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Opinion

Five lessons from Kosovo on peacemaking and problem-solving

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci: The International Steering Group decides today whether to conclude its supervision of Kosovo’s independence. History offers few more inspiring examples of how democracy can prevail with strong international support.

By Hashim Thaci / July 2, 2012

Participants perform during an event organized by Kosovo's Olympic Committee in the capital Pristina June 23. The country, which declared independence from Serbia, is not formally recognized by the Intenational Olympic Committee (IOC) and will not be participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci says that after decades of conflict, 'Kosovo can demonstrate that democratization, reconciliation, free markets and the rule of law are the right road for countries young and old.'

Hazir Reka//Reuters

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Pristina, Kosovo

At a time when many countries are coping with economic problems, ethnic strife and governmental gridlock, one of the world’s newest countries can offer lessons in peacemaking and problem-solving.

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On July 2 – two days before the United States celebrates its Independence Day – Kosovo marks a milestone on its journey to self-government.
The formal occasion will be a meeting of the International Steering Group, which is scheduled to decide whether to conclude its supervision of Kosovo’s independence once the Kosovo parliament adopts new constitutional changes.

This means that the supervisory authorities appointed by the Steering Group – the International Civilian Office and its International Civilian Representative – will cease to exist. Their executive powers will be transferred to authorities selected by the people of Kosovo and their representatives – the parliament, the president, the prime minister, and other public officials.

Recent history offers few more inspiring examples of how the values of liberal democracy can prevail with a strong commitment from the international community. Founded after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia two decades ago, Kosovo has endured war, genocide, apartheid and inter-communal conflict.

True, Kosovo still struggles with the aftermath of the war. Tensions continue between ethnic Serbs and Albanians, especially in the north. And the economy has a mountain to climb. Kosovo is the poorest country in Europe and has Europe’s highest unemployment rate.

Despite these challenges, we have rebuilt not only our houses, roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure but have also built a new state while striving to reknit our social fabric. Now that the process of state-building is almost completed, Kosovo is ready to move forward as an independent country, recognized by 93 nations, including 22 of 27 EU states, 24 of 28 NATO states, and 30 of 57 Organization of Islamic Cooperation states.

Our optimism is fueled by the fact that we are not only one of the world’s newest countries but also one of its youngest: 75 percent of our population is under 35. We can transcend the tragedies of the 20th century because most of our people will live most of their lives in the 21st.

While every country travels its own path, Kosovo can offer five lessons from our own experience:

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