14 September 2006
Kosovo Special Representative Briefs Security Council on Status Process; Says Progress Continues, but Affected by Uncertainty about Future
Serbia Insists Impatience, Imposed Deadlines Will Not Provide Solution; Albania Emphasizes Need for Settlement by End of 2006 to Prevent Instability
NEW YORK, 13 September (UN Headquarters) -- With the outcome of the status process dominating Kosovo's political agenda uncertain, the general feeling was that a new phase in Kosovo's history was about to begin, leaving the majority of the people both hopeful and nervous, the newly-appointed Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Joachim Rücker, told the Security Council today, briefing the Council on latest developments there.
He said that, while progress continued to be made and although UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government continued to work together to improve governance in Kosovo, uncertainty about the future affected all activity. "One idea I would like to leave you with today, is that Kosovo needs to be rid of this uncertainty, and to move on," he said.
One area of particular concern was the situation in northern Kosovo. The highly publicized security incidents that had occurred in May had been portrayed by some Kosovo Serb leaders, without any evidence, as inter-ethnic attacks. Those incidents had been used by the municipalities north of the Ibar River to sever all cooperation with the Pristina authorities -- a boycott that still continued. While violent crimes were to be deplored and prosecuted wherever they occurred, frequent attempts to portray Kosovo as a place where non-Albanians, in particular the Kosovo Serbs, were under constant attack and daily victims of ethnic crimes were completely unjustified.
As Belgrade retained a powerful influence over the Kosovo Serbs, he said he wished to get a clear signal from Belgrade authorities to the Kosovo Serbs that their future was in Kosovo if they wished it, that they had no reason to leave and that they should find ways to cooperate with the elected Kosovo authorities. While the Kosovo Serbs were in a difficult situation, fearing for their future and not knowing whom to trust, isolation was not the answer to their problems --integration was.
Against the background of the status process, planning had to start for the end of UNMIK's mandate, he added. The devolution of UNMIK's powers and activities would in itself be a major exercise. While UNMIK would discharge its responsibilities as long as it had them, for the future good of Kosovo's people, the current period of uncertainty needed to be brought to an end as soon as possible. Rather than bringing about reconciliation and economic recovery, delay in the status process would only prolong the tensions existing in Kosovo society, which would feed frustration and make the new start, when it did come, even harder to get right.
The President of the Coordination Centre of the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija, Sanda Rašković-Ivić, stressed that a durable solution to the future status of Kosovo and Metohija would only be possible through systematic, responsible and orderly negotiations without imposed deadlines. Impatience and haste would not contribute to a sustainable solution to the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, or to regional peace and stability.
Regarding future status, she said its main arguments were based on the universality of international law and inviolability of borders, which presumed that it was inadmissible to rob the internationally recognised State of Serbia of 15 per cent of its territory, in order to create the second Albanian State in the region. It was, therefore, clear why the Albanian side had not engaged in meaningful negotiations. It appeared that the survival of the remaining Serbs, from Albanian's point of view, stood in the way of their political and ideological goals. UNMIK's tactics of avoiding conflict with militant Albanians simply meant turning a blind eye to reality.
The fear of powerful and violent Albanians and their revenge threats was the very "principle" undermining international law and justice, she said. In Kosovo and Metohija, ethnic identity had become a license to kill. The situation should be assessed realistically and responsibly. Forcing a premature solution would come at a great cost to the region, the province and the international community, and a precipitous solution would only serve to open up a Pandora's box. Patience alone -- not an imposed solution -- could bring about a true compromise solution to the Kosovo and Metohija issue.
Albania's representative said he shared the Secretary-General's overall assessment that a trend of progress existed regarding protection of minorities and governance in Kosovo. The security situation was generally stable and unaffected by the process of determining Kosovo's status. The implementation of many standards had been completed and those that remained were on track to meet their deadlines. The adoption of the European Partnership Plan by the Kosovo government was a new phase ensuring that standards would be implemented beyond the final status determination.
He agreed that the Kosovo Serbs and other minorities should have a decent, dignified and safe life. They could only achieve that goal if they returned to Kosovo's democratic institutions and participated in the country's public life. The authorities in Belgrade needed to remove impediments to the engagement of Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo's institutions.
International involvement in the settling of Kosovo's final status was significant and indispensable, he added, emphasizing the need for a decisive solution by the end of 2006 to prevent instability and uncertainty for the entire region. Instead of a change of borders, Albania sought a stable and multi-ethnic situation. The most realistic and first solution was independence, with a continued civil and security presence by the international community.
Finland's representative, on behalf of the European Union, said she fully supported UNMIK's efforts, together with the Provisional Institutions, to achieve concrete progress on standards implementation. While the priority requirements
were crucial to ensuring a multi-ethnic Kosovo, it was important not to lose sight of the fact that all the standards were important. It was also necessary to prepare for a phased transition from a process driven by the United Nations standards to a reform based on the requirements of European integration. Concerned that not all ethnic communities participated meaningfully in the Provisional Institutions, she said the Serb community in Kosovo should be actively encouraged to participate in the institutions in which they could most effectively advocate their own interests.
Also speaking in today's meeting were the representatives of the United Republic of Tanzania, Russian Federation, Ghana, France, Peru, China, United Kingdom, Japan, Slovakia, Qatar, United States, Congo, Denmark, Argentina, Greece and Ukraine.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 12:55 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the Secretary-General's report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2006/707), which covers developments in Kosovo from 1 May to 14 August 2006.
Referring to the dialogue between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs that began in Vienna in February under United Nations auspices, the report notes that three additional rounds of direct talks were held on the issue of decentralization of the governmental and administrative functions of Kosovo, including the delineation of municipal boundaries. The parties met to discuss cultural heritage and religious sites, economic issues and community rights.
The future status process and underlying political challenges dominated the political situation in Kosovo, the report states. Foremost among these is the issue of the governance of the portion of Kosovo territory that lies north of the Ibar River. The words and actions of the parties continue to demonstrate that this issue is among the most sensitive and that it poses formidable challenges to a viable conclusion of the process to determine Kosovo's future status. Approaches to northern Kosovo will need to be carefully coordinated among relevant international actors.
Relations between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs are still affected by apprehensiveness, particularly in northern Kosovo, the report adds. In May, several highly publicized security incidents affected Kosovo Serbs. While not necessarily of an inter-ethnic nature, the incidents were denounced by some Kosovo Serb leaders and Serbian authorities as inter-ethnic attacks. In their wake, a demonstration was held in protest on 5 June by some 800 Kosovo Serbs.
The Secretary-General says he is pleased that the political process to determine Kosovo's future status is proceeding with the active and high-level participation of both sides. He is disappointed, however, that little common ground has been identified between the positions of the Serbian and Kosovo delegations, which remain committed to "substantial autonomy" and "full independence" respectively, with minimal space for negotiation. Both sides would be better served by greater flexibility in their positions.
Calling on both sides to engage in these talks in a spirit of compromise, the Secretary-General says it is the parties' responsibility to find common ground and a sustainable solution. The implementation of the priority requirements is crucial to ensuring a multi-ethnic Kosovo, but it is important not to lose sight of the fact that all of the standards are important for Kosovo's future. He calls upon Kosovo's leaders to make further progress also in other standards.
It remains equally important that Kosovo Serbs participate in Kosovo's institutions, the report states. Lack of participation is a disservice to the Kosovo Serb population, precluding an opportunity to construct optimal conditions for their community's future. He calls on the Belgrade authorities to remove all impediments to Kosovo Serb participation in Kosovo institutions. At this sensitive time, Kosovo's leaders must redouble their outreach to all communities that they have a place in Kosovo in the future, regardless of its status.
Despite the generally stable security situation, the Secretary-General strongly condemns incidents of violence targeting people or religious sites, particularly those that are inter-ethnic. He is also concerned by the cessation of relations by the northern municipalities with the Provisional Institutions, and their calls for independent security mechanisms. The Secretary-General urges all concerned to cease inflammatory accusations and to pursue a constructive resolution of these matters. He also welcomes the European Union's activities on the ground, which will assist in a coherent transition following an eventual determination of Kosovo's future status.
JOACHIM RÜCKER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said the status process dominated the political agenda in Kosovo and would continue to do so until final status was determined. The general feeling now was that a new phase of Kosovo's history was about to begin, and that made the majority of people hopeful, but also nervous, since the outcome was still uncertain. "One idea I would like to leave you with today, is that Kosovo needs to be rid of this uncertainty, and to move on." It was encouraging that the status negotiations from the Pristina side had been conducted by a unity team, led by President Sejdiu, and that opposition leaders had achieved a difficult balance between solidarity within the unity team and a critical domestic stance.
He said there was still the need to provide good governance and day-to-day services to the people. The pace had remained at the rate reported in June. The Standards programme had received even greater attention since the Contact Group had presented the Government with a list of 13 priorities. Key areas in that list included protection of minorities and community rights, such as new laws on cultural heritage and languages. The Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan of 2004 was also in need of revision. Last month, the Government had adopted an action plan to implement its European Partnership and was now the basis of both European Integration and standards work.
One area of particular concern was the situation in northern Kosovo, he said. Highly publicized security incidents had occurred in May, which had been portrayed by some Kosovo Serb leaders, without any evidence, as inter-ethnic attacks. Those incidents had been used by the municipalities north of the Ibar River to sever all cooperation with the Pristina authorities, a boycott that still continued. UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) had substantially expanded and enhanced their security presence north of the Ibar. Violent crimes were to be deplored and prosecuted wherever they occurred, but "frequent attempts to portray Kosovo as a place where non-Albanians, in particular the Kosovo Serbs, are under constant attack and daily victims of ethnic crimes are completely unjustified". There were many examples where people were laying the foundations for a multi-ethnic Kosovo, but those cases did not attract publicity. The High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) intended to launch a structured process to promote reconciliation in October.
As Belgrade retained a powerful influence over the Kosovo Serbs, he wished to get a clear signal from Belgrade authorities to the Kosovo Serbs that their future was in Kosovo if they wished it, that they had no reason to leave, and they should find ways to cooperate with the elected Kosovo authorities. The withdrawal of the directive that Serbs in public service must either leave the Provisional Institution's payroll or else lose the extra salaries and benefits paid by Belgrade, would be valuable.
"Yes, the Kosovo Serbs are in a difficult situation", he said. "They fear for their future and do not know whom they can trust. They have been barred for over two and a half year prom participating actively in the work of the Kosovo Assembly or the government. But isolation is not the answer to their problems, integration is."
He said the security situation had remained stable, although there were risks of escalating incidents. Security policy was always a priority. Two critical areas in the implementation of the standards were justice and the economy. There was a need to build a justice system that could command the faith of the population and business. The legal and institutional foundations for a functioning market economy were largely in place, but increased private sector development was necessary to lift the economy out of the circle of high unemployment, low growth and a large trade imbalance. Overall, Kosovo's economic growth would depend on investment-led development of key economic sectors, and clarification of Kosovo's status would remove certain complications that currently affected long-term investment decisions.
Against the background of the status process, planning had to start for the end of UNMIK's mandate. The devolution of UNMIK's powers and activities would in itself be a major exercise. Planning should occur in order to be ready to move forward quickly and efficiently when the time would come. UNMIK would discharge its responsibilities as long as it had them. But, for the good of the future of the people of Kosovo, the current period of uncertainty needed to be brought to an end as soon as possible. Delay would not bring reconciliation and would not lead to economic recovery. Delay would only prolong the tensions existing in Kosovo society, which would feed frustration and make the new start, when it did come, even harder to get right.
SANDA RAŠKOVIĆ-IVIĆ, President of the Coordination Centre of the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija, emphasized the Council's unique significance as a guarantor for upholding the universal principles of international law and world order. Upholding and promoting peace and stability in the western Balkans was only possible through strict observance of international principles, including the inviolability of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of democratic States. Serbia was fully determined to assume its share of responsibility in the process of working towards a successful resolution of the Kosovo and Metohija issue, in accordance with international law and universal democratic values.
Achieving a durable solution to the future status of Kosovo and Metohija was only possible through systematic, responsible and orderly negotiations, without imposed deadlines, which could result in additional pressure, she continued. Impatience and haste would not contribute to a sustainable solution to the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, or to regional peace and stability. Since the Council's meeting in June, some 51 incidents had occurred involving assaults against lives and property of Kosovo Serbs. From 24 October 2005 to 1 September 2006 there had been some 260 incidents.
The Serbian negotiating team worked actively on the protection of the Serbian and other non-Albanian communities in Kosovo and Metohija, mainly through decentralization, she said. Regarding the future status, its main arguments were based on the universality of international law and inviolability of borders. That presumed that it was inadmissible to rob the internationally recognised State of Serbia of 15 per cent of its territory, in order to create the second Albanian State in the region. It was, therefore, clear why the Albanian side had not engaged in meaningful negotiations. It would appear that the survival of the remaining Serbs, from Albanian's point of view, stood in the way of their political and ideological goals. UNMIK's tactics of avoiding conflict with militant Albanians simply meant turning a blind eye to reality.
The fear of powerful and violent Albanians and their revenge threats was the very "principle" undermining international law and justice, she said. In Kosovo and Metohija, people were killed for speaking a Slavic language resembling Serbian. Ethnic identity had become a license to kill.
Regarding religious monuments, cultural heritage and religious freedoms, she noted that, while there was an emphasis on legislating those matters, religious shrines were being desecrated and looted. The international community had every right to demand that the Kosovo institutions adopt laws against so-called general discrimination. The mere adoption of laws, however, would not solve the problem. The true leaders of Kosovo society were the individuals of undisputed authority within their communities, namely the clan leaders. They made the decisions, not the judiciary. In Kosovo, justice was being taken into one's own hands -- tribal laws and "blood feuds" still ruled. One could not fight those just by promulgating laws against discrimination. True implementation and monitoring were needed.
Securing the safety of public transport had always been a priority, she said. In practice, there were the so-called death roads, a colloquial expression used by KFOR and UNMIK officers to refer to the roads connecting the Serbian settlement Strpce to other Serbian regions. So far, 12 terrorist attacks against Serbs had been conducted there.
She recalled that Ambassador Kai Eide, in his Comprehensive Review of the Situation in Kosovo, had qualified the process of establishing Kosovo's future status and the continuance of the standards implementation as the only way towards any progress. Regrettably, there had, so far, been no serious signs that anyone was willing to recognize at least some of those recommendations. Unfortunately, the flexible attitude of the Serbian negotiating team had not been reciprocated by the Albanian negotiating team, which had maintained a rigid and uncompromising attitude, namely independence at any cost.
Regarding the completion of the reconstruction and compensation programme in the wake of ethnic cleansing against the Serbs in March 2004, she said security was the top priority. The lack of progress in the return of the displaced and exiled population was particularly worrisome. The return of the displaced persons could be made possible through genuine commitment and efforts in the field. The Kosovo Provisional Institutions of Self-Government should publicly support the submission of property claims to the Kosovo Property Agency (KPA) regarding restitution of agricultural and commercial property. A genuine will to resolve the issue was lacking, however.
She said it was not a secret that large-scale organized crime, including trafficking in human beings and corruption, flourished in Kosovo and Metohija. Drugs, the arms trade and smuggling continued unhindered before the international community's eyes, including the police and military.
The situation in Kosovo and Metohija should be assessed realistically and responsibly, she said. To force a premature solution would come at a great cost to the region, the province and the international community. A precipitous solution would not solve the issue, but would open up a Pandora's box, which should be avoided at any cost. Patience alone could bring about a true compromise solution to the Kosovo and Metohija issue. An imposed solution would not be conducive to resolving the problem. It was self-deception to believe that Kosovo and Metohija was going to be a special and unique case. Any imposed solution would inevitably generate unforeseeable and fatal consequences.
"A sustainable and compromise solution to the issue of Kosovo and Metohija could be reached only if artificial deadlines were set aside, as well as the philosophy of Kosovo as a special case", she concluded. The settlement of the Kosovo and Metohija problem lay in the implementation of the principles and concrete solutions under the platform of the Serbian negotiating team on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija. In the long run, that was the only way towards a proper resolution of the dire situation in the province.
She said the international community had to show, by its deeds, that it favoured a stable region, which could only be achieved by making steps towards establishing the rule of law, bringing the criminals and terrorists to justice and ensuring security. The necessary political steps should be taken to persuade the Albanian side to give up extreme demands and embrace a compromise solution, namely substantial autonomy with comprehensive competences. Without the Serbs, Albanians would not go far. Despite such difficulties, there was still enough scope for an agreement based on democratic principles and European standards.
AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) acknowledged the distance in the positions of the President and Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and the President and Prime Minister of Kosovo around issues of "substantial autonomy" versus "full independence". Nonetheless, he urged them to show flexibility in the interest of finding a sustainable solution to the status of Kosovo. He noted progress made on the implementation of standards by the Kosovo authorities and the adoption of the European Partnership Action Plan that replaced the 2004 Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan. Standards implementation added confidence to ongoing talks on the future status. The shift of the decentralization process from Pristina to the future status process should bring fresh impetus to the decentralization issue, which was crucial to the peace process.
He said the question of Serb minority inclusion in both the future status talks and in Kosovo institutions remained a stumbling block to creating a multicultural society. Reiterating a call to the Republic of Serbia to take part in the process, and to the Kosovo leadership to reach out to minority groups, both should promote initiatives to enhance trust and tolerance. He welcomed the 6 July signing of the Protocol on Voluntary and Sustainable Returns by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Belgrade and Pristina, which had immediately had an impact on some returnees. He appealed to international donors to provide funding to encourage the return of all refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons.
He commended KFOR, UNMIK and the Kosovo Police Service for enhancing security throughout Kosovo, and supported efforts by the Police Service to increase security at various sites to deter vandalism.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said the attainment of progress on standards remained a factor in determining the pace of the status dialogue. Kosovo must remain multi-ethnic, and the province's leadership must give particular attention to ethnic minorities. Despite some achievements, progress had not been significant. He was concerned that the number of ethnically motivated crimes had increased and criminals went unpunished. To question the fact that some crimes were ethnically motivated was disregarding known facts. Further, the problems of decentralization of government and protection of minorities' cultural rights and inheritance were far from being resolved.
The situation regarding refugee returns and community rights was not satisfactory, he said. Concrete financial measures were needed to improve conditions in the province. The non-participation by the Kosovo Serbs showed how far Kosovo still had to go in resolving the job of creating a multi-ethnic society. The level of trust of the Serbs in the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government remained low. It was, however, wrong to blame Belgrade for the non-participation of the Kosovo Serbs. Leaders in the province must make progress in standards implementation. One should not loose sight of the fact that all standards, without exception, were of great importance to the future of Kosovo.
He said only an improved implementation of standards would lay the foundation for the advancement of finding a balanced and negotiated compromise between Belgrade and Pristina. He was pleased with the dialogue at the highest level, saying it had been a first meeting and that not much should be expected from it. However, there should be greater flexibility. Support by the international community remained a crucial factor for progress. It was also important to take into account the Serbian enclaves in the northern part of the province. The decision on the future status would be a universal decision. Only a negotiated -- not a one-sided -- solution could be supported by the Council. As such a process would take time, establishment of an arbitrary time frame would be counter-productive. Any settlement should strictly abide by resolution 1244 (1999).
L.K. CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said the overall improvement in the security situation in the area was most welcome, especially in the marked reduction in inter-ethnic conflicts and the strengthening of border and boundary patrols. Initiatives such as the transfer of competencies to the Kosovo Ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice were essential parts of institutional capacity-building. The convening of the summit-level meeting between the authorities in Serbia and Kosovo on 24 July had been a very significant step forward.
That question, he said, was exceedingly complex and delicate. The two sides should show flexibility and good faith to reach a settlement that neither glossed over the realities on the ground nor took for granted the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia. Towards that end, Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic minorities should participate in the Provisional Institutions. Discussions on issues such as decentralization of governmental functions and economic issues should aim to clarify matters in future status talks and to assist parties in weighing options pragmatically.
He said the implementation of standards designed to help Kosovo make a clean break with its past was critical to its long-term unity and stability. It was only through rigorous implementation of the standards, now aligned with the European Partnership Action Plan, that a new culture of tolerance, respect for human rights and mutual respect among the ethnic groups could be fostered. The standards must be woven into the social fabric. The Kosovo government must also reach out to Kosovo Serbs and make them partners in the transformation. Likewise, Kosovo Serbs and Belgrade authorities should focus on the kind of society Kosovo should be, once the dust settled on the current political process.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) noted that the Secretary-General's report highlighted progress made in the implementation of standards. While that was a positive development, such implementation must be further strengthened. All of the standards needed to be implemented, in particular regarding the 13 identified priorities by the Contact Group and the rule of law. Efforts to build a multi-ethnic peace would play an important role in defining Kosovo's future status. The dialogue on the issue of minorities must be further heightened. Stability would only be possible through dialogue among the various communities. Reconciliation was necessary, and would require the Serbian authorities to participate in the Provisional Institutions. He shared the Secretary-General's concern regarding the pressure to persuade them from such participation. The authorities in Belgrade must encourage such participation.
The Secretary-General's report also underlined increasing tension in Kosovo, he noted. Whatever its future status, it was necessary to come up with realistic arrangements for development in northern Kosovo. Increased decentralization must ensure the rights of repressed communities. Belgrade and Pristina must work together to encourage local leaders to build trust and rule out any notion of partition. France fully supported the ongoing negotiating process under the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the future status process for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari. It was more pressing than ever for the parties to become involved in a constructive manner and demonstrate flexibility regarding Kosovo's future status. He hoped the process would result in a negotiated settlement. A solution must be found by the deadline, or before the end of 2006, in order to prevent impatience and unnecessary difficulties that would only hinder regional stability. Whatever form Kosovo's status would take, it would be founded within a European architecture. It was from that perspective that a multi-ethnic society must be engaged.
HUGO PEREYRA ( Peru) said all standards must be implemented. The final status of Kosovo must be democratic in nature, with respect for civil liberties, for religions and for minorities, and where the European vision of the region took effect. He welcomed the standards implementation process by Kosovo authorities, but deplored the fact that there were still obstacles. All parties must redouble efforts to build trust between Kosovo communities, including regarding the return of refugees, rights of minorities and other issues, such as respect for cultural heritage and the work of the working group on missing persons. All that would require the active input from all actors involved, as, otherwise, lasting peace and stability in the region could not be found.
He said that, in order to overcome the transitional phase, rebuilding the Kosovo economy within the region was important. The rule of law and political stability would gain when there was a competitive economy. Such an economy was also necessary to stem crime, as the latest incidents in the north of Kosovo could also be analyzed from the angle of the unemployment situation. He supported the political process aiming at a negotiated solution to the future status of Kosovo.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) noted that, in the past few months, as a result of the efforts of UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, the standards implementation had achieved progress in some priority areas. There were still some major challenges, however, including in the area of security and ethnic integration. The majority ethnic group bore the major responsibility for the establishment of an environment that was conducive to the harmonious coexistence of the different ethnic groups. He hoped that the Provisional Institutions, with UNMIK's help, would implement the various standards in an effective manner.
The Serbian Government and Kosovo authorities had carried out many rounds of talks, including the first high-level meeting in July, he said. That dialogue had enabled both parties to achieve some common understanding and had been essential for creating the momentum for cooperation. China welcomed such dialogue and supported efforts at achieving a solution acceptable to the parties. To achieve stability and prosperity in the region, it was necessary to hear the views of all the parties. Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity was an important principle of international law. To find an appropriate solution to the Kosovo question, it was necessary to follow the principles of the relevant Council resolutions. Both parties must be encouraged to reach a compromise solution through negotiations. He hoped the parties would continue to push the process forward for a solution to the issue.
KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said she was pleased to see that standards implementation continued across the board. All speakers agreed that substantial progress had bee made on key issues regarding minorities. All agreed also that the progress achieved needed to continue and be accelerated. A meaningful implementation of standards must be executed by Kosovo authorities and not by the international community. The Contact Group had put forward 13 priority areas for implementation, and she was encouraged that six of them had already been implemented. But, she warned that partial implementation was not enough. Laws on languages and cultural inheritance should be adopted as soon as possible.
She said her country condemned all acts of violence against Kosovo Serbs. Perpetrators of those acts should be prosecuted. But, those attacks did not alter the direction Kosovo was going in, and she called on all sides to refrain from causing tension. Integration, not isolation, was the way forward for the Kosovo community. In that regard, she appealed to Belgrade to encourage cooperation between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo authorities. The edict issued by the Serbian Coordination Centre that Kosovo Serbs should withdraw from health and education institutions was not in the interest of Kosovo's future.
The standards process was in support of the status process, she said, expressing full support for the Secretary-General's Envoy. In that regard, it was disappointing that Mr. Ahtisaari had not been mentioned in the Serbian statement. The United Kingdom remained firmly committed to the agreement and a time frame for the end of 2006. Independence was an option that could bring lasting peace. At the same time, it was up to those who strove for independence to ensure that a multi-ethnic Kosovo became a reality and took its place in Europe. The Kosovo situation was unique and distinct, and its outcome would require unique and distinct solutions.
TAKAHIRO SHINYO ( Japan) said his country recognized the importance of the so-called "bottom-up approach", which included efforts to take up "status-neutral" issues. That approach would certainly contribute to confidence-building among the parties. Reaching an agreement would not be an easy task, he said, calling upon the relevant parties to engage in the process in a flexible and constructive manner. He welcomed the holding of high-level direct talks in Vienna on 24 July, and expressed the hope that it would be the starting point for the acceleration of the process.
He encouraged the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to continue their efforts towards implementation of the standards for Kosovo. He expressed the concern that a gap in their level of implementation existed. In calling for an immediate investigation and prosecution of cases related to the 24 March riots, he said it was essential to raise the credibility of the judicial system. Increasing the outreach to minority communities by Kosovo leaders was also essential to facilitate the status process. He also expressed serious concern over the measures taken by Serbian authorities that discouraged the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the Provisional Institutions, and said Japan supported the report of the Secretary-General, which called on Belgrade authorities to remove all impediments of that kind.
PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) noted with satisfaction the high-level participation of both sides in the status process, but expressed disappointment that little common ground had been identified. He also noted with satisfaction the commitment to standards implementation. He said standards implementation was essential for the European perspective. It should be ensured that there was no semblance of double standards. Standards implementation still deserved thorough overview and attention from UNMIK. The situation in the northern part of Kosovo was of concern, especially with an increasing number of incidents targeting people and religious sites. No impunity should be tolerated and the incidents should be thoroughly investigated. That was an important element for peaceful coexistence and confidence-building.
He said the international community must retain its presence in the north of Kosovo after the status determination to address the issue of the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, especially those belonging to the Serb national minority. He welcomed the signing of the Protocol on Voluntary and Sustainable Return by both sides. He called on Belgrade to encourage the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the future status process, as well as their engagement in the political life of Kosovo. He also called on Belgrade and Pristina to allow Kosovo Serbs to exercise their rights in a way that would contribute to the positive atmosphere of the negotiation process, as well as to the stabilization of the region. It was still important to seek a balanced settlement and a compromise on future status that would reflect the objective concerns of all parties involved and would contribute to the lasting security and stability of the region.
JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER ( Qatar) said the last few months had shown an acceleration of standards implementation, as well as talks between Belgrade and Pristina. He hoped the Government of Serbia would continue to honour its commitment to put status on its list of priorities. The first meeting between the two parties had been followed by three rounds of direct talks. Those meetings, in which the Special Envoy had played an important role, had underlined the gap that existed between the opinions of the two parties on Kosovo's future status.
Effective participation of Kosovo Serbs and Albanians in all institutions was one of the conditions for reaching a solution for the future of Kosovo, and both parties had to encourage such participation. A future Kosovo would not be stable or prosperous if it were not built on multi-ethnicity. The people and government of Kosovo bore the responsibility to ensure that all communities could feel secure. The number of refugee returns was too low. Returns should be encouraged, among other things by financial commitments. All parties must do their utmost to prevent all forms of ethnic violence and to bring the perpetrators of such violence to justice.
JACKIE WOLCOTT SANDERS ( United States), welcoming the Secretary-General's new Special Representative, said Mr. Rücker had been appointed to lead UNMIK at a critical time. The United States looked forward to supporting his efforts to help UNMIK build meaningful self-government in Kosovo in accordance with Council resolution 1244. The United States also looked forward to working closely with UNMIK and Kosovo's provisional government in furthering progress on standards implementation. While progress had been made in that area, more must be done to make Kosovo a place where all communities could live freely and safely. While she applauded Prime Minister Çeku for his government's completion of several of the Contact Group's Priority Standards, ongoing efforts to complete the remaining items must be intensified, paying particular attention to passing internationally-accepted laws on languages and cultural heritage and implementing a comprehensive rental programme for housing, currently administered by the Kosovo Property Agency.
Strongly condemning the 26 August incident in north Mitrovica, she called upon all sides to reject any form of violence, and noted the importance of bringing to justice the individual or individuals responsible for the crime and other violent incidents in Kosovo. She also noted with concern recent political developments in northern Kosovo, and called upon all parties to act with restraint and in coordination with UNMIK and Mr. Ahtisaari in seeking solutions to the long-standing tensions in the region.
Belgrade must also do its part to help improve the situation in Kosovo, she said. In particular, the Government in Serbia should take immediate steps that would support Kosovo Serb participation in local institutions, return cadastral records taken from Kosovo and rescind its directive instructing many Kosovo Serbs not to accept salaries from Kosovo's government. It was incumbent upon both Pristina and Belgrade to enhance their cooperation with the Secretary-General's Special Envoy. After eight months of negotiations on technical issues, both sides must now make difficult compromises on decentralization, protection of religious and cultural heritage and community rights.
She said all possible efforts should be made to achieve a negotiated settlement in the course of 2006. Delay in resolving Kosovo's status benefited neither side and created further instability. Both sides must be realistic about the outcome of the status process. Kosovo must remain multi-ethnic and the settlement must be acceptable to the people of Kosovo. Additionally, there would be no return of Kosovo to the pre-1999 situation, no partition of Kosovo and no union of Kosovo with any other, or part of another, country.
LAZARE MAKAYAT-SAFOUESSE ( Congo) said negotiations on the future status had entered a critical phase. Progress in standards implementation had been made in response to the repeated concerns of the Council. Three months after the last meeting, the appeal of the Council for effective standards implementation seemed to have been heeded, and the Kosovo authorities had shown great commitment in that area. Today, more than before, a real effort had been made in seeking solutions to specific problems. He called on all institutions and parties to make all possible efforts to improve the situation on the ground. Such improvements were essential in the process of national reconciliation and of establishing relations of trust among minorities.
He appealed to Belgrade authorities to promote the cooperation of Kosovo Serbs in the institutions, and said the building of a multi-ethnic, democratic society offered the best condition for a lasting solution of the problem and for the stability of the region. No matter what the outcome of the future status would be, standards implementation would help in daily life. It was up to the parties to demonstrate the political will to reach a solution to the long-running conflict.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark), associating herself with the statement of the European Union, said further attention must be paid to rule of law and freedom of movement, since security incidents -- ethnically motivated or not -- undermined reconciliation and threatened progress. Also, steps taken to improve relations between the majority and minorities were welcomed, but the leadership of the Provisional Institutions must create confidence among all of Kosovo's groups, in order for them to work. That could only be achieved by outreach and willingness to compromise.
She went on to voice concern about the step taken by municipalities in northern Kosovo to end contacts with the Provisional Institutions and to set up parallel structures, because encouraging such a spirit of non-cooperation was not in anyone's best interest. Belgrade was urged to encourage the Kosovo Serb representatives to participate in both the Provisional Institutions in Pristina and the municipal bodies. Denmark steadfastly supported UNMIK, the Mission's police and KFOR, viewing Kosovo as a key regional issue. However, the integration of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia into the Euro-Atlantic institutions depended on implementation of standards and a sustainable solution to Kosovo's future status.
CÉSAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) recalled the tensions that persisted in the north and said he deplored recent incidents of violence and the cessation of contact in some municipalities between the Provisional Institutions and parallel security structures. The participation of Kosovo Serbs in the institutions of Kosovo was key to increasing their presence in the community and an opportunity for them to participate in building the conditions for the future. The Belgrade authorities should remove all impediments to that participation and should end policies discouraging it.
He said the ongoing political process had exerted a positive influence on the commitment of authorities to implementing the standards set by the international community, particularly in 5 of the 13 priorities that had been established. The Government should continue efforts, particularly in reinforcing contacts with all communities, promoting reconciliation, trust and the rule of law, and bringing to justice all those responsible for acts of violence. It should reassure by actions that all communities had a place in the future of a multi-ethnic Kosovo, regardless of status.
Without complete respect for the diversity of its people, Kosovo would never have a prosperous and peaceful future, he emphasized. The result of the process on the status of Kosovo should be acceptable to the majority, while respecting and protecting the rights of minorities. All parties should live up to historic responsibilities in negotiations and should demonstrate flexibility in respective positions. The Provisional Institutions should implement the standards vigorously.
Council President ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKAIS (Greece), speaking in his national capacity, welcomed for the first time Special Representative Rücker and thanked him for his presentation. The Secretary-General's report clearly indicated that, over the past few months, the provisional authorities had continued its efforts in the implementation of the standards. While concrete progress had been made in some areas, greater efforts were needed for the implementation of the priorities. He was particularly concerned by the lack of progress in the key area of decentralization, as well as in the area of cultural and religious heritage.
Noting that the security situation was far from satisfactory, he condemned the latest violent incident last month and reiterated the need that all such incidents be investigated and prosecuted. He condemned also the vandalism of Serbian Orthodox churches. Greece had, on many occasions, stressed the need for reconciliation as a requirement for the creation of a peaceful future. Reconciliation presupposed the involvement of Serbs and Albanians. He reiterated the need for Kosovo Serbs to engage in the process.
Regarding the ongoing political process for the determination of Kosovo's future status, he said Greece supported the Secretary-General's Special Envoy and the Vienna process. He also supported the Secretary-General's call for cooperation and compromise. The best outcome would be reached through a negotiated and mutually acceptable settlement.
KIRSTI LINTONEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, urged all the parties to cooperate fully with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in a constructive and committed manner, saying that the status quo was unsustainable and must be replaced with a solution that would provide lasting peace and stability in the region, also promoting Kosovo's European integration. The European Union fully supported UNMIK's efforts together with the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo to achieve concrete progress on standards implementation. The priority requirements were crucial to ensuring a multi-ethnic Kosovo, but it was important not to lose sight of the fact that all the standards were important. While progress in such priority areas as the functioning of democratic institutions, the rule of law and the rights of communities was encouraging, it was clear that further efforts were needed for the successful implementation of standards for Kosovo.
It was also necessary to prepare for a phased transition from a process driven by the United Nations standards to a reform based on the requirements of European integration, she continued. That gradual transition had already started. The essence of the Kosovo standards had already been integrated into the European Partnership, which would make for better monitoring and easier implementation. She also welcomed the Kosovo government's recently adopted European Partnership Action Plan.
It was a matter of concern that not all ethnic communities participated meaningfully in the Provisional Institutions, she said. The Serb community in Kosovo should be clearly and actively encouraged to participate in the Institutions, in which they could most effectively advocate their own interests.
The Union supported the efforts of the Special Envoy to engage both Belgrade and Pristina through direct talks and expert consultations on such key areas as decentralization, cultural heritage and religious sites, as well as economic and minority rights, she continued. Depending on the future status settlement, the Union's engagement in Kosovo was planned to have three main components: the Union's contribution to a possible future international civilian presence, a possible operation in the broader field of rule of law and a European Union presence related to the European perspective of Kosovo. Preparations were well under way in all those areas. For instance, the European Union Planning Team had already been deployed in Kosovo to make preparations for a possible operation in the fields of police and justice.
The European Union's objective was to ensure that Kosovo became a reliable partner, progressing together with the rest of the region towards the Union, she said. Key elements here were the creation of a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo with a sound basis for economic development and greater integration in the region. She emphasized the need for the political will and genuine commitment of all parties involved in the status negotiations. The settlement should guarantee the protection of the rights and identity of all communities in Kosovo. The focus should be on improving the daily lives of all the people of Kosovo and in providing sustainable future prospects for the whole society. Together with the Secretary-General, the Union urged all parties concerned to cease inflammatory accusations and to pursue constructive behaviour to ensure a sustainable future for Kosovo. Belgrade must play its part in achieving those aims, too. Serbia had a crucial role in the efforts to stabilize the region and to ensure its smooth integration into the Euro-Atlantic cooperation structures.
Economic progress was also essential for the creation of a tolerant, multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo, she added. To date, the European Union had provided over €2.6 billion to Kosovo. It had also financed UNMIK Pillar IV that had been assisting in the revitalization of economic activity in Kosovo and in the creation of an open-market economy attractive for foreign investments. The largest donor in Kosovo, the European Union also encouraged others to consider as a priority how they could deepen their assistance to Kosovo.
VIKTOR V. KRYZHANIVSKYI ( Ukraine) said it was clear that positive developments had taken place in Kosovo, while many problems still remained to be addressed. While welcoming progress made in strengthening the capacity of institutions, he underlined the urgent need for overall implementation of standards. As an essential condition of status, the issue of the return of Kosovo Serbs in institutions and protection of minority rights should be high on the agenda. It was disturbing that security incidents affecting Serbs continued to take place. To prevent continuation, those responsible must be brought immediately to justice.
He welcomed direct negotiation between Belgrade and Pristina on the final status, even though results achieved were not very convincing. Nevertheless, progress on technical issues had been achieved. However, effective dialogue between all Kosovo communities and engaging all stakeholders was the only way towards a final negotiated settlement, based on compromise. The future status of Kosovo should be handled by the parties involved. Any imposition by others would destabilize the region and set a dangerous precedent.
It was of concern that the Kosovo situation could be taken as a scenario by some separatist groups in Eastern Europe, he said. Despite the concerted efforts of the international community directed at the resolution of frozen conflicts, an announcement of a referendum in South Ossetia in Georgia on Transnistria in Moldova posed a threat to settlement of those conflicts. It was, therefore, important that the final Council decision on status not impose a solution, but reflect the consensus of the parties concerned.
ADRIAN NERITANI ( Albania) said that his delegation shared the Secretary-General's overall assessment that a trend of progress existed regarding protection of minorities and governance in Kosovo. The security situation was generally stable and unaffected by the process of determining Kosovo's status. He said that the implementation of many standards had been completed and those that remained were on track to meet their deadlines.
He went on to say that the adoption of the European Partnership Plan by the Kosovo Government was a new phase ensuring that standards would be implemented beyond the final status determination. He emphasized that the Kosovo Serbs and other minorities should have a decent, dignified and safe life and that they could only achieve that goal if they returned to Kosovo's democratic institutions and participated in the country's public life. The authorities in Belgrade needed to remove impediments to the engagement of Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo's institutions.
He next said that he supported continued dialog between Albanian and Serb representatives on the future status of Kosovo, as well as decentralization, rights of minorities, religious issues and cultural heritage, and wanted both sides to stay engaged with the team led by Martti Ahtisaari.
Finally, he described international involvement in the settling of Kosovo's final status as significant and indispensable, and sought a decisive solution by the end of 2006 to prevent instability and uncertainty for the entire region. Instead of a change of borders, he sought a stable and multi-ethnic situation and said the most realistic and first solution was independence with a continued civil and security presence of the international community.
Ms. RAŠKOVIĆ-IVIĆ thanked members for the discussion. The Coordinating Centre was ready to cooperate with the new Special Representative. Referring to the statement by Finland's representative on behalf of the European Union, Serbia welcomed the Union's objectives regarding Kosovo and Metohija, as well as its contribution to a possible future international civilian presence. Serbia was committed to cooperating with a new European Union mission when the time came.
On the issue of returns, she said she disagreed with the Union's statement that progress had been made. Much work remained to be done on the issue of returns. Another area was the issue of progress in the rule of law. From the Serbian point of view, there was the perception that a culture of impunity existed in Kosovo and that perception was based on realistic data. From 1999 to today, some 931 Serb and other non-Albanians had been killed. No one had been indicted or taken to court. Things were changing for the better, however.
On the issue of the non-participation of the Serb community in the local governments and Provisional Institutions, she noted that there had been local elections in 2002. Five municipalities had representatives at the local level. In 2004, there had been elections for Kosovo's Parliament. Serbs had boycotted those elections and only 811 people had voted. There were now Serb representatives, although this could not be considered legal and legitimate representation for Serbs. The key for many of the issues concerning Serbs in the region was decentralization. If that were in place, elections could be quickly organized.
Responding to comments made, Mr. RÜCKER thanked for all expressions of support and for the interventions that had highlighted many important issues. Addressing some of those issues, he said that there had been an impression that Serbia had induced, at least not stopped, the non-participation of Kosovo Serbs in past elections, thereby creating the very conditions it now deplored.
He said there had been steady improvement of freedom of movement, both in reality and in perception. The most recent assessment reported that 93 per cent of people now travelled outside their village, and that 94 per cent of those people felt safe to do so. However, the perception of security continued to be undermined by acts of intimation and rumours, among other things induced by Serbian statements that exacerbated perceptions of insecurity.
He was grateful and encouraged by the signing of the Protocol on Voluntary and Sustainable Returns, which had reaffirmed the commitment of Belgrade and Pristina to intensify the process of refugee and internally displaced persons returns. It had led to the returns of the 70 families, but much more in that respect had been done. Reasons for the slow returns included lack of jobs and lack of clarity on status.
He absolutely rejected Belgrade's accusations that UNMIK turned a blind eye to ethnic crimes in Kosovo. "Potentially ethnically motivated crimes" were monitored carefully, he said, noting that those crimes were significantly on the decline. While some crime was ethnically motivated, the great majority was not. It was irresponsible to immediately characterize crimes as ethnically motivated, before an investigation had been initiated. Regarding the March 2004 follow-up, he said 243 people had been successfully prosecuted and convicted of crimes in connection with the 2004 riots.
He declined to address individual cases that had been mentioned. It was frustrating, he said, to see allegations on individual cases mentioned in official statements that had been clarified before. The factual position on the security situation was reflected in the technical assessment annexed to the Secretary-General's report. That assessment was "as credible as it can get".
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