Thank you for allowing me to speak with you today. Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to speak to Kosovo’s judges and stress their important role in advancing the rule of law and combatting corruption. Yesterday, on International Anti-Corruption Day, I was the key note speaker for an Amcham event on the battle against corruption. And this coming Saturday, I look forward to talking with Kosovo’s prosecutors on this same topic. It thus seems fitting to be here today addressing the civil society’s role in this combat through its ability to independently evaluate progress and make recommendations.
As my speaking schedule this week clearly demonstrates, combatting corruption is a priority for me, as well as for the United States, not just in Kosovo, but around the world. A week ago, my boss–Secretary of State John Kerry–visited Kosovo and spoke with the government, press, and Kosovo youth. He noted the importance of improving the Kosovo economy and creating jobs for the young people of this country. He insisted that this will not happen without improvements in strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption. As he told the press, quote “a strong, democratic future for Kosovo…will require Kosovo’s leaders to reject corruption and to insist that corrupt practices be investigated and adjudicated, and those found guilty of abusing the public trust be brought to justice.”
The fight against corruption, as President Obama has said, is “one of the great struggles of our time.” Corruption inhibits responsive governance and limits economic prosperity. It erodes the quality of democracy and diminishes public confidence in the legitimacy of the government. Corruption drains public resources, limits entrepreneurship, and scares away foreign and domestic investment. It also facilitates human rights abuses, abets organized crime, and can threaten the stability of entire regions. For these reasons, my government is fighting around the world to stem corrupt practices and hold accountable those who exploit the public’s trust for private gain.
For a number of years now, Kosovo’s institutions have said the right thing about their commitment to the fight against corruption. However, as demonstrated by recent polls, promises of action alone are not enough. Less than 15% of Kosovo’s citizens are satisfied with the work of judges and prosecutors. And over 80% believe they are subject to outside influence. Almost half think the institutions are corrupt. The time has thus come to see concrete results and implement those action plans to which all have pledged. It is time to end the regular interaction the people of Kosovo have with corruption in their daily lives. Corruption cases must be investigated, prosecuted, and punished to the full extent of the law without any delays.
NGOs like KLI, which serve as watchdogs for the public, increase transparency, and provide insightful recommendations, should be a partner in this effort. Together, you can change the reality and perception of corruption and win back their support. Due to the important positions with which you have been entrusted, you must be held to a higher standard. You must have zero tolerance towards any form of outside influence or any form of corruption. That goes for the cases you handle, but even more so for the institutions where you work. No official indicted or convicted of corruption should continue in their work.
I realize that this is one of the most difficult challenges you face. You are not alone. You will continue to have the support of the U.S. Government and many other partners in this fight. Over the next year, we will provide over 12 million dollars in support and expertise in continuing to develop rule of law. We will continue to work with law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and others. Together we can develop the skills, strategies, and infrastructure necessary to fight corruption at all levels. I strongly believe that together we can make real progress against corruption. Such progress is needed to show the people of Kosovo that the rule of law is a reality, not just an empty promise. Thank you.