessings of progress have not reached everyone in Kosovo equally, and we must redouble our efforts to ensure they do. The international community will not shirk its duty to help you achieve a multi-ethnic, stable and fully functioning Kosovo, where all people can live in security and dignity.

    The United Nations will continue to walk with Kosovo on this journey. But only Kosovo’s people can ensure it reaches its destination. I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to join me in a toast: To partnership -- among men and women from many nations, and among all the people of Kosovo.

    Fele menderit
    Hvala lijepo.
    Tessekur ederim.

    Thank you very much.

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