7 February 2003

Security Council, in Presidential Statement, Reaffirms Commitment to Multi-Ethnic, Democratic Kosovo

Speakers Focus on Primacy of Standards to Ensure Needs of People Over Determination of Final Status

NEW YORK, 6 February (UN Headquarters) -- Addressing the situation in Kosovo in two meetings today, the Security Council focused on the need to create jobs, ensure security and achieve real multi-ethnicity and transfer of power there, stressing that standards in ensuring the needs of the people should have precedence over the determination of the final status of Kosovo.

Through a statement read out by its President, Gunther Pleuger of Germany, the Council called for the authority of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to be respected throughout Kosovo. Noting the transformation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia into Serbia and Montenegro earlier this month, it also reaffirmed that resolution 1244, establishing the Mission, remained fully valid in all its aspects.

That statement was made following a briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo and Head of UNMIK, Michael Steiner, who said that it was crucially important for the Council to remain in charge of Kosovo until the main objectives set out in resolution 1244 had been fulfilled. Any engagement by the international community must be matched by equal engagement of local partners in fulfilling the standards of a functioning democratic society, however.

While many politicians were working hard in the provisional institutions all over Kosovo, he was concerned that for different reasons, and with opposite ideas of what the resolution should be, some in Pristina and Belgrade now seemed to agree on a "status first" approach, he said. What actually counted on the ground was improving the quality of life by delivering on the standards, or benchmarks. That focus in no way precluded opening direct talks on issues of mutual interest between Pristina and Belgrade, which should start as soon as possible.

The European Union was expected to outline a more energetic strategy towards the Balkans at its Thessaloniki Summit on 21 June, he added. Coming Monday, a Permanent Mission from the Council of Europe would begin its work on the issues of self-government and decentralization.

In their statements following Mr. Steiner's presentation, members of the Council noted recent achievements in Kosovo, which included the formation of provisional self-government institutions and the transfer to them of certain competencies of the Mission; a reduction in crime rates; and the establishment of a trained local police force. Condemning recent violence both within the Kosovo Albanian community and against the minorities, including Kosovo Serbs, speakers stressed the importance of continuing international efforts in Kosovo and the need to ensure security there. The issue of refugees and internally displaced persons was mentioned among the remaining challenges.

Statements were made by the following Council members: France, Bulgaria, Mexico, Chile, Angola, China, Syria, Pakistan, United States, Russian Federation, Cameroon, Guinea, Spain and Germany. Also addressing the Council were representatives of Serbia and Montenegro, Greece (on behalf of the European Union) and Norway.

The first meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m. and adjourned at 12.55 p.m., with the second one beginning immediately afterwards and ending at 1.04 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the Presidential Statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/2003/1, reads as follows:

"The Security Council reaffirms its continued commitment to the full and effective implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). The Council notes the transformation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia into Serbia and Montenegro and, in this context, reaffirms that resolution 1244 remains fully valid in all its aspects. Resolution 1244 continues to be the basis of the international community's policy on Kosovo.

"The Security Council further reaffirms its commitment to the objective of a multiethnic and democratic Kosovo and calls upon all communities to work towards this goal and actively participate in the public institutions as well as the decision-making process, and integrate into society. It condemns all attempts to establish and maintain structures and institutions as well as initiatives that are inconsistent with resolution 1244 and the Constitutional Framework. The Council calls for the authority of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to be respected throughout Kosovo, and welcomes the establishment of UNMIK's authority in the northern part of Mitrovica. It encourages the establishment of direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on issues of practical importance to both sides.

"The Security Council condemns the violence within the Kosovo Albanian community, as well as the violence against the Kosovo Serb community. It urges local institutions and leaders to exert influence on the climate for the rule of law by condemning all violence and actively supporting the efforts of the police and the judiciary. It underlines the responsibility of the majority to make the minority communities feel that Kosovo is their home too, and that the laws apply equally to everyone. The minority community representatives must join and work within the institutions to benefit from them. The Council stresses that all communities must make renewed efforts to inject momentum into improving inter-ethnic dialogue and promoting the reconciliation process, not least through full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

"The Security Council welcomes the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of UNMIK and recent developments in Kosovo (S/2003/113) and the briefing of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the status of implementation of the benchmarks for Kosovo. The Council reiterates its full support for the "Standards before Status" policy with postulated targets in the eight key areas: functioning of the democratic institutions, the rule of law, freedom of movement, the return of refugees and IDPs, economy, property rights, dialogue with Belgrade, and the Kosovo Protection Corps. The Council welcomes the presentation of a detailed plan for its implementation that will provide the appropriate baseline against which progress can be measured, as discussed with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General during the Council's Mission in December 2002. The fulfilment of these targets is essential to commencing a political process designed to determine Kosovo's future, in accordance with resolution 1244. The Council strongly rejects unilateral initiatives which may jeapordise stability and the normalisation process not only in Kosovo but also in the entire region. It urges all political leaders in Kosovo and in the region to shoulder responsibility for democratisation, peace and stability in the region by rejecting all initiatives contravening resolution 1244. The Council rejects any attempts to exploit the question of the future of Kosovo for other political ends.

"The Security Council welcomes progress made in 2002, as outlined in the Secretary-General's report. It supports the Special Representative of the Secretary-General's continued efforts including in such priority areas as revitalizing the economy through investment, combating crime and illegal trafficking, and building a multiethnic society, while ensuring conditions for the sustainable return of refugees and IDPs.

"The Security Council welcomes the Special Representative of the Secretary-General 's intention to transfer remaining competencies to the Provisional Institutions of Self Government (PISG) by the end of the year, except those reserved for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General under resolution 1244. It calls on the Kosovo PISG as well as all Kosovars to take on their responsibilities and genuinely cooperate for this transfer to be successful.

"The Security Council reiterates its full support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and urges Kosovo´s leaders once again to work in close cooperation with UNMIK and the international Security Presence (KFOR) for a better future for Kosovo and stability in the region."


Before the Council today for its consideration of the situation in Kosovo was a report of the Secretary-General (document S/2003/113), which covers the activities of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and developments in Kosovo, since his report of 9 October 2002.

The Secretary-General finds that significant achievements were made towards the end of 2002, including Kosovo's second municipal elections and the beginning of the handover to local control of the electoral process, the extension of UNMIK's authority to northern Mitrovica, and the appointment of judges and prosecutors from minority communities. These last two issues illustrated the benefits of constructive dialogue with the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro). During a visit to Pristina last November, the Secretary-General had encouraged the leadership of the Provisional Institutions to begin a direct dialogue with the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro) on issues of practical importance to both sides. It is hoped that Belgrade will do its part in promoting dialogue.

According to the report, Kosovo is still a considerable way from reaching the individual benchmarks and targets set out in the benchmarks matrix. A year after the formation of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, much remains to be done to build effective, representative, transparent and accountable institutions with meaningful participation of minority community representatives in the civil service. Much energy has been spent challenging the authority of the Special Representative and seeking additional powers. It is important that the Kosovo leadership recognize that, in order to gain additional competencies, they first need solid accomplishments for the benefit of all communities in the areas for which they do have responsibility under the Constitutional Framework. The principle of "standards before status" stands. The Provisional Institutions, political leaders, civil servants, civil society and general population should recommit to the benchmarks and make them their own.

A functioning, representative Assembly is a prerequisite for progress, the report says further. The decision of the Return Coalition to go back to the Assembly is welcomed. It is important that the Kosovo Serb community addresses its concerns through full participation in Kosovo's legitimate institutions. The introduction of formal monitoring of Assembly proceedings is a positive step. It is hoped that the majority of Assembly members, particularly those in the Assembly presidency, will do their part in creating a parliamentary climate that is conducive to cooperation and respect for the views of the representatives of all communities. Indeed, this applies to all institutions at the central and municipal levels.

The report also says that fighting crime and promoting acceptance of the rule of law remain significant challenges. The Secretary-General is concerned at the violence among the Kosovo Albanian community, as well as the persistent violence against the Kosovo Serb community. This is one area where the local institutions and their leaders can exert influence on the climate for the rule of law by condemning all violence and vocally supporting the efforts of the police and judiciary. The Secretary-General reminded the representatives of the Provisional Institutions during his last visit to the region that the majority has a special responsibility to make the minority communities feel that Kosovo is their home too and that the laws apply equally to all.

The Secretary-General also says that he asked the minority community representatives to join in and work within the institutions in order to be able to gain the benefits that are being offered. At the start of 2003, it is clear that both the majority and minority communities must make renewed efforts to inject new momentum into improving inter-ethnic dialogue and promoting the reconciliation process. Courageous steps are now needed on all sides if the positive developments of 2002 are to be consolidated. In particular, the Secretary-General hopes that, with the generous support of Member States, this year will see significant advances in returns.

Statement by Special Representative

Briefing the Council, MICHAEL STEINER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission there, said that during his last week's visit to Ferizaj/Urosevac, the third largest town in Kowovfo, Peje/Pec in the west and Mitrovice/Mitrovica in the north, he had heard pleas for secure jobs, an end of corruption, peace and an end to crime. Aware of those needs, many politicians were working hard in the provisional institutions all over Kosovo. However, he was concerned that others in Pristina were becoming more assertive about status and status-related competencies, not concentrating enough on the real bread-and-butter issues.

At the same time, Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic had now changed course in Belgrade by also calling for an early resolution of Kosovo's status and requested the return of the Serbian State to Kosovo, he continued. As the international community was concentrating on standards, on what the people wanted, politicians were focusing on status. Two contrasting moves had also become evident on the part of Kosovo Serbs. It was good that Coalition Povratak would be back in the Assembly after months of boycott, as Serb interests in Kosovo could be best represented through legitimate institutions. The second move, a unilateral step to set up a union of Serb municipalities in the north of Kosovo was having a damaging effect on those interests. The union was based on mono-ethnicity. It had no legal relevance, but it undermined work on decentralization by the Council of Europe, which would be starting its mission in Kosovo coming Monday.

"In the light of these developments, how does UNMIK address the challenges of 2003?" he asked. While the Kosovo people and the international community could be proud of many accomplishments in the last 12 months, it was necessary to move further. The focus needed to be on such issues as the setting of standards, jobs, security and real multi-ethnicity and transfer of power. The focus on standards in no way precluded opening direct talks between Pristina and Belgrade. On the contrary, dialogue with Belgrade was one of the eight benchmarks, and, as the Secretary-General had said, talks on issues of mutual interest should start as soon as possible.

While there was general agreement on the goals, Kosovo institutions had not yet engaged with the benchmarks of accomplishment with sufficient vigour, he said. Albanian politicians claimed that Kosovo had already achieved the standards. The standards to be met must, of course, be realistic and seen against the region's performance. However, as the Security Council mission had stressed in December, Kosovo was still a long way from having truly functioning democratic institutions and a society where minorities could fully participate. Obviously, the institutions could not be expected to deliver in areas where they did not have instruments, but public figures could and should be held accountable for a sustained effort to promote the values of the rule of law, for example.

The strategy of UNMIK was to focus on the standards that were required for a decent life in Kosovo, on what people actually wanted, he stressed. The priorities for 2003 included the economy, multi-ethnicity and the fight against crime. Overall levels of serious crime had declined significantly in 2002, and the Mission was intensifying its attack against organized crime, corruption and politically and ethnically motivated violence. Members of the Kosovo Police Service would use their new skills to participate in the most sensitive areas of the fight against serious and organized crime. He was also pleased that Italy's Guardia di Finanza had now begun its work in the new Financial Investigation Unit to fight corruption and fraud.

Regarding the economy, he said that unemployment continued to be the number one concern, but jobs could be increased only by attracting investment. That required confidence on behalf of investors that their money would not be lost. Together with the government, he would seek to do everything possible to develop the legal system, the institutions and the basis for property rights that were needed to generate investor confidence. The privatization process would be key in that respect.

He also expressed concern about ethnically defined interest politics on the part of both Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, as well as by Belgrade. "We cannot allow parallel structures to operate", he said. "This is also the reason that we established the UNMIK Administration-Mitrovica on 25 November and are introducing the Kosovo Police Service in the northern part of the town. While more remained to be done, after three and a half years, the international community was now in control where it had heard of nothing but the Bridge Watchers in the past. Belgrade had been helpful on Mitrovica, but in other areas it continued to support parallel structures, operating on a mono-ethnic basis. While insisting that Kosovo was part of Serbia, in reality Belgrade focused exclusively on only 10 per cent of Kosovo's population. The majority Albanian community in Kosovo had equally failed to take ownership of the interests of the Serb community and other minorities, which were still being harassed.

The UNMIK was working hard to create the conditions for increased returns, he said, and more returns would be possible in 2003. The minority rights and returns needed to be supported also by the Provisional Institutions with budget appropriations and concrete programmes. Kosovo must prove that it was creating a multi-ethnic society where every Kosovar regardless of ethnic origin could live in security and dignity.

Regarding the transfer of powers, he said it was good that the Assembly and the other institutions wanted to take on responsibility. He was ready to hand over all competencies he legally could by the end of this year to the Provisional Institutions. The municipalities now had more than two years' experience of running local affairs. On the central level, UNMIK was carrying out a review of how effectively it had actually handed over real responsibility in the transferred areas. It also sought to identity together with the Provisional Institutions all further areas that could be transferred this year. The main principle would be effective empowerment, through which it was important to make sure that the transfer of authority did not take the form of the international community simply abandoning the Kosovo political structures, losing sight of resolution 1244 (1999). There were also certain things he could not fully transfer to the local institutions. He was mandated to act as guarantor for the equal rights and fair treatment of minorities. He would also retain authority for external relations.

He concluded that he did not believe that 2003 was the time for finally solving Kosovo's status, but it was time to lay the groundwork for the political process, which, in the end, would determine status. Dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on practical issues of mutual interest was necessary in itself and would help enable political dialogue further down the line. Indeed, paragraph 11(e) of resolution 1244 mandated him to promote such a process.

Yet, it was crucially important that the Council remained in charge of Kosovo until the main objective set out in resolution 1244 had been fulfilled, he said. The European Union was expected to outline a more energetic strategy towards the Balkans at its Summit on 21 June. Any engagement by the international community must be matched by equal engagement of local partners in fulfilling the standards of a functioning democratic society. The standards were about jobs, security and multi-ethnicity, and that was what people in Kosovo wanted.

Statements by Council Members

MICHEL DU CLOS (France) said he fully associated himself with the statement to be made later in the meeting on behalf of the European Union. Unilateral initiatives undertaken by some in Kosovo and in the region concerning Kosovo's future would likely undermine and destabilize the situation in Kosovo and throughout the Balkans. He deplored the project of some members of the Kosovo Assembly to pass a declaration concerning the future status of the province in contradiction with Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). Those developments, which had countered expectations, strengthened his commitment to applying the benchmarks and standards. Meeting them was a precondition to addressing the question of final status.

He expressed particular support for efforts to be made in establishing the rule of law, which went hand in hand with democracy. He also voiced support for the activities of the Secretary-General and the Special Representative and the priorities that had been set to combat crime, and promote economic recovery and the building of a multi-ethnic society. Underscoring the importance of continued endeavours to bring about the orderly return of refugees and displaced persons, he also supported the development of dialogue with the Belgrade authorities on the basis of cooperation and non-interference, and between Pristina and Belgrade on areas of mutual interest. He called on all elected members of the autonomous institutions to redouble efforts to build a modern multi-ethnic democratic Kosovo.

ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) also associated himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union. He thanked the delegation of Norway for the role it had played last year, including on the Council mission to the region. He reiterated his support for the priorities set out by Mr. Steiner, especially his reiteration of the principle of "standards before status" and the need for all parties in Kosovo to work more seriously. Mr. Steiner and UNMIK had achieved a good deal over the past few months. For example, the number of minority judges had increased; police were assuming some responsibility for law and order activities; security on the streets was improving; and there was better access across bridges. It must be recognized, however, that there was still a long way to go to achieve the Council's goal of a multi-ethnic Kosovo.

The recent cycle of violence, assassinations and attacks on orthodox churches seemed to indicate that local extremists could act with impunity. They could not and must not, and local leaders must condemn all such acts and clamp down on selfish extremism, which hindered Kosovo's development and hampered the normal lives of the normal people of Kosovo. The multinational security force (KFOR) should help tackle that at its roots. The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government must cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and UNMIK, if and when indictments were presented. It would be important for Kosovo to show its political maturity and act in accordance with common European Union values. Concerning the establishment of a multi-ethnic civil service, he said nearly 60 per cent of those posts remained unfulfilled at end of 2002. Also, more should be done to achieve returns.

The UNMIK should press on with enhancing Kosovo's self-governing capabilities, he went on. But, all parties should work to achieve standards before status, as delivering European standards would help deliver the three priorities that Mr. Steiner had rightly pointed to. All parties needed to show that they could carry out their commitments before status negotiations were possible. Prejudging final status was unacceptable. Kosovo needed to show that it was serious about actually running itself and integrating minority communities into its government. At the same time, the minorities must demonstrate that they were committed to Kosovo's future. Initial dialogue with Belgrade was crucial and should focus on practical issues. The rule of law and fighting organized crime were crucial. A climate of mutual confidence would go far towards solving the wider questions for Kosovo's future.

STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) associated himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union. He was convinced that the outstanding work done by UNMIK and Mr. Steiner must continue, and that the transfer of responsibilities must continue in precisely the way described by Mr. Steiner. The constitutional framework was the basic cornerstone for guaranteeing the necessary dynamic for that process. For the transfer process to succeed, it was important that the Kosovo institutions continue to expand their administrative and management capacities. Also important was the equitable participation of the various ethnic groups. The whole set of procedures governing the functioning of administration was indispensable.

He noted that some preceding speakers had said that some political officials had exceeded the powers allotted to them and had attempted to take on some of the competencies of the Special Representative. The policy drawn up by the United Nations on "standards before status" was binding and mandatory for a sustainable solution to the problem of Kosovo. Like the preceding speakers, he found that attempts, such as the one cited above, could destabilize Kosovo and impede a solution. He was also concerned by the recent acts of violence, in particular, those perpetrated against orthodox churches. Those must cease, as those were designed to discourage the Serb community's integration into the life of Kosovo. Both the Belgrade and Pristina authorities must refrain from hasty political acts, which could only exacerbate the situation and destabilize Kosovo.

He said he welcomed the establishment of the UNMIK administration in Mitrovica -- that could improve life there and beyond. The dialogue between the Pristina and Belgrade authorities must be strengthened, as Mr. Steiner had suggested. It must focus on practical issues, aimed at improving daily life. He welcomed the results achieved so far in dialogue between the Belgrade authorities and UNMIK, and unconditionally supported the Special Representative's efforts to combat organized crime and human trafficking, and to assist Kosovo in relaunching its economy. Improving daily life, of paramount importance to Kosovars was the way in which the Council could measure the success or failure of the international community's efforts in Kosovo. The time was not yet ripe to approach the issue of final status. In that context, the presence of UNMIK and KFOR would continue to be a key factor for stability.

ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said that job creation, security and the forging of a multi-ethnic society remained the priorities in Kosovo. There undoubtedly were advances in that regard, and progress could be seen in the implementation of resolution 1244 (1999). Elections last November and the establishment of Provisional Institutions and municipal assemblies formed the basis for new political maturity of the Kosovo society. The transfer of responsibility to local institutions was encouraging, as was the appointment of judges and prosecutors from minorities. To a large extent, that had become possible due to the dialogue with Belgrade authorities.

The rule of law was a vital component for achieving stability and economic development in Kosovo, he continued. He welcomed achievements in that area, including the reduction of the crime rate and the introduction of a multi-ethnic, trained police force. However, he was deeply disturbed by recent manifestations of violence and attacks against minorities, which represented serious obstacles to the establishment of the rule of law. Demonstrations in the area protesting those events were a positive sign, however.

The sustainable return of minorities to their homes was a fundamental pre-condition for community reconciliation, he stressed. He was particularly concerned that minorities continued to face grave threats to their safety and security. Creation of parallel structures did not promote reconciliation, nor did the efforts to hasten the definition of Kosovo's status. Supporting the concept of standards before status would promote democracy in Kosovo. It was important for local authorities to embrace that concept as their own and not as an idea imposed outside. He also supported cooperation and dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. There were many obstacles to achieving the vision of multi-ethnicity, and the United Nations must continue its work in Kosovo with that in mind.

CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) said he considered resolution 1244 (1999) as a valid basis and instrument for achieving the threefold objective of administering Kosovo, creating institutions and facilitating a political process for determining the status of Kosovo. Chile recognized the significant progress made in 2002 in the transfer of executive and legislative authority to the Provincial Institutions of Government; the establishment of municipal governments; the administration of justice, in particular, the appointment of judges and prosecutors from minority communities; the setting up of a multi-ethnic civil service; and the extension of UNMIK to Mitrovica.

However, he expressed concern about the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees and hoped that favourable conditions would continue to be created for their return in significant numbers and in a sustainable manner, with a view to the creation of a multi-ethnic and democratic society capable of integrating all the people of Kosovo without exclusion. He noted with alarm the incidents of violence, both among Kosovo Albanians and towards Kosovo Serbs, and urged that every effort be made to prevent an increase in arson, grievous assault and organized crime. The actions of extremists and terrorists should be unanimously condemned.

Further, he called on the Government to cooperate with UNMIK in meeting the three challenges outlined by the Special Representative last January of strengthening the economy, combating organized crime and building a multi-ethnic society. On organized crime, in particular, he said no progress in that area was possible without the commitment of all actors to ensuring that the rule of law prevailed and to improving the administration of justice for all, particularly for displaced persons and refugees. The rule of law and a strengthened judicial system were the best guarantees for preventing violations of human rights in that country.

He called on the parties to intensify the constructive dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina to achieve concrete and tangible results aimed at overcoming the grave challenges he had earlier described, so that all inhabitants of Kosovo could live in their homeland with dignity and without danger.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said it was extremely important to achieve a political settlement. In that regard, the proposals contained in the relevant resolutions and the efforts by the international community, particularly the Council mission to the region, had been very encouraging. The international community had a very important role to play, but the primary responsibility lay with the parties themselves. Negotiations leading to a lasting settlement, acceptable to all, required concessions. He, therefore, encouraged the parties not to spare any efforts to reduce the mistrust and "reach out to each other".

He said that dialogue with the Belgrade authorities should proceed, as that was important for the consolidation of a more stable situation in the Balkans. He urged the parties to implement the standards before status, and other recommendations, in order to improve the situation in the country and in the region. The three priorities outlined today by Mr. Steiner for 2003 were welcome. If those proceeded, it would bring ever closer the successful end of one of the greatest missions of the Organization.

WANG YINGFAN (China) thanked Mr. Steiner for his briefing and said that the Council's mission to the area last December had been very helpful in allowing the Council to create an objective assessment of the situation in Kosovo. He believed that the progress in the area was the result of productive cooperation between UNMIK and local authorities. To create a harmonious multi-ethnic society, much remained to be done, however. Jointly, all players involved could promote the establishment of the rule of law, return of refugees and freedom of movement, as well as effective measures against crime.

His delegation was disturbed by recent remarks regarding the independence of Kosovo, he continued. Resolution 1244 (1999) was still the basis for actions there, and any attempt to redefine the borders would seriously damage the stability in the region. He called the parties concerned to continue their cooperation with UNMIK with the view of establishing real security and stability in the region.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said he agreed with Mr. Steiner's analysis of the situation and his emphasis on lessening the stress there. He welcomed efforts by UNMIK to change the political dynamics in the country and eliminate parallel structures. The call for all to participate in the common institutions was crucial. Other important steps were the strengthening of and wider participation in the self-governing institutions, namely, the Assembly and the Government. Continued efforts for the establishment of a multi-ethnic civil service were important, especially in light of the limited number of minority candidates, the security concerns, and tensions among ethnic minorities. He was also concerned about the possibility of continued attacks against religious sites. Those were unacceptable.

He stressed the importance of the principle of standards before status. That approach had been confirmed by the Council's mission to Kosovo. He also stressed the need to work in the regional context to achieve a solution, and he encouraged dialogue with Belgrade. The positive results achieved so far in that regard should not be ignored. There was also an urgent need for UNMIK to continue its work and enhance its role, leading Kosovo and its people to peace. The positive political developments cited by Mr. Steiner could lead to greater stability in Kosovo and ultimately pave the way for a favourable economic environment. Finally, it was impossible to build a future without acknowledging the memories of past suffering.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said his country attached great importance to the work of the Mission in Kosovo. The standards for promoting self-governance in Kosovo would enable the people there to realize their fundamental rights. Given Kosovo's unique situation, he supported the "standards before status" approach and urged the people of Kosovo to make those standards a reality on the ground. They should take ownership of all aspects of their own administration. Once that had been done, it would be possible to move to the next stage of the implementation of resolution 1244 (1999), determining the status of Kosovo. That should be based on consultations with all concerned, making sure that the rights of the people were supported in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

He supported the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade and hoped that similar progress could be made within Kosovo, as well. As security remained a matter of paramount concern, he supported the calls for the communities to reject violence and extremism and move to genuine dialogue and reconciliation. He called for the return in dignity and safety of all refugees and internally displaced persons and for the protection of human rights of minorities in all areas of Kosovo.

He lauded the efforts to promote peace in Kosovo, based on multi-ethnic accommodation and the rule of law and he hoped to see Kosovo at peace with itself and with its neighbours. That was important for the well-being of the whole region, which had witnessed much grief in the past.

RICHARD WILLIAMSON (United States) said his country remained committed to UNMIK. It had some concerns, however, including reports of parallel institutions, which would be an impediment, and not a benefit, to Kosovo's future. Those would be a roadblock to reconciliation. He shared with other Council members a vision of an integrated, multi-ethnic society, where quality education was available to all, and where people of all ethnicities were safe and had confidence in a professional and fair judicial system. He also looked forward to a growing economy and to the day the people in Kosovo were empowered to run their own affairs.

He said his country agreed that the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government must do much more to use the authority already transferred under the constitutional framework. The international community should continue to stress the importance of that. Those institutions should resist domestic political pressures that caused them to blame UNMIK for their own inability to use their new authorities effectively. He was also concerned with infighting among the Albanian authorities, which negatively impacted the prospects for the passage of critically needed legislation, on the economy and elsewhere.

The United States joined the international community in stressing standards before status, he said. The focus should be on sustainable self-government, rather than on political status. Because he believed that those standards, if implemented, would establish a solid foundation for a functioning multi-ethnic Kosovo, he continued to encourage Mr. Steiner to develop a detailed work plan to guide the institutions of self-government through the benchmarks process. He was concerned by the Secretary-General's report that some Kosovo Albanian cabinet members had publicly distanced themselves from the benchmarks. Another concern was that UNMIK had been "too reluctant" to transfer authorities not reserved for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

For example, he explained, his country had expended much energy and political capacity to persuade UNMIK in December to fold its fiscal authority into the institutions of self-government. Unfortunately, individual UNMIK advisers appeared to have been unwilling to cede real decision-making authority in that area. He welcomed Mr. Steiner's 20 January television address in which he articulated his desire to hand over all competencies by the end of the year. He also commended the intention to develop a joint plan on how best to accomplish that. Elected leaders in Kosovo must accept responsibility for implementing the necessary reforms, leading to a successful multi-ethnic society. Efforts to push forward on final status were not helpful. It was also premature, and potentially provocative, to turn over any military or para-military components of Kosovo to Belgrade.

GENNADY GATILOV (Russian Federation) noted with satisfaction the progress achieved in Kosovo, including the beginning of work of provisional self-government institutions and the transfer to them of certain competencies of the Mission. The situation still remained highly sensitive, however, and it was important to avoid incautious actions. He welcomed the readiness of the Belgrade leadership to continue constructive cooperation with UNMIK and Pristina, saying that it was the key to overcoming the difficulties in full implementation of resolution 1244. Those differences warranted continued and unflagging attention of the international community, however.

Among the priorities in Kosovo, he singled out the need to ensure security for all inhabitants, including the Serbian minority. A highly disquieting development was new violence, with a clear political factor, within the Kosovo Albanian communities. Optimistic figures regarding returning minority refugees did not accurately reflect the situation in Kosovo, as in many areas no Serbs remained today. A source of serious concern was a continued existence of a semi-military organization -- the corps of Kosovo defence -- an heir to KLA. He did not quite understand the position of "the international presence" in Kosovo, which had practically reconciled itself to the existence of the corps -- a potential source of instability in the region.

Particularly disquieting were the unceasing attempts of Kosovo Albanian leaders to promote the issue of independence. Recently, they had come up with a draft resolution on Kosovo independence, which clearly contravened the provisions of resolution 1244 (1999). There were also demands to speed up the transfer of all competencies of the Special Representative to the self-governing institutions. The Kosovo Albanian majority continued to shirk the responsibility of ensuring dignified living conditions for all inhabitants, independent of their ethnic background. Despite the Kosovo Albanians' statements of dedication to multi-ethnicity, regional authorities often disregarded the needs of ethnic minorities. It was important to prevent attempts by extremists to use self-government institutions to achieve their goals.

He emphasized the importance of UNMIK's continued work, saying the attempts to cast doubt on the justification of the Mission's actions were inadmissible. The Council must reaffirm its dedication to resolution 1244, including the part reaffirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the new State of Serbia and Montenegro. He also reaffirmed Russia's initiative aimed at creating a legal basis for ensuring stability in the Balkans, which envisioned conclusion of legally binding agreements by the countries of the region on mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, with international guarantees.

IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said the management of Kosovo continued to evoke hopes and expectations. Their achievement was only possible through confidence- building, leading to an improved quality of life and social and economic growth for all. From 13 to 17 December 2002, the Council mission had visited Kosovo, and that had raised the question of whether the international community's hopes and expectations perhaps had not been realized. The presence of UNMIK and KFOR had restored a kind of peace and security, and, having made it possible to avoid a human catastrophe, UNMIK had been trying daily to lay down the basis for a modern society in which harmony, peace and security won the day. Nevertheless, the situation today was characterized by hatred, rejection, violence and a continuation of domination.

He said that the Council and the international community should see to it that their action in Kosovo was aimed, not at the medium term, but at the long term. They should also review entire strategies and the modalities set up to achieve the objectives, in order to infuse the process with a new dynamism in addressing the complex realities there. He supported the priorities defined by Mr. Steiner for 2003.

The international community should be mindful of the people of Kosovo and pay attention to humanitarian action in the field, he added. It must also now commit to actively and carefully thinking about the final status of Kosovo. The United Nations' success or failure in Kosovo would hinge on the way in which the results of that thinking were implemented. The striking success achieved in 2002 was summed up in the Secretary-General's report, but Kosovo had a long way to go before achieving the benchmarks indicated in that report.

MAMADY TRAORE (Guinea) said effective monitoring of the implementation of resolution 1244 was needed. The Council's mission last December had made it possible to accurately assess the situation and identify the main priorities in the area. Mr. Steiner's report today was also important in that regard. His delegation encouraged further strengthening of cooperation between UNMIK and self-governance institutions. He also hailed recent accomplishments in Kosovo, including growing return of minorities and efforts to improve the rule of law. He fully endorsed the principle of standards before status, which should be applicable in Kosovo.

He emphasized the need to establish mutual respect between Kosovo communities and ensure safe return of refugees and their property. He appealed to the international community, including donors, to provide assistance in the implementation of UNMIK's strategy for sustainable return of refugees. He also welcomed economic progress in 2002. In order to succeed, development programmes should take into account the needs of all groups of the population. His delegation encouraged UNMIK and KFOR to continue their efforts, but the establishment of stability in Kosovo would be possible only with the full participation of all those concerned.

ANA MARIA MENENDEZ (Spain) associated herself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, saying that the principle of standards before status was still valid. The situation in Kosovo had been a "mixed pattern", as, economically, there had been some improvements, but structural problems such as job creation and investment had remained. In terms of security, there had been a general decline in crime but an increase in politically motivated violence, which was disquieting. She was also concerned about the question of parallel institutions. The priorities for 2003 outlined by Mr. Steiner had her full support, as did the policy on the transfer of authority, which should be completed by the end of the year.

Speaking in his national capacity, President of the Council GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said the situation in Kosovo had come a long way since the adoption of resolution 1244, but much still remained to be done. He commended Mr. Steiner and the UNMIK team for their excellent work in Kosovo and expressed support for the work of KFOR on the ground in the field of security. He also welcomed the extension of UNMIK's authority to the northern part of Mitrovica. Any attempts to undermine the authority of UNMIK and its integration efforts, or to keep up parallel structures, were in direct contravention of resolution 1244 (1999). The authority lay with UNMIK.

He urged all parties in the region to fully respect resolution 1244. Any attempts to prejudge the final status of Kosovo now were ill-timed and counter-productive, and the international community must stick to its course. The Secretary-General was right when he confirmed the principle of "standards before status" in his report, and Germany strongly backed that concept put forward by Mr. Steiner. He also particularly welcomed the Special Representative's explanations on the way ahead in the implementation of benchmarks. His aim of transferring by the end of the year the remaining authorities from UNMIK to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, with the exclusion of so-called reserved powers, could be achieved by swift fulfilment of the benchmarks set. Towards that end, both UNMIK and the Kosovo institutions must join forces.

The implementation of benchmarks was not only a question of capability, but also of goodwill, he pointed out. Certain benchmarks, such as the establishment of the minorities' freedom of movement, could be implemented immediately, and he urged Kosovo Albanians to demonstrate their commitment to the democratic, multi-ethnic future of Kosovo. A climate of tolerance and mutual respect had to be created throughout all ethnic communities. The answer was not separation and division, but integration and cooperation. Restoration of human rights and multi-ethnicity had been among the goals of the international community when it intervened in Kosovo in 1999. Regarding troop reductions in Kosovo, he said it was necessary to be aware of their consequences. Close consultations were needed to avoid possible security gaps.

Other Statements

DEJAN SAHOVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) reiterated the importance of the recent adoption and promulgation of the Constitution. That would promote stabilization of the country and the region, as a whole. It should be noted, however, that the adoption of the Constitution did not change the identity or international "personality" of the State, meaning that its international obligations and laws relevant to the Former Republic of Yugoslavia continued to apply. All United Nations documents should continue to reflect the fact that Kosovo and Metohija were part of Serbia and Montenegro, in accordance with resolution 1244.

Despite some progress and after four years of international presence, the objective of a stable, multi-ethnic, prosperous Kosovo and Metohija was "far from being achieved". There were still flagrant violations of human and minority rights. Violence, crime, intolerance, arms, drugs and trafficking in human beings were unfortunately abundant throughout the province, as confirmed by many reports. His primary concerns continued to be security, human and minority rights, the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the fate of the missing. Decentralization, which had unfortunately not moved from the initial stages, was also of immense importance as a precondition for ensuring equal rights in all communities. Also, within the context of security and minority rights, the protection of cultural and religious sites must be addressed.

He noted that the Secretary-General's report had highlighted obstacles to the establishment of a multi-ethnic civil service and had concluded that violence against the Kosovo Serb community had been widely condemned by the international community and elicited only a low-key reaction from the Kosovo leadership. One of the goals of resolution 1244 was the establishment of "substantial autonomy" in Kosovo and Metohija. But, many developments on the ground went beyond the scope of autonomy. Some of UNMIK's decisions had done so, and there had been major attempts by the Provisional Institutions to overstep their authority. The latest example of that pattern of behaviour had been a proposal by several Albanian deputies of the Kosovo Assembly to adopt a declaration of independence of the province.

While recognizing the freedom of political expression, he said it was essential to abide by international law and relevant documents, which were binding for all. He, therefore, urged the Council to respond decisively to that initiative, as it was not contrary only to resolution 1244, but also threatened regional stability. Time and again, he had stressed the importance of initiating dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. He was ready to engage in that process, but calls to that effect had gone unanswered. Ties between the parts of the country had to be rebuilt, in order to leave behind the tragic legacy of the past. He also firmly believed that cooperation with UNMIK was key to successful implementation of resolution 1244, which was the basic legally binding document on Kosovo and Metohija.

ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that while the situation in Kosovo had moved forward since the adoption of resolution 1244 in 1999, there was no doubt that there was still a long way to go before the province achieved stabilization and truly functioning multi-ethnic and multicultural democratic institutions which would allow full minority participation. The full implementation of resolution 1244 thus remained the cornerstone of the Union's policy on Kosovo, and the "standards before status" policy provided the benchmarks which formed the basis for Kosovo's future.

He said, despite the settlement of 1.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons in south-eastern Europe, over 1 million still remained displaced, constituting a major humanitarian, social and political challenge. Achieving genuine and sustainable reintegration of minority returnees was a sign of political and democratic maturity, as well as of compliance with internationally accepted standards. A Kosovo where members of minority communities were oppressed would face a bleak future of self-isolation, he stated, adding that all regional actors should spare no efforts in establishing the appropriate security and legislative conditions that would ensure the inclusion of returnees into the economic recovery process.

The European Union believed that the cooperation between Belgrade and the elected representatives of the people of Kosovo was instrumental in creating the conditions of security necessary for the stability and development of the whole region. He repeated the Union's commitment to the Stabilization and Association Process for the Western Balkans as the cornerstone of its relevant policy.

WEGGER CHRISTIAN STRØMMEN (Norway) said he wished to reiterate the most important findings of the Council delegation's visit to Kosovo and Belgrade last year. The mission had found notable progress in several areas pursuant to resolution 1244 (1999). Elections for the Kosovo Assembly in 2001 and the municipalities in 2002 had led to the formation of Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and the new municipal assemblies. The process of handing over power and responsibility to the local institutions continued. There had also been some progress in the area of rule of law; crime rates were down; security was improving; and the police service continued to increase in numbers. Also, the judiciary was being re-established.

Despite that progress, he said, many inadequacies remained. Kosovo was still a long way from having truly functioning democratic institutions and a society where minorities could fully participate. The situation remained fragile and much work remained to be done, especially in the context of the rule of law, organized crime, democratization, sustainable returns, and inter-ethnic reconciliation, as well as in cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade. The reluctance of some Kosovo-Albanian leaders to engage directly with Belgrade officials exemplified an isolationist tendency that was unrealistic in both a regional and European perspective. Establishment of the rule of law was central to achieving security, functioning democracy, and sustainable economic development.

He said the formulation of benchmarks for the realization of standards was a constructive approach for the further development of Kosovo towards a democratic, multi-ethnic society. He underlined the importance of making yet greater efforts to involve the local institutions and political leaders from all communities in the practical formulation and implementation of political goals and strategies. Thus, the further specification and implementation of the benchmarks must be worked out in cooperation with the local authorities. The UNMIK must go the extra mile, in order to secure that local ownership. So too must the local political leaders. The apparent reluctance of the Provisional Institution of Self-Government to engage in that process was counter-productive and undermined further democratization.

He also stressed the importance of the decentralization of municipal responsibilities and greater improvement in law and order. On the question of the final status of Kosovo, he said that the several recent initiatives, both from Belgrade and Kosovo, were not helpful. They deflected attention from the main task at hand, namely, the realization of higher standards of government and society for the benefit of all inhabitants of Kosovo. That had been the main message of the Council's mission last December. All parties should focus now on the realization of the Special Representative's standards before status approach.

Responding to comments and questions from the floor, Mr. STEINER said one of the most successful organs in Kosovo, the central fiscal authority, had been merged with the ministry of finances. Regarding the engagement of the international community, he said that conditionality was unavoidable. That was the policy exercised by the European Union when it came to integrating European countries. Stressing the need to implement the benchmarks in Kosovo, he said that it was necessary to pursue not only negative, but also positive conditionality, as well as conditionality at both central and local levels. For example, positive conditionality could be applied in the communities which were successful as far as respect for minorities and return of refugees were concerned. Some communities deserved particular encouragement, including financial measures, in the way they were implementing the provisions of resolution 1244.

He agreed with the representative of Norway that further specification of benchmarks must be worked out in cooperation with the provisional institutions and local authorities. Speaking about decentralization, he said it was necessary to be clear what the parties themselves had asked for. After the municipal elections last November, all Kosovo leaders and Belgrade had agreed that the Council of Europe should be invited to take the lead in Kosovo. Coming Monday, a permanent mission from the Council of Europe would begin its work on the issues of self-government and decentralization. Its recommendations needed to be discussed in communities and provisional institutions.

Turning to Russia's comment regarding the numbers of returnees, he said that structures and finances were now in place to prepare for the return season, which would begin in April. Active cooperation would be needed from local institutions. All the numbers mentioned in the reports were official numbers presented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). According to those figures, as of 31 December, 2,671 refugees had returned to their homes in 2002. Nobody had exact numbers for outflow of refugees. However, it was encouraging that the return was more than the outflow in 2002.

* *** *