An op-ed by Ambassador Nicholas Abbott in Koha Ditore to mark Kosovo Independence Day
Today we celebrate Kosovo’s Independence Day
Every time we sit down for a meeting in the British Embassy, we do so with two framed letters that hang proudly on the wall. These letters were the first of their kind. They are addressed to then President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Thaçi, officially making the UK the first country to recognise the Republic of Kosovo as an independent, sovereign state and establishing formal diplomatic relations. It is an honour and a pleasure to serve as the UK’s fifth Ambassador to Kosovo and to be reminded daily of the role the United Kingdom played in Kosovo’s struggle to achieve Independence.
Thirteen years later, we remain as supportive and engaged as ever, and Kosovo’s Independence Day is the right moment to reflect on how much progress has been made, no more so than in encouraging and establishing a young and modern democracy. Sunday’s election was again a special day. Despite freezing temperatures and snow, I saw so many Kosovars, of all ages, exercising their right to vote. Today we should also remember all those who sacrificed so much for the people of Kosovo to be able to choose their own leaders.
Elections by their nature are a competition which exposes our differences. The tone of the debate in Kosovo can often be bitter with personal attacks on the characters of individuals. So on this year’s Independence Day it is important to remember what unites Kosovo, not what divides it. Time to set aside those differences and work together at a time of great challenges.
While this Sunday’s election was a privilege to witness, it was the second legislative election in the year and a half during which I have been Ambassador in Pristina. Further political competition over the next few months risks adding further strain at a difficult time; further political uncertainty and division would only provide ammunition to those who want to undermine the Republic of Kosovo.
The people of Kosovo have clearly voted for change and almost all party leaders have acknowledged this. I congratulate Vetëvendosje on their success. The counting and certification process is yet to finish, but once it does, it will be the time for parties to work to form a government quickly and in good faith. I look forward to working with the new government to continue to build an enduring partnership between our two countries.
For some parties, this election will mean a period in opposition. This is an important role in all democracies– governments must be challenged and held to account.
Independence Day in Kosovo is an opportunity to reflect on the struggles and sacrifices of the past, but also to honour them in realising the dream of an independent, democratic, prosperous Kosovo. The UK has been, and always will be, by your side on this path.