U.S. Department of State

Washington, D.C., September 14, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman

Remarks to Kosovar Albanians at the U.S. Institute of Peace Conference

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Chet. Chet and I were colleagues for a long time at Georgetown University and it's very nice to be colleagues in this enterprise also.

Good morning to everybody and I'm so very, very pleased to be able to welcome you to the Department of State. As you may know, I have just come back from a rather long trip to the Middle East and to Asia and I came back especially early because I did not want to miss the chance to meet with all of you and to talk to you - the mothers and fathers of a democratic Kosovo. I thank you all for changing your schedule to make my participation possible.

And I also want to thank Dick Solomon and the United States Institute of Peace for organizing this conference -- and for your dedication to the cause of peace in Kosovo, throughout the Balkans, and around the world.

I want to congratulate Vjosa Dobruna, Xheraldina Vula, Muhamet Mustafa, and everyone -- every one of you -- for the encouraging reports you have just presented. After all that has happened, there is no better feeling than to see the people of Kosovo at peace, hard at work, and planning for the future of what will always be your rightful home.

I think it really is quite appropriate that you should have had your meeting in Virginia - a state which for all Americans is deeply identified with the creation of an American democracy and so it's very nice that you met at Lansdowne. I'm only sorry that I wasn't here so that you could meet at my farm so that this could be called the Hillsborough declaration.

You have heard new voices and different views. And with the Lansdowne Declaration you have drafted, you have taken responsibility for building Kosovo's institutions -- and with them, a better future.

What is more, I see that you have achieved a new appreciation for the importance of women's full participation in political life -- and I understand that several wives in Pristina are going to be pleasantly surprised when their newly-enlightened husbands return.

You have done an inspiring job at Lansdowne of bridging differences and creating the common ground upon which a democratic Kosovo may be built. And already, you have accomplished much in Kosovo as well.

Almost 800,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees have returned to their homes. UNMIK and KFOR are revising upward their estimates of Serbs and other minorities choosing to remain in Kosovo. We hope many more will be able to return. Great progress has been made toward rebuilding homes and preparing for the winter.

The economy is rapidly reviving, as factories reopen and new businesses appear daily.

Schools have opened, and ethnic Albanian children are receiving the public Albanian-language education they were so long denied.

Judges and prosecutors appointed by the UN Mission in Kosovo have begun to hear cases, laying the foundation for a system of justice administered for Kosovars by Kosovars. The Kosovar Police Academy opened last week with its first class of 168 students.

And Kosovo's independent media are vigorous and expanding, thanks in no small part to the efforts of many in this room.

This remarkable progress is a testament to the determination of the people of Kosovo to build lives better than what they have known before - and to the desire of the international community to support all of you in doing that.

After months of violence, ten years of Belgrade's repression, and more than fifty years of Communist centralization, it would be wrong and foolish to expect one summer to cure all of Kosovo's troubles and problems. I believe that most Kosovars are trying, as fast as you can, to tackle their difficulties honestly. In short, I believe in you.

But after all that the people of Kosovo have suffered and lost, they -- and you -- should not accept anything less than true democracy and lasting peace. And neither democracy nor peace is sustainable without respect for human rights. If everyone is not safe in Kosovo, ultimately no one will be safe; and if all are not equal under the law, ultimately no one will be able to count on the law for protection.

And that is why, as your friend, I will say plainly that you must combat the temptations of revenge, corruption and criminality. Evidence of unchecked criminality would lose you the support of the international community, and the trust of your people.

And you must do everything you can to prevent the killing, terrorizing and expulsion of Serbs and other minorities. Acts of terror harm your own interests. They discourage international humanitarian support and investment, and they give aid and comfort to your enemies. They are seen by some to validate Milosevic's claim that Serbs cannot be safe where ethnic Albanians have power. And by teaching Kosovo's children to hate, they prepare not peace, but discord.

Already, some in the international community have concluded that you cannot build a peaceful, multi-ethnic democracy. And they expect you to fail -- and, as Senator Dole told you, they are waiting to be proven right. You have heard the stories. You have been described as prisoners of Balkan history, interested only in doing to the Serbs what they have already done to you.

I can't tell you how to feel. No one can. But I hope and believe that you will aim higher and achieve more than the cynics and bigots expect.

And I pledge that the United States will stand with you in those efforts. Today I can announce three steps the United States is taking to do our part to support peace, democracy and renewal in Kosovo.

First, after consultations with Congress, the United States has officially opened the U.S. Office in Pristina, to represent American interests and serve as a platform for all our efforts in Kosovo. The head of the office, Larry Rossin, is a distinguished Foreign Service Officer -- and he is with us today. And we are all very grateful to him and he's a great friend. Larry, thanks for already doing a great job.

Second, we have begun consultations with Congress toward amending our budget request for fiscal year 2000 -- which begins next month – to provide substantial additional support for Kosovo and Southeast Europe. These new resources will promote Kosovo's democratic development, including the holding of elections, the development of a free media, and the rule of law. And they will help stand up a Kosovo police force. And they will sustain our own commitment to KFOR.

Third, the United States will support the development of a new civil emergency response organization -- the Kosovo Corps. The Kosovo Corps will deal with floods, fires, land mines and unexploded munitions, as well as assisting with Kosovo's reconstruction.

We expect that many members of the KLA will join the Kosovo Corps. Others have joined the new Kosovo police. With other donors, the United States will support programs for vocational training, scholarships and other assistance for KLA veterans. Their energy, skills and resources are needed to build the peace. It is vital that the KLA carry out fully and faithfully its undertaking to demilitarize by next Sunday, September 19.

Your courage sustained you through times of bitter suffering and hardship. Your courage won you the support of NATO and many others around the world. And now, your courage is needed to win the peace.

Over the past four days, you have shown not only courage, but also initiative and wisdom.

You have taken the initiative to move Kosovo's political process forward - by acknowledging problems with the transition and by establishing a forum for political leaders to meet regularly in Pristina. You have identified economic priorities and the need for transparent and reliable economic structures. And you have already built the foundations for a strong civil society, from a vibrant free press to women's groups to the Mother Teresa Society.

As a former professor, I can tell you that there are as many different ways to run a democracy as there are democracies; and as a long-time resident of one, I can tell you that they are always and everywhere a work in progress.

As someone whose family fled Central Europe in search of freedom, I can tell you that your institutions must be strong enough to protect the twin foundations of democracy -- individual liberties and the rule of law.

And as someone who believes in you, I can tell you that your work will put you on track toward a Kosovo that will be admired for the justice it extends to all its people, not only some; for the peace it maintains by settling differences through laws, not force; and for the freedom it preserves by choosing leaders with ballots, and not guns.

It will be my privilege to stand with you as you work to put the vision you have melded here into practice -- and secure the blessings of liberty for the people of Kosovo.

Thank you.