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Monday, December 23, 2013
Washington, D.C. – Today Reps. Eliot L. Engel and Robert Aderholt, the co-Chairs of the Congressional Albanian Issues Caucus, and Reps. Ted Poe and Emanuel Cleaver, the co-Chairs of the Congressional Serbian Caucus, sent a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee nominating Baroness Catherine Ashton, European Union High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Ivica Dacic, Prime Minister of Serbia, and Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of Kosovo, for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their critical roles in normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
The text of the letter follows:
December 23, 2013
The Norwegian Nobel Committee
Henrik Ibsens gate 51
0255 Oslo, NORWAY
Dear Distinguished Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee:
We are writing to nominate Baroness Catherine Ashton, European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Ivica Dacic, Prime Minister of Serbia, and Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of Kosovo, for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their critical roles in normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
The April 2013 agreement between Prime Ministers Dacic and Thaci, facilitated by Baroness Ashton following months of painstaking negotiations, marks a dramatic and historic turning point for both Serbia and Kosovo – and for the turbulent Balkans region as a whole. In breaking sharply with the past and finding a path to a brighter future, the two Prime Ministers showed remarkable commitment, courage, and vision. At the same time, Baroness Ashton demonstrated remarkable leadership, dedication, and perseverance in helping to build consensus between the two sides.
Ethnic conflicts are the most bitter and difficult to resolve, and the Serbia-Kosovo conflict has proven to be no exception. Tensions between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians in the Balkans have existed for decades, and worsened sharply in the last years of the Yugoslav federation. In the 1990s, the enmity between the two groups resulted in a humanitarian tragedy on a massive scale. Many thousands were killed, displaced, or otherwise victimized before the fighting was finally stopped by international intervention.
In subsequent years, as other European states integrated politically and economically, realizing the gains in prosperity and security from cooperation and common understanding, the post-war UN Administration of Kosovo only froze the dispute, allowing old, unresolved wounds and ethnic grievances to fester. The continuing hostility contributed to political instability, economic malaise, and corruption in both countries as well as in the wider region, frustrating the realization of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.
Against this backdrop, Prime Ministers Dacic and Thaci deserve great credit for taking the risk of seeking a forward-leaning solution to the conflict. Their leadership was all the more remarkable given the prominent role each played on opposing sides in the conflict during the 1990s – Prime Minister Dacic was a top official in the Serbian government at the time, and Prime Minister Thaci was the head of the political wing of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Both leaders also faced strong domestic constituencies often deeply opposed to closer relations. Nevertheless, Dacic and Thaci each recognized that continuing hostility represented a dead end and that reconciliation offered the only path to a better future for their countries.
In late 2012, with the indispensable support of the European Union and Baroness Ashton, the two leaders began negotiations in which they established a bond of trust and talked through a wide range of contentious issues. On April 19, 2013, after six months and ten grueling rounds of talks, Dacic and Thaci initialed a landmark agreement which determined the principles for the normalization of relations. Baroness Ashton, who had skillfully mediated each session, was present as a witness. Each leader made significant and politically difficult concessions. Serbia agreed that Kosovo would be responsible for all of its territory, including the northern Serb-majority municipalities, which would operate under Kosovo’s legal framework. In turn, Kosovo agreed to grant a great deal of autonomy to these municipalities.
In addition to these accomplishments, both sides agreed to not to block, or encourage others to block, their respective integration efforts with the European Union. As a direct result of the courage of the two Prime Ministers and the shepherding of Baroness Ashton, on April 22, the European Commission recommended that the EU grant Serbia a starting date for its EU membership talks, and that EU start talks on closer political and economic ties with Kosovo.
Serbia and Kosovo still disagree on many things. Extremists on both sides remain implacably opposed to reconciliation. And the hard work of implementing the agreement remains ahead. But the accord between Serbia and Kosovo undeniably represents a truly historic achievement. It closes a chapter on the bitter Balkan wars of the 1990s and provides the citizens of both Serbia and Kosovo with a path forward to build better lives for themselves and their children.
The agreement also sends a powerful message of hope and inspiration to others in the region, and indeed throughout the world. It demonstrates that the debilitating effects of ethnic hatreds can be overcome, and that committed and courageous individuals can come together, through the exercise of good will and compromise, and solve seemingly intractable problems.
In establishing his prize, Alfred Nobel sought to recognize individuals who overcame significant hurdles to build fraternity between nations. The Serbia-Kosovo agreement, in which formerly bitter adversaries put aside their differences for the sake of peace and a better future for their countries, exemplifies Alfred Nobel’s vision. We therefore urge the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to honor the tremendous courage, the far-sighted vision, and the tireless efforts of EU High Representative Ashton, Prime Minister Dacic, and Prime Minister Thaci with the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014.
ELIOT L. ENGEL ROBERT ADERHOLT
Congressional Albanian Issues Caucus Congressional Albanian Issues Caucus
TED POE EMANUEL CLEAVER
Congressional Serbian Caucus Congressional Serbian Caucus