On her recent visit to the Balkans, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Kosovo. "The United States," she said, "supported Kosovo's right to exist as a sovereign, independent state within its existing borders. We welcomed the International Court of Justice's recent advisory opinion affirming Kosovo's legal right to declare independence. And now we will continue to support Kosovo as it does the hard work of building a stable, prosperous, and democratic country that is at peace with its neighbors and increasingly integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community."
The United States is encouraged by the readiness of both Kosovo and Serbia to engage in the upcoming E.U.-facilitated dialogue, which offers a chance for these countries to resolve practical issues and to promote integration. Kosovo declared its independence in 2008 and has been recognized by seventy countries thus far. Serbia, however, is not one of them. It is especially important that the leaders of both countries put aside their differences over Kosovo's status as an independent state and approach the dialogue in good faith and with a view to resolving issues pragmatically to their mutual benefit.
As a brand new democracy with a multiethnic population, Kosovo has its work cut out for itself. It must cement democratic values and the rule of law in strong and effective public institutions. It must create a solid foundation for economic growth and attract foreign investment that will create jobs. Inefficient state enterprises need to be privatized, including electricity and telecom to foster competition and innovation. The government needs to make good on commitments to strengthen the rule of law and fight crime and corruption, ensure free and fair elections, and promote ethnic reconciliation.
The next milestone for Kosovo's democracy will be the upcoming elections. The United States will assist Kosovo authorities in preparing for free and fair elections. "And we know," said Secretary Clinton, "that they will be transparent and faithful to the constitutional order." The U.S. will also support Kosovo as it prepares to join the European Union and NATO. Finally, the U.S. will help Kosovo integrate its Serb communities such that they become an integral part of the country.
Kosovo's future lies in Europe and these efforts will advance the country and its people, and the entire region toward long-term stability and prosperity.