Kosovo: Keeping the momentum

 

Despite having started on a sombre note with the death ofKosovo President Ibrahim Rugova in January, 2006 promised to be a constructive year for Kosovo with the launching in February of talks on Kosovo’s future status led by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Future Status Process for Kosovo,Martti Ahtisaari.

 

During 2006, the Special Envoy brought together representatives from Belgrade and Pristina in direct talks with the active support of the Contact Group, comprised of France,Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States. At the outset of the process, the Contact Group Ministers issued “Guiding Principles”,which were conveyed to the Security Council, and which included the principles that “there should be no return of Kosovo to the pre-1999 situation, no partition of Kosovo, and no union of Kosovo with any or part of another country”, while affirming that “the settlement needs to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo” and that “a multi-ethnic settlement is the only workable option”.

 

Fifteen rounds of “technical talks” between delegations from Pristina and Belgrade were held in Vienna in 2006, and the Special Envoy presided over a High- Level meeting held on 24 July with the participation of President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica fromSerbia, and President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Agim Çeku from Kosovo. The “technical talks” included discussions on decentralization, the protection of cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo, economic issues, and the protection of community rights within the Framework of the Ten Contact Group Guiding Principles.

 

Although not participating directly in the status talks, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has provided facilitation and support to the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Future Status Process for Kosovo (UNOSEK). Together with the NATO-led peacekeeping force, known as KFOR,UNMIK has continued to ensure a safe and secure environment in Kosovo throughout the future status process.

 

Amid heightened political tensions linked to the status process,UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo (PISG) have nevertheless kept their focus on the implementation of the “Standards for Kosovo”, a strategic framework aimed at strengthening democracy, governance and the rule of law, improving the protection of minority rights and laying the foundation for economic development. To keep up momentum on standards implementation, the Contact Group identified 13 priority points which are being implemented by the PISG. The standards have recently been incorporated into Kosovo’s roadmap towards European integration, the “European Partnership Action Plan”,which ensures that the principles that have helped to guide Kosovo during the status process will continue to guide Kosovo’s future even after a status settlement.

 

The year 2006 witnessed other notable developments in Kosovo.The changes in the leadership of the PISG (President, Prime Minister and the President of the Assembly) in the first quarter were made in a democratic manner and in accordance with applicable law. The new leadership began with an extensive campaign to reach out to minority communities, encouraging their cooperation with and participation in the PISG. Regional integration and cooperation have improved. On behalf of the PISG, UNMIK signed several bilateral agreements in the field of economic cooperation with Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Turkey, as well as multilateral agreements in the fields of aviation, energy and free trade. On returns, the Protocol on Voluntary and Sustainable Returns, signed between Belgrade and Pristina, is expected to enhance the operational and technical cooperation of Belgrade and Pristina to improve the conditions for, and facilitate the returns of, internally displaced persons (IDPs) to Kosovo. On decentralization, the capacity-building of the three Pilot Municipal Units began in order to allow them to become fully-fledged municipalities in 2007.

 

With the transfer of further competencies to the PISG, UNMIK has been increasingly playing a role in monitoring and providing support for the Kosovo authorities. In 2006, the Ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs were established, as well as the Kosovo Judicial Council within the PISG. Accordingly, UNMIK adapted its structures.The mission’s civil administration pillar was transformed into a smaller department, and the presence of UNMIK representatives at central and municipal levels was substantially reduced. The capacity- building of these new institutions is underway.

 

As the status process approaches its final stage, UNMIK has embarked on preparations for an orderly transition, in conformity with United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).UNMIK worked intensively during the year with partner organizations to plan for the transfer of its authority and responsibilities to the institutions of Kosovo and a future International Civilian Office (ICO) expected to be established under a status settlement. Two planning teams for this future ICO have been set up in Pristina: one covering future EU involvement in the rule of law sector, and another working on the mechanisms and structures to oversee the implementation of the status settlement.

 

While the timing of a status resolution remains in the hands of the Security Council, expectations on the ground run high that Kosovo’s status will be resolved in 2007,and that UNMIK will be able to successfully complete its mission thereafter.

 

 

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Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

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