WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, last evening made the following remarks at a Millennium Challenge Corporation threshold signing ceremony with the Republic of Kosovo:
“Good afternoon everybody, it’s great to be here. And it’s great to see so many people here. And it’s great to be with people who are the leaders of the Republic of Kosovo.
“You know, in the 1990s, we went to Kosovo, helping to try to conduct election there, of course we were banned from doing it. But we have these nice little jackets which I still have which says, ‘Election Inspector Republic of Kosovo.’ That was the real Republic of Kosovo. And, Jonathan, thank you for your kind words. Thank you for everything you’re doing.
“And it’s a very great pleasure to celebrate with all of you today. Like many of you, I’ve been anticipating this day for a long time. Getting the MCC into Kosovo has become a very high priority of mine ever since Kosovo became an independent country.
“February seventeenth, I always remember that day—because it’s the day before my birthday. It’s been a long road, and many of you who are here have played a pivotal role.
“And so, it’s with honor, humility, and, frankly, relief, that I can say what an important day we are all witnessing.
“Kosovo has now entered its tenth year of independence. A new government has just taken the reins in Pristina, and I want to extend my warm congratulations to Kosovo’s new Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj.
“I hope—I have every confidence—that Kosovo will continue its path toward prosperity and Euro-Atlantic integration under Prime Minister Haradinaj.
“I want to also thank, there’s so many people I almost don’t know where to begin. But you know, Harry Baratarin, my dear friend, came into my office my first year in Congress, back in 1989, to tell me all about Kosovo and what was happening there and that we could imagine one day Kosovo would be a free, independent country. It was a dream. It almost seemed like a pipe dream.
“But I had confidence in the people of Kosovo, so did Harry, elected excellent leaders like Hashim Thaçi and all the people who really have done so much. And I want to publicly Mr. President, congratulate you because I know that you were instrumental in helping to put together the government of Kosovo.
“And it’s very important, I think, that a government be done quickly and early rather than not have it done and leave it hanging there. And that’s what happened this time. And it shows, I think, the maturity of the people who represent Kosovo.
“And I look forward to very close relations with the United States for many, many years to come. I have every confidence that Kosovo will continue its path towards prosperity and Euro-Atlantic integration under the new government.
“We know that MCC’s new partnership with Kosovo will push progress toward that goal. We know that the threshold program, this program, will speed investments in energy efficiency and promote accountable governance—which are critical areas for Kosovo.
“There are so many people again to thank for this wonderful achievement. The UN Kosovo team and its leader, Andrew Russell, took this on as a priority because, true to their mission, they knew it meant serious development assistance for Kosovo. That built on some very outside-the-box thinking by MCC officials to ensure that Kosovo would get a fair shake.
“In the meantime, I hear only very good things about the development of the MCC Threshold program. Forty-nine million dollars. As you’ve heard, by MCC standards, this is certainly a very healthy sum of money for a threshold program. Kosovo has certainly earned it, in my opinion, and Petrit Selimi is doing an excellent job running the show.
“I’d like to thank one other person. As you may know, when everyone was saying Kosovo had no chance to get an MCC program, my staff director, Jason Steinbaum would not accept ‘no’ for an answer. He worked tirelessly to ensure that Kosovo was fully and equitably considered by MCC. And so, I want to thank Jason who has worked for me for more than 20 years.
“As many of you may know, Kosovo awarded Jason its Medal of Merits, largely because of his work on this. And that was a richly deserved honor.
“And so now, I mentioned him before, we have become good friends through the years. I am a real admirer of him. It’s my pleasure to introduce my good friend, the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi.
“I remember when I first met Hashim. It was at Rambouillet, just after the war in Kosovo ended. I’ve watched him through the years and can say, from personal knowledge, how he has developed as a leader of his country. Well respected, and I have come to consider him a very good friend.
“I look forward for working with, to working with him in the years ahead, and it is my honor to introduce him today.
“Or are we having, we’re switching, at last minutes. I’ve been around here long enough to know. Well, so now I can I have the pleasure of introducing two good friends and two people that I respect. The first one is our Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which I work closely, Ed Royce. Chairman Ed Royce. Congressman Royce.”