PRISTINA, Aug 1 (Reuters) – Kosovo’s president on Sunday awarded a medal to the late son of U.S. President Joe Biden for his service in building the country’s justice system after war ended more than two decades ago.
Beau Biden worked in Kosovo after the 1998-99 war, helping to train local prosecutors and judges for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The former Delaware Attorney General died in 2015 of cancer aged 46.
“Beau’s work in Kosovo was heartfelt; he fell in love with the country,” President Biden said in a pre-recorded video message played during the ceremony in Pristina on Sunday.
“Beau could see what you could do, Beau could see even then the future that was possible for your proud country. The future that Kosovo had so long been denied,” Biden said.
In 2016 Biden, then vice president, unveiled a memorial to his son in Kosovo. A road leading to Camp Bondsteel, home to the 700 American soldiers who still help maintain the fragile peace in Kosovo, was also named after Beau Biden.
Naming streets after U.S. officials has become something of a tradition in Kosovo, whose population is mainly ethnic Albanian and which considers the United States its saviour for its support of a 1999 bombing campaign that deprived Serbia of control of Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008 with Western backing, but Serbia still refuses to recognise it and considers it part of its territory.
“What the United States and the American people have done for our country, for our freedom, for our right to exist, goes beyond any partnership currently witnessed in the world. Mr. President, Kosovo is your home too,” said Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani while presenting the award.
Speech by President Vjosa Osmani
Dear President Joe Biden and the entire Biden Family,
Good evening from the most pro-American nation in the world.
Dear Speaker of Parliament Konjufca, Dear Prime Minister Kurti,
Dear Ambassador Kosnett,
“You are not here merely to make a living”, said the 28th President of the United States of America.
“You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
President Wilson, whose actions brought peace to the entire world, in these remarks was referring to an individual’s service to their country.
I too, vehemently believe there is no cause more noble than to serve.
And there are few people like the late Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III (the third) who displayed this commitment to country and service day-in, day-out.
From serving as a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard with deployment in Iraq, to serving as a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia for nine years, or indeed being twice-elected Attorney General in Delaware.
And a little closer to home, Beau Biden worked in Kosovo after the war to build an independent and professional judicial system, and to strengthen the rule of law.
I am, therefore, honored and delighted to gather you all here today to formally recognize and celebrate the contribution Beau Biden has given this country.
Rule of Law, as you know, is not only a subject close to my heart, but also something which I have dedicated my entire professional career to. The pursuit of justice and strengthening the Rule of Law is not just as an abstract theoretical or academic subject; it is close to my heart precisely because I believe it should be present in our actions. And precisely because it directly impacts the lives of our citizens. I believe it is the fundamental precondition to our success as a country.
What Beau Biden started, alongside U.S. colleagues, with the establishment of institutions and training of judges pre-Independence, today forms a key pillar of all of Kosovo’s most important institutions. The desire to further strengthen the Rule of Law was made overwhelmingly clear at the ballot box earlier this year. Our citizens have spoken, and as institutions it is our moral and political duty to ensure we push forward with reforms in our justice system.
In addition to the personal relations and contributions of individuals over the last three decades, what is also truly unique is the genuine bond and affection our two countries have for one-another.
What the United States and the American people have done for our country, for our freedom, for our right to exist, goes beyond any partnership currently witnessed around the world. In the good days, in the bad, in lightness and in darkness, we feel your hand on our shoulder.
Mr President, I say this to you and all citizens of the United States – Kosovo is your home too. To your service men and women, to the diplomatic staff and to all the people of America who wish to visit here – we will always see you as one of our own and you will always be welcomed here by our institutions, but most importantly by each and every one of our citizens.
American flags will continue to fly high and with great pride across the Republic of Kosovo – this is our way of showing our gratitude for decades of support through people like Beau and every single United States citizen that has contributed to our peace, security and statehood.
The thing about Beau is, his legacy lives on – his actions continue to inspire us here today in Kosovo and inspire those whose lives he changed throughout the United States. Indeed, President Biden once said “Beau was my soul”, and it’s clear that Beau’s work and commitment continues to inspire President Biden.
He recently wrote to me: Kosovo “holds a special place for the Biden family in honor of the time our late son Beau Biden spent working to ensure peace, justice and the rule of law for all the people of Kosovo.”
And during a previous visit to Kosovo, in memory of his son, President Biden said: “Beau loved it here, he grew to love the people. He had an overwhelming sense of affection” for it.
As our international friends and partners know too well: Kosovo is a small country, but it has a big heart. Many, if not all, fall in love with our country, its people and our traditions when they are given the opportunity to spend time here.
But I have to say, in the same way that Kosovo holds a special place in the hearts of the Biden Family, I can confidently say on behalf of the people of Kosovo that the Biden family and the American people hold a special place in our hearts.
Much like his beloved son, the President has made an outstanding contribution to our country. As I often say, President Biden was our voice when we did not have one. He fought to put Kosovo on the map when many around the world were unwilling to engage with our struggle against systemic discrimination and segregation perpetrated by the then-Milosevic regime. President Biden was a vocal advocate in the Senate for NATO intervention in 1999 which put an end to war crimes and genocide in Kosovo.
And later on, when Kosovo faced some of its biggest post-war challenges, such as preparing our declaration of Independence, President Biden said that it was Beau’s “strong belief from having been here in the depths of very difficult times that made me confident that calling for the independence of this great country was the right thing to do.”
And when he visited our Parliament in 2009, President Biden spoke words that continue to echo throughout our efforts to protect our freedom and strengthen our independence. He said, “your independence is irreversible…absolutely irreversible”.
It’s clear throughout President Biden’s work that his son inspired him when he was alive, but also continues to inspire him today.
And to this very day, the United States continues to show deep respect and affection for our people. Even in the most challenging time for the world, during a global pandemic, America has donated a significant number of Pfizer vaccines to Kosovo. Once again, Mr President, we express our heartfelt gratitude.
To the Biden family,
The loss of a child is the ultimate tragedy. And to possess the strength and the ability to turn that pain into motivation to change the world for the better is something which should serve as an inspiration for all. President Biden’s commitment to his country, and to making this world a better place, is second-to-none.
Before we watch the video address from the US President, I’d like to say a final few words on my impression on the late Beau Biden.
As they saying goes: ‘Good people are like candles, they burn themselves up to give others light’.
And the very best people do this without even knowing it. I believe, the true measure of a good person is the everlasting impact you leave behind. That is, the people you inspire along the way, the hearts you touch and the lives you change without even knowing it.
The late Beau Biden was one of these people. He is the burning candle that has given so many people light.
In our darkest days, the Biden Family has also given the people of Kosovo light.
As President of the Republic of Kosovo, I assure you that Beau’s work and that of his U.S. colleagues will never go to waste. We will make Kosovo the country it has the potential to be. We will make Kosovo the country our people deserve. Mr.President: We will make you proud.
For all you do for the people of this beloved country, Thank you.
God Bless the Republic of Kosovo, and God Bless the United States of America.
May Beau’s soul rest in peace and may his legacy always guide us to do what is right and to serve our people and our country with dignity and honor.
Zoti e bekoftë Republikën e Kosovës, Zoti i bekoftë Shtetet e Bashkuara të Amerikës. I perjetshem qofte kujtimi per Beau Biden.