Evidence of meeting #80 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was international.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Excellency Hashim Thaçi  President of the Republic of Kosovo, Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo

12:40 p.m.

H.E. Hashim Thaçi

The role of women in Kosovo is not only about taking part in decision-making; it's also their role to lead in the Republic of Kosovo. There's always room to do more, but, for example, 30% of the members of the Kosovo parliament consists of women MPs. This is a required quota by law.

On the other hand, I am very proud to say that in a time of democratic transition, Kosovo was the first in the western Balkans to have a woman as president and head of state. That was President Jahjaga, who served before me.

Today, the Central Election Commission is led by a woman. The Basic Court in Pristina is led by a woman. The Constitutional Court is led by a woman. Our ambassadors to the United Nations and the United States are women. There are ministers, though I wish there were more women ministers. It's a battle among political parties, and sometimes egos grow bigger than principles.

We also had elections, and in many of them, women were running for mayor. I can say there is a noted representation in the Kosovo security force, where almost 10% are women. In the Kosovo police force, 20% are women, and it is the same in all other institutions.

Of course we will do more, but we have to appreciate the achievement. The way that we treat it is we try to create opportunities not only to participate but also to lead institutions in society. Civil society media is also where women have an increasing leadership role. There has been a lot of valuable progress.

What I would also like to reiterate is that Kosovo is nominally a majority Muslim country, but this is a traditional European Islam. This is not an Islamic country; this is a country with European Islam. We were victims of developments in our history, but Kosovo has never lost its roots. It is returning to its roots, which is a European identity.

The first condition for this was freedom. Only in the last 20 years can we speak for ourselves and make our own decisions for ourselves. Only now are we building capacities.

12:45 p.m.


Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you.

I will give the floor to my colleagues, but first I would point out that, with 30% of members who are women, you are ahead of Canada.

12:45 p.m.

H.E. Hashim Thaçi

Thank you.

12:45 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

How did I know she was going to say that?

Go ahead, Mr. Wrzesnewskyj, please.

Thank you, Mr. President.

November 21st, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.


Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, President. It's an honour to have you appear before the committee today. It's a special honour for many residents of Etobicoke, because I know they're watching this televised proceeding.

We have many Kosovar Etobians. They're proud Canadians. They're also very proud of their ancestral roots and very proud of how far Kosovo has come since independence. However, notwithstanding all the progress, they're also worried that war and conflict could once again be visited upon the people of Kosovo.

I noted that the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies publishes occasional research papers on serious security threats. Just last month they published such a paper, entitled “Russian Interference in Kosovo: How and Why?” The first line of the executive summary reads as follows:

Kosovo is exposed to a genuine and formidable Russian meddling campaign against [its] Western state-building model and its democratic values, in particular since 2008. Numerous subversive and non-military instruments...continue to be used against a multiethnic Kosovo in order to create a pretext for a failed-state and heighten local separatism with[in] the Kosovo Serb community in northern municipalities.

I'd like to zero in on the “subversive and non-military instruments” that Russia appears to be using in Kosovo.

You've referenced the threat in neighbouring states, like Montenegro. In the 21st century, it's mind-boggling that a prime minister of a European country would be the potential victim of an assassination attempt by Russian special services, which has now been well documented, for his pro-NATO stance. However, in the Balkans and especially in Kosovo, it appears that Russia is using particular tools in their special ops kits, tools that we are not necessarily familiar with in the west that would be counterintuitive.

The report mentions the “construction of the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in the city of Nis”, which is “less than 100 km from Prishtina.” Notwithstanding the name, it actually appears to be an outpost for the Russian military and Russian intelligence, so you have that particular tool in the tool kit.

Something that we don't quite understand that well, because we have long-established traditions of the separation of church and state, is that it appears that the Russian Orthodox Church is often used as an arm of the special operations, as part of some of the geopolitical games that are being played. In the Balkans in particular, we see the use of the Serbian Orthodox Church as a tool in these games.

I note that Russia used UNESCO to provide significant funding to Serbian monasteries in Kosovo. As well, they provide monks to go there. The suspicions are that these people aren't really monks, nor are they serving spiritual needs. At the same time, they've blocked Kosovo's attempts to join UNESCO.

Perhaps you could expand on some of this, because it's something that we don't encounter in the west. It runs counter to our political culture.

12:50 p.m.

H.E. Hashim Thaçi

Thank you very much for this question.

Earlier I mentioned Russia's attempts to destabilize the region. This is done on so many levels and in all the countries there. First, they try to slow down or to make the reforms in the western Balkans fail.

You mentioned the worst example, actually, in Montenegro. They tried to prevent Montenegro's membership in NATO. It was not a battle among political parties in Montenegro; it was a strategic battle of Russia trying to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO. This is why we were so happy to see that Montenegro did become a member of NATO.

You mentioned the centre in Nis. We all know that it is a centre for spying, for monitoring, and it has nothing to do with humanitarian issues. It's not only to observe Kosovo and provide surveillance; it's also about monitoring Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, and all these countries. It is my suggestion to all our international friends in Washington, Brussels, and all around to begin looking at the western Balkans from a strategic point of view. It is not only a technical issue of implementing agreements.

Unfortunately, those who are opposed to Euro-Atlantic integration don't choose the means for their goals. One of these is the attempt to present Kosovo as a failed state by producing fake news that is immediately translated in the international media, including the Kosovo media. These are the worst speculative news items, which people unfortunately read.

This is the case in other parts of the Balkans as well. As I said, in Kosovo they will not be able to change the attitudes of the people and their aspirations, but they present a distorted view of Kosovo. That is what they do every three months when reporting to the Security Council of the United Nations, as Putin does, or anywhere that they have an opportunity, be it in the Council of Europe, through particular members of the European Parliament, or through media that are close to the Russian oligarchs.

This is really the last moment for our partners to take seriously this need to consolidate Kosovo internationally. After all, this is our joint project. We are loyal to our international partners and we don't even seek another alternative. We don't have an alternative; it is either membership in NATO or membership in Russia. We are not like Serbia in relation to Brussels, always using the Russian card: “If you give us something, we will agree with you; if you don't give us something, then we will go with Russia.”

Our patience is stronger and deeper than the European Union delays, but we are not able to fight Russia's war to present Kosovo in a negative light. As Kosovo, we have obligations to try to oppose Russia's attempts. I cannot deny that there are attempts by Russia to penetrate Kosovo and exert influence, either through the media or businesses.

As I said, they have a liaison office in Pristina and people in Pristina. They have people in the northern part of Kosovo, in Mitrovica, and there they have even recruited for the paramilitary service in Ukraine to fight along with pro-Russian forces. This is not a secret. This is public.

For us it remains very important that we coordinate with all of our international partners to understand each other and to conclude consolidation of Kosovo's statehood internationally.

I don't believe that the Russian veto in the Security Council is directed only against Kosovo. It is much more than Kosovo. I've heard this from Lavrov and Churkin. They told us they are not fighting against us; they are fighting those who have supported our independence, the west, and this includes you, Canada, as well. This is the reality.

12:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Colleagues, I want, on behalf of the committee, to thank the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, for coming. It is a great honour and a pleasure. I think Canadians will enjoy the opportunity to hear first-hand about the developments and the struggles, obviously. In every government, those of us on the government side and those who were a while ago know that every day is a challenge, and every day requires good leadership, a firm hand, and lots of friends and allies. We think Canada is one of those for Kosovo.

We want to thank you very much for this opportunity to spend a very high-end, quality hour with you. Thank you, Mr. President.

12:55 p.m.

H.E. Hashim Thaçi

Thank you very much.

12:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Colleagues, this will bring our meeting to a close. We will see you on Thursday.

This meeting is adjourned.