I had the privilege of walking on Mother Theresa street yesterday amongst thousands of Kosovars witnessing history being made. At 3:39 p.m., Kosovo officially took its first step as an independent country. Whatever side you are on, you could not help but be moved by excitement and hope. After years of struggle and active diplomacy with their international partners, Kosovo finally reached its goal of independence from Belgrade.
In many ways, the easy part is done. Kosovo’s hardest road is ahead.
Can Kosovo sustain their goal of being a democratic, European nation characterized by good governance, a solid economy, and the rule of law? Can Kosovo leave the Balkanization and ethnic nationalism that has plagued other Yugoslav states? Can Kosovo live up to the ideal of equal integration of the country’s six ethnicities? These questions are still left unanswered and will certainly take years before we know. But so long as no one forgets the hopes and dreams of Ibrahim Rugova, Kosovo is destined to succeed. It has to.
Of course, there will be naysayers, both within and outside of Kosovo. That is natural. Kosovo needs to look past the criticisms, invariable roadblocks, and history itself, and continue to look forward toward European ideals. That will take a solid commitment by the Kosovar government to put real practice and brave reform over rhetoric and inflammatory remarks. That will take a solid commitment by the citizenry to put tolerance over ethnic nationalism and hatred. And that will also take a solid commitment by the international community to do its best to empower and support Kosovars as they make their transition as the world’s newest country.
Indeed, the world will be watching closely.