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Biden warns Kosovo of ‘cancer’ of corruption

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US Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech during a press conference with Kosovo's President as part of his visit in Pristina on August 17, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ARMEND NIMANI

US Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech during a press conference with Kosovo’s President as part of his visit in Pristina on August 17, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ARMEND NIMANI

Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the United States would remain a “champion” of an independent Kosovo, but he firmly warned its leaders against the “cancer” of corruption.

On his first visit to Kosovo since 2009 — the year after it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia — Biden held talks with President Hashim Thaci and other leaders before a dedication ceremony naming a road after his late son.

“I’m here today to affirm the United States is going to continue to stand with the people of Kosovo on your journey to become a prosperous, peaceful and multiethnic democracy,” Biden told reporters.

“Your success is overwhelmingly in the interest of my country… For if you succeed, the region will succeed, a region of Europe that has never been fully, thoroughly integrated into Europe.”

Biden said he would leave Kosovo with a “renewed sense of hope” and “feeling vindicated” for advocating its independence, which has since been recognised by more than 100 countries but not by Serbia or Russia.

Biden however focused part of his speech on the dangers of corruption — “a cancer that eats at the fabric of every society where it exists,” he warned.

“In short, it jeopardises everything Kosovo hopes to achieve, hopes to become, hopes for its future,” Biden said, adding that “violence and intimidation” were also “not tolerable in any modern democracy”.

Opposition MPs have repeatedly released tear gas in Kosovo’s parliament over the past year to protest against controversial deals agreed with Serbia and Montenegro.

Protesters have also taken to the streets in anger at Thaci and his colleagues, accusing them of alleged corruption and slow economic development.

Kosovo was ranked 103rd out of 168 countries and territories in a 2015 “Corruption Perceptions Index” by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International.

Kosovo has launched an anti-graft campaign in order to advance its dreams of joining the European Union.

It is also taking part in Brussel-brokered talks to improve relations with Serbia, and Biden — who also visited Belgrade on Tuesday — stressed the importance of this process to regional stability.

After his meetings in Pristina, the vice president and several of his relatives travelled south for a ceremony naming a road after his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer last year.

Beau worked as a legal adviser in Kosovo after the late 1990s war between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian forces, and Biden said his son “grew to love the people”.


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Hashim ThaciJoe Biden
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