HM Ambassador, Ruairí O’Connell's speech to celebrate the QBP and to mark 800th anniversary of Magna Carta
Madam President, Honoured guests,
Tonight, we celebrate three things:
First, we celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, a remarkable sovereign, dedicated to the service of her people.
Second, we celebrate the unbreakable relationship between Kosovo and the UK, forged in war but strengthened in peace.
Finally, we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the agreement signed in 1215 between King John and the rebellious Northern Barons.
Magna Carta was perhaps Britain’s first - and perhaps Britain’s greatest - gift to the world. It was revolutionary. Ground-breaking. For the first time, no-one was above the law, not even the most powerful. Not even the King.
As Magna Carta states - ‘No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possession… except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land’.
No more could the king - the most powerful man in the country - corruptly use the power of the state for his own purposes.
There would be justice for all - ‘to no-one will we sell, to no-one deny or delay the right of justice’.
And, most of all, this was the start of the rule of law. The rights and freedoms that we enjoy today in the free world follow a tradition that Magna Carta started.
King John, who signed the Magna Carta, was understandably not very happy about this change. But whether he wanted to or not, by signing Magna Carta, he changed the world. And the Northern Barons, his rivals whose army forced him to sign, were the first heroes of the rule of law.
And when I look up today, I see more heroes.
I see men like Lieutenant Besart Ahmeti, here with us tonight, who was injured during violent protests, hit in the head by a rock whilst tending to an injured colleague. I think of the networks of women working tirelessly to ensure that the victims of sexual violence during the war have a voice, helping to ensure that no-one is denied justice.
Who will Kosovo’s new heroes be?
They will be judges who act without favour. They will be prosecutors who investigate the most horrendous crimes. They will be corrections officers who refuse to submit to intimidation or power. They will be customs officers, civil servants, mayors, teachers, doctors, citizens, politicians. They will be people like you.
Madam President, I believe in Kosovo. I was here when Kosovo became independent state. I have returned to help both our great nations, Kosovo and Britain, achieve our mutual interest - a secure, prosperous Kosovo, getting ready to join the European Union. Kosovo alone must choose its own destiny, but we will be here to help you.
Magna Carta tells us that no free person can be imprisoned without reason – so I will imprison you no longer! I do, however, wish to thank our sponsors – in particular Fox Marble, a British investor, already operating in Kosovo, who will employ hundreds and bring Kosovo’s beautiful marble to the world, as well as De La Rue, Technetix, 3CIS, Mineco, LTG, OSI and Forma, and Birra Peja and Stonecastle who are providing drinks tonight.
I would like to welcome our charity partners, Down Syndrome Kosova, who are here tonight – if you would like a photo of today’s event, you can make a contribution at the Down Syndrome Kosovo stall. I would like to thank the Emerald Hotel for hosting us, String String, who you will hear play later, and especially the Nottinghamshire Band of the Royal Engineers and the Kosovo Security Force Band, whom you have already heard play so magnificently.
Finally, Ladies and gentlemen, may I invite you to raise your glasses to the health of the President of the Republic of Kosovo, Her Excellency Madame Atifete Jahjaga.