06/11/2002
Press Release
SC/7563



Security Council

4643rd Meeting (PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL FOCUSES ON KOSOVO MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS, SECURITY OF MINORITIES AFTER UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL'S BRIEFING


Recent municipal elections and the security of minorities in Kosovo were among the main concerns addressed by speakers in the Security Council this afternoon, following a briefing by Jean-Marie Guehenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on developments in that province.


Mr. Guehenno said that the low voter turnout for the elections among Kosovo Serbs was to the detriment of that community, as it diminished their ability to participate in decision-making processes throughout the province.  He said that the developments of the last four months illustrated the difficulty of making consistent progress on all fronts.


Underscoring the need to place greater emphasis on reconciliation efforts, he said that Kosovo’s leaders had a responsibility to create conditions conducive to improving inter-communal relations and promoting reconciliation.  Words must be turned into actions, and leaders must speak out more clearly against violence, he stressed, noting that the majority community must bear the brunt of that effort.  However, the Kosovo Serb community must realize that only participation would bring them tangible benefits.


Denmark's representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that by staying away from the ballot, the Kosovo Serbs had missed an opportunity to contribute to the shaping of their communities.  Commending the professional, free and fair holding of the municipal elections, she described them as a significant step in the creation of a democratic society in Kosovo.  However, the killing of the President of the Municipal Assembly and others in Suhareke/Suva Reka had cast a shadow over the process, she said, condemning those killings in remarks that were echoed by many other speakers this afternoon.


The representative of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia said that it was due to fear of such violence that Kosovo Serbs had stayed away from the polls in Northern Mitrovica.  The highest Yugoslav authorities had called on them to participate and they had done so in hopes of improving their situation.  However, it was unrealistic to expect a large turnout, he said, pointing out that multiethnicity could only be achieved through close cooperation among all groups and parties in Kosovo, while avoiding any steps that might exacerbate the situation.


Agreeing that secure conditions were of paramount importance for the creation of a multiethnic society and the return of refugees, the representative


of the Russian Federation said that achieving such conditions should be the focus for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).  He also called for greater control by the Mission over the activities of provincial institutions.  Supporting a seven-point plan by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo aimed at removing parallel governmental structures in Mitrovica, he said that UNMIK must work constructively with all parties for effective decentralization in the province.


The Council also heard statements by members Bulgaria, United States, France, Syria, Mauritius, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Guinea, Singapore, United Kingdom, Cameroon and China.


Other speakers were the representatives of Ukraine and Japan.


The meeting began at 3:15 p.m. and adjourned at 5:30 p.m.


Background


When the Security Council met this afternoon, it had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2002/1126), covering the activities of that Mission (UNMIK) and developments in Kosovo, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, from 17 July to 9 October.


According to the report, the Government has made a concerted effort to improve its work.  Most municipalities have made considerable progress, particularly in the financial area.  However, the continued existence of parallel administrative structures challenged the day-to-day operations for some of the ministries, as well as municipalities, principally in the areas of education, health and administrative services.  During the last months, UNMIK has exerted efforts to change the political dynamic to provide an incentive to dismantle the parallel structures and to encourage all communities to participate in joint institutions.  The priority of integrating all structures under UNMIK authority came into sharp focus in preparations for the 26 October municipal elections.


On 1 October, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Michael Steiner, proposed a seven-point plan which included: a commitment to no incursions from southern Mitrovica into northern Mitrovica; regular policing in the north by Kosovo Serbs as part of the Kosovo Police Service (KPS); a coalition agreement for co-governance between Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb political parties in the Mitrovica Municipal Assembly; a further decentralization of responsibility to the local level across Kosovo; relocation of the Kosovo Trust Agency (KTA) headquarters to northern Mitrovica; convening of a donor conference specifically for Mitrovica [in Brussels, Belgium, on 5 November]; and a call on all to participate in the municipal elections.


Although efforts to increase minority representation throughout the civil service continued, obstacles remained, such as security concerns, inter-ethnic tension in the workplace and limitations on freedom of movement.  During the election period, the media climate has become more activist and somewhat uncompromising.  The UNMIK urged the press to issue reports on a factual basis and to avoid aggravating ethnic tension.  Preparations for Kosovo’s third election proceeded smoothly.


During the reporting period, the general security situation remained calm, despite isolated incidents of civil unrest and ethnically motivated crimes.  After lengthy investigations, several former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were arrested and indicted in August.  On 19 August, the Government issued a resolution condemning the arrests of some Kosovo Albanian suspects and accusing UNMIK of having taken “political prisoners”.  It passed the resolution, with the Prime Minister casting the decisive vote.


The security situation in Mitrovica remained relatively calm, as well.  In line with the overall downsizing of the military presence throughout Kosovo, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) is gradually reducing its permanent presence in the city.  Significant caches of weapons were seized in the border regions with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Economic crime and corruption remained pervasive, but with increasing arrests by UNMIK Police and the KPS.


While Kosovo’s economy has continued its consolidation and stabilization under lowering inflation and a more stable monetary policy, Kosovo is still far from economic sustainability.  It has a massive trade gap; its public investment programme remains heavily dependent on donor funds; and unemployment and underemployment remain major problems.  The main challenges are: creating jobs; ensuring that the basis of a market economy takes firm root; and education and training of the workforce.  The KTA approved the commercialization of five socially owned enterprises.  A far-reaching public information campaign on the privatization process has been initiated.


Regarding conditions for sustainable returns and reintegration, the report notes that forced repatriation of Kosovo Albanians who do not face security concerns continued.  The UNMIK continued to request that host countries refrain from forced repatriation of minorities.  A total of 1,698 persons from minority communities have returned so far this year.


Regular contacts between UNMIK and the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as well as the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro, continued.  The UNMIK and the authorities of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continued efforts to find a practical solution for the farmers in the border zone.  The Special Representative signed a memorandum of understanding on economic cooperation with Albania in July, and strengthened relations with Slovenia during a visit to that country in September.


The Secretary-General observes that the elections are only the first step in the development of democratic institutions.  Meaningful participation in elected bodies at the central and local levels by all communities is an important component, as well.  Dismantling of parallel structures is another key factor in achieving success to that end.  He calls upon all to support the work of the local institutions and to work within them and with UNMIK for the benefit of all residents.


The Secretary-General further remarks that the statements of support by local officials for the policy of tolerance, reconciliation and integration need to be followed by concrete action.  That is particularly important in order to create conditions for the sustainable return of all individuals who wish to return to their homes.  Resolving the fate of the missing is another important factor in reconciliation, and the necessary exhumations should be completed as soon as possible.


According to the Secretary-General, respect for the rule of law is imperative.  Positive steps have been taken in that area, particularly in the development of the KPS.  Progress has also been made in combating organized crime, thanks to contributions of Member States.  He trusts that donors will continue to support that important programme, as well as others, such as witness protection.


Briefing by Under-Secretary-General


The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, JEAN-MARIE GUEHENNO, introduced the Secretary-General’s report and provided an update on events, in particular, the municipal election held 26 October.  He said the Kosovo Government had made a concerted effort to improve its work, and there had been substantive progress in the ministries, notably in the health and education fields.  There were, however, also negative developments in those areas, particularly in the continued existence of parallel structures.  The Assembly’s resistance to include the University of Northern Mitrovica in the higher education system was regrettable.  The UNMIK had created an ad hoc Regional Education Board, consisting of representatives of all communities, which was temporarily responsible for discharging the responsibilities of the Ministry of Education in northern Kosovo.


Regarding the security situation, he said the demonstrations that followed the arrests over the summer of former members of the KLA had subsided.  As the number of arrests of that nature increased, the extent of intimidation of witnesses had become apparent.  Current legal provisions and material resources remained insufficient to deal with the problem.  Regrettably, there had been further attacks against members of the Kosovo Serb community.  There had also been unrest in Mitrovica, as a result of the attempted arrest of a Kosovo Serb leader.


Turning to UNMIK’s fight against crime, he said there had been an increase in the amount of contraband seized and the number of arrests on charges of economic crime and corruption.  Efforts had also been made to bolster the operational capacity of the Kosovo Organized Crime Bureau.  The Mission had marked a milestone in the development of the KPS, with the total number of KPS officers  -- 5,300 -- exceeding for the first time the number of UNMIK police officers.


He said the state of inter-ethnic relations, and thus the climate for return, varied.  There had been a rise in security incidents against the Kosovo Serb community in areas where they had returned.  The deteriorating climate in some areas might have been partly attributable to the impending municipal elections.  On 1 November, a Task Force on Returns had been formed, comprising UNMIK, the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the Provisional Institutions and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in order to coordinate and invigorate the returns process.  Integrating non-majority communities now living in Kosovo into the larger society was crucial for future returns.  Funding remained another crucial aspect for future returns.


The campaign for municipal elections on 26 October had been largely free of violence, and election day itself had passed peacefully, he said.  The overall turnout of 54 per cent coincided with a trend of voter fatigue seen across the board in this year’s Balkans elections.  The overall figure was further depressed by the low participation of the Kosovo Serb community -– around 20 per cent.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Michael Steiner, had certified the election results on 3 November.  For the third year running, the strongest party was President Rugova’s Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).  Mr. Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) won a majority in four municipalities.  The PDK had signalled its intention to co-govern wherever possible with the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo.  As a result of gender requirements, 28.5 per cent of the new municipal assemblies would be made up of women.


Since the elections, Mr. Steiner had been consulting with Kosovo’s leaders and the authorities of Yugoslavia regarding the next steps.  That included pushing ahead with the concept of decentralization, from which there was support from across the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb political spectrum.  Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serb leaders had issued a statement reaffirming that Kosovo must be a truly multi-ethnic society and that all Kosovo’s communities would work within the institutions.  The representatives of the majority community committed themselves to safeguard the rights of the smaller communities, including the right to security and freedom of movement.  On the basis of that endorsement, Mr. Steiner had asked the Council of Europe to send a mission to develop a proposal for decentralization.


Given the election boycott in northern Mitrovica, UNMIK had had to adapt the implementation of its seven-point plan mentioned in the report.  The most pressing issue was to manage the situation created by the boycott, which had led to the election of a Mitrovica Municipal Assembly devoid of Kosovo Serb representatives.


In conclusion, he said the developments of the last four months illustrated the difficulties faced in making consistent progress on all fronts.  The low turnout of Kosovo Serbs was to the detriment of that community, as it diminished their ability to participate in decision-making processes throughout Kosovo.  More emphasis needed to be placed on reconciliation efforts.  Kosovo’s leaders had a responsibility to create conditions conducive to improving inter-communal relations and promoting reconciliation.  Words must be turned into actions, and leaders needed to speak out more clearly against violence.  The majority community bore the brunt of the effort.  However, the Kosovo Serb community must also realize that only through participation could tangible benefits be achieved.


Statements


GENNADY GATILOV (Russian Federation) said the elections were held in accordance with international standards.  The low Serb turnout was related to continued security problems.  The UNMIK needed to continue to work to establish secure conditions for the return of displaced persons.  In addition, a special responsibility for establishing ethnic equality for minorities resided with the ethnic majority.  Concrete action must be taken in that regard.  Contrary to that interest, however, was the deletion of references to the University of Northern Kosovo in provisional legislation.  The majority must show greater respect for the rights of the minority communities.  Greater control was also needed over the activities of the provincial institutions by UNMIK.


The main problem with UNMIK’s efforts at maintaining law and order, he said, was dealing with former KLA fighters and other nationalist groups, who had been integrated into official structures.  Extremist elements still wished to destabilized the situation and that must not be allowed.  Each instance required international condemnation.  All attacks on international personnel must be halted, as well.  He supported the seven steps of the report.  In order for effective decentralization, UNMIK must work constructively with all parties.  Regarding the opening of the two border crossings, he reiterated that the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia must be respected.


STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said he welcomed the peaceful municipal elections, which represented important step forward towards democracy, the rule of law and establishing functioning local institutions.  The future organs to be formed on the election results should help to find solutions to the chief problems: strengthening democratic institutions; combating organized crime; establishment of the rule of law; and respect for human rights.

He welcomed measures taken to enhance the effectiveness of the provisional institutions.  He supported the policy of Mr. Steiner and the endeavours of UNMIK aimed at active participation of all communities in the provisional institutions. Only 8 of the 24 municipalities were of a multi-ethnic nature.  He regretted the low turnout of the Kosovo Serb population and supported the appeal for greater participation, which was the only way to improve the situation of the Kosovo Serbs.  He called on the political leaders to develop a climate of inter-ethnic tolerance.  The continuing existence of areas of ethnic tension was a matter of concern.  He appealed for an intensive dialogue between UNMIK and Belgrade to find a lasting solution for refugees.


He said realization of regional projects, particularly in the areas of telecommunication and transport, were the least costly investment and the most efficient ones to promote security and stability.


JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) congratulated UNMIK on the success in conducting municipal elections.  Kosovo’s leaders needed to do more themselves to promote security and reconciliation, including collaborations across party lines.  Faster work must be done to foster responsible government, raise the level of political dialogue to improve lives, and attract investment for a sustainable future.


A confusing message, he said, was presented to the people of Kosovo during the elections.  The majority must take an active role in protecting the rights of minorities, and the minority must participate in opportunities provided.  He reiterated support for a Council mission to Kosovo, if that would support the goals of resolution of 1244 (1999).


MICHEL DUCLOS (France), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said the municipal elections had proceeded peacefully, but he regretted the crime committed after the elections.  He acknowledged the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe.  He agreed with the Secretary-General’s conclusions regarding the turnout by various communities.  The best way for the Serb minorities to advance their cause was through voting.


Decentralization was a useful tool for building a modern, democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo, he said.  He supported Mr. Steiner’s efforts in that regard and supported the idea of calling on the Council of Europe to help.  The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina had contributed to progress in several areas, in particular, in the area of refugees.


MILAD ATIEH (Syria) expressed concern that, despite continued efforts aimed at increasing participations of minorities in the civil service, restrictions remained, such as inter-ethnic tension in the workplace and restrictions on movements.  The report had pointed out that the security situation had remained calm, despite some incidents, but also indicated that economic crimes were still prevalent.  He supported efforts made by the United Nations to consolidate the rule of law.


He said contacts between UNMIK, Albania, Yugoslavia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would contribute to stability and peace in the region.  He hoped the question of the return of minorities would be accorded the necessary attention.


VIMLA HUREE-AGARWAL (Mauritius) was pleased at the peaceful conduct of the election.  It was regrettable, however, that the Serb minority participated in such low numbers.  The election of women representatives was encouraging, though.  All communities should work together, and with UNMIK, for further progress in Kosovo. 


She welcomed the seven-point plan and hoped that Belgrade would cooperate on it.  For the safe return of displaced persons, she said, proper planning must be done.  She welcomed the recent initiative to establish a task force to reinvigorate the return programme and urged support for it.  She paid tribute to all those who were working towards a stable and democratic Kosovo.


GERARD CORR (Ireland), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said the municipal elections had been largely in line with international standards.  He condemned the three killings, including that of the President of the Municipal Assembly, after the elections, which had marred what would otherwise have been a relatively safe and secure process.  The low turnout of the elections bore witness to the overriding interest of voters in improving their living standards, rather than focusing on issues of final status.


It was clear that ethnic tensions continued to cause enormous problems in Kosovo, he said.  Too many minorities still lived in conditions that were incompatible with basic standards of human rights.  He supported efforts to increase sustainable refugee returns and stressed the need for even closer cooperation with Belgrade.  The Donors Conference on Kosovo had provided a valuable opportunity to take stock of the positive developments since the adoption of resolution 1244 (1999).  While progress had been made towards the goal of economic sustainability, there remained a risk of undue aid dependency.  However, donors must not use the risk of aid dependency as an excuse to reduce assistance to Kosovo prematurely.


He said the existence of parallel structures continued to pose obstacles to progress.  It was essential that all judges, prosecutors and security forces work within legitimate structures.  He supported UNMIK’s efforts to change the political dynamic, so as to provide an incentive to dismantle those structures. Along with partners in the European Union, his country would continue to promote integration and regional cooperation through the stability pact and the stabilization and association process.


MARIA ANGELICA ARCE DE JEANNET (Mexico) highlighted the importance of the peaceful holding of elections and their results.  It was an important step forward.  However, she was concerned at the low turnout of the Serbian minority.  On the other hand, she was pleased at the high representation of women.  She took note also of the progress in the building in democratic institutions and the area of health.


Dismantling parallel structures was also important, she said.  Security continued to limit the participation of minorities; UNMIK must focus on that problem, as well as freedom of circulation, the rule of law, the economy and the safe return of refugees.  Much remained to be done to create the conditions that would allow returnees to be able to stay.


OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) welcomed the largely peaceful conduct of the municipal elections, but strongly condemned the killing of three persons the day after.  He also regretted the generally low turnout in the municipal elections and the disappointing participation in some Serb areas.


He said work on decentralization should continue; dialogue between UNMIK and Belgrade was important in that respect, and he welcomed the seven-point plan for the integration of Mitrovica.  Measures needed to be taken to increase Kosovo-Serb confidence in UNMIK and the international community’s efforts in Kosovo.


In addition, he said, all political parties must respect the election results, and elected representatives and local administrations must assume responsibilities on all levels, cooperating across political and ethnic divisions and promoting human rights.  The delivery of public services and allocation of resources must be done in a transparent way.  Finally, he said he had agreed to lead the Security Council’s mission to Kosovo in support of the work of UNMIK.


MAMADYT TRAORE (Guinea) said significant advances had been seen this year, including the effective formation of a multi-ethnic government.  He welcomed the progress made with respect to benchmarks and encouraged members of the Assembly to continue to follow their training programmes, in the context of building democratic institutions.


Regarding the elections, he lamented the low turnout of the Kosovo Serbs.  The effective participation of all communities remained essential and should permit Kosovo to have a good government from which everyone would benefit.  All parties must face up to their responsibilities by supporting local institutions.  He encouraged Mr. Steiner to continue his efforts in health and education and in implementing the seven-point plan.  He welcomed UNMIK’s activities in settling the question of missing persons, and noted that those efforts must be supported by the donor community.


He welcomed the continued calm security situation, he said.  The return of refugees and their integration and return of property were still a concern that needed to be addressed.  The cooperation of central and local leaders and the support of the international community would be essential in that regard.  He hoped the results of the donor conference would have a positive effect on resolving the challenges Kosovo faced.


YAP ONG HENG (Singapore) supported the benchmark approach to progress in Kosovo and was pleased to learn that UNMIK was developing tracking methods for such progress.  In that way, necessary actions could be taken.


The elections were peaceful, but the low turnout of Serbs was regrettable.  He supported the decentralization process, as well as the creation of a task force on returns, in order to reinvigorate the return process and reintegrate returnees into society.  He hoped that donors would support that programme, and looked forward to his delegation’s participation in the upcoming Council mission.


ANDRES FRANCO (Colombia) said the number of organized and individual returns of refugees had continued to grow, thanks, among other things, to the comprehensive fashion in which security for returnees had been handled.  The initiative by the Special Representative to establish a task force for returnees would create a possibility to make the priority of refugee return a reality.


He said the situation in Mitrovica had substantially improved, not only with regard to the security situation, but also to UNMIK’s work to dismantle parallel structures there.  He appealed to those just elected to bolster democratic institutions in a way that would ensure a multi-ethnic society.  Regretting the high rate of abstentions, he said the decision by the Kosovo Serbs not to participate in the elections was detrimental to them.


The low voter turnout could be seen as a consequence of electoral fatigue, rejection of UNMIK’s work, lack of information, and the influence of electoral trends in the region, among other things, he said, adding that the results should not be taken lightly.  He expressed support for the initiative to ask the Council of Europe for help with decentralization, which was very important for Kosovo's future.


ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) aligned himself with the statement to be made by Denmark on behalf of the European Union and said that UNMIK and the other pillars were achieving steady progress in Kosovo, in difficult circumstances.  For that, continued cooperation among Belgrade, UNMIK and the institutions of provisional government was essential.  He strongly supported the Special Representative’s initiatives on decentralization; it was important to dismantle parallel structures and establish UNMIK’s authority throughout the province.


The United Kingdom, he said, regretted the low turnout of Serb voters in the elections, though the generally successful conduct of the elections was a good basis for further progress.  Hardliners ignored advice from Belgrade and their own people and had lost an opportunity, as a result.  In the interest of a multi-ethnic society, he supported decentralization.  He strongly condemned the murders following the election and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.


He said that the British Foreign Secretary recently visited Belgrade and Pristina and underlined his strong support for the Special Representative’s “standards before status” approach and the need for all sides in Kosovo to work together.  What was needed was practical cooperation to improve living conditions, promote the return of displaced persons, and encourage economic growth for the benefit of Kosovo’s people.


IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said it was clear that real progress had been made, which was evidence of the effectiveness of UNMIK and Mr. Steiner.  To achieve total success, a multidimensional approach was essential, on three levels:  the socio-political components of Kosovo; the immediate neighbourhood of Kosovo; and the international community.


He said nothing lasting could be achieved without lasting tolerance and integration, he continued.  He supported decentralization, which could promote a truly multi-ethnic society.  There must also be greater cooperation with Kosovo’s neighbours.  In that regard, he welcomed agreements signed in the areas of trade,

tourism, transport and police.  He was, however, concerned about forced repatriation and persistent tension along the borders.


The international community must remain vigilant, patient and resolute in its work in Kosovo and continue its work there, he said.  Measures to deal with the trade imbalance, job creation, investment, training and education also required support.  The recent elections had been held in line with democratic standards, but he deplored the murders that had taken place afterwards.  There had also been some politically and ethnically motivated violence.  The leaders in Kosovo had an important part to play in establishing a multi-ethnic society.


ZHANG YISHAN (China), President of the Council, speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the peaceful holding of the recent elections and the benchmark approach to progress in Kosovo.   Elections were only the first step; the meaningful participation of all parties and groups was now essential. 


He expressed disappointment at the low turnout of Serbs in the elections, saying there was still a long way to go towards national reconciliation in Kosovo.  He anticipated fruitful results from the Security Council’s mission.


DEJAN SAHOVIC (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) hoped that a Security Council mission, which had been scheduled to visit Kosovo during the elections, would be carried out in the near future in order to improve knowledge of the situation on the ground, which he called “not satisfactory, to say the least”.


Turning to the issue of internally displaced persons, he said their return must be given priority in efforts to achieve stability, democracy and multi-ethnicity.  The numbers of those willing to return would not increase, without energetic measures to speed up the process, including efforts to increase security and freedom of movement.  The prompt condemnation of the mob attack on a group of elderly Serbs a few weeks ago was appreciated, but there are no guarantees that such attacks would not recur.


Regarding the elections, he said that the highest Yugoslav authorities had called on Serbs to participate, and they had done so in the hope that their situation would improve.  A large turnout, however, was not realistic.  Northern Mitrovica was the only municipality where they had not voted, and that was due to fear for their survival in the city.  Multi-ethnicity could only be achieved through close cooperation among all those involved, while avoiding any steps that might exacerbate the situation.  Yugoslavia stood ready to contribute fully to normalizing conditions in Mitrovica.


In that context, Yugoslavia supported continued discussion on the decentralization of Kosovo in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999) and the responsibilities of UNMIK.  Unequivocal guarantees by the international community were needed for such decentralization, which would pave the way for stable, democratic local institutions and faith in a common future for all communities.  He pointed out that the recent opening of two border crossings between his country and Albania, as well as a visit to New York by Prime Minister Rexhepi and others, had been carried out in a manner inconsistent with resolution 1244.


ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated states, commended the professional, free and fair manner in which the municipal elections had been held, calling them a significant step in the creation of a democratic society in Kosovo.  However, a shadow had been cast by the killing of the President of the Municipal Assembly and others in Suhareke/Suva Reka.  The Union strongly condemned those killings, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.


She said the Union also regretted the low participation in elections by the Serb minority in certain areas.  By staying away, they had missed an opportunity to contribute to the shaping of their communities. 


Expressing support for the work of the Kosovo Trust Agency in establishing clear property ownership, facilitating and protecting new investments, and putting idle assets to productive use, she said the Union expected full support from all parties in meeting the difficult challenges ahead.  She also welcomed UNMIK’s work to combat organized crime and corruption and said the authority of the United Nation’s throughout Kosovo was unconditional.  There could be no partition, no mono-ethnicity and no parallel structures. 


All local actors must cooperate in the implementation of resolution 1244 (1999), including further decentralization, she said, reiterating calls for Belgrade to discontinue its financial and political support for parallel structures.  To uphold the rule of law, fear must be replaced with trust and confidence through concrete measures.  On the issue of returns, she supported UNMIK’s efforts to increase the pace and welcomed the work of the newly established Office of Missing Persons and Forensics. 


Supporting the “standards before status” policy, she said Kosovo politicians must focus on achieving a culture based on the rule of law, on tackling crime and violence and on economic progress before considering the future status of the province.


VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine), while noting that Kosovo was in a very precarious situation, said that the progress achieved by UNMIK in promoting the benchmark process, strengthening the rule of law and laying the foundations for economic stabilization gave reason for very cautious optimism.  The outcome of the municipal elections indicated that, although significant improvement had been made in the province, there were still many hurdles ahead.  The electorate had placed great trust in the hands of its newly elected leaders and it was now important to ensure effective governance for the benefits of all national communities though proper implementation of the election results, adding that low participation by minorities, especially the Kosovo Serbs, was the most regrettable news.


He noted that the Special Envoy of the United Nations Human Rights Commission for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had reported no improvement in the status of human rights in the region, referring in particular to the slow process of minority returns.  Despite international efforts to improve security conditions, Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians living in mixed ethnic areas still feared violent intimidation.  He urged all Kosovo authorities to work closely with UNMIK and UNHCR to improve the inter-ethnic climate, as well as conditions for sustainable returns.


During October, there had been flare-ups of ethnic-related violence, he said, strongly condemning outbursts of all kinds of violence.  He called on UNMIK

and KFOR to take resolute action in stopping that dangerous trend.  UNMIK's active cooperation with the Belgrade authorities and the implementation of new initiatives undertaken by the Secretary-General's Special Representative and Kosovo leaders would bring tangible results.


YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) described the municipal elections as an important step towards realizing a democratic and multiethnic society in the province.  The low turnout among Kosovo Serbs and the election boycott in Mitrovica were disappointing, he said, calling upon all elected members of the municipal assemblies to work together in developing democratic local governments.


He said the international community must build upon the election outcome and continue its efforts for the construction of a democratic and multiethnic society.  UNMIK and the elected leaders should, first of all, cooperate to achieve decentralization, and the dismantling of parallel structures in Mitrovica would be key to that endeavour.


The construction of a democratic and multiethnic society would also depend on the expeditious return of refugees and internally displaced persons.  It was important that the international community extend assistance for ethnic reconciliation.  Japan had contributed almost $100 million to various reconstruction assistance programmes and would pursue possibilities to contribute to small arms control and human resources development projects.


He noted that the Council had sent missions to Kosovo three years in succession and would send a new mission.  While recognizing that such missions could play an important role in determining how the United Nations should be engaged in efforts to settle a regional conflict, it was important that the costs and criteria for deciding when and where to dispatch a mission, as well as its composition, be made transparent.


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