Chargé d’Affaires Nicholas J. Giacobbe Remarks at the Opening of the 4th Green Festival

Chargé d’Affaires Nicholas J. Giacobbe Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the 4th annual Green Festival, October 30, 2019

Once upon a time on a hill overlooking the city of Pristina, there was a landfill full of construction waste.  Designers, architects, engineers, and workers from both the United States and Kosovo worked together to transform this construction wasteland into the beautiful new U.S. Embassy here in Pristina.

Our new Embassy is a wonderful symbol of the enduring partnership between the people of Kosovo and the people of the United States.  I am also proud to say that it is a clear manifestation of our commitment to a greener Kosovo.  During its design and during its construction, we made environmentally-smart choices to incorporate efficiency, sustainability, and resilience.

Let me tell about a few of those things we did. The external sunshade system incorporates angled fins calculated specifically to the movement of the sun across the sky.  Green roofs are not only beautiful when looking out an office window, but they capture and recycle 90 percent of the rainfall.  We save additional energy through LED lighting, daylight harvesting, energy recovery, and solar thermal hot water generation.  These combined with the hybrid geothermal system reduce energy consumption of the Embassy campus by more than 45 percent.

Because the city of Pristina does not yet have a wastewater treatment plant, and we do not want to cause further ecological damage to the rivers outside of the city, the Embassy treats all ‘black water’ on-site, which is then reused for irrigation and for low-flush toilets.

And if you still think that the new Embassy is not green enough, 78 percent of the Embassy campus is open space and green space, including a scenic lake, or pond  The landscaping is attractive with native plants and trees; and the lake was recently stocked with fish by one of our Peace Corps staff members.

The lake’s main function, though, is not to be the source of fish for our lunches at the Embassy, but it actually has a functional purpose, it serves as a heat sink for the hybrid geothermal system.  In addition to stabilizing heating and cooling of the building, the lake is necessary for storm-water management—remember the rainwater I mentioned that comes off of those beautiful green roofs— it helps us to reduce building water consumption by more than 70 percent.

These incredible green features all helped the Embassy achieve the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Gold status certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. That certification isa globally recognized mark of achievement in high performance, best-in-class, green buildings. And it’s just down the street right here in Pristina.

The U.S. Embassy also serves as a magnificent example of how we can incorporate green solutions into a modern state-of-the art building, while being conscious of our impact on the environment.

I recently learned of another green building here in Kosovo—a vision of a Kosovo entrepreneur who fully understands that green business is good business.  The newly constructed REKS plant in Kacanik is not only aiming to be the largest plastic recycling plant in the Western Balkans, it set up a water treatment plant on-site that enables them to reuse 90 percent of their water; and the 10 percent that is discharged back into the rivers is also treated and can be used for irrigation.  Whether American or Kosovar, it is definitely possible to be responsibly green—the resources and the tools are out there, one just needs the will to Think Green and embrace it.

That is something on which I know we can all agree:  green initiatives are important for our shared future.

This is why it is so exciting that my wife Cory and I get to be here to celebrate the fourth edition of the Green Festival with you.  What started out as less than 20 green businesses brought together by the USAID EMPOWER Private Sector activity has now more than doubled in its fourth year.  I believe we are seeing a major shift toward green technologies in Kosovo.

Each year, green businesses in Kosovo are offering a greater variety of products and services that are competitive in international markets.  Kosovo consumers, too, are demanding increasingly products that make less of an impact on the environment.  Many of the products you will see today are exported to Europe and beyond, and they carry the ‘Made in Kosovo’ mark all around the world.  Many have even obtained international-quality certifications, such as the photovoltaic solar panels produced by Jaha Solar.

We are pleased that this year, USAID EMPOWER Private Sector organized a training and certification program on the design and installation of photovoltaic systems.  Tomorrow, 17 participants who completed and passed the training will be certified as photovoltaic experts with the reputable and internationally recognized TÜVcertificate.  This is a great step toward the strengthening of the green-energy sector in Kosovo.

Green businesses offer considerable opportunities for economic growth and job creation in Kosovo.  Just look around.  Today, 48 companies are participating in the Festival.  Last year, the companies  who participated  made pre-contract sales worth 2.7 million Euros during the course of the festival and that resulted in job creation in Kosovo.

To date, through the various activities of our EMPOWER Private Sector project, Kosovo green businesses have created over 400 new jobs for Kosovo citizens in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and recycling— and combined, you all employ thousands of people throughout Kosovo.

The private sector is one of our strongest partners in Kosovo and we intend to keep it that way, including support to Kosovo’s small enterprises and green-business economy.  The Embassy purchases many goods and services on the local economy.  One of the things I want to point out is that I’m also here purchasing today.   We will be working on posting more opportunities on social media and look forward to green businesses participating in our competitive and transparent procurement process. The Embassy buys a lot and we look forward to buying even more on the local economy.

Many great innovations have humble beginnings like the former landfill upon which the Embassy is built.  I am confident that if we use the innovation and green technologies present here at the Festival—such as we did in building the new Embassy—we can begin to find solutions for many of the development challenges facing us today.

I want to close with a special thank you to our close partner in the EMPOWER Private Sector activity, Ms. Karin Hernmarck Ahliny,, Ambassador of Sweden.  Together USAID and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency started the tradition of organizing the festival four years ago, promoting green businesses and raising awareness of the benefits of adopting green technologies in Kosovo.  Thank you so much to the Embassy of Sweden for that important partnership.

I also want to thank  our distinguished guests who have joined us today— every year the event becomes bigger and more impactful. I want to thank Gerrie Willems, Ambassador of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Ricardo Serri, Deputy Head of the EU Office and Head of the Political Section; David Oberhuber, GIZ Country Director for Kosovo and North Macedonia; and I’m not sure if the mayor has arrived yet, but thank you to the Mayor for his cooperation in this as well.

Thank you to the Kosovo Manufacturing Club for taking the lead to organize this year’s festival. It was good to meet Mr. Panxha this morning and I’m glad you’re playing such an important role in this endeavor.

To all our guests, I hope you will use this year’s Green Festival, as we will, to find new partners, purchase some of the exciting goods and services on offer, learn more about innovative green technologies and get inspired, all while contributing to a greener Kosovo and a greener world.

I am certainly looking forward to learning more about what Kosovo green businesses have to offer once we cut this ribbon and head into the building

Thank you for being here this morning.