Ambassador Jacobson's Remarks at the Third Annual International Conference on Local Self-Governance
September 14, 2012
This has been a momentous week for Kosovo. We’ve seen the end of Kosovo’s supervised independence, after many years of work implementing President Ahtisaari’s Comprehensive Settlement Proposal.
Of course, we all know that much work remains to be done. Kosovo’s leaders have taken on the responsibility to ensure that all those principles enshrined in Kosovo’s declaration of independence and Constitution are put into practice for the benefit of all of its citizens. With true partnership among its leaders, Kosovo will continue to advance along its European path.
Much of the work that remains on Kosovo’s “To-Do” list is at the local level:
- Improving local government’s fiscal framework and helping municipalities to develop their own sources of revenues;
- Guaranteeing that local governments are truly responsive to the needs of citizens, and delivering services and investments that improve lives;
- Protecting and promoting Kosovo’s rich, and diverse cultural heritage;
- And ensuring that Kosovo’s northern municipalities - including Mitrovica North – are fully integrated as part of Kosovo’s governance.
I am pleased to see that the breakout sessions tomorrow will address some of these issues and take you out to several of Kosovo’s municipalities.
Prizren has a unique cultural landscape that makes the city a true treasure. I call on the Mayor and Kosovo’s central institutions to fully implement the Law on the Historic Center of Prizren. Full implementation of this law and the Law on Velika Hoca will ensure that theses treasures are protected for future generations. Full implementation of these laws will also help attract economic development and boost tourism.
The group going to Novo Brdo will discuss bringing services closer to citizens and in their own language. This is a necessary step to build confidence in institutions and to build ties between citizens and their government.
In Mitrovica, you’ll discuss regional and European models for budget planning and revenue collection. Through USAID’s local governance project, we have worked with municipal governments and assemblies to involve citizens in the budget planning process and to ensure that citizens’ voices are heard when municipalities set their spending priorities.
This is a particularly good time for leaders from the region to gather again and share experiences. Regional cooperation will play a key role in ensuring that all countries move forward on the path towards European integration. Also, improved cooperation between regional leaders and institutions can strengthen economic and cultural ties, supporting peace and prosperity in all communities. This conference presents an opportunity to exchange best practices and lessons learned, and to focus on some of the most challenging issues still facing Kosovo in the decentralization process.
Developing and strengthening local government institutions is essential for Kosovo to continue on its path toward European integration. And I’m confident that the regional experiences shared during this conference will assist Kosovo’s leaders at both the national and local levels.
I’d like to thank Deputy Prime Minister Petrovic for organizing this event. I wish you and all of Kosovo’s municipalities continued success in the coming years as you work to strengthen local government, and help Kosovo realize its full potential as a stable, pluralistic, and multi-ethnic democratic society.