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Prime Minister Thaçi: I believe that Kosovo’s destiny is to be a developed nation - and I have no doubt in our ability to achieve it

Tokyo, 14 April 2014 - Speech of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi in the Foreign Correspondence Club, in Tokyo

Dear Representatives of the Media,

I am delighted to be here in front of you today, a gathering of such distinguished representatives of media from this part of the world.

This is an exceptional opportunity to tell you the story of my country and my people. This is a story of peace prevailing over conflict, of faith in goodness prevailing over fear. A story that started long time ago with bloody Balkan wars, and today is a story of hope and possibility as we look to the future.

My name is Hashim Thaçi. I am the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, a small country in South East Europe that has a special place in the modern history of the world. My country is one of the newest countries in Europe, we celebrated our six birthday this past February. So I come from one of the world’s youngest countries, to visit one of the world’s oldest, and to deepen our friendship.

When I say that Kosovo has earned a special place in world history, I refer to, what some of you may remember, the path that my people has taken in order to achieve peace, freedom and democracy. Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia, a country that fell apart completely under the rule of a nationalist regime in a series of bloody wars with Serbia.

I was a student in Switzerland when the oppression started and I became pre-occupied with the idea of returning home and overthrowing this occupying regime. I left my studies and became a guerilla fighter and a leader of the men and women who took arms to resist.

Our fight, our dedication to the universal human values and our call for help was not left unanswered. The free world led by the United States of America and major European countries helped us in defeating the Serbian forces that were causing so much misery.

Thus started the second stage of my political engagement. The war was won, people returned and the United Nations set up a special protectorate to govern Kosovo, until the day when we could govern ourselves and we could decide on the path our society would take.

The proudest moment of my life came in 2008. After years spent strengthening our democracy and developing our state, Kosovo declared its independence. I gathered representatives of people from all communities, and on 17th of February 2008 we became a nation.

I was proud that my son, our children will never again live in fear, will never again be taught of hate, will never again be questioned for the language they speak or the faith that they follow.

A new nation faces many choices. And the choices made in the first few years of its life will shape the centuries that follow. Our society has tried to choose wisely.

I am proud to have been at the forefront of a people that chose human rights, dedication to peace, tolerance, economic development, who have cherished entrepreneurship and an open society as a way to move and develop our new nation.

Japan was a friend to Kosovo during our early days. You were one of the very first countries to recognize our independence, and we will forever be grateful that you supported our dream. And we have grown closer in the years that have followed. And so today I stand in front of my Japanese friends, to talk about the future.

Kosovo is a land full of opportunity. We have one of the youngest populations on the continent, and inspired by our new freedom, we are people full of optimism. When you travel across Kosovo, as more Japanese tourists are starting to do, you see a country on the move.

There are construction sites in every town; trucks taking products from new built factories, and entrepreneurs creating the Kosovar businesses of the future. We are investing in our infrastructure and partnering with foreign nations to do so. We have built the largest airport in the Balkans with investors from Turkey and France, and a modern highway to the Albanian Coast with Americans.

Our next big project will be building the best ski resort in the region, in our Sharr Mountains. I’ve heard wonderful things about skiing in Hokkaido, so perhaps if you invite me, I will invite you after few years in our skiing resort in Kosovo.

Kosovo is open for business. We have had an average of 5% growth in the last five years, making us one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. The wealth of our citizens has doubled since independence. However this is only the start. We know much more needs to be done.

Now that our freedom and independence are secure, we turn all our attention to economic growth. Our new mission is development, and we are inviting foreign investors to come to our country – because the climate is right and the opportunities are great.

Japan has been a strong leader in investing in new economies across the world. And we believe Kosovo has the same potential. We want to see Japanese businesses come to Kosovo, and invest in sectors like renewable energy where we are building hydro-plants and wind turbines.

We want Japanese knowledge and expertise to be transferred to the business leaders of our own country. And we want to see greater trade between our two countries too.

As Kosovo develops we become a larger market for Japanese goods, and look to export more to Japan as well. Kosovo has a wealth of arable land, and our cheeses, fruits and alcohols are some of the best in Europe.

In fact I have brought our famous raki with me to Japan. This is an aniseed based drink that we enjoy before dinners. And with raki almost rhyming with sake, I hope you will enjoy it too.

Lastly Kosovo is a nation blessed with abundant natural resources. We have the fifth largest coal resources in the world. And reserves of lead, zinc, ferronickel, gold, silver. And we are investing in all of this. The output of our mines is growing year-on-year. All of these sectors being developed with partnerships between Kosovar and foreign companies.

I have a clear vision for Kosovo. I want to build a developed nation, with a strong economy that provides jobs and higher living standards for my people. I want us to realize our potential ë.

I have always believed in the future of my country. First I believed we could be free, free from the violence of Serbian control. And we achieved it. Then I believed we could be independent, a sovereign state on the world stage. And we have achieved that too.

Now I believe that Kosovo’s destiny is to be a developed nation. And I have no doubt in our ability to achieve it.

That is why I am here with you today, and had a meeting with your Prime Minister. I want to share our story, and more importantly my belief in what we will achieve.

Kosovo is open for business. And we ask for your partnership.