|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7108th Meeting (PM)
Speakers in Security Council Urge Serbia, Kosovo to Maintain
2013 Momentum towards Normalizing Relations
Special Representative Briefs as Delegates Hear from Leaders of Both Sides
Serbia and Kosovo should build on the momentum created during 2013 towards the normalization of relations between them, speakers in the Security Council said today as the 15-member body held its quarterly debate on that situation.
Farid Zarif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said 2013 had been a year of significant change, as well as political progress, in particular the historic achievement last April of the first agreement of principles governing the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The increased mutual confidence and direct communication between them had been an essential basis for the progress achieved, he added.
While an important milestone would be reached with the full constitution of municipal administrations, he continued, the establishment of an association of Serb-majority municipalities would be a next major step towards full implementation of the 19 April agreement. He went on to emphasize that the European perspective had emerged as a key instrument for encouraging political progress, as well as gradual reform and modernization of public institutions.
Within the broader context of progress by both parties towards accession to the European Union, he said major regional assistance to local projects and programmes in Kosovo would clearly remain central, and bilateral donor assistance should be carefully coordinated with all other efforts on the ground. The United Nations system could add value in that regard, he added.
Prime Minister Ivica Dačić of Serbia emphasized that the Council was the only appropriate forum within which to agree on a possible reconfiguration of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo. If it was necessary for the Council to issue a presidential statement on the Secretary-General’s six-point plan, then surely its approval was also needed for a substantial change in that mission’s mandate and scope, he said, stressing that each and every proposal to terminate or reduce the scope of any mission’s mandate deserved serious discussion and agreement.
The Prime Minister went on to underline that the majority status of Kosovo Albanians did not give them the right to take unilateral decisions on independence without the agreement of the country from which they had seceded. Serbia was ready for normalization and reconciliation, as well as for dialogue aimed at finding a comprehensive solution to outstanding issues, he said, but “it is not ready, nor will it ever be, to accept the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo and Metohija”.
Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo said his administration respected all agreements, and called on Serbia to increase its commitment to their full implementation, noting that Belgrade continued to impede implementation of the agreement on Kosovo’s representation in regional organizations and initiatives. Cooperation in that regard was of high necessity since there could be no success against terrorism, organized crime or corruption without open coordination. Pointing out that April would mark the first anniversary of the inter-state agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, he said it was time for the Council to consider transforming UNMIK into a political office that would help Kosovo join the community of free nations.
The Russian Federation’s representative said that his Government’s position on Kosovo was consistent in its support for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) remained the binding international legal basis for settling the question of Kosovo, he emphasized. The Kosovo authorities should intensify efforts to establish an atmosphere of trust, without which the goal of a multiethnic Kosovo appeared unrealistic, he said, adding that he was troubled by the participation of Kosovo Albanians in the Syrian conflict, especially as members of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Council must consider the consequences of such people returning to Kosovo, he said, warning that radicalization in the Western Balkans and the European Union was inevitable.
The delegate of the United States was among those who urged the Council to reduce the number of reports and meetings on Kosovo, explaining that such a step would allow both parties to focus on dialogue and removing impediments to the free movement of goods and people. The United States appreciated Kosovo’s efforts to work with municipal authorities to ensure functional decentralized institutions, she said, encouraging them to expand their outreach efforts, notably in northern Kosovo. The question of returnees must be addressed, and attacks against them must be condemned in the strongest terms, she stressed, also encouraging full implementation of the law on cultural heritage and enforcement of the special protection zone. She underscored her country’s appreciation of the growing international recognition of Kosovo as a free and sovereign State.
Others participating in today’s debate were representative of the United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Chile, Argentina, Jordan, China, France, Australia, Rwanda, Chad, Luxembourg and Lithuania.
The meeting began at 3 p.m. and ended at 5:15 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the latest report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2014/68).
FARID ZARIF, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said 2013 had been a year of significant changes, as well as political progress, in particular through the historic achievement last April of the first agreement of principles governing the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The increased level of mutual confidence and direct communication between the two sides had been an essential basis for the progress achieved, he said, noting that some 80 former Serbian police officers had completed their induction and transition to the Kosovo police during the reporting period. That number had since grown to 142 and the deployment of an additional 100 officers was expected.
He emphasized, however, that the terms agreed regarding the judiciary in northern Kosovo had not yet been implemented, although some progress had been made during the most recent high-level discussions, held in Brussels on 27 January, he noted, urging both parties to move expeditiously to conclude that discussion, hopefully during their twenty-second round of high-level talks, scheduled for 12 February. Building greater confidence in the police and judiciary throughout Kosovo was of the highest importance, especially as implementation proceeded in northern Kosovo. The 16 January killing of a newly elected member of the North Mitrovica municipal assembly and the killing last September of a Lithuanian official of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), both unresolved, only underscored that urgency.
Despite the overall success of local elections in Kosovo, the establishment of new administrations in its northern municipalities had been slow, he said. In the North Mitrovica municipality, the decision by the mayor-elect not to take the oath of office had necessitated a new mayoral election on 23 February. In addition, the 27 January arrest of a prominent local Kosovo Serb political leader and a mayoral candidate in North Mitrovica on charges of war crimes and aggravated murder had triggered local tensions, leading to protests and public calls for his release pending trial. While an important milestone would be reached with the full constitution of municipal administrations, the establishment of a community/association of Serb-majority municipalities would represent another major step towards full implementation of the 19 April agreement.
He went on to emphasize that the European perspective had emerged as a key instrument for encouraging political progress, as well as the gradual reform and modernization of Kosovo’s public institutions. In December, the Council of the European Union had noted the opening of negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo. It had also taken note of the European Commission’s intention to conclude the negotiations during the course of 2014. The Council had adopted the General European Union position on the opening of accession negotiations with Serbia, and the first intergovernmental conference with that country had been launched on 21 January. Within the broader context of progress by both parties in their respective relations with European institutions, major regional assistance to local projects and programmes in Kosovo would clearly remain central, he said, adding that bilateral donor assistance should be carefully coordinated with all other efforts on the ground. The United Nations system could add value in that regard.
IVICA DAČIĆ, Prime Minister of Serbia, applauded the “great breakthroughs” in negotiations, but warned that, “should our patience and wisdom now wear thin, not only shall we not progress towards results, but [we] shall squander people’s trust and have to wait a very long [time] for another opportunity to rehabilitate the idea of cohabitation”. He called on the Council to join efforts towards consistent implementation of the agreements reached so far. “Short of the trust, we may not, I am afraid, have sound foundations for any future agreements.” Serbia had officially begun the process of accession to the European Union, which was a great impetus for further efforts to improve the living conditions of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, he noted.
He said the European Commission’s 2013 progress report stressed the need to address lingering problems, including weak implementation of anti-discrimination policies, and to do more to reach out to displaced persons regarding expropriation of their real estate. Another point of focus must be eliminating the shortcomings that had marred the recent local elections, he said, pointing out that the balloting materials had only been “partially status-neutral”. The recent assassination of Dimitrije Janićijević, a mayoral candidate in northern Kosovoska Mitrovica had created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, while the arrest of Oliver Ivanović, another mayoral candidate and a most prominent Kosovo Serb politician also impeded stability.
The Secretary-General’s assessment that the number of inter-ethnic incidents had declined provided no exculpation for the more than 7,000 physical attacks carried out since 1999, or for persisting ones, he emphasized. No records on ethnically motivated crimes had yet been compiled and the competent agencies continued to fall short in trying the perpetrators. The treatment of minority communities made it impossible for them to lead normal lives, and regrettably, there had been no concrete and relevant follow-up measures to enforce the law banning all forms of discrimination, either on the part of UNMIK or Pristina’s institutions. Surely, the question of restitution of properties belonging to non-Kosovo Albanian communities, the majority of whom were Kosovo Serbs, was embedded in the question of minority rights, he said.
The legal mechanisms of UNMIK and EULEX to address property issues had yielded “less than adequate results”, he continued, adding that the possible adoption of a new law concerning the Trepca Combine, of which Serbia was the majority owner, could alter the status of employees and members of ethnic Serb and other non-Albanian communities. Regarding a possible reconfiguration of EULEX, he said the Council was the only appropriate forum within which to agree on such changes. If it was necessary for the Council to adopt a presidential statement on the Secretary-General’s six-point plan, then surely its approval was also needed for a substantial change in that mission’s mandate and scope, he continued. Each and every proposal to terminate or reduce the scope of any mission’s mandate deserved serious discussion and agreement. The majority status of Kosovo Albanians did not give them the right to take unilateral decisions on independence without the agreement of the country from which they had seceded. Serbia was ready for normalization and reconciliation in the region, as well as for dialogue aimed at finding a comprehensive solution, he said, but “it is not ready, nor will it ever be, to accept the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo and Metohija”.
HASHIM THAÇI of Kosovo said that the holding of free elections throughout the territory, on the basis of local legislation and in conformity with the highest international standards, was the best signal that Kosovo could send to the democratic world, he said, hailing the efforts of Kosovo police, EULEX, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to ensure Kosovar democracy.
He recalled that, during the inaugural meeting of the municipal assemblies in northern Kosovo, mayors had been inaugurated in line with the constitution, but unfortunately, the elected mayor of Northern Mitrovica had failed to take the oath of office and, consequently, had lost his mandate, he noted, adding that, in accordance with local electoral law, the President had called for extraordinary elections on 23 February. The murder of the Serbian Independent Liberal Party’s mayoral candidate for North Mitrovica might have been premeditated by those attempting to hold Kosovo Serb citizens hostage. Kosovo’s government and all relevant institutions had condemned that criminal act and requested the relevant authorities to investigate the case.
Turning to the economic front, he said the 2014 budget was in line with International Monetary Fund (IMF) directives and predicted economic growth of more than 4 per cent, among the highest in the region. A series of agreements on eliminating “double taxation”, the protection and promotion of investments and economic cooperation had been signed, or were to be signed with various countries in the course of 2014. Political stability and the prospect of European integration had also borne fruit, he said, citing the European Parliament’s 16 January adoption of a resolution welcoming the gains that Kosovo had made in its six-year journey as an “independent and sovereign country”. The 19 April 2013 agreement between Kosovo and Serbia had “opened a new chapter” of peace and mutual cooperation. Pristina remained committed to dialogue with Belgrade in 2014, with the opening of new issues that were important for good neighbourliness.
Kosovo respected all agreements and called on Serbia to increase its commitment to their full implementation, he said, noting that Belgrade continued to impede implementation of the agreement on Kosovo’s representation in regional organizations and initiatives. Cooperation in that regard was of high necessity since there could be no success against terrorism, organized crime and corruption without open coordination. Pointing out that the coming April would mark the first anniversary of the inter-state agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, he said Kosovo had made progress in domestic consolidation over the last six years as an independent, sovereign State, and in strengthening its international position. It was time for the Council to consider transforming UNMIK into a political office that would help Kosovo realize its aspirations to join the community of free nations.
ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) said the recent elections reflected Kosovo’s commitment to free and fair democratic elections, as well as the desire of its people to make their voices heard. The memorandum of understanding between the police and prosecutors to address reports of intimidation and fraud had contributed to the success of the elections, she added, calling on local leaders to support dialogue, cooperation and integration within their communities. Sustaining the success of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia was crucial for stability and reconciliation, and normalization between them would bring opportunities, including jobs and economic growth. Urging the Council to reduce the number of reports and meetings dedicated to Kosovo, she said that would allow both parties to focus on dialogue and remove impediments to the free movement of goods and people.
The United States appreciated Kosovo’s efforts to work with municipal authorities to ensure functional decentralized institutions, she said, encouraging them to expand their outreach efforts, notably in northern Kosovo. Indeed, the Government must sustain a “whole of society” effort. The question of returnees must be addressed, and attacks against them must be condemned in the strongest terms, she stressed, also encouraging full implementation of the law on cultural heritage and enforcement of the special protection zone. Congratulating Kosovo and Serbia on having achieved milestones towards European Union integration, she underscored her country’s appreciation of the growing recognition of Kosovo as a free and sovereign State.
VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said his Government’s position on Kosovo was consistent in its supporting for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) remained fully in force as the binding international legal basis for settling the Kosovo question. No one was entitled to hinder the implementation of that goal. Recalling efforts to defile the role of UNMIK, including during the November-December 2013 municipal elections, he called on the Mission to carry out its mandate and tackle challenges to the rule of law, the protection of ethnic and religious minorities, and the protection of orthodox shrines and buildings. An effective structure representing Kosovo Serbs would ensure the stability of Kosovo as whole, he said.
The Kosovo Albanian authorities should intensify efforts to establish an atmosphere of trust, without which the goal of a multiethnic Kosovo appeared unrealistic, he continued. No progress had been made on the return of internally displaced persons, and another issue was the tax imposed on Serbian worshippers travelling to Kosovo for Christmas. Expressing concern over signals from Pristina on the drawdown of EULEX as early as June, he said resolution 1244 (1999) was fully in force, and the powers of UNMIK could not be transferred to a third party, especially unilaterally declared Pristina structures. The Government of the Russian Federation was troubled by Kosovo Albanian participation in the Syrian conflict, especially as members of the Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Council must consider the consequences of such people returning to Kosovo, he said, warning that radicalization in the Western Balkans and the European Union was inevitable.
MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) welcomed the large turnout in the 2013 local elections, describing the year as one of significant change and political progress. It was a particularly welcome development that citizens of Kosovo’s four northern municipalities had participated in the elections. Stressing the importance of EULEX in strengthening the rule of law, he also urged continued efforts on missing persons, which would be of key importance for reconciliation. The progress made in 2013 must, however, be consolidated in the coming months. It was crucial to continue implementing the April agreement and the European Union-facilitated dialogue. The Government of the United Kingdom recognized Kosovo and urged other States to do so, he said, urging the Security Council to reduce the frequency of meetings on Kosovo.
JOON OH ( Republic of Korea) said full implementation of the April 2013 agreement should be an urgent priority so as to maintain the positive momentum created during 2013. The European Union-facilitated dialogue and its technical support had led to positive changes on the ground, and the Republic of Korea urged both parties to step up their efforts to resolve outstanding issues, such as judiciary integration. While highlighting the successful local elections as a milestone towards normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo, he condemned violations and violence, including the 16 January murder of a newly elected official. Building a lasting peace would require time and good faith, and the Kosovo authorities should commit themselves to protecting ethnic minorities and ensuring the safe return of internally displaced persons.
KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) welcomed the technical meeting held on 2 December to discuss Kosovo’s draft strategy on human rights, but noted that the authorities had not made progress in implementing recommendations on the cultural and other rights of minority communities. Nigeria urged greater protection of minorities in order to strengthen cohesion. On the political front, he welcomed the implementation of measures to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia, urging continued high-level commitment in that regard. The recent elections had been generally peaceful, and it was significant that voters in Serbia and Montenegro had been able to participate, he said, noting also the positive role played by the ethnic Serb leadership in support of mass participation in northern Kosovo. While welcoming Kosovo’s commitment to facilitating the return of Kosovo Serbs to their properties, he said he would like to see the same commitment towards other displaced communities, stressing that the authorities must take measures to end discrimination and grant them better access to education.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) said the municipal elections held for the first time under a single legislative framework would enhance efforts towards normalization between Kosovo and Serbia. Future elected representatives must continue their cooperation, in line with the 19 April agreement. The parties must continue to adopt confidence-building measures and advance reconciliation, while pending issues such as the fate of disappeared and kidnapped persons and the reintegration of internally displaced persons must be addressed. It was also important to ensure women’s participation in decision-making, he said, underlining the need to build greater capacity, especially in the justice and security sectors, and calling upon UNMIK to continue its cooperation with EULEX, KFOR and the international community. Urging the Mission to redouble its efforts vis-à-vis disappeared individuals, he said the lack of progress in terms of accountability was striking.
MARIO OYARZÁBAL ( Argentina) said that although isolated incidents of violence had been overcome, his delegation was concerned that they could hinder the democratic process. The perpetrator of the 16 January killing of an elected official in northern Kosovo must be brought to justice, he said, calling also for the establishment of a community/association of Serb-majority municipalities. That would be a key step in the implementation of the April agreement. Another major concern for Argentina was the low rate of returns on the part of internally displaced persons. Their human rights must be fully respected, he stressed, saying that the main obstacles to their return included high unemployment rates, dispute over property, the fragile security situation and poor economic prospects.
EIHAB OMAISH ( Jordan) urged both parties to take advantage of the impetus created in 2013 to pursue direct dialogue facilitated by the European Union. Jordan welcomed the peaceful conduct of the local elections, as well as the observation in the Secretary-General’s report that the security condition was generally stable, with the level of crime dropping. However, Jordan regretted the 16 January killing of an elected official, and hoped that incident would not have a negative effect on the political process. Noting his country’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence, he said it was now important to emphasize implementation of the April 2013 agreement.
WANG MIN ( China) underlined Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, saying that resolution 1244 (1999) was the legal basis for resolving the question of Kosovo. Today, the security situation there was stable, and there had been progress on implementing the agreement on normalizing relations, he noted. Local elections had been held and agreements reached on crossing points. As such, China encouraged Belgrade and Pristina to continue a practical, constructive dialogue in order to implement agreements, and consolidate gains for the benefit of their respective peoples. Further, China called for strengthened coordination among UNMIK, EULEX and KFOR so they could play a constructive role in solving the Kosovo question.
ALEXIS LAMEK ( France) said the 19 April agreement marked an unprecedented stage in normalizing relations. France would continue to focus on the milestones of the 19 April accord, among them the dismantling of Kosovo Serb parallel structures in the north, and the establishment of an association or community of Serb municipalities. The parties must continue their dialogue on the establishment of judiciary structures and the protection of minorities because the situation of returnees was a cause for concern. European Union accession talks with Serbia, on the one hand, and negotiations for a stabilization and association accord with Kosovo on the other, should “move into gear” during 2014. The Council should consider reducing the frequency of debates on Kosovo, he said.
PHILIPPA JANE KING ( Australia) applauded the political progress made in implementation of the April agreement, as well as the mediation efforts of the European Union. The holding of municipal and mayoral elections, including those in the four northern localities, attested to the commitment of the authorities to building a multiethnic society. While progress had been made, there was need for further efforts, including the creation of an association of Serb-majority municipalities and a functional court system. Australia urged the Kosovo authorities to end discrimination against minorities and returnees, and to protect religious and cultural heritage sites, she said, emphasizing that constructive efforts must continue in the year ahead.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) said the holding of municipal elections had been an important step towards implementing the April agreement. With the kind of political will shown by both parties, it would be possible to reach resolution. However, the murderer of an elected official must be brought to justice, and the authorities must pay more attention to issues facing minorities, he said, welcoming efforts to draft a comprehensive strategy on human rights for the period 2014-2018. He went on to underline the need to address such issues as discrimination, high unemployment, illegal occupation of property and poor access to education for returnees, while commending the monitoring and advisory role of EULEX in the rule of law area.
BANTE MANGARAL ( Chad) encouraged the authorities to continue their efforts to maintain public order, while commending UNMIK for its work in building the capacity of ministries involved in ensuring internal peace and security. He also cited difficulties in implementing measures relating to internally displaced persons and refugees, saying favourable conditions must be established for their return. He called on the Council to support UNMIK until the conclusion of its mandate.
OLIVIER MAES ( Luxembourg) said the commitment of officials on both sides had ensured the success of the recent municipal elections, and he was confident that all steps would be taken to ensure a successful partial re-run on 23 February for the Mayor of North Mitrovica. Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, facilitated by the European Union, had facilitated progress in dismantling parallel structures, notably in the police, as well as in managing border crossings. The next dialogue session, on 12 February, would provide an opportunity for greater progress, he said, adding that the normalization of relations must be accompanied by the pursuit of rule-of-law reforms. As for the Council, the time had come for it to review the frequency with which it addressed the situation in Kosovo and the activities of UNMIK. The international presences on the ground should be adapted in the medium term as the need for United Nations involvement in Kosovo would diminish in the coming years, he said.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ ( Lithuania), Council President, spoke in her national capacity, declaring that the “transformative power” of the European Union mediation efforts was clearly at play as both sides advanced towards integration. However, wider electoral reform should be completed before the legislative elections later this year. Progress also was needed in integrating the judiciary, proper implementing agreements on energy and telecommunications, and applying the law uniformly throughout Kosovo. The continuing assistance from EULEX was indispensable, she said, adding that the focus should now be on full integration of the rule of law and the northern municipal institutions under a single jurisdiction. Both sides must show the decisiveness needed to bring about a common European future, and progress towards normalizing relations, which could trigger positive spillover effects in neighbouring countries.
Mr. THAÇI of Kosovo, taking the floor a second time, said the return of Kosovo Serbs was continuing, and he had personally visited and talked to them with a view to ensuring secure conditions for them. Returns were encouraged at the central and local levels throughout the territory, he added. Turning to the conflict in Syria, he said Kosovo had adopted a modern law prohibiting the participation of Kosovars in armed conflicts, whether in Syria or elsewhere. Calling upon Serbia to implement the agreements reached in Brussels, he said questions relating to the justice system would be addressed in the next high-level meeting between the two sides.
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