Ambassador’s Remarks at AmCham Anti-Corruption Roundtable, December 9, 2015

Thank you Mr. Zeka, Mr. Preteni, Mr. Kelmendi, Mr. Prebreza, Ms. Shita, and other distinguished guests.  I am particularly pleased that this event has been organized by the leading U.S. business organization in the country.  Corruption is a persistent problem for those trying to do business, and it is commendable that business organizations like AmCham are making efforts to eliminate it.

I am also glad to be speaking to you on International Anti-Corruption Day.  We have observed this day annually since 2004 to raise awareness about the costs of corruption, and to call for action.  The struggle against corruption is a priority for me during my time in Kosovo.  It is not, however, just my personal priority.  It is also one of my government’s top priorities.  Last week, my boss–Secretary of State John Kerry–visited Kosovo and spoke with the government and the press.  He noted the importance of improving the Kosovo economy and creating jobs for the young people of this country.  He also 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.”  American businesses agree.  AmCham knows the importance of the issue, which is why we are here today.

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 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 continues its fight to stem corruption around the world.  We must hold to account those who exploit the public’s trust for private gain.  The United States views corruption as a growing threat to the national security of our country and our allies around the world.  It is a problem we must tackle together.

None of this is likely new to you.  I recently read your 2014 study entitled the “State of Business in Kosovo:  Challenges and Opportunities for Doing Business in Kosovo.”  The respondents to your survey noted that corruption is perceived and reported to be present in Kosovo, particularly in the judicial system.  Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said they did not believe the judicial system is doing a good job in fighting corruption.  Some respondents noted the lack of major cases of corruption being prosecuted or punished in the country.

Obviously these are very critical findings.  Kosovo’s leaders assured the Secretary last week that they are determined to remedy this problem.  The Prime Minister told the media that the government is committed to fighting organized crime and corruption in all government institutions, independent agencies, and public enterprises.  He promised to take concrete steps such as amending the public procurement law and using a system of e-procurement.  We should all hold the government to these commitments and measure them on their level of success in addressing the issue.

Other countries, mine included, have demonstrated that real improvements can be made in battling corruption.  With this in mind, I was pleased to see you decided to call this roundtable “Mission Possible.”  Kosovo has also shown that this is possible, but we all must do better.  I was pleased to see Kosovo move up slightly in the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance indicators for control of corruption (from 30th percentile in 2013 to the 39thpercentile in 2014).  Similarly, Kosovo showed improvement in the control of corruption on its Millennium Challenge Corporation scorecard, qualifying the country for the first time ever for consideration of MCC assistance.  These are good news stories that provide hope for further improvements.

My embassy and my government are committed to help continue that positive trajectory.  The United States will spend more than 12 million dollars in the next year to strengthen rule of law and fight corruption in Kosovo.  In fact, I only recently announced a new USAID program called the “Justice Sector Strengthening Project.”  This 9.3 million dollar new phase in our cooperation will help build a stronger rule of law system by focusing on enhancing accountability, transparency, and efficiency in the justice system.  In addition, we will continue to work with the police, the prosecutors, and the judges to improve their capacity to identify and punish corruption.  We are working with the Chief State Prosecutor’s office and the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council to develop internal regulations that govern the selection of prosecutors and the functioning of the office.  We are also working with them to develop a new anti-corruption action plan and strategy, one with clear expectations and increased accountability.  We will continue to provide training to prosecutors on trial advocacy and trial skills as well as in areas that we identify as problematic for handling anti-corruption cases.  And we will work with businesses and business organizations such as AmCham.  Corruption is not limited to government, and the solution cannot be either.

My Embassy and I stand ready to cooperate with you to help Kosovo improve its control of corruption and develop an economy that provides needed jobs for its people.

Thank you.