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View Robert Nault Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Nault Profile
2017-11-21 11:37
I call to order this meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
To bring everybody up to speed, first of all, we're going to go in camera. Those of you who are not supposed to be here have to leave because we're going to do some in camera business.
You might want to just keep going, because we won't have time to get into clause-by-clause study today. In 20 minutes we're going to get to the President of Kosovo. Obviously that will be televised and open, and everybody can come back.
We have literally 15 minutes to do some in camera business, and then we'll go from there.
Go ahead, Ms. May, please.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Chair, just so that I can state this on the record, I'm here based on the motion passed by this committee. In future I would appreciate a heads-up. Two committees are in clause-by-clause study at the same time, and I'm supposed to be in front of both of them. I will now run back to Centre Block, but I would have been deeply appreciative of a heads-up before I got here that this meeting was going in camera.
Thank you.
View Robert Nault Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Nault Profile
2017-11-21 11:38
Just to be clear, it's not the committee's fault that we had a vote. If we didn't have a vote, we would have been doing exactly what was intended, but I can't control the votes of the House. They happen from time to time.
My apologies if you can't be in two places at once.
View Robert Nault Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Nault Profile
2017-11-21 11:38
Those who should leave, please leave. We'll move in camera and do some business.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
[Public proceedings resume]
View Robert Nault Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Nault Profile
2017-11-21 11:58
Order.
On behalf of our foreign affairs standing committee, I would like to welcome President Hashim Thaçi to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
The committee is honoured that you have agreed to appear before us. We look forward to hearing from you. On behalf of the committee, I would like to welcome you back to Canada and wish you a pleasant and productive stay here.
President Thaçi has had a distinguished career as a Kosovo leader, having previously served as prime minister and foreign affairs minister. As prime minister, he oversaw Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 and served as the new country's head of government until 2014. He was elected to the presidency in Kosovo's national assembly in 2016.
Canada and Kosovo have very good relations. Canada recognized Kosovo's independence in 2008. We maintain full diplomatic relations with Kosovo and have provided significant amounts of aid to Kosovo over the years to support its development and growth.
I hope the President's trip here will further the engagement between our two countries and I welcome the President.
For the President's information, this is fairly new for our foreign affairs committee. Having the opportunity to hear from foreign leaders of other countries is not something Canadians have seen in the past. This is a televised occasion for us to hear directly from the President of Kosovo. We think it's extremely exciting for Canadians to hear what has been going on in your country, along with the relationship and the work that we're doing.
I want to welcome you, Mr. President, and turn the floor over to you. We will want to hear from you for as long as you will give us, and then I'm sure my colleagues will have some very good questions to ask you as they relate to our relationship with Kosovo.
Mr. President, the floor is yours.
Hashim Thaçi
View Hashim Thaçi Profile
H.E. Hashim Thaçi
2017-11-21 12:01
Thank you very much, Mr. Nault.
I will continue in the Albanian language.
Thank you very much for this extraordinary opportunity to be here among you today, members of the foreign affairs committee.
It's an honour to meet all of you today and to discuss Kosovo and southeast Europe in terms of our achievements and the challenges we face in building peace and reconciliation, as well as to discuss bilateral co-operation between Kosovo and Canada.
As always, let me express our deepest gratitude in the name of the institutions of the state of Kosovo and the people of Kosovo to the government and the people of Canada for the continuous support you have given to Kosovo from the time of war, when the Milosevic genocide was prevented, through independence to today, when we have consolidated a state of Kosovo. The story of Kosovo is one of success and of achievements in common.
I am pleased that I am here when Canada is celebrating 150 years of Confederation. Canada is a strategic partner with whom we have in common aspirations, values, and principles. As Kosovo, we will always remain grateful to Canada. I would especially emphasize receiving 7,000 refugees from Kosovo in 1999. I met some of those former refugees while in Halifax visiting the military base where most of them were received when they arrived in Canada. It was a very touching moment to recall the days of war, but also a moment of joy and pride to see how well they have integrated into Canadian society and how they contribute to the Canadian society and state now.
Now they are the bridge between our two nations. I met young men and women who arrived here as kids, and now they are part of society. They are athletes, politicians, artists—people who love this country as much as they love Kosovo.
The support of Canada was also important after the war in rebuilding the country and building peace. We are grateful that Canada was among the first countries to recognize Kosovo and that it continues to support Kosovo in consolidating its statehood. I am personally a witness to this. Our bilateral co-operation is growing, especially economically, and more particularly in the mining sector, though of course we look to expand in other fields as well.
Last month I had the honour to award a medal for contributions to peace and democracy to former foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, and I am pleased to see here in this committee MP Vandenbeld, who was decorated by the Government of Canada for her contribution to peace.
I very much look forward to a document that will be signed between our two countries on the protection of investments.
Also, yesterday I laid a wreath at the reconciliation and peacekeeping monument to express our gratitude for the role of Canada in bringing peace in the world. It memorialized the involvement and the role of Canada in Croatia, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Macedonia, in Kosovo, and all around the world. That is the greatness of Canada, their deputies, and their MPs.
Let me say a few words about the past and present of Kosovo, and in particular about future aspirations for Kosovo and the whole of southeastern Europe.
In December Kosovo celebrates the 10th anniversary of its independence. It is recognized by 114 countries. The declaration of independence came after a lengthy international process that sought solutions for Kosovo's political status.
This international process started in the 1990s with resolutions at the United Nations that condemned the violence and repression of the Milosevic regime. It continued with the international conference in Rambouillet, France, in the spring of 1999, where the international community again sought a solution for Kosovo.
The Milosevic regime not only did not co-operate with the international community, but continued its violent and repressive campaign, which escalated into genocide. This forced NATO to intervene to stop another genocide taking place in Europe. This brought Kosovo under United Nations administration.
In 2005, the United Nations appointed President Ahtisaari of Finland, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to work on finding a solution for Kosovo's status. In a process led by the United Nations in which all took an active part, but in particular the United States of America, the European Union, and Russia, President Ahtisaari recommended that the best solution for Kosovo was independence under supervision. In five years we implemented fully all the provisions of the conditions of independence that were outlined in Ahtisaari's package. With the recommendation of Ahtisaari, in February of 2008 Kosovo declared independence. Today I can say there has never been a more multilateral and more internationally coordinated declaration of independence than in the case of Kosovo.
The final stamp on Kosovo's independence was given by the International Court of Justice in July of 2010, when it stated clearly that the declaration of independence by Kosovo was in line with international law, after Serbia had asked the court if Kosovo had violated international law by declaring independence.
Dear MPs, where is Kosovo today? It has signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union, which is the first step towards membership in the European Union. Kosovo was accepted in the Millennium Challenge Corporation's program of the United States Congress and is now implementing those projects. Both these achievements were achieved only after recognized reforms in the economy, in the rule of law, and in the building of democratic institutions.
Kosovo is a member of many international organizations, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Venice Commission, and other political, sporting, or cultural international organizations.
In line with the Ahtisaari package, we have built all-inclusive governing institutions in which all communities of Kosovo are represented. Kosovo's parliament has 120 seats. Out of those, 20 are reserved for non-majority communities—10 for the Serb community and 10 for other communities—to ensure their political representation.
We have installed affirmative policies in education, in employment, in using languages in the public media to ensure education, employment, and information for all in their own language. We have installed communication and dialogue as the only tool to find a solution for all our outstanding issues. We promote dialogue between faiths. That is best seen in the interfaith conference that we organize every year, which brings together religious leaders, politicians, and academics from all over the world to discuss the dialogue between faiths.
We are proud of tolerance and coexistence between all communities in Kosovo. I have initiated the establishment of the commission for truth and reconciliation as another tool to promote the dialogue between ethnic communities in Kosovo to close the chapter of war and to open the chapter of peace, of dialogue, of co-operation, of coexistence in a multi-ethnic society, a democratic society, an all-inclusive society.
We have consolidated the statehood of Kosovo internally by extending the sovereignty of Kosovo into all the territories of Kosovo, including the northern part of Kosovo. Thanks to the dialogue and the affirmative measures we've taken, today this part is also part of Kosovo's state institutions.
We've had elections according to Kosovo laws. Elected leaders work according to Kosovo laws within the institutions of Kosovo. The last achievement was the swearing in of judges and prosecutors from the Serb community in the northern part of Kosovo, who now implement Kosovo's laws in the northern part of Kosovo. This is the result of the dialogue that Kosovo has been conducting with the state of Serbia, with facilitation and leadership from the European Union.
Ladies and gentlemen, this brings me to another important aspect for Kosovo, the promotion of dialogue to find solutions for the whole region. For five years now, Kosovo and Serbia have engaged in a dialogue process, facilitated by the European Union, which has brought a lot of agreement that has improved the lives of our citizens and the relationship between our two countries.
For the first time, after 100 years of conflict and hostilities, in April 2013 we signed the first international agreement for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. This has contributed not only to strengthening peace between Kosovo and Serbia but also to strengthening peace in the whole region.
Today, as the President of Kosovo, together with President Vucic of Serbia and the High Representative of the European Union, Madam Mogherini, I seek a new dynamic, a new quality for the dialogue process. We are working towards a new agreement for full normalization of relations, for good neighbourly relations, and for reconciliation between our two states.
We promote dialogue and co-operation in our relationship with other countries of the region. We have excellent relations with Macedonia, with Albania, and with Montenegro. We respect the territorial integrity of Macedonia and we always call for a full implementation of the Ohrid agreement as the best way to accommodate all communities living in Macedonia.
We also have a very good relationship with Albania. We don't work to change the borders, but to open them according to the European Union model.
With Montenegro we have an excellent relationship, and we were very happy when Montenegro joined NATO, because that's another step towards strengthening peace and stability in the whole region of the western Balkans.
Just for your information, it is true that as Kosovo we have not ratified a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro. This is due to internal political competition in Kosovo and has nothing to do with our relationship with Montenegro. It's a clear, just agreement. We are an active member in all regional forums, where we promote co-operation in the region.
Dear MPs, let me also say a few words about the future, about our challenges and aspirations. The continuation of reforms in all sectors of life is our main aspiration, and the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union is the best guideline for this. The governments of Kosovo are committed to achieving those reforms, and they include a stabilization and association agreement in government programs.
In Kosovo, the international community led justice initiatives, for the first eight years as the United Nations and then for nine years as a mission of the European Union for the rule of law, the so-called EULEX. This brought us the best legal framework, and also brought us national capacities to deal with implementing those laws. Reports from the United States and the European Union follow all achievements in all sectors, in particular in the rule of law.
The main challenge for Kosovo is the consolidation of Kosovo's statehood internationally. I would not be saying anything new if I said there are those who still oppose the project of building an independent, democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo. I am particularly here to talk about Russia, which is fighting the west by preventing projects for peace and stability in southeast Europe. Russia, as you all know, attempted a coup d'état in Montenegro to prevent its membership in NATO. It tried to prevent democratic elections in Macedonia, again as an obstacle to reforms in NATO and the EU. It prevents Kosovo's membership in international organizations like the UN, UNESCO, or other organizations.
I was very pleased to hear in Halifax that the Secretary General of NATO warned about the Russian threat to the west and to NATO. However, the main reason Russia is able to exert an influence in the Balkans is delay. The European Union and NATO are late in including the region in their integration processes. This delay by NATO and the EU has opened the way for other ideologies to penetrate the region, be they Russian or other ideologies.
In the Balkans we've also seen fundamentalists and radicals trying to penetrate that region. We've had individuals join ISIS. There's no denying this. We are also a target of terrorist attacks. We have been successful in preventing terrorist attacks in the territory of Kosovo and also in the region. We are an active member of the Global Coalition Against Daesh and a leader in the region in fighting terrorism, radicalism, and extremism. However, our efforts are made more difficult because we lack membership in Interpol and in other international security mechanisms. This is why it's important that you support us in our membership in these mechanisms.
To strengthen Kosovo's security infrastructure, we have initiated transformation of a coastal security force in Kosovo's armed forces. This will be done in consultation and agreement with communities in Kosovo and in full coordination with NATO and our international partners. We've asked Canada to deepen its co-operation with the KSF—Kosovo Security Force—and in particular to help on projects to include all communities and to ensure proper gender representation. KSF today has more than 10% of its troops coming from non-majority communities, and almost 10% of these troops are women.
Kosovo has moved far since the days of the war. It's not a country destroyed by war. It's a country that aspires to membership in NATO and the EU, and it is successfully implementing reforms in the economy, in justice, and in building democratic institutions. I am aware that we have to face many more challenges, but I'm very proud that in all opinion polls, Kosovo citizens always come out as more pro-NATO. They're mostly pro-NATO and pro-European citizens.
We are determined that our future is in NATO and in the EU, in peace, in dialogue, and in co-operation with all. We are on the right path from being a consumer of security to becoming an example of the promotion of peace, dialogue, and co-operation.
Thank you. I would be very happy to continue discussing this and answering all your questions.
View Robert Nault Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Nault Profile
2017-11-21 12:20
Thank you very much, President Thaçi.
We're going to go right to questions, as we always do. I want to start with Mr. O'Toole, please.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2017-11-21 12:20
Thank you very much for your presentation, Mr. President.
You touched upon several issues that I wanted to explore with you, and I'm glad you did.
However, first I want to say that I was pleased to join my colleagues yesterday at the peacekeeping monument. As a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, I have friends who served as part of the Kosovo mission, and it was nice to see our last officer from Pristina join the ceremony. I'd like to thank my colleague Anita for organizing it. As someone who served in Halifax in the air force with our navy, I was very happy to see you inspect our honour guard in Halifax in conjunction with the security forum. I know that this city would have treated you very well.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2017-11-21 12:21
You touched on international membership, and with Kosovo being recognized by Canada, the United States, and other countries for a decade now, where do you feel your campaign for status in the United Nations sits? Did you raise UN membership in your meetings with Prime Minister Trudeau?
Hashim Thaçi
View Hashim Thaçi Profile
H.E. Hashim Thaçi
2017-11-21 12:22
Those are two or three questions....
View Robert Nault Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Nault Profile
2017-11-21 12:22
Mr. President, we'll go one member at a time.
Hashim Thaçi
View Hashim Thaçi Profile
H.E. Hashim Thaçi
2017-11-21 12:22
Okay.
View Robert Nault Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Nault Profile
2017-11-21 12:22
Mr. O'Toole gets a number of minutes to ask questions. Sometimes he's quicker than we expect.
Hashim Thaçi
View Hashim Thaçi Profile
H.E. Hashim Thaçi
2017-11-21 12:22
Okay.
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