Press Releases

    28 March 2002


    Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister Says ‘Trouble Ahead’
    Without Progress in 2002 on Building Institutions, Multi-Ethnic Society

    NEW YORK, 27 March (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council, meeting this morning to review the situation in Kosovo, was told of a number of positive events in the province in recent weeks, including the agreement to form a coalition Government, while also warned that progress was needed in 2002, lest the international community lose interest in a final settlement.

    Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi, who last briefed the Council on Kosovo on 25 February, reported that agreement on the formation of the coalition Government had been reached on 28 February, following months of deadlock, and had been endorsed on 4 March by more than two thirds of the Kosovo Assembly. He also highlighted the transfer yesterday of nearly 150 Albanian prisoners from Belgrade to Kosovo. Now that the Government had been formed, he added, the transfer of authority had begun and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government "must now get down to business".

    Mr. Annabi also addressed: efforts being made by the Special Representative in Kosovo, Michael Steiner, to encourage Kosovo Serb engagement in the new Government; improvement in security and freedom of movement in the province; the second weapons amnesty; progress against organized crime; and the return of refugees.

    The Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Nebojsa Covic, told the Council "we are currently in a race against time", referring to the "push" by both Kosovo Albanians and the international community to reach a final solution in the province. Mr. Covic, who is also President of the Coordination Centre of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija, worried that the international community was growing tired of investing in the Balkans, demonstrated by sharp reductions in funding and statements by various troop contributors about withdrawing all or part of their forces. Unless progress was made in 2002 among such key issues as institution-building and the transformation to a truly multi-ethnic society, trouble lay ahead, he said.

    Several Council members called for a comprehensive review of the overall situation, including the Russian representative, who warned that sluggishness towards further progress risked turning Kosovo into a "cancer of Europe". Agreement among Kosovo leaders to form the coalition Government had been a major achievement, he said, but the institutionalization of power had not advanced far enough to do the main job of guaranteeing security, particularly of non-Albanians. Moreover, the acuteness of the problem of refugees and displaced persons had not been properly valued in the 2002-2003 budget of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

    Statements were also made by the representatives of Ireland, Mauritius, Guinea, Bulgaria, Singapore, Syria, Cameroon, United Kingdom, United States, Colombia, France, Mexico, China, Norway and Spain, on behalf of the European Union.

    The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and adjourned at 1:44 p.m.


    The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Kosovo.

    Secretariat Briefing

    HEDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, updated the Council on developments since the last briefing on 25 February. Progress had been made on many of the priority issues. Among the most notable achievements had been the formation of a Government after several months of deadlock, and the transfer to Kosovo yesterday of the remaining known Albanian prisoners held in Serbian jails. The United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) efforts to foster political agreement between the three major Kosovo Albanian parties culminated on 28 February in an agreement to form a coalition Government headed by Bajran Rexhepi of the Democratic Party of Kosovo.

    He said that under that same agreement, Ibrahim Rugova of the Democratic League of Kosovo became President. Four Ministers were assigned to the League, and two each to the Democratic Party and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo. Unfortunately, the Kosovo Serb Return Coalition had not yet submitted a ministerial candidate. Mr. Covic had said in a recent media interview that he was encouraged by the agreement, which guaranteed an equal approach to all communities in Kosovo. The coalition agreement had been endorsed on 4 March by more than a two-thirds majority of the Kosovo Assembly. Shortly before the Assembly meeting, allegations of a serious nature had been made against Prime Minister-designate Rexhepi. Those were investigated by UNMIK police and the NATO-led stabilization force -- KFOR -- and found to be unsubstantiated.

    With respect to efforts to engage the Kosovo Serbs, he said that the Return Coalition had so far not nominated a candidate for its reserved Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development. It had now conditioned its participation in the Government on the allocation of one extra Ministry to the Kosovo Serbs –- that of Returns, an area reserved to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General by the Constitutional Framework. The Special Representative, Michael Steiner, had sought to accommodate the Kosovo Serb wishes and encourage their constructive engagement through creative alternatives to the establishment of an actual Ministry. It would be a great shame, after all the efforts made on all sides, if the Kosovo Serbs were to deny themselves the opportunity to participate in the Government, he said.

    Continuing, he said that the Special Representative would actively continue efforts to engage the Kosovo Serbs in the Government institutions and find a solution within the Constitutional Framework. Mr. Steiner would welcome the Council’s support in that regard. Now that the Government had been formed, the transfer of authority had begun and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government "must now get down to business". Government heads met in March to discuss the priorities of each Ministry, with the aim of drawing up a Government plan. Ministries were working on establishing their offices and recruiting members of the civil service, including members of minority communities. Mr. Rexhepi and some of his Ministers had already met with representatives of international financial institutions and donors to urge continued support for Kosovo.

    Members of the Kosovo Assembly were being trained through the Assembly Support Initiative. UNMIK was also encouraging the strong interest shown by civil society members in starting a dialogue with the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government. A key priority in the economic sector was creating jobs. The high unemployment level, at 50 per cent, particularly among young people, was a potential threat to Kosovo’s stability. Privatization was an important means of generating economic development and UNMIK was working hard to establish a favourable environment. The overall security situation had improved over the last month and the murder rate was declining. Attacks on minority communities continued, however, although the frequency in some regions had declined.

    He said that a heavy police presence, curfews in trouble spots and several arrests had had an impact on the crime situation. Overall, freedom of movement had improved, particularly in the Gnjilane area where there appeared to be more independent movement of Kosovo Serbs throughout the region. The new UNMIK Police Commissioner, Stefan Feller (Germany), took up his duties on 15 March. An important initiative under way was the second weapons amnesty, which also began on 15 March and would run until 15 April. That was the second weapons amnesty run by KFOR and UNMIK police; the first was last June. Progress had also been made in the fight against organized crime. The establishment of a "sensitive information and operations unit" within the Justice Department would help transform intelligence into evidence.

    In terms of returns, he said that plans were under way for returns to 25 different locations throughout Kosovo and a comprehensive damage assessment of 66 potential return locations had been completed. Damage to property and related infrastructure had been found to be "severe" and would require considerable financial assistance for reconstruction. At the same time, several reconciliation projects were under way in mixed municipalities. A comprehensive returns package included not only preparing the ground for returns, but also creating effective mechanisms to allow the concerned communities to participate.

    Turning to relations with Belgrade, he said that lengthy negotiations between UNMIK and Mr. Covic had culminated yesterday in the transfer to Kosovo of 146 known Albanian detainees from Serbia. Mr. Steiner was satisfied that all known detainees who had wished to return had been able to do so. On relations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, two important agreements were reached on 18 March. First was the establishment of a Joint Expert Committee to address the practical situation on the ground resulting from the border demarcation agreement between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Kosovo Government fully supports Mr. Steiner’s efforts to reduce tensions in the border area. The second agreement reached was on the need to initiate police cooperation, with the aim of establishing a Memorandum of Understanding to deal with overall crime prevention and the fight against organized crime.

    He said that Mr. Steiner had concluded that in order for the nascent Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to focus on the tasks ahead, and for UNMIK to have a clear roadmap for itself, a joint set of target objectives in key areas were needed. Work was under way to identify what realistic benchmarks could be set; he would keep the Council informed of progress. He was sure the Council would join him in welcoming the news that the Kosovo detainees had now been transferred to Kosovo. That had been a charged emotional issue and an obstacle to reconciliation since the Mission’s arrival in Kosovo. Hopefully, resolution of that matter in a way that upheld the rule of law, together with UNMIK’s continued commitment to determining the fate of missing persons, would boost inter-communal cooperation as Kosovo’s Government got down to the hard work of provisional self-government.


    NEBOJSA COVIC, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and President of the Coordination Centre of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija, first updated the Council on the situation in southern Serbia and presented some of the most recent confidence-building measures taken. Among them, municipal elections were scheduled for 15 or 16 June and 8,982 refugees had returned to their homes. More remained to be done, particularly in improving infrastructure for returning refugees and internally displaced persons and in increasing employment possibilities for everyone.

    Turning to Kosovo, he said, "the most important point that I want to leave with you is that we are currently in a race against time". Two different forces were going to be pushing harder to come to a final solution for Kosovo –- the ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and, for separate reasons, the international community, which was growing tired of investing resources and energies in the Balkans. If there was any doubt about that statement, one only had to look at the sharp reduction in funding for the Balkans for next year, or the statements by various troop contributors about withdrawing all or part of their forces.

    Unless major progress was made in key issues this year, troubles were ahead, he warned. There were two basic, inter-related tasks in Kosovo –- building institutions and building a true multi-ethnic society. Unlike the situation for ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbs of Kosovo had been given absolutely no assurances whatsoever that their language, culture, religion or way of life would definitely survive and flourish in Kosovo. On the contrary, everything depended on the whim or goodwill of UNMIK and KFOR. That was a critical flaw, as the Serbs in Kosovo had no assurances about their future.

    On the relationship between Belgrade and the Serbs in Kosovo, he noted that there were those, including many in the international community, that would prefer to build a high wall around the boundary of Kosovo with the rest of Yugoslavia. He said that if that wall continued to be built, virtually all the Serbs now in Kosovo would be on the other side of that wall, in Yugoslavia and Serbia, creating enormous social pressures and a very poisonous situation in Kosovo.

    The Coordinating Centre, he said, had demonstrated that it could play a positive role through the get-out-the-vote campaign and now on the Kosovo Albanian prisoner issue. He asked that it be assisted to continue to do so by working with it on enhanced refugee return from Yugoslavia to homes in Kosovo, freedom of movement for all in Kosovo, bringing an end to standoffs and confrontations with UNMIK and KFOR in Mitrovica, and a comprehensive programme to locate the missing on all sides.

    GERARD CORR (Ireland) said he fully agreed with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union. He welcomed recent developments, including the elections and formation of a Government, but remained concerned at the continued difficulties regarding the participation of the Kosovo Serb coalition in the new Government. He therefore called on the Kosovo Serb leaders to rapidly resolve that new impasse. He greatly appreciated the facilitation efforts of Special Representative Steiner in that regard, but insisted that, ultimately, the political leaders must take responsibility for the development of a genuine political dialogue -– both within and between Kosovo’s communities.

    He said that a meaningful dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade was essential to achieving the objectives outlined by Special Representative Steiner. The Common Document signed by Belgrade and UNMIK last November provided the framework for such discussions, but it was crucial now for Kosovo’s elected leaders to participate in the High-Ranking Working Group and enhance that dialogue. He welcomed the creation of a joint expert committee by UNMIK and the authorities of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to address practical problems on the ground and hoped that the Committee could resolve practical issues in a pragmatic way to reduce tensions in the border zone.

    The slow rate of Kosovo Serb returns was worrying and was far outpaced by the continued rate of departures, he said. He encouraged the early development of a framework of economic and other measures to increase the numbers resettling and remaining in Kosovo. That was key to reconciliation. Also welcome had been the transfer of Kosovo Albanian prisoners by the Belgrade authorities to UNMIK and the release of those whom the Mission had already determined to have legally invalid convictions. At the same time, the fight against organized crime must be an absolute priority for the Kosovo authorities. Without steps to combat crime, democracy could not take effective hold.

    He said his country strongly believed that the successful development of Kosovo would help to ensure peace and stability in south-east Europe. Its path, at a speed that only Kosovo, itself, could determine, was part and parcel of European integration. That depended on building a truly democratic and multi-ethnic society. Ireland, along with its European Union partners, would continue to support greater integration and regional cooperation through the Stability Pact and the stabilization and association process.

    BIJAYEDUTH GOKOOL (Mauritius) welcomed the agreement reached on the provisional Government in Kosovo as well as the choice of a President, which showed the good will of all parties towards building a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. He expressed his gratitude to Special Representative Steiner for his efforts to facilitate dialogue with the parties. He was happy to note that all the ingredients were now in place for the provisional Government to begin its functions and take over from UNMIK. The reins were now in the hands of the Kosovo leaders. The agreement reached last month contained the right mix of all the necessary components to ensure the smooth functioning of the Government, including the free and equal treatment of all inhabitants of Kosovo without discrimination and measures to foster rapid economic development. However, it was one thing to agree on paper and another to implement measures.

    Kosovo needed the full engagement of the donor community, he stressed. He called on all donors to sustain their assistance to the province. Also, he welcomed the decision of the provisional Government to adopt the necessary legislation and to create conditions for a market economy and attract foreign investment. Private direct investment would open up opportunities for the people and positively contribute to creating a stable society. He added that the total elimination of arms and ammunition was vital for creating a secure environment in Kosovo. He encouraged the leaders of the provisional Government to enhance dialogue with Belgrade.

    BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) said that he was gratified at the news of the appointments of the President and Prime Minister of the province. That decision had been an important step forward in implementing the relevant Security Council resolutions. He also welcomed the coming into force of a new weapons programme to retrieve illegally held weaponry through a promise of amnesty. The success outcome of any stabilization programme in Kosovo depended on a reconciliation programme that was based on tolerance and respect, taking into consideration the interests of all Kosovars.

    He said he supported the creation of an inter-ethnic consortium that was due to take over for the World Food Programme (WFP) at the end of the month. The question of delimiting the border between Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also deserved consideration. He appealed to all parties to turn to dialogue as a means of finding a negotiated solution that benefited everyone. He was pleased that the question of detainees in the Serbian Republic had been settled.

    SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) welcomed the specific measures taken by Belgrade to promote implementation of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). The situation was developing quickly, but not always in the direction outlined by the Council. In that connection, the intention of the international community regarding a settlement should not lag, lest the progress achieved so far be turned into a cancer of Europe. One important job had been resolved, namely the breaking of the political deadlock caused by the inability of Kosovo leaders to agree among themselves on the top posts. Clearly, the institutionalization of power in those organs had not advanced far enough to do the main job, which was guaranteeing security, particularly of non-Albanians.

    He said that the efforts of the international presence should be focused on creating the right conditions of security and equality for all inhabitants of the province. Although some positive change had occurred, the international presence still had a lot of problems to confront, as confirmed by today’s statements. The return of refugees and displaced persons had been inadmissibly delayed. Their return would be one of the important criteria by which to assess the readiness to hold the new municipal elections planned for September. He was concerned that the European Commission had postponed the donor conference to raise money for returning refugees. Planned for April, the postponement to October or November, after the planned date of elections, would make it more difficult for UNMIK to prepare for them.

    Moreover, the acuteness of the refugee and displaced persons problem was not being properly valued in UNMIK’s budget for 2002-2003. That process and the creation of normal conditions for national minorities was a priority task of the Mission, but the budget had not reflected that. Hopefully, that situation could be redressed as a matter of urgency. Other prior tasks of UNMIK and KFOR had included the creation of conditions in the province of a multi-ethnic society and an inter-communal dialogue, robust action against crime, completion of the disarmament and demobilization of former combatants, and the ceasing of all attempts to give the Kosovo protection corps a military role. With respect to cooperation between UNMIK and Belgrade, Belgrade should be a partner in defining the priorities, in the context of implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999).

    Continuing, he said that the vital tasks of establishing a market economy through privatization, the return of the displaced persons and refugees, and other jobs, must be resolved in close consultation with the Yugoslav authorities. Joint actions of UNMIK, Belgrade and Skopja should be set up to provide speedy implementation of the border delimitation of 23 February 2001, and UNMIK should take the initiative. He supported the efforts of both UNMIK and KFOR in trying to reduce the large numbers of illegal weapons and explosives "drifting around the province". Ideally, all of those should be completely destroyed. Current efforts so far had not been good enough, given the present level of political extremism in Kosovo. With the onset of spring, those groups might become more active. The overall situation, which posed a regional threat, deserved the Council’s attention. Perhaps it could hold a comprehensive review of the situation in April.

    STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) said that his country saw the elections of 4 March as an encouraging step forward for the reconstruction of the country and the establishment of the rule of law. He appealed to the newly elected leadership to act responsibly. It was important that they respected international agreements on Kosovo. He was gratified at the cooperation between UNMIK and the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which were of utmost importance for improving the security situation. He welcomed the transfer of the Kosovo Albanian prisoners to Pristina and thanked Mr. Covic for his personal involvement in that matter. He was also gratified at the decision to set up a joint centre between UNMIK and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and supported measures taken by UNMIK to combat organized crime in all its forms. Additional resources would have to be earmarked to improve the effectiveness of those activities.

    His country supported the international community in its efforts to find an appropriate response to the funding of vital projects for Kosovo, he said. In that regard, he expected that the donor conference would provide resources in a concrete manner. He emphasized the importance of the strategy developed by the European Union and the World Bank to make it possible to reduce Kosovo’s dependence on outside assistance. Bulgaria would continue to allocate resources and participate in collective peace consolidation activities. Over the last few months, a budding, albeit timid, tolerance had been seen in the province, which he welcomed. He continued to support the emergence of a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo. Only UNMIK’s and KFOR’s presence could make it possible to guarantee security in the province on a daily basis. Only a European perspective towards the entire region could provide a response to the long-term problems of Kosovo.

    KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said that Mr. Covic had made a very strong statement, which deserved the Council’s attention. Specifically, Council members should discuss whether they shared Mr. Covic’s evaluation and why, or why not. There was a real paradox in any discussion of the Kosovo issue. Although it had been discussed more regularly than perhaps any other issue, those discussions had only provided snapshots of the situation, with no clear indication of a "trend line" as to which way things were going. It was important to figure out the trend line, especially in view of today’s remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister. Otherwise, the media would do that job. One newspaper had already compared troop contributors and other figures for both Kosovo and Afghanistan and concluded that the latter was coming up short.

    Clearly, he said, if the Council did not arrive at its own assessments, it would face the assessments made by others. It was useful, therefore, to step back and take a long view of what was being accomplished in Kosovo. As he had stated during the last debate on the situation in January, a regular review of UNMIK’s activities was needed, especially in view of the fact that its mandate was indefinite in terms of duration. There was the need, over time, to devise an exit strategy that ensured that Kosovo was left in good fashion. He had been encouraged by the remarks made by Ambassador Lavrov that it was time for a comprehensive survey of the situation. He would welcome Mr. Steiner at such a review.

    MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) expressed his satisfaction at the election by the Kosovo Assembly of Mr. Rugova and the provisional Government. It was an important first step in implementing Council resolution 1244 (1999) and would allow the transitional entities in Kosovo to undertake their missions in accordance with the constitutional framework and strengthen dialogue among all parties. Also, he hoped that all communities would be treated fairly and equally in the society and in representation in the Government. He reaffirmed the importance of giving attention to security conditions, which would require the redoubling of efforts and contribute to the social and economic development of all segments of Kosovo society. In addition, he welcomed the initiative of releasing Albanian prisoners to Pristina.

    He said that the minorities of Kosovo must be represented equitably if security was to prevail in Kosovo. He expressed satisfaction at the declining rate of murders, as well as at the measures taken for amnesty on weapons possession. He also supported Mr. Steiner’s efforts to maintain the rule of law and implement resolution 1244 (1999) in a comprehensive manner. He hoped to hear a detailed statement by him in April on the state of progress in Kosovo.

    MARTIN BELINGA EBOUTOU (Cameroon) agreed with the need for a comprehensive survey of the situation. His country had noted the request for multilateral assistance to establish a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo and to preserve the existence of the province. He had formerly stated that some actions deserved priority in order to preserve the achievements made thus far towards a revival of life there. Those had included strengthening security, disarming all armed groups, and encouraging the return of all minorities. Those actions were top priorities because they could preserve the very existence of Kosovo by preserving its unity. He welcomed the progress described by Mr. Annabi in the context of those priority actions.

    He said that the first had been the formation of a coalition Government. That was extremely important as a demonstration that the message of the 17 November 2001 elections had finally been heeded, namely that in order to govern Kosovo, inclusion and not exclusion was needed. He therefore called upon all parties to participate in the Government and he commended Mr. Steiner’s imagination in producing the desired result. Also, all parties should comply with all territorial agreements, as that was essential for regional peace and security. The continued violence and crime, which still caused terror and desolation, was regrettable. In that context, he welcomed the anti-crime campaign begun on 18 March. He also welcomed the weapons amnesty programme, as well as the transfer of prisoners to Kosovo.

    STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) welcomed the positive developments that had taken place since the last briefing, especially the election of the President and the Government by the Kosovo Assembly, which constituted a great step forward for stability in the province and the entire region. It was clearly in the interest of the Serbian community to play their full part in that endeavour. He also welcomed the transfer of Kosovo Albanian prisoners, which was an important step in building trust between the two communities. He looked forward to the completion of the process of the review of sentences. The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was essential to regional stability. Both sides needed to engage positively to effectively represent the interest of all communities, including making progress on the 2001 Common Document. Their cooperation was particularly needed with regard to the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Mr. Covic had an important role to play in that process.

    He said extremism, violence and organized crime were regional problems and needed regional solutions. While he welcomed the existing cooperation between all actors, he noted that it needed to be intensified to ensure that criminals had nowhere to run. In that connection, he was keen for the number of Kosovo police officers to be increased. He agreed with Mr. Covic that the two key areas to focus on were the building of institutions and a multi-ethnic society. He added that it was important to recognize the importance of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.

    JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) applauded the people of Kosovo on the establishment of their Government and President. He encouraged the new leaders to address the many difficult issues that the Government would now have to face. Their recent statements regarding the rule of law, enhancing security and ensuring the rights of minorities were encouraging, and he urged them to follow through on them.

    He was pleased about the transfer of Albanian prisoners to Pristina and hoped that that long-awaited action would promote further improvement in the situation in Kosovo. In that regard, it was disappointing that Kosovo Serbs had so far resisted participation in the Government. The central challenge for the new Government would be to create an atmosphere of trust for all in Kosovo. A visible Government role for Serbs was necessary to accomplish that.

    Privatization and other economic priorities, he said, were key to speeding up the return of refugees and internally displaced persons and the best basis for building a democratic and multi-ethnic society in Kosovo. A great deal remained to be done, but he was encouraged by the progress Mr. Steiner and UNMIK had been able to make over the last month.

    JOSÉ NICOLAS RIVAS (Colombia) said that in the past month some very important events had occurred for Kosovo and the region. He urged that efforts be concentrated on building new institutions. He was concerned about the Serbian participation in the Government. Hopefully, they would accept some of the options put forth by Special Representative Steiner. At the same time, the Deputy Prime Minister should intercede in negotiations to ensure Serbian participation. He lauded the agreement reached between Belgrade and UNMIK that had led to the transfer yesterday of more than 150 prisoners. That was an example of the goodwill that had developed between UNMIK and the Belgrade authorities.

    He said that, with respect to the border demarcation agreement, the high-level working group of the Committee should strive to resolve the problems arising between farmers and livestock owners. The Committee’s work should be conveyed to the new authorities in Kosovo, in order to avoid misunderstanding and ensure compliance. Regarding relations between Belgrade and Kosovo, he had emphasized the need to establish transparency and cooperation through the new Special Representative. Mr. Covic had been a useful contributor to developing those relations, but there were still several issues on which the two Governments were far apart. Only through cooperation would the safety of a multi-ethnic society be ensured. He also supported the Russian representative’s proposal for a comprehensive review in April.

    JEAN DAVID LEVITTE (France) said that the election of Mr. Rugova to the Presidency and the creation of the coalition Government were the most significant developments of past weeks. He welcomed the personal contributions made by Mr. Steiner in that regard. He noted that much more remained to be done. The Government must involve itself in the details of the day-to-day running of the province and ensure the welfare of its people. The Government must carry out public activities to the benefit of all, including the minority communities. Everything must be done to improve the lot of the minority communities and bring down the high emigration rate. The subject of return should be given constant attention and the mobilization of everyone around that cause was essential.

    He believed it was important that the agreement of 5 November 20001 be fully implemented. The outcome of that agreement could already be seen with the transfer of the last Albanian prisoner to Kosovo. He looked forward to seeing Mr. Covic’s involvement in the continued implementation of that agreement. The agreement of 14 March in Belgrade relating to the relations between Serbia and Montenegro would help to strengthen stability in south-eastern Europe. He welcomed the political courage of the signatories.

    ROBERTA LAJOUS (Mexico) said that the message today had been clear -- "time was short and we must advance on two fronts, building the institutions and constructing a multi-ethnic society". That signaled a very delicate phase, namely the transfer of responsibility for local administration to the local authorities, within the existing Constitutional Framework. It must be borne in mind, however, that there was a long road ahead, but hopefully that would be trod in the near future. Meanwhile, the province was one of the most backward areas in economic terms and things still needed to be done to bring about the full establishment of the rule of law, for which the political will and maturity of all actors was indispensable.

    He said that a harmonious Kosovo implied trust among all inhabitants, as a prerequisite to full respect for democracy and human rights. Indeed, trust was the basis of a strong and prosperous Kosovo. He had noted efforts made by UNMIK to bring back Albanian prisoners from Serbia, as well as measures to set free prisoners with invalid sentences. The international community was closely watching the activities of UNIMK and related organs with respect to the province's security. He encouraged the Mission and all international agencies there to continue their fruitful work for peace and security. He welcomed the proposal made by some delegations to have Mr. Steiner address the Council, particularly with respect to border issues with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

    ZHANG XIAO’AN (China) endorsed the views expressed by Mr. Covic. The top priorities for Kosovo were the building of institutions and a multi-ethnic society. The transfer of prisoners would facilitate national reconciliation and mutual trust. Recently, the overall situation had remained stable and progress had been made in the political realm.

    While progress had been made, it should be noted that organized crime remained a serious matter, he said. As a result, there had been no improvement in security in minority areas and the return of ethnic minorities was slow. He hoped that the coalition Government would strictly implement resolution 1244 (1999) so as to establish a harmonious and multi-ethnic society in Kosovo. He welcomed the efforts made by Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to address their border issues. He hoped the parties would effectively honour and implement resolution 1244 (1999) and continue efforts for peace and stability and the economic development of the Balkan region.

    Council President OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway), speaking in his national capacity, said he appreciated the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister and had welcomed the election of a President and a provisional Government in Kosovo as a major step towards implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999). For the Kosovo structure to function effectively, cooperation was needed among the elected representatives, UNMIK, and Belgrade. Dialogue between all parties would help ensure full Serbian participation. In that regard, he encouraged Mr. Covic to work constructively with Kosovo leaders. That cooperation could be further developed and the high-ranking working group could be used for constructive dialogue.

    He said that the decline in crime and murder over the past year was reason for optimism, but not complacency. The security situation for ethnic minorities remained a concern; strengthened law and order in Kosovo was a priority, as that affected the whole population. Organized crime and illegal trafficking was a great concern, not only for Kosovo, but for the entire region. He also supported the weapons amnesty programme and urged Kosovo leaders to work with UNMIK for its success. The return of internally displaced persons was another important challenge, and the condition must be created for their sustained return. Also, the new provisional Government must respect the border demarcation agreement of February 2001, and the elected representatives in the Assembly must strictly abide by Council resolution 1244 (1999), as well as the Constitutional Framework.

    INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus, Turkey, Iceland and Liechtenstein, welcomed the election by the Kosovo Assembly of Mr. Rugova as President of Kosovo and the establishment of a Government, which marked an important step forward in the implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999). He congratulated Mr. Steiner for his success in brokering an agreement on the formation of the Government, and supported his intention to hold municipal elections on 21 September.

    He concurred with Mr. Steiner’s objective to tackle the challenges of laying the foundation for economic progress, establishing a political culture based on the rule of law, including the fight against crime and violence, and building a fair and just society with dignity for all. He called on all the parties to cooperate fully with UNMIK and KFOR in pursuing those objectives.

    If Kosovo was to have a European future, he said, it must be a Kosovo with a democratic multi-ethnic society based on the rule of law, and dignity and freedom of movement for all communities. He encouraged the newly established provisional institutions, as well as community leaders, to do their utmost to achieve those goals, with the assistance of UNMIK, the European Union and the international community at large. The Union remained committed to providing economic and political support to Kosovo. It was by far the biggest contributor to the reconstruction of the province, where assistance was provided in areas such as economic, fiscal and monetary policy and management, and the building of local capacity.

    Mr. COVIC took the floor again and indicated that a question had been asked indirectly with respect to the participation of Serbs in the Government of Kosovo. That would be up to the deputies of the Povratak Coalition. What they wanted was to be "real partners and not window dressing". The way it had been presented had confused the deputies, who said they not been part of any consultation or agreement. Mr. Steiner had held several talks with them and it had become clear that it was necessary to hold more consultations, in order to help preserve their unity.

    He said that the deputies in the Povratak Coalition had not been advised about the agreement with the Albanian leaders until after it was signed, and only after the ministerial positions had been assigned. It was important to understand that the Serbs had had very different experiences in Kosovo. The Serbs in Kosovo and from Kosovo had different opinions, and neither he nor the Belgrade authorities had ever planned to block the participation of the Serb deputies in the Kosovo Government. Their participation had been blocked by the situation, including the demographics of the population.

    In order to help the Serbs survive in Kosovo as part of a truly multi-ethnic society, it was absolutely essential that progress be made in their return, he said. He had heard Mr. Annabi's argument and he was prepared, upon his return to Belgrade, to consult with the deputies of the Povratak Coalition and further clarify their position, but the final decision was up to them. At the same time, security concerns must not be permitted to drive the return process or discourage potential returnees.

    He said that the Belgrade authorities were fully prepared to provide UNMIK and KFOR with all necessary assistance in overcoming those obstacles and improving the return process. The Deputies of the Povratak Coalition were grateful for the offer of the position of Minister of Agriculture, but had asked him to convey the message that that position was of no importance whatsoever for the future and survival of the Serbs in Kosovo. He asked the Council for its support in doing everything possible to encourage the Serbs to join the Kosovo Government. He promised to do his part, short of pressuring them.

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