“All conflicts can be settled, and there are no excuses for allowing them to become eternal,” are the words of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Martti Ahtisaari, upon taking this well deserved recognition.
Martti Ahtisaari was the first to tell the world that freedom of Kosovo will not spell the end of the world, or set a precedent, or bring the Balkans into a new war. Ahtisaari was the first to counter those who argued that if Kosovo people were free, that if 2 million citizens of Kosovo tasted freedom, somehow this corner of Europe would see its end.
During the past 30 years, the former Finnish president has played an active role in resolving numerous conflicts, such as Namibian independence from South Africa in 1989, the Kosovo-Serbia war in 1999, and of course the Ahtisaari package for Kosovo independence.
On February 2nd 2007, after almost a year of negotiations between Kosovar and Serbian authorities, the laureate Ahtisaari delivered a proposal for resolving the status issue for Republic of Kosovo. After another year of negotiations, the proposal’s conclusion was that Kosovo should be governed by its citizens, become an internationally supported state, with strong guarantees for minorities and a clear plan for building a modern and democratic European state. The Athisaari package was a realistic and unavoidable outcome that was accepted by the government of what was to be one day Republic of Kosovo. On 17th of February 2008, Republic of Kosovo declared independence. This makes Kosovo the state that gives the widest breadth of guarantees for its minorities in the whole of South East Europe. Today the Republic implements the Ahtisaari agreement on its own accord.
Belgrade refused to accept this proposal, in the same manner it refused the autonomy agreement of 1999 in Rambouillet, France.
The former Finnish president has given the world an important legacy. Ahtisaari’s work is proof that obstacles can be overcome through discussion, rather than bullets, and that justice must be the driving motive for making important world reaching decisions. He has also shown us that self-determination is not a catastrophe but an opportunity to build something that is long-lasting and good for all the parties involved, as is the case with Namibia, and one day also Kosovo.
We would like to thank Martti for this. We would like to thank Martti for saying that our freedom is not dangerous for others. We need this freedom to grow and stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors and one day with the rest of Europe. In a proper Finnish realistic fashion, he has made the world a slightly better place.