AT END OF TENURE, SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON SITUATION IN KOSOVO

3 July 2003
SC/7807

AT END OF TENURE, SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON SITUATION IN KOSOVO

03/07/2003
Press ReleaseSC/7807

Security Council

4782nd Meeting* (AM)

AT END OF TENURE, SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE

BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON SITUATION IN KOSOVO

Says Kosovo Has Embarked on Road

Towards Liberated, Functioning, Democratic Society

“From the oppression, humiliation and tragedy of 1999, Kosovo has embarked on the road towards a liberated, functioning, democratic society”, Michael Steiner, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the Security Council this morning.

In his last briefing –- as he would leave Kosovo next week –- Mr. Steiner said that since his arrival, one and a half years ago, a multi-ethnic government had been put together, and prisoners of war had been brought back.  An UNMIK administration had been installed in the northern part of Mitrovica, and the negative trend in returns had been reversed.  Both parties had stated they were ready for direct dialogue.  Although huge challenges remained, the groundwork for Kosovo’s future progress had now been laid.  The Provisional Government and Kosovo’s other institutions were not perfect, he said, but they were functioning and learning.

During the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed progress achieved in implementing resolution 1244 (1999) and establishing a democratic, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Kosovo, with full respect for the rule of law and for human rights, crediting Mr. Steiner’s leadership in that regard.  They expressed concern, however, about ongoing inter-ethnic violence and lack of tolerance.  Several speakers also called on the Belgrade and Pristina authorities to start a direct dialogue on practical issues as soon as possible.

Most Kosovars ranked the economy as their number one concern, and unemployment was running at 57 per cent, Mr. Steiner said, continuing his remarks. However, the euro provided for monetary stability, and Kosovo had a balanced budget that relied on a functioning revenue-collection service.  A privatization process had been launched.  What was needed now was investor confidence, which would only come with a functioning society based on the rule of law.

The number of returns of displaced persons was still far too small, he said, but a Framework for Returns was now in place.  Multi-ethnicity had been gradually improving.  Yet, a lot more work was required for Kosovo to become a truly multi-ethnic society.  In a positive development, all non-Serb leaders had signed an open appeal urging refugees and displaced people to return.

One standard where progress had been lagging was direct dialogue with Belgrade on practical issues, he continued.  The recent European Union-Western Balkans summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, had changed that, and direct dialogue on practical issues was put on track.

Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq had all demonstrated h0ow difficult it was to win the peace, to build functioning institutions and to start up the economy, he stated.  Kosovo had the added burden of its unresolved political status.  Much remained to be done to complete Kosovo’s transformation into a society where all its people could live in security and dignity.  But with the help of thousands of men and women from all communities in Kosovo and from most countries in the world, he left behind a solid foundation.

Other speakers in today’s meeting stressed that every effort must be made to overcome obstacles to freedom of movement, particularly for the Serb community and called for an end to impunity for those who committed violent, ethnic-based acts.  Speakers supported the “standards before status” policy implemented by

Mr. Steiner.  They cautioned that transferring responsibilities to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government must be gradual and take into account the real capacities of the institutions to assume their responsibilities.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of Italy said at the European Union-Western Balkans Summit of Thessaloniki on 21 June, the European Council had reiterated its determination to fully support the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries.  The European Union would ensure that Kosovo’s European prospects were not held back by the issue of final status.  Political stability in Kosovo required democratic, stable and functioning local institutions.  The common objective was to build effective, transparent and accountable institutions to the benefit of all communities.

On the concern expressed about the establishment of parallel administrative institutions, the representative of Serbia and Montenegro stressed that both majority and minority communities must be held responsible for establishing the values of a democratic, multi-ethnic society.  Otherwise, it would be difficult to expect the most vulnerable, the minorities, not to reach out for help elsewhere or to try to create their own institutions. 

The Albanian representative, however, while agreeing on the need for inter-ethnic dialogue to, among other things, ease the speedy return of displaced persons, cautioned minorities to avoid outside influence and consider themselves as an integral part of the political and social fabric of Kosovo.

At the outset of the meeting, the President of the Council, Inocencio F. Arias (Spain), expressed appreciation and gratitude for Mr. Steiner’s dedication in fulfilling the mandate entrusted to UNMIK, very often under delicate and difficult circumstances. 

Also speaking today were the representatives of Bulgaria, Guinea, Germany, Russian Federation, Chile, France, Mexico, United Kingdom, United States, China, Pakistan, Syria, Cameroon, Angola, Spain and Japan.  At the end of the discussion, Mr. Steiner addressed speakers’ comments and questions.

The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and was adjourned at 12:25 a.m.

Background

When the Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Kosovo, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), covering UNMIK’s activities and developments in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro since 1 April.

The report states that, four years into the Mission’s mandate, Kosovo has made “significant progress” in achieving substantial autonomy and self-government, as required under resolution 1244 (1999).  In addressing the main remaining challenges, however, working towards the benchmarks set out by the Special Representative within the framework of the “standards before status” policy remains the guiding principle for the current phase of UNMIK activities.

The ongoing transfer to Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of additional responsibilities set out in chapter 5 of the Constitutional Framework is a mechanism for achieving progress against the benchmarks, while also ensuring that the Provisional Institutions are full participants in the process and assume full responsibility for transferred areas of administration, the report says.  The Transfer Council is proving to be a useful forum for structured discussion and decisions on how best to move the transfer forward.

The report finds that cooperation between UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions in the context of the Transfer Council has, on the whole, been concrete and constructive; however, Kosovo Serb representatives in the Provisional Institutions have so far chosen not to attend meetings of the Transfer Council.  The transfer of responsibilities is proceeding in a phased manner, so as to ensure that Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions have the capacity to assume additional non-reserved responsibilities and are held accountable for delivering effective administration to Kosovo’s population.

The transfer process, the report goes on to say, does not affect the powers and responsibilities reserved for the Special Representative, in accordance with the Constitutional Framework, or the overall authority of UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) under resolution 1244 (1999).

Also according to the report, the transfer process has enabled Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions to focus more effectively on what is realistically achievable.  Kosovo’s Government has shown greater emphasis on the implementation of its responsibilities under the Constitutional Framework, and Kosovo’s Assembly has shown a greater readiness to engage in constructive cooperation with UNMIK, with a view to adopting legislation that is acceptable for promulgation by the Special Representative.

The report finds that the Kosovo Assembly, however, continued, on occasion, to show a tendency to go beyond its prescribed institutional role as a legislative body and to adopt positions on symbolic matters, which are clearly beyond the scope of its competencies under the Constitutional Framework.  The Assembly’s endorsement of a resolution on “war values”, which was highly divisive in nature, hinders efforts at cooperation among political representatives of Kosovo’s communities in the Provisional Institutions.

Although there are encouraging signs of a growing readiness on the part of Kosovo’s leaders to back minority returns publicly, much remains to be done to ensure that this commitment translates into concrete backing and support of the returns process throughout the Provisional Institutions, the report says.  This backing should take the form of concrete funding from Kosovo’s consolidated budget for activities related to returns, and the Provisional Institutions need to ensure that legislation and administrative implementation fully take into account the needs of those wishing to return and, of course, all people in Kosovo, regardless of their ethnicity.

While some sensitivity to the needs of minorities is beginning to be shown at the central level, where more international pressure is evident, the real challenge lies with municipalities in areas such as fair-share financing, political participation and language use.  At the same time, as inter-ethnic dialogue initiatives and the passage of time seem to be yielding some results, increased levels of inter-ethnic contact provide more opportunities for friction.  The process of return and reintegration can be successful and sustainable only if coupled with a genuine willingness on the part of the majority and minority communities to work together.  Continued and strengthened support and funding by the international community for returns to Kosovo is important.

The report goes on to say that establishing the rule of law remains a central challenge for UNMIK, with an increasing focus on the fight against organized crime and terrorist activities.  While UNMIK has moved to consolidate Kosovo’s law enforcement and judiciary structures, incidents, such as the multiple murder in Obilic and the explosion at the railway bridge in Zvecan, underscore the continuing threat to the normalization of society and process of reconciliation among communities.  Such acts of violence are unacceptable.  Kosovo’s leaders and its population must act decisively and concretely to ensure that they do not recur.

The normalization process in Kosovo also depends on the development of a sustainable foundation for economic growth and development, the report says.  Against this background, UNMIK continues its efforts to create the basis for a sustainable economy, one that is closely connected with those of the rest of the region.  In this context, a carefully managed and well-regulated privatization process can provide a solid basis for Kosovo’s economic recovery and development.

As UNMIK implements its mandate and steers the political process in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999), it faces increasing and competing political pressures.  Unilateral calls from Kosovo Albanians, Kosovo Serbs and Belgrade for mutually exclusive approaches to Kosovo’s future have continued.  Such calls do not contribute to reconciliation and inter-ethnic dialogue.  On the one hand, the Kosovo Albanian leadership continues to call for an accelerated path towards Kosovo’s independence.  On the other hand, Belgrade continues to seek co-governance with UNMIK and, in lending support to parallel structures, supports the boycott of UNMIK policies and programmes.

The report finds that such public positions do not address the practical realities and challenges faced in normalizing the society in Kosovo and providing for the well-being of its people.  Indeed, they can have a detrimental effect on Kosovo’s continued progress forward by entrenching mutually exclusive positions and, thus, undermining opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation.  The Secretary-General, therefore, welcomes the recent indications that leaders in Pristina and Belgrade are prepared to begin a dialogue on practical issues.  He encourages them to do so in a genuinely constructive manner, with a view to creating a climate conducive to the implementation of the mandate set out in resolution 1244 (1999).  The international community’s ongoing support is indispensable for such a dialogue to succeed.

Also in his report, the Secretary-General expresses his appreciation for Michael Steiner’s contribution to United Nations endeavours in Kosovo and the progress achieved during his tenure, and to the men and women of UNMIK for their commitment and professionalism in carrying out their duties.

The President of the Council, INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain), said the briefing by Mr. Steiner would be his last in his capacity as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo and Head of UNMIK.  On behalf of the Council, the President expressed appreciation and gratitude for his dedication in fulfilling the mandate entrusted to UNMIK, very often under delicate and difficult circumstances.  The President wished Mr. Steiner all the best and continued success in his new endeavours.

Briefing by Secretary-General’s Special Representative

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, MICHAEL STEINER, said he would leave Kosovo next week.  Since his arrival, one and a half year ago, a multi-ethnic government had been put together, and prisoners of war had been brought back.  Mitrovica was still not a normal European town, but an UNMIK administration had been installed in the northern part.  The negative trend in returns had been reversed and both parties had said they were ready for direct dialogue.

He said the framework for future progress was embodied in the eight benchmark standards covering the cornerstones of any functional democratic society.  The European Commission’s Tracking Mechanism had affirmed that the standards also paved the road to Europe.  Although huge challenges remained, the groundwork for Kosovo’s future progress had now been laid.

The Provisional Government and Kosovo’s other institutions were not perfect, he said, but they were functioning and learning.  The Kosovo Serb members participated in the work of the Assembly, which had now put into force 18 laws.  There was an orderly process for completing the transfer of non-reserved responsibilities to the Government by the end of the year.  The Provisional Institutions continued to push the limits of their competencies, and the Assembly did not always respect the rights of minorities.  Compliance with resolution 1244 and the Constitutional Framework must be ensured.

A multi-ethnic judiciary and police force of 5,407 officers had been built.  The record on crime was already better than many believed.  Equipped with new technical and legal instruments to use covert measures, the Organized Crime Bureau had mapped out the structures in Kosovo’s underworld.  The judiciary too had been active against organized crime.  The police were doing all they could to catch those who had perpetrated the heinous triple murder of a Serb family in Obilic, a crime which all key leaders of Kosovo had condemned.

Most Kosovans ranked the economy as their number one concern, and unemployment was running at 57 per cent. However, the groundwork for a sustainable economy had been laid, and the euro provided for monetary stability.  Kosovo had a balanced budget that relied on a functioning revenue-collection service.  A privatization process had been launched.  What was needed was investor confidence which would only come with a functioning society based on the rule of law.

There had been about 1,100 returns of displaced people since March, in a total of 7,000 returns.  That number was far too small.  A Framework for Returns was now in place.  Multi-ethnicity had been gradually improving.  Members of minorities represented 15 per cent of the Kosovo Police Service.  Yet, a lot more work was required for Kosovo to become a truly multi-ethnic society.  The slowness of returns and integration remained the most serious shortcoming.  All non-Serb leaders of Kosovo had signed an open appeal urging the refugees and displaced people in Serbia and Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to return.  “Kosovo doesn’t belong to Albanians or to Serbs or any other ethnic group –- Kosovo belongs to all its people.  Internalizing this fact is the key to Kosovo’s future”, he said.

Despite progress made, the rhetoric had become more adversarial.  In Pristina, Kosovo Albanians tried to infringe on reserved powers and continued to push for rapid independence.  Belgrade continued to support parallel structures and obstructed freedom of movement by refusing to recognize United Nations number plates for Kosovo.  Leaders on both sides needed to foster confidence.  If leaders were not leading their constituents forward, they were leading them backward.

One standard where progress had been lagging was a direct dialogue with Belgrade on practical issues.  The European Union-Western Balkans summit in Thessaloniki had changed that, and he said he had brought a multi-ethnic delegation to that summit.  European Commission President Prodi had said integration of the Balkans, including Kosovo, in the European Union was now irreversible.  Also, direct dialogue on practical issues was put on track.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq had all demonstrated how difficult it was to win the peace, to build functioning institutions and to start up the economy.  Kosovo had the added burden of its unresolved political status.  That was now slowly coming to the fore and no one should be surprised by that.  What was more surprising was how far one had come.  Kosovo was now moving towards the standards that would define its place in Europe.

He said much remained to be done to complete Kosovo’s transformation into a society where all its people could live in security and dignity.  But with the help of thousands of men and women from all communities in Kosovo and from most countries in the world, he left behind a solid foundation.  “From the oppression, humiliation and tragedy of 1999, Kosovo has embarked on the road towards a liberated, functioning, democratic society.  Participation of all had not yet been achieved.  The dream has not yet been realized.  But the groundwork has been laid”, he concluded.

Statements

RAYKO S. RAYTCHEV (Bulgaria) said the Secretary-General’s report reflected the results of the international community’s efforts and the constructive political factors in Kosovo aimed at a returning to normal life in the region.  He fully supported the process of transferring responsibilities under chapter 5 of the Constitutional Framework.  He was confident that the work of the Transfer Council would proceed according to plan.  The development and implementation of a feasible, transparent and acceptable plan to all parties was key, as was the establishment of functioning central and local institutions.  That process, therefore, should be accelerated.

He said that, without multi-ethnic composition of functioning institutions, the transfer process could be slowed, with all ensuing consequences.  He was concerned about ongoing inter-ethnic violence and lack of tolerance, which, among other things, was impeding the return of refugees and displaced persons.  The international community should make perfectly clear to all local inhabitants that such behaviour or its instigation was absolutely unacceptable.  He supported the efforts of the international community in combating organized crime and trafficking in human beings.  Steps should be taken, meanwhile, towards a meaningful direct dialogue, which would speed up the process of finding mutually acceptable solutions.  That would have a positive impact on the whole region.  Both local and global efforts now should be focused on tangible progress in returning the region to normal.

BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) noted with satisfaction progress made in the functioning of democratic institutions, in particular, the transfer of powers from UNMIK to the Provisional Institutions and the establishment of the Transitional Council, as well as the work of the Assembly.  He urged to avoid any action that would deepen divisions.

He appealed to Kosovo authorities to implement the plan for proportional representation.  On the rule of law, he said that enhancing the capacities of the justice system and police force needed to continue.  He also welcomed cooperation with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania in combating terrorism.  Regarding freedom of movement, he underscored the need to foster an attitude of mutual acceptance between the two communities.  The process of returns should be expanded and coordinated.

Addressing the issue of property rights, he said vigorous provisions should be taken to end illegal occupations.  He welcomed the start of contacts for a direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  Building a better Kosovo depended on the support of the international community, but ultimately depended on the commitment of the Kosovars themselves.

GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said that Kosovo had made remarkable progress, and everyone tended to lose sight of that in dealing with day-to-day problems.  Mr. Steiner had plunged ahead to facilitate the formation of a government, “kick start” the institutions, bring back home the last prisoners from Serbia, set up benchmarks, and create a policy of standards before status.  Today, the institutions for self-government were in place, but a lot of issues still evaded resolution.  Many of today’s problems were due to a serious lack of political maturity and a lack of respect of minorities on the part of the society and its political representatives.  Often, UNMIK was held accountable for those failures, but there had never been a lack of good faith to create a multi-ethnic Kosovo.

He said the situation could be much more advanced were it not for a political class that ignored the wider interests of the “ordinary people”.  The benchmarks were needed to advance legislation and develop policies for all Kosovars.  This week, there had been a hopeful political sign, with the unprecedented appeal of a Kosovo non-Serb leader in an open letter to residents.  That appeal was an expression of political responsibility and maturity, and confirmation of Kosovo as a rightful home for the displaced.  It represented a binding commitment.  Hopefully, that appeal would become a milestone in the matter of returns and integration.

Meanwhile, he called on the Belgrade and Pristina authorities to start direct dialogue on practical issues, possibly before the summer break, leading to parallel discussion at the expert level.  There was no easy or effortless way to achieve the benchmarks for a modern society, ready for European integration.  Mr. Steiner had dodged no efforts to bring that process forward.  Nor would the successor, whom he hoped would be appointed soon.

GENNADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said that in the four years since the adoption of resolution 1244, enormous progress had been made.  At the same time, despite that progress, a great number of important issues had not been resolved, including that of adequate representation of minorities, particularly Serb minorities; serious and violent incidents that were ethnically motivated; and lagging returns of non-Albanian refugees.

He said the Albanian political leaders had still failed to demonstrate initiatives regarding multi-ethnicity.  If the idea of building a multi-ethnic society continued to be stalled, it would give fertile ground for the continuation of violence,

He regretted the destructive role of the Kosovo media, which had launched an anti-Russian campaign to coincide with Russian withdrawal of troops in Kosovo.  The role of the Special Representative could be more active in that sphere, not in exercising censorship, but by establishing favourable conditions for implementing resolution 1244.  He stressed that transfer of competencies to Provisional Institutions must be done strictly in compliance with resolution 1244.

HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) reiterated that resolution 1244 (1999) was the cornerstone of the process of autonomy for Kosovo and Serbia and Montenegro.  He welcomed the significant progress that had been made towards achieving a substantial degree of autonomy during the recent transition period covered in the Secretary-General’s report.

At the same time, he could not but voice his “alarm” at the violent incidents and crimes committed against minorities.  The horrible murder committed in Obilic on 4 June had caused severe political damage to the return process.  All incidents of violence, harassment or discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity undermined the chances for achieving the goal of a multi-ethnic Kosovo and violated the spirit of resolution 1244 (1999).  He welcomed UNMIK’s efforts to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

He stressed that every effort must be made to overcome obstacles to freedom of movement, particularly for the Serb community of Kosovo.  No effort should be spared to bring to justice those guilty of such acts as the explosion that occurred on 12 April on a railway bridge in Zvecan.  Until that investigation was completed, he supported the travel ban imposed against members of the Kosovo Protection Corps for their alleged participation in that and other terrorist and criminal acts.

The future also held other challenges, he said.  One was to maintain and increase the level of efficiency of Kosovo civil servants, in light of the reduction of their number now in Kosovo.  Another was implementation of a plan to operationalize the benchmarks set out by the Special Representative.  The parties must intensify their dialogue. 

EMMANUELLE D’ACHON (France), associating herself with Italy’s statement on behalf of the European Union, said Mr. Steiner’s determined leadership of UNMIK had considerably helped the international community in its efforts to establish a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo.  His approach and method, with the definition of the famous benchmarks, deserved praise.  Positive results had been achieved in transfer of competencies, economic development and establishing the rule of law.

Guaranteeing the rights of all minorities and establishing direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade were issues that deserved particular attention.  Only in that way would the transfer of competencies and return of refugees be sustainable.

CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) expressed support for the transfer process, which should be carried out gradually, bearing in mind the capacity of the Provisional Institutions.  It must also be conducted in keeping with resolution 1244 (1999) and the Constitutional Framework.  The Provisional Institutions should be built on the basis of multi-ethnicity and cultural and intercommunal tolerance.  Political representatives and the Albanian majority, as well as the minorities, had a special responsibility to help ensure that Kosovo was a democratic, multi-ethnic and democratic society where the rule of law prevailed.  The elected representatives must vigorously and unequivocally condemn all acts of ethnically motivated crimes and acts of violence.  Legislation must be drafted that exceeded the competencies conferred upon the Institutions.

Similarly, he said representatives of minorities, particularly Serbs, should participate steadily and more actively in the Provisional Institutions.  In that regard, it was important that they participated in the meetings of the Transfer Council.  Sustainable returns was another matter of great import.  He welcomed that, in the first five months of this year, the number of minority returns exceeded the total that had returned last year.  Yet, that was still a very small number compared to the thousands of displaced persons who remained outside Kosovo, particularly Serbs.  He, therefore, welcomed with satisfaction the news heard today by Mr. Steiner of the public appeal for returns.

That type of measure was most needed at this time, he continued.  Another important element for returns was safety and security.  The lack thereof, or at least the perception of that lack, and the absence of freedom of movement, remained a serious obstacle.  Another essential condition to achieve sustainable returns in larger numbers was the economic factor.  The Provisional Institutions, therefore, should support the returns process with concrete financing measures.  He also attached great importance to the participation of women and was satisfied with the establishment of a gender affairs office in Kosovo.

JULIAN KING (United Kingdom), associating himself with Italy’s statement on behalf of the European Union, said Kosovo had come a long way since 1999, and Mr. Steiner deserved credit for laying the strong foundations for a successful future for Kosovo.  His policy initiative of standards before status had underpinned the international community’s recent efforts.  He believed that making the benchmarks operational was an important task to take forward.

He said the task ahead was to ensure that authorities in Pristina and Belgrade worked together for a better and more tolerant Kosovo.  The onus was on those in the region to show the seriousness of their efforts to achieve those goals.  He welcomed the open letter to displaced residents with an appeal to return and join the efforts to make Kosovo safer and better for all -- that was the goal shared by all.

JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said there was much left to be done in the areas of security, privatization, bringing in investment, getting the economy running, and increasing the returns.  The Provisional Institutions must concentrate on addressing issues and focusing on passing legislation for the good of all Kosovars.  Symbolic actions did nothing to advance that process . Dialogue, and not calls for mutually exclusive approaches, was the way ahead.  He was pleased with the public appeal issued for further returns.  He also strongly supported Mr. Steiner’s efforts to begin dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical issues, including those identified in the Common Document.  That effort should be expanded by both sides.

On a practical level, he urged Belgrade to recognize Kosovo licence plates, and he urged Kosovo residents to register their vehicles with UNMIK.  The transfer of power was an important step in implementing resolution 1244 (1999).  He was pleased that UNMIK was moving forward in developing a work plan on the benchmarks, as requested by the Council in February.  That would be a major step in assisting the Provisional Institutions in defining what they needed to accomplish towards the creation of a functioning society with a market economy.  Standards before status was the way forward, as those laid out a better future for all Kosovars.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said Mr. Steiner had led UNMIK in restoring democratic and economic development in Kosovo, where positive progress had been made.  He was, however, concerned over slow progress in national reconciliation and establishing a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo.  Freedom of movement was still hampered, and for Serbs it was still difficult to return to their homeland or use their own language.

Yesterday, non-Serb leaders had appealed to all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homeland.  He hoped all refugees and internally displaced persons could do so in a dignified way.  Direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade was necessary, he said, and welcomed the willingness indicated by leaders of both sides to achieve a lasting peace, stability and economic development in Kosovo.  He announced that his country’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs would soon visit the region.

MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said he welcomed the transfer of some responsibilities to the Provisional Institutions.  He was also pleased to note the transparent, inclusive and responsible nature of decision-making by the Kosovo civil service concerning the implementation of those new responsibilities.  Also welcome had been signs of a growing readiness on the part of Kosovo leaders to back minority returns, as well as the issuance of the open appeal yesterday.  He also supported Mr. Steiner’s initiative to begin a dialogue on practical matters, as well as the positive indications from both sides to initiate such talks.  He agreed with the Secretary-General that the rule of law remained the central challenge.

Indeed, he continued, much had been achieved by UNMIK under Mr. Steiner and his predecessor, but more work must be done to build on those achievements.  The latest report of the Secretary-General on UNMIK was Mr. Steiner’s report card.  Given the difficult situation and political environment in Kosovo, Mr. Steiner had passed with “flying colours”.  But UNMIK’s recent achievements must not blind anyone to the remaining challenges.  The prevailing mistrust and lack of cooperation was a hindrance to progress by the Provisional Institutions.  Also regrettable had been the establishment of parallel institutions.  Insisting that impunity must not be tolerated, he called for the removal of all obstacles to refugee returns.  Kosovo would not truly recover without sustained assistance for its economic growth.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said Mr. Steiner had given details of successes achieved and obstacles that continued to stand in the way of the complete implementation of resolution 1244.  He welcomed the open letter to all displaced persons in Kosovo by non-Serb leaders, as well as the transfer of powers in accordance with the Constitutional Framework to the Provisional Institutions which would enable them to assume new responsibilities.

The Kosovo Assembly had made great progress, he said.  The municipal councils had also made major efforts to adopt legislation.  Minorities must be encouraged to participate in public life.  It was necessary to pursue a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical matters, and he welcomed the fact that the United Nations office in Belgrade would begin its work on 1 July.  It was necessary to take up the challenges faced by UNMIK by adopting the standards-before-status policy.

IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said the Secretary-General’s report and Mr. Steiner’s briefing had represented a comprehensive stock-taking of the efforts of the international community and the United Nations to normalize the situation.  That would be achieved through the establishment and restoration of functioning democratic institutions, a safer environment for the returns of minorities, and their genuine participation in the affairs of State and economic reforms.  That assessment exercise had enabled an evaluation of the effectiveness of the strategy of the standards before status, and of the benchmarks.  He was satisfied with the results.

Unquestionably, he said, significant progress had been made.  Contacts, albeit limited, had taken place between Belgrade and the Provisional Institutions.  Progress was also being made towards substantive autonomy and genuine administration, as spelled out in resolution 1244 (1999).  Those successes, however, were precarious.  Problems continued as a result of internal feuds and partisan rivalry, which provided a breeding ground for intolerance, hatred and insecurity, injustice and violence -- all of which slowed constructive dialogue and delayed confidence-building.  Given that picture, how could one fail to be discouraged and how could efforts be continued?

The people of Kosovo desired only a normal life.  Those wishes had allowed them to raise high the torch of hope that they would one day live in a normal society where neighbours helped each other.  The international community must further strengthen its presence among the people of Kosovo to help them meet those challenges and overcome the difficulties confronting them.  He appealed to all officials in the provisional government to avoid any actions that might fuel hostility and damage the building of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and peaceful society.

JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola) praised the outstanding work of Mr. Steiner and the remarkable achievements of UNMIK in Kosovo, where significant progress had been made.  Kosovo still had a long way to go towards establishing multi-ethnic democratic institutions which would allow for the full participation of minorities.  The transfer of responsibilities had been an encouraging development.  The Kosovo Assembly had improved its functional performance.  A fundamental issue was the rule of law as a prerequisite for a democratic State, including respect for human rights, and, in that context, he condemned incidents of violence against minorities.

He shared the view of the Secretary-General that the process of return and reintegration could only be successful if coupled with a willingness within the communities to work together.  It was essential that a constructive dialogue on practical matters between Pristina and Belgrade be intensified.  That dialogue should also be expanded to include political issues.

INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said that Europe would remain incomplete without the Balkans, and the Balkans region needed the full integration of Kosovo.  Democracy must prevail, as well as tolerance, the rule of law and respect for human rights, but Kosovo was still far from achieving those goals, despite the progress made.  He was concerned about lack of security, especially attacks on minorities, which impeded the minority returns critical to the creation of a genuinely multi-ethnic society.  The Provisional Institutions must be exclusively devoted to matters within their purview.  Also, the transfer of competencies must be gradual and take into account the real capacities of institutions to assume their responsibilities.

He said he continued to view with concern the attitude of Albanian Kosovo leaders, who were advancing positions contrary to resolution 1244 (1999).  More active participation by non-Albanian Kosovars in the work of the Assembly and the Transfer Council must be encouraged.  He condemned any attempt to create mono-ethnic institutions, appealed for the dismantling of parallel administrative structures, and asked Mr. Steiner to explain the plan of action that UNMIK was preparing as a way of addressing that question.  Concerning dialogue on practical aspects between Belgrade and Pristina, he hoped that leaders of both parties would initiate it in a constructive spirit as soon as possible.

DEJAN SAHOVIC (Serbia and Montenegro), quoting the recent report of the Council of Europe decentralization mission, said that “the political climate in Kosovo currently appears worse than ever since 1999”.  It was not quite clear what UNMIK intended to do to address the outstanding difficulties.  The mission had evidently entered a delicate phase and, in addition, was awaiting a new Special Representative.  The Secretary-General’s report stated that the transfer of responsibilities to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government was being carried out at a pace that took into account their capacities to assume additional responsibilities.  The analysis of the functioning of those institutions at most levels did not offer evidence of successful performance of their basic functions.

He said it was necessary, therefore, to define transparent criteria for assessing the capabilities of the Provisional Institutions to perform tasks entrusted to them at the present stage, as well as criteria and a timetable for assuming new responsibilities.  As some Council members had previously proposed, a clear link should be established between performance and progress in the transfer of responsibilities.  That would assist the process of establishing good governance in the province.  Persistent attempts by the Assembly of Kosovo and Metohija to overstep its competencies was a serious issue that must be addressed.  The UNMIK had to take clear and concrete measures to prevent a recurrence of those attempts.

Basic human and minority rights should be upheld in a far more vigorous manner than had been the case so far, he urged.  He fully expected UNMIK to meticulously ensure the exercise of those rights.  The majority, as well as minority communities, must be held responsible for compliance with resolution 1244 (1999) and for establishing the values of a democratic, multi-ethnic society.  Otherwise, it would be difficult to expect the most vulnerable -- the minorities  -- not to reach out for help elsewhere or to try to create their own institutions.  The investigation of the triple murder in Obilic on 4 June had not yielded any results, as was the case with many other atrocities.  A more visible presence of KFOR and UNMIK would deter potential attackers.

Further, he said, serious and robust action by the police in apprehending perpetrators of all crimes, including those that were ethnically motivated, was a precondition for establishing the rule of law in Kosovo and Metohija.  The need to bring criminals to justice was a precondition for reconciliation in all crisis spots around the globe.  Kosovo and Metohija were certainly no exception.

The Kosovo Protection Corps also required decisive action, he said.  The Secretary-General’s report indicates a connection between the Corps and “ANA terrorist organization”.  Still, the Corps commander had faced no consequences for harbouring a yet unknown number of terrorists in that nominally civilian organization.  He expected a full, prompt and transparent investigation into the membership of the Corps and its activities. 

Without a decisive breakthrough in creating a secure environment for all inhabitants, few other problems in Kosovo and Metohija would be solved.  He, therefore, asked the Council to carefully review plans to downsize the UNMIK police.  It was also clear that the number of international judges and prosecutors was inadequate.  Their numbers would have to increase if the establishment of the rule of law was to be attained.  Further failure to comprehensively address security issues would also present a major impediment to the success of various initiatives aimed at giving impetus to the return process.

The obvious need to operationalize the benchmarks required the establishment of clear indicators as a basis for measuring progress, he said.  Decentralization was also an undertaking of strategic importance.  Regarding privatization, he had recently received a response from the Legal Counsel to his request for an explanation of the legal basis of the resolution known as the Land Use Regulation. Indeed, regulation was critical to the political future of the Province.  The Council should devote more attention to that issue, as had been proposed in a previous debate.

MARCELLO SPATAFORA (Italy), Speaking on behalf of the European Union and Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Iceland and Liechtenstein, said the European Union’s commitment towards the Western Balkans region had been confirmed at the European Union-Western Balkans Summit of Thessaloniki on 21 June.  The European Council had reiterated its determination to fully support the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries which would become an integral part of the European Union family once they had met the established criteria.

He said the Union would ensure that Kosovo’s European prospects were not held back by the issue of final status.  But before that, a democratic, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Kosovo, with full respect for the rule of law and for human and minority rights, would have to be built.  Much remained to be done to ensure active assistance, both at the central and local levels, regarding the return process.

Political stability in Kosovo required democratic, stable and functioning local institutions, he said.  He fully supported the transfer of competencies to the Provisional Institutions, depending on the capacity of those institutions to handle them.  The common objective was to build effective, transparent and accountable institutions to the benefit of all communities, while adhering to the obligations stemming from resolution 1244 and the Constitutional Framework, and not prejudging the future status.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that, as the continued instability in Kosovo had the potential to negatively affect the security and economic development in neighbouring areas, ensuring the stability and prosperity of Kosovo was of vital importance to South-Eastern Europe as a whole.  Major challenges in Kosovo remained to be addressed, including the strengthening of the rule of law, especially concerning improved security and freedom of movement for all.  Refugee and internally displaced person returns must also be addressed before the goal of building a democratic and multi-ethnic society could be achieved.  It was, therefore, important to address those challenges rather than hastily discuss the future status of Kosovo.

He said there were two major issues to be resolved:  the transfer of responsibilities from UNMIK to the Provisional Institutions, and dialogue between the Kosovo Provisional Institutions and the Government of Serbia and Montenegro.  He welcomed the announcement that leaders of both sides had agreed to hold discussions on practical issues and hoped that such direct talks would start soon.

He said the existence of violence and organized crime in Kosovo had not only made the region a hotbed for illicit weapons trafficking and ethnically motivated crime, but had also had a negative impact on the economy.  It was important that the international community extended assistance for ethnic reconciliation, including funds for the eradication of organized crime and further improvement of the security situation

AGIM NESHO (Albania) expressed support for the Secretary-General’s report on the democratic and integration processes in Kosovo.  He commended the significant achievements, but, at the same time, he was aware of the persistence of certain problems related to the functioning of a multi-ethnic society, strengthening of the rule of law and the return of displaced persons, among others.  There had been encouraging developments, however, despite the fact that the progress achieved was not yet at the same level in all aspects of life.  He shared the concerns of UNMIK, as well as of the local representatives, that the remaining problems required serious commitments.

He highlighted as the challenges in need of attention by the governing authorities the enhancement of the democratic institutions, respect for the norms of a multi-ethnic society, promotion of a stable and developed market economy, return of displaced persons, and the strengthening of regional cooperation and European integration processes.  After the departure of Mr. Steiner, whose vision and determination had resulted in successful implementation of the international community’s policy in Kosovo, an inclusive and integrative policy should continue to be the trend of international institutions and organizations, in order to avoid the development of marginalized and isolated zones in the Balkans.

Starting a dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade was an important and necessary element for meeting the standards set out by the international community for the European integration of Kosovo, he stressed.  The mediation and assistance of the international community in that regard was still necessary to ensure the success of that crucial process.  While improvement of the inter-ethnic dialogue would ease the speedy return of displaced persons, the minorities should avoid the influence of outside politics and interference, and consider themselves an integral part of the political and social Kosovar multi-ethnic society.

Closing Remarks by Secretary-General’s Special Representative

Addressing questions and comments of delegates, Mr. STEINER said the crime committed in Obilic was an atrocious one in which an elderly, father, wife and son had been cruelly mistreated and murdered.  The community, with the support of the leaders of the big parties, had, the following day, declared a day of mourning.  On the same day, he had established a special police squad to resolve the crime.  He stressed, in that regard, that the police could only operate under the rule of law.  The KFOR and police presence had been strengthened in Obilic.  A reward of €50,000 for information leading to arrest of the perpetrators had been posted.  He appealed to everyone not to prejudge the outcome of the investigation and to avoid politicizing the crime.

He said the Council of Europe had indeed stated that the political climate in Kosovo was very bad, mentioning statements in the Assembly that were not within its mandate, an election campaign in Belgrade, the withdrawal of Kosovo Serbs from the Assembly, divisive statements and provocative language of political leaders.  If one wanted to have the right political climate, all political leaders had the responsibility to leave the past behind.  That had been stated in the open letter to refugees and displaced persons.

Regarding the issue of parallel structures, he said the main problem was that those structures were sometimes financed in a clandestine way.  A letter to Belgrade had stated that clandestine money coming from across the border was a violation of money-laundering laws.

Last year, on the Council’s insistence, agreement had been reached on a privatization concept taking into account the fact that the status had not been resolved, and nobody knew who owned socialized companies.  If one had to wait until those issues had been clarified, all assets of those companies would have been stripped.  Therefore, UNMIK had made a privatization which would take into account the interest of the potential owners.  As land on which the socialized companies had been built was often the most valuable asset, it had been agreed that no transfer of property or land would take place during privatization.  Rather, land would be leased for 99 years.  He stressed that privatization was being addressed in a fully transparent manner.

The media campaign mentioned by the Russian Federation referred to an “atrocious” newspaper article alleging that the Russian Federation might be behind the murder in Obilic.  The media commissioner had called the newspaper, and, as a result, the author of the article had been fired, and the newspaper had officially apologized for the article.

In conclusion, he asked what lessons could be drawn from Kosovo in the last four years.  The main lesson was “if we do it right, it could be done; it was a long way, but it could be done”.  One precondition was that if the parties tried to stay the course, despite criticism from the different sides, the mission would have the support of the international community, especially the Security Council.  When UNMIK was confronted by the different views of the parties on the ground, it was absolutely crucial to be able to say it had the support of the international community.  The Council should not underestimate the power of a general consensus coming from that central organ of the international community.  That had been his daily experience in Kosovo and in the region.  And, that, in the end, was the real force of the mission on the ground. 

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*     The 4781st Meeting was closed.

For information media. Not an official record.