Press Releases

    20 December 2002



    NEW YORK, 19 December (UN Headquarters) -- Continued substantial international engagement in Kosovo would be necessary for the foreseeable future, the Security Council was told this afternoon, during a briefing on the recent four-day Council mission to Kosovo and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

    The 15-member Council team, led by Ole Peter Kolby (Norway) with representation by all Council members, concluded its visit on Tuesday, after meeting with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djinkjic and other senior officials. Members also met with representatives of the Serbian Association of Families of Missing Persons and officers of the Kosovo Police Service. Earlier Council missions to Kosovo had taken place in April 2000 and June 2001.

    Mr. Kolby pointed out that the mission had had, among its objectives, to find ways to enhance support for implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the work of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and convey a strong message to the local leaders about the need to, among other tasks, move forward with decentralization, development of democratic institutions, the rejection of all violence, and promotion of inter-ethnic inclusion.

    The mission had also had as objectives the exploration of ways to enhance cooperation between UNMIK and the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and an examination of the impact of the regional situation on the work of UNMIK.

    He provided details of the intensive programme in Kosovo and Belgrade, which began on 13 December and included meetings with representatives of the international community, Kosovo politicians, Yugoslav authorities, and civil society groups in both Pristina, Mitrovica and Belgrade. A meeting was also held with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo, Michael Steiner, at whose invitation the mission evolved.

    Members also received a briefing from the NATO-led force -- KFOR -- on the security situation. In northern Mitrovica, they were briefed on the Kosovo Trust Agency and the privatization process. They visited the Kosovo Police Service in Vucitrn, where they were briefed by the Director and the Police Commissioner, among others, and met with a multi-ethnic group of police officers. In Pristina, they met with leaders of returnees from Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities, the Municipal Assembly President in the Gnjilane municipality, as well as with representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and non-governmental organizations.

    Since the last Council mission to Kosovo, the mission had found notable progress in the implementation of resolution 1244 (1999), he said. Elections held for the Kosovo Assembly in 2001 and municipalities in 2002 had led to the formation of the provisional institutions of self-government and new municipal assemblies. The process of handing over power and responsibilities to the local institutions continued. Crime rates were down, and security was improving. The Kosovo Police Service continued to increase in numbers, and the judiciary was being re-established, both of them as multi-ethnic bodies.

    Continuing, he said although there was now a larger number of minority returnees than those leaving, overall figures of internally displace persons and refugees from minority communities returning remained low. There had been progress in the preparations for the privatization process. Cooperation between UNMIK and Belgrade had improved. The establishment of UNMIK administration in the northern part of Mitrovica had marked an important move against parallel institutions and was an important step forward for the normalization of living conditions in the city.

    The formulation of benchmarks for realization of standards was a constructive approach for the further development towards a democratic, multi-ethnic society, he said. The mission had urged the newly elected bodies to use their competencies for the benefit of all inhabitants and had stressed the importance of participation by all communities in the work of elected bodies.

    In spite of those positive developments, he said, the situation remained fragile. Much work remained to be done, covering such areas as the rule of law, sustainable return, democratic development, inter-ethnic reconciliation, and cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade. The firm establishment of the rule of law was central to achieving security, functioning democracy and sustainable economic development. Sustainable return of minorities was a precondition for a multi-ethnic society. Security, confidence-building and economic viability must all be addressed in order to achieve a significant, sustainable and successful return process. One important contribution towards reconciliation between the communities was the resolution of the fate of the missing persons from all communities.

    He said the mission had pointed out that progress achieved had been driven largely by the international community, and that local ownership and commitment had been less than expected. It was important that UNMIK make further efforts to involve the local institutions and political leaders. Greater effort must be made to promote participation in the political process. Special emphasis was given to the inclusion of, and respect for, the views and interests of all communities by the local institutions, and the mission had stressed a "result-oriented" approach through consensus. The mission had urged UNMIK, in consultation with local institutions and elected representatives, to further elaborate the proposal for a decentralization of competencies to municipalities without delay.

    In the opinion of the mission, the time had come for cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade on practical issues. The UNMIK should consider ways and means of facilitating such cooperation, and the provisional institutions of self-government should take steps to make that possible. As events in Kosovo had an impact on the surrounding region, and vice versa, the mission had pointed to the need for regional cooperation in order to, for example, effectively combat organized crime, including trafficking.

    Today's briefing will be issued as report of the Security Council (document S/2002/1376).

    Joining Mr. Kolby on the mission were: Stefan Tafrov (Bulgaria); Jagdish Koonjul (Mauritius); Adolfo Aguilar Zinser (Mexico); Gennady Gatilov (Russian Federation); Adam Thomson (United Kingdom); Richard Williamson (United States); Paul Ekorong à Dong (Cameroon); Chen Xu (China); Jose Renato Salazar (Colombia); Emmanuelle d’Achon (France); Paul Goa Zoumanigui (Guinea); John Paul Kavanagh (Ireland); Yap Ong Heng (Singapore); and Milad Atieh (Syria).

    The meeting began at 4:01 p.m. and was adjourned at 4:22 p.m.

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