December 11, 2019

The 20th Anniversary of The Liberation of Kosovo

In the picture H.E. Mr. Lirim Greiçevci, Ambassador of Kosovo.

By Roy Lie Atjam.

The Hague, Wednesday 12 June 2019, venue The Chancellery of the Republic of Kosovo. To mark the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Kosovo by   NATO/KFOR’s forces on 12 June 1999. The Ambassador of Kosovo H.E. Mr. Lirim Greiçevci, Ambassador and Defense Attaché Col. Ahmet Ajeti hosted a reception. Commemorating and celebrating at the same time.

Lieutenant General Ton van Loon ( Commander of 11 Artillery Battalion. With this battalion he deployed in 1999 to Kosovo as part of the German led Multinational Brigade South in KFOR1.)

Ambassador Greiçevci indicated that former US President Bill Clinton(72) and former Foreign Secretary Madeleine Albright(82) will be in Kosovo to participate in the Pomp and pageantry of the celebration. Kosovo’s Order of Freedom, the country highest order has been bestowed on President Bill Clinton. Clinton is considered the father of the new European nation Kosovo.

It was very heartening to see that some persons who have been an eyewitness of the liberation in 1999  in attendance.

Col Ahmet Ajeti, Defense and Security Attache for the Benelux, Embassy of Kosovo, Astrid van Genderen Stort; now senior coordinator Duty of Care UNHCR; in 1999 protection/field officer UNHCR , Colonel Paul Hoefsloot; now commander of the NLD Fire Support Command; in 1999 battery commander 1st battery of the Taskforce, Lieutenant General Ton van Loon, Mr. Lirim Greiçevci, Ambassador of Kosovo, Mrs. Yllka Geci, First Secretary, Embassy of Kosovo, Mr. Besnik Ramadanaj,Minister Counselor, Embassy of Kosovo.

H.E. Lirim Greiçevci addressed the gathering, his speech is hereto attached.

” It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all today as we mark the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Kosovo. 12 of June is celebrated as Peace Day in Kosovo, it is a day when NATO took over Kosovo and brought the long awaited freedom with them. 

We are particularly delighted to have with us today, Leutenant General Ton van Loon, who commanded the Dutch troops to Kosovo in June 1999.  

20 years ago, Kosovo was on the brink of destruction. Our mere existence was at stake. The balance of force was so uneven that our only hope for survival was to appeal for help from the international community. 

From 1989 when Kosovo’s autonomy was abolished by force, peaceful resistance, constant pleas for restoration of our basic human rights, would not budge the Serbian dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. He had unleashed an unprecedented campaign of terror against the majority population of Kosovo. 

A decade later, when nothing else worked and all hope for a peaceful solution was lost, an armed conflict was the only option left for us to defend ourselves. Kosovo Liberation Army emerged. 

Serbia used their army, special police and paramilitaries who had returned from the killing fields in Bosnia. Unspeakable crimes were committed against the civilian population in Kosovo.

Luckily for us, the international community, who knew what Milosevic forces were capable of, decided to try to end the war. 

Mrs Xhuljeta Keko, Minister Counselor, Embassy of Albania and Mrs. Simone Gerrits, Policy Officer Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Slovenia, Dutch Minsitry of Foreign Affairs.

A peace conference was convened in Rambouillet in France in 1999 and a peace plan was offered on the table. The plan was not independence, though a vague promise of a referendum at some point in the future was made. Despite this, Serbia rejected the peace plan and Kosovo accepted it. 

Our delegation had put all of our trust in the international community and they in turn heard our plea. 

On 24 March 1999, 19 most advanced democracies of NATO were left with no choice but to intervene militarily to enforce the peace. For 78 days, our only hope came from the sky. Serbia unleashed absolute terror against the civilian population. 

NATO was determined to win and that is what happened in June 1999. NATO came in and Serbian forces were driven out of Kosovo.

Ambassador Greicevci and interns of the Embassy of Kosovo and students.

Freedom came at last but at a great cost: 10,000 civilians murdered, a million people forcibly deported to neighbouring countries, 20,000 women raped, whole villages and towns razed to the ground. There are close to two thousand people still missing today. In many ways, we still feel the legacy of the past. 

Some 2000 members of the KLA paid the ultimate price for freedom. 

20 years later, we pay tribute to all those NATO/KFOR peacekeepers who came to our rescue and have been with us every step of the way. We are proud to still host some 5000 international peaceekpers from various nations. 

In 1999 Kosovo was placed under UN administration. Serbian authority was completely excluded but the status of Kosovo remained undefined. THe UN was our government. We had UN travel documents, sometimes immigration officers at international airports were confused and thought we all worked for the UN . 

In 2006-2007, UNSC appointed the former Finnish president Martti Ahtissari. He was tasked with recommending a status for Kosovo, which he did. For two long years he tried to accommodate Serbian interests in Kosovo. 

His plan, along with his recommendation that Kosovo becomes and independent state as a multiethnic society, contained some of the most advanced safeguards for the rights of all communities, in particular for the Serbian community. Those are now part of our laws and our Constitution. 

Yet again, Serbia rejected the peace plan and Kosovo accepted it. Our leaders declared independence on 17 February 2018. Independence was the only way to protect our hard won freedom. 

Mr. Roy LIe Atjam, Diplomat Magazine’s Editor and Mr. Wesley Toelen, Protocol Officer | Embassy Relations, Municipality of The Hague and the Ambassador of Kosovo.

An EU facilitated Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia to normalize relations is underway. Serbia has yet to come to terms with its past. To date, with some minor exeptions, they are still in denial. Most perpetrators of some of the worst crimes since WW2 are still roaming free in Serbia. 

There can be no reconciliation without justice. But we in Kosovo are determined to continue to extend a hand of peace to our former oppressor. 

Since June 1999 we have come a long way as a country and as society. The Kosovo which General van Loon and his troops saw in 1999 is very different today. 

Of course there are still challenges today, but we are fortunate to have so many friends who have helped us to build solid foundations for the future. 

Our strategic goal is to join NATO and the EU.

In the meantime, some of those children refugees have we saw in the video clip, have now become global talents. We have produced world superstars, Olympic gold medallists, Oscar nominated filmmakers and famous athletes, especially footballers. It is safe to say that today we furnish several European national teams with top footballers. Our national football team just scored a win against Bulgaria for the Euro 2020 qualifiers. They remain unbeaten for 14 matches now. 

As I am fond of saying often, in the past we needed your soldiers, your police officers, your civil servants. Now we need your investors and your tourists. So we look forward to welcoming General van Loon and all his former soldiers as visitors. They are very much part of our success.”

There was a second speaker at this event, Lieutenant General Ton van Loon(Rt) who shared some of his experiences.

 

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