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Kosovo Ambassador Vlora Çitaku Speaks on US Leadership in Western Balkans

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Yesterday the Josef Korbel School was honored to host Her Excellency Vlora Çitaku, the Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo to the U.S., who discussed a range of topics with Dean Christopher R. Hill during an event sponsored by the school's Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy and Denver Women in International Security.

Ambassador Çitaku gave much credit to the global diplomatic role of the United States, especially the country's historic involvement with Kosovo.

"I believe that the Kosovo story is a true testament that when there is U.S. leadership and when the U.S. decides to lead efforts together with Europeans, great things can happen," she said. "I believe that Kosovo is also a testament that U.S. leadership is irreplaceable."

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia ten years ago and is currently a candidate for membership in the European Union. But Serbia and five additional member states of the European Union do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.

"We are the youngest democracy; we're just two years younger than Twitter. That makes us the next big thing," joked Çitaku. "There are no doubt still problems in the Western Balkans despite the great progress that has been made. We want to see more of the EU and the US in the region."

But Kosovo is not the only unfinished business, she explained.

"There are problems in neighboring Macedonia and very recently we had very disturbing events in Montenegro."

Ambassador Çitaku also spoke to the growing Russian presence in the Western Balkans and Russia's acquisition of enterprises throughout the region. She said Russia has no strategic objective in the Western Balkans, but is simply attempting to display its ability to disrupt Western cohesion.

Dean Hill served as Special Envoy to Kosovo from 1998 to 1999 and helped negotiate the 1995 Bosnia peace settlement.

"If anyone would have told me 18 years ago, when I was a refugee and you were an ambassador, that you and I would sit here and have a conversation, I don't think I would have ever imagined that to come true," said Çitaku.

During the event, a young woman, not affiliated with the University of Denver, the Josef Korbel School or the community, attempted to disrupt the dialogue, but was escorted out of the building.

"We were very honored to have Ambassador Çitaku join us at the Korbel School," said Hill. "She made an excellent presentation on the enormous progress Kosovo has made since independence, the remaining challenges it faces, and the vital importance of completing the task of integrating Kosovo and other countries into Euro-Atlantic systems."