Kosovo mission at its most difficult and delicate phase – UN envoy

8 May 2003 –

The top United Nations official in Kosovo said today the UN mission there had entered “what is perhaps its most critical and delicate phase” with the transference of competencies to local provisional institutions.

“Responsibilities have to be transferred gradually, so that the society’s institutions have the capacity to bear them,” Michael Steiner, the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe in Vienna.

“This makes local capacity building and monitoring more important than ever,” he added. “As we transfer more responsibilities, we have to intensify our monitoring of how they’re carried out. With its seasoned field presence, the OSCE is uniquely qualified to play the leading role in this critical process.”

Outlining the priorities of fighting organized crime, establishing the rule of law, human rights and a market-based economy, and speeding the return of refugees, Mr. Steiner said integration within Kosovo was the key to the province’s integration within Europe.

“Transforming Kosovo into a place where all its people can live in security and dignity is not only essential for the sake of minority communities,” he declared. “It is essential for the long-term stability of the Balkans and Europe itself. To achieve this transformation, we need to help Kosovans to make European standards their own.”

He stressed that with regard to organized crime, a regional problem, Europe faced a choice in weighing the importance of Kosovo next to competing priorities farther afield.

“To put it starkly,” he said, “Europe can either help us fill our prisons in Kosovo by supporting vital work in training police, developing the judiciary and developing technical forensic expertise. Or Kosovo will help fill prisons in Europe. Clearly, this would be a bad bargain. Instead, after the huge investment made already, we must continue our work to make Kosovo a beacon for the rule of law and, ultimately, an exporter of stability.”

UNMIK is a success because the engagement of the international community he said. “It has been a joint endeavour,” Mr. Steiner declared. “The legitimacy that comes from the UN and the support of the whole Security Council means that the whole world is represented in Kosovo. And the three pillar structure, put in place from lessons learned in Bosnia, has been a big success. It represents the EU (European Union), the UN and the OSCE working hand in hand in UNMIK.”

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