Well, it is wonderful visiting the world’s youngest country and meeting, as the Ambassador just said, one of our nation’s youngest and most dynamic embassy teams. I am delighted to have this opportunity to come here. I came in part to support your work, in part to encourage the government and people of Kosovo, and in part to see the statue of my husband. (Laughter and applause.)
I want to thank the Ambassador, and Chris, you’re doing a great job here with your leadership, and your DCM, Michael Murphy, who is also doing an excellent job leading this mission here in Kosovo. And I too want to acknowledge the special guests, the number of the American troops who are serving the KFOR. KFOR is NATO’s second-largest mission behind Afghanistan, and you’ve done such an extraordinary job. I’m proud of the role that the United States troops have played. I’m particularly pleased to welcome the (inaudible) National Guard, which is one of the largest National Guards in the United States, and to thank you for your service.
I just participated in an excellent discussion with some of this country’s young people. And before that, the Ambassador and I visited with some of the newly elected mayors of the Serbian majority municipality, and before that, with the leadership of the country – the acting president, the prime minister, the foreign minister, and others. And in each case, you probably entered ears burning because the work that you do was recognized. I was thanked for the visit and the (inaudible) – what you do for diplomacy and what you do for development.
So I want to thank everyone who’s a part of Embassy Pristina and tell you that your work is being acknowledged, and I am the one who was thanked when indeed each and every one of you should be thanked for everything you’ve done to help set Kosovo on the path toward integration into the Euro-Atlantic community, a real commitment to the growth of democratic institutions and improvement in the economy and service to this (inaudible) people of this country.
Now, we are going to be working very hard with our EU partners to support a direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade and to set the stage for a new relationship between Kosovo and Serbia. I thank you for your long hours that you have put in, both our civilians and our military members, because you have demonstrated unequivocally that the United States is Kosovo’s closest friend and ally, and that our voice will continue to advocate for Kosovo’s recognition. Both Beth Sreenan and Merita Stublla-Emini have been a driving force, encouraging Kosovo to strengthen the rule of law.
So where are Beth and Merita? Where are Beth and Merita? There they are. I want to thank you both. For the last year, the government has passed reforms to modernize the court system and create a professional, nonpolitical corps of judges. That’s a very important step to support this young democracy. Another of our priorities is to urge citizens to embrace Kosovo’s diversity as one of its core strengths. Jose Garzon, Jeton Cana, and Fred Boll have helped persuade Kosovo Serbs of the south to engage in legitimate Kosovo institutions and establish municipalities. So where are Jose, Jeton, and Fred? Where are they? Oh, thank you. (Applause.)
The country has also made some notable progress in combating human trafficking, and I would like to thank Angelica Maviki and Laura Salihu for working with the Government of Kosovo to develop and implement an anti-trafficking strategy, which is really an anti-slavery strategy. So where are they? Let me thank them for their work. (Applause.)
I would like to thank our Public Affairs officer, Emilia Puma, for leading the Embassy’s first foray into (inaudible). (Applause.) I am a very big believer in these new forms of communication. Getting people to organize, to talk to each other, discuss an issue, search for a solution (inaudible) American interests and certainly our diplomatic efforts.
Now, a lot has changed in the last year, and I don’t just mean the invention of Twitter or Facebook. When we first opened the U.S. office in Pristina in 1999, it employed just a few intrepid Americans and a crew of dedicated local staff who worked around the clock to press for peace in Kosovo. Today, we have more than 400 people working at our Embassy. And you could not have come this far without our excellent locally engaged staff, and I’d like all of our Kosovo staff to raise your hand so that we can thank each and every one of you. (Applause.) We could not do this work without your expertise and experience. Many of you have been with us for 10 years or even more, and I’m very grateful for your commitment.
Now, I know that there is another change coming this summer that will be further progress. And that is that for years, we did not allow children to accompany their parents here to this post. It was, frankly, just too dangerous. But next year, families with children will arrive at post for the first time, and that is tangible proof of the progress that Kosovo has made. And I, for one, am delighted that in the youngest nation in Europe, you’ll have some young Americans here (inaudible). (Applause.)
So I thank you for what you do every day, but I know that extra work goes into a visit like mine. It’s not easy preparing everything that we have to do. So I doubly thank you for the effort you made for this very successful trip of mine. So Kosovo is a place where America’s interests, America’s values, and America’s hope for the future all intersect. We have such a great opportunity to see our work make a difference in people’s lives. And so I thank you. I thank you for your commitment to our relationship with the people of Kosovo.
I was asked at the town hall interview just now what I thought, and I told the young people who were there that I am very optimistic about Kosovo, but I’m also a realist. I know it’s going to take work. There is still a lot to be done. Important changes don’t happen quickly, whether it’s in the life of a person or the life of a nation. But Kosovo is on the right track and the United States will do everything we can to be your partner and your friend as you continue down this track toward a better future.
So I look forward to continuing to work with you, with the government and people of Kosovo, and I am absolutely confident that we will see many positive changes in the years to come. Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)