SHORT-TERM OUTLOOK UNCERTAIN, BUT STRONG DESIRE OF KOSOVO’S PEOPLE FOR PEACE, STABILITY IS CLEAR, HEAD OF MISSION TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

30 October 2003
SC/7909

SHORT-TERM OUTLOOK UNCERTAIN, BUT STRONG DESIRE OF KOSOVO’S PEOPLE FOR PEACE, STABILITY IS CLEAR, HEAD OF MISSION TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

30/10/2003
Press ReleaseSC/7909

Security Council

4853rd Meeting (AM)

SHORT-TERM OUTLOOK UNCERTAIN, BUT STRONG DESIRE OF KOSOVO’S PEOPLE FOR PEACE,

STABILITY IS CLEAR, HEAD OF MISSION TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

Council Members Cite Importance of Direct Dialogue

Between Pristina and Belgrade, End to Violence, ‘Standards before Status’

The short-term outlook for Kosovo was uncertain, but the strong desire of Kosovo’s people to live in a peaceful, stable, lawful society was crystal clear, said Harry Holkeri, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), as he briefed the Security Council this morning.

There had been much progress in the development of economic and governmental structures and, in general, freedom of movement, he said, allowing for some returns of displaced persons.  The public was, however, growing frustrated with the Government’s apparent inability to tackle matters that affected its well-being.  In addition, far too many people in Kosovo silently tolerated ethnically based violence.

The overall security situation, he continued, had vastly improved across most of Kosovo, but the dramatic advances enjoyed by the majority community had not been felt by all.  The rule of law was being openly flouted in many places.  Attacks by extremists from one side or the other could resume at any time to discredit the peace-building activities of UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR).  Combating that phenomenon would require intensive cooperation between UNMIK’s police and justice pillar, with the full engagement of the Kosovo Police Services and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led peacekeeping force.

The international community had agreed on the approach of “standards before status”, Mr. Holkeri said, meaning that benchmarks had to be met before final political status was discussed.  One such benchmark concerned dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, and a step forward in that effort was the start of direct talks on practical matters of mutual interest on 14 October in Vienna, Austria.  He regretted that key figures had not participated, however.

Now, he said, the four working groups with multi-ethnic representation on the Kosovo side must be promptly established and begin technical talks in Belgrade and Pristina.  He appealed to the Council and the international community to continue to provide support to the dialogue process.

In the discussion that followed the briefing, most speakers welcomed the launch of the direct dialogue in Vienna.  Italy’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said it was a key benchmark in the “standards before status” strategy, but added his voice to those of many others in expressing disappointment that key interlocutors chose not to attend.

Most speakers firmly supported the “standards before status approach”.  The representative of Pakistan, however, said he had reservations about it because that approach had not been applied to other situations, such as in Timor-Leste and the Western Sahara.  The status issue must be given its due priority, and development of standards should proceed independently, he maintained.

Most speakers also condemned the continued violence and emphasized the need for security as the basis of a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo.  The representative of the Russian Federation said that such violence had not been duly punished, and the few positive changes in the situation of minorities had been brought only because of constant pressure from the international community, without local initiatives.  Other issues of common concern included the continuation of so-called parallel structures by the Government in Belgrade.

The representative of Serbia and Montenegro said the security situation in Kosovo and Metohija remained a cause for grave concern for the reconciliation and the return of displaced persons.  He supported the “standards before status” policy and Mr. Holkeri’s priorities to establish the rule of law, promote economic development and improve the security situation, particularly for non-Albanians.

He said that improved contacts and cooperation with the Serbian Government were essential for the development of effective institutions of self-government in Kosovo and Metohija.  He agreed that relations between UNMIK and Belgrade had improved since Mr. Holkeri’s arrival, in the areas of police, security and justice.  His country was firmly committed to strengthening such cooperation.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Council members Syria, France, Germany, Cameroon, Spain, Guinea, Mexico, Angola, Chile, China, Bulgaria, United Kingdom and United States. 

The representatives of Ukraine, Japan and Albania also spoke.

The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 1:03 p.m.

Background

When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2003/996) covering the period since 1 July.  According to the report, the new Special Representative and Head of UNMIK, Harri Holkeri of Finland, who took over from Michael Steiner of Germany on 13 August, reaffirmed the Mission’s key priorities:  improving the rule of law and the security situation; furthering returns and minority rights; and strengthening economic development in order to promote substantial autonomy and self-government in Kosovo in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999).

The report states that non-reserved responsibilities listed in Chapter 5 of the Constitutional Framework will be transferred to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government by the end of 2003.  Mechanisms are being developed to gradually increase the responsibilities of the Provisional Institutions.  As part of increasing efforts to enhance cooperation between UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions, a benchmarks implementation plan is being developed to set clear timelines and success criteria in line with the “standards before status” formula.

Political gridlocks affecting, and in some cases completely stalling, the operations of some municipal assemblies have been resolved.  However, according to the report, in most municipalities, the civil service shows a general lack of professionalism in implementing transparent, non-politicized and ethnically balanced procedures.  Belgrade-sponsored parallel administrative structures are common in most mixed and ethnically Serb municipalities.  In addition, Kosovo Serbs employed by the Provisional Institutions often receive a second salary from Belgrade.  Minority employment in the civil service remains unsatisfactory.  On the other hand, representation of women at the professional level in the public sector has improved.

Regarding rule of law and security, the report notes that the period has been characterized by a number of violent attacks in which the victims were members of the Kosovo Serb community, as well as UNMIK law enforcement authorities.  Progress continued in the prosecution of serious criminal acts such as war crimes, terrorism and organized crime.  Three war crime trials have been completed.  With 14 international judges and 12 international prosecutors, the judicial system maintained its capacity to address serious crimes and sensitive inter-ethnic judicial matters.  The UNMIK Department of Judicial Administration continued to strive towards establishing a multi-ethnic judiciary and an efficient court infrastructure.

Freedom of movement still remains an issue of great concern to minority residents, according to the report.  The increased feeling of insecurity following violent incidents has taken a toll on the confidence of the minorities.  Freedom of movement for minorities was further hindered by the decision of the Serbian Government not to sign an agreement allowing the use of Kosovo licence plates in Serbia proper and its public call for Kosovo Serbs not to register their cars with UNMIK.

Despite recent violent incidents involving Kosovo Serb victims, the overall rate of returns continued to accelerate.  This year, 2,200 displaced persons have returned to areas where they are a minority, states the report.  However, the figure represents a small fraction of the number of Kosovo Serbs internally displaced in Serbia and Montenegro.  The level of returns in the Roma/Ashkali/Egyptian communities has remained relatively stable.  In July, Kosovo Albanian leaders and leaders of the non-Serb minorities had signed an open letter encouraging displaced persons to return to Kosovo.

The UNMIK continued to support the implementation of community-based projects aimed at fostering inter-ethnic dialogue and cooperation between receiving communities and returnees.  A draft anti-discrimination law was approved by the Government on 17 September.  The ability of minority communities to use their own language freely has somewhat improved.  The reluctance to use minority languages in municipal administrations, however, is a matter of significant concern, according to the report.

Regarding the economy, the report states that the privatization process of socially owned enterprises has moved forward in the past quarter.  Tax revenue collection in Kosovo has continued to exceed revenue targets.  The Housing and Property Directorate has made a final accounting of disputed property cases.  It had received 28,587 claims of which by 1 September it had resolved 31 per cent. The vast majority is expected to be resolved by the end of 2004.

The start of direct talks on practical matters of mutual interest between Pristina and Belgrade was launched on 14 October in Vienna, Austria, following extensive rounds of consultations with the Kosovo Albanians, Kosovo Serbs, and the political leaders of Serbia and Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia.  Direct, working level cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade continues in a number of areas through the mediation of UNMIK officials.  The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare now holds regular monthly meetings with counterparts in Belgrade, the report states.

Briefing By Special Representative

HARRY HOLKERI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK, said that far too many people in Kosovo silently tolerated ethically based violence there.  That must be opposed.  A future without violence was needed.

Attacks by extremists, he said, from one side or the other, could resume at any time to discredit the peace-building activities of UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR).  The overall security situation had vastly improved across most of Kosovo, but the dramatic advances enjoyed by the majority community had not been felt by all.  The rule of law was being openly flouted in many places.

Combating that phenomenon, he said, would require intensive cooperation between UNMIK’s police and justice pillar, with the full engagement of the Kosovo Police Services and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led peacekeeping force.  The KFOR, the Kosovo Police and the judiciary were becoming more effective and locally operational.  But much remained to be done to improve the security situation, upon which progress in many other key issues depended.

Recent incidents of violence had had serious effects in minority communities, he said, and fear would keep displaced persons from returning to their homes, despite encouragement such as an open letter from the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and their allocation of €7 million to fund return projects.

He said that overall, however, freedom of movement had continued to improve in most of Kosovo, with UNMIK providing transport services for minorities.  The challenge remained to ensure that all municipalities demonstrated a clear commitment to a tolerant, multi-ethnic society.  Returns also required planning and sufficient financing; donor funds should be released in a timely fashion.

Another fundamental objective was direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  His aim in that area was to translate the political commitment of Thessaloniki’s European Union/Western Balkans Summit into a concrete framework for communication between the parties.  In that regard, challenges included conditions, on the part of Prime Minister Rexhepi, on a consensus of political parties or the Assembly.  In addition, some Kosovo-Albanian leaders had made their participation conditional on changes in governmental responsibilities and structures.  Such linkages were unacceptable.

Representatives of the international community emphasized that dialogue was one of the benchmarks that should be fulfilled before talks on final status could begin.  He said the failure of the Government and the coalition parties to accept responsibility for contributing to the achievement of that benchmark had resulted in the launching of the talks in Vienna on 14 October with the participation of only two out of three institutional leaders. The Belgrade and Pristina delegations did not interact, but listened carefully to what the other side had to say.

Now momentum had to be maintained, he continued. The four working groups with multi-ethnic representation on the Kosovo side must be promptly established and begin technical talks in Belgrade and Pristina.  He appealed to the Council and the international community to provide continued support to the dialogue process.  With those efforts ongoing, he continued, the Provisional Institutions for Self-Government and UNMIK were now intensely focused on a joint plan for implementing the eight benchmarks.

Kosovo’s economy was showing progress, as tax revenues and customs duties exceeded expectations, he said.  However, unemployment remained at about 57 per cent overall, and was even higher for women and young people.  Privatization was essential, but the Kosovo Trust Agency was expressing concern related to immunity of its personnel and the legal platform provided by current legislation.  Further discussion was necessary.

The UNMIK was nearing completion of the agreed transfer of competencies in non-reserved areas to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government based on the Constitutional Framework.  It must be ensured that the Provisional Institutions were in a position to absorb the new responsibility.  Kosovo leaders were increasingly demanding that UNMIK also transfer competencies in reserved areas.  Mr. Holkeri said he had told them that the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government advance into reserved areas was beyond his mandate and would require Council action.  He had indicated, however, his readiness to give favourable consideration to establishment of new structures that might be needed for that purpose.

The fact that the Belgrade authorities continued to strengthen parallel structures was of very serious concern, he said.  Belgrade must work with Kosovo structures and replace the unacceptable policy with a commitment to truly multi-ethnic organs of government in Kosovo.  Parallel courts continued to function in the northern municipalities and even outside of Kosovo, a situation which was really unacceptable.

The short to medium term outlook for Kosovo was uncertain, but the strong desire of Kosovo’s people to live in a peaceful, stable, lawful society was crystal clear, he said.  The public was growing frustrated with the Government’s apparent inability to tackle matters that affected their well-being.

Belgrade’s continued support of parallel structures, the possibility of a renewal of ethnically motivated violent attacks, and the resulting fears that kept many displaced persons from returning were all challenges that required firm commitment to the principles and objectives embodied in resolution 1244 (1999).  The UNMIK, KFOR and the international community still had much to do together in Kosovo to ensure the fulfilment of standards.  That would enable the Council to determine Kosovo’s future status, he concluded.

Statements

MILAD ATIEH (Syria) said he agreed with the priorities of UNMIK as stated by Mr. Holkeri, and supported the focus on security and the prevention of violence that could undermine the progress thus far.  He urged his integral participation in the inter-party dialogue, which could provide the key to further progress.  Account must be taken of the need to adopt measures at the local level to improve the effectiveness of municipal structures, and the need for ethnic and gender-based recruitment.

He stressed the importance, furthermore, of the rule of law, the protection of minorities, freedom of movement and other measures which would allow the return of displaced persons.  Economic and social development was also important.  He expressed support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and a commitment to work for further progress in Kosovo.

MICHEL DUCLOS (France) associated himself with the statement to be made by Italy on behalf of the European Union, supporting its role in Kosovo.  In addition, he said, the international community was determined that progress should be made in Kosovo through the formula of “standards before status”, towards a democratic and pluralistic Kosovo.  Among the standards to be met, he emphasized the importance of improved relations with Belgrade, the return of displaced persons and functioning democratic institutions.

He welcomed the direct dialogue and said that technical working groups must begin their endeavours.  Their objective should be to improve the daily lives of the region’s inhabitants.  In addition, he condemned the summer’s violence, and he expected specific measures to prevent its repetition and allow the return of refugees.  Regarding governance, he attached great importance to the decentralization plan.  He called on all stakeholders to cooperate with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, assuring him of France’s continuing support.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the process of transferring responsibilities to the Provisional Institutions was proceeding satisfactorily.  However, the continued existence of parallel structures remained a matter of concern, as were the issues of security and freedom of movement.  There had been an increase in refugee returns, but progress was needed on inter-ethnic integration, minority rights and sustainable returns.

He continued to have reservations about the "standards before status" approach, saying that approach had not been applied to other situations, such as in Timor-Leste and the Western Sahara.  The status issue must be given its due priority.  Development of standards should proceed independently.  He fully supported efforts to launching a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical matters and hoped the dialogue could become the basis on status discussions so that all people of Kosovo could exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.  The role of UNMIK must continue to be an international one, he said, and called for a greater geographical balance in recruitment.

GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said the opening session of direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in Vienna had returned Kosovo to the headlines.  He hoped effective working groups would be established as soon as possible.  The security situation was very worrying still.  Any form of violent revenge and ethnic hatred was absolutely unacceptable.  Unless violence ended, it would not be possible for displaced persons to return home -- one of the benchmarks.  It was disturbing that none of the perpetrators of the recent murders had been identified.

An effective decentralization plan was important, he said.  That plan should provide for the need of all communities.  The illegal parallel government structures supported by Belgrade were a significant hindrance to progress and must be eliminated immediately.  It would be helpful to have benchmarks put into a more detailed plan of work, as that would give the international community a basis on which to judge progress.  The Kosovo Trust Agency had concluded that legal uncertainties had prevented privatization, as Agency staff were not covered by United Nations immunities.  That problem must be resolved quickly.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that the Special Representative of the Secretary General’s statement and the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report were consistent with his country’s view of the situation in Kosovo.  Despite some progress, much remained to be done, especially in the areas of equal security and representation for minorities.  Ethnic violence continued to take place, and had not been duly punished.  Even the few positive changes in the situation of minorities had been brought only because of constant pressure from the international community.  Local organs must back up their support of a multi-ethnic society with real action.

Unless there was radical change for the better, the idea of a multi-ethnic, democratic society would be stalled, which would fuel extremism even further.  The situation had to be resolved on the basis of mutually acceptable agreements that met the needs of all communities in Kosovo, particularly minorities.  In that regard, he welcomed the direct dialogue between the parties and expressed regret over leaders that refused to participate.  He hoped economic progress would be pursued in a non-politicized atmosphere.  Discussion of the final status of Kosovo was premature; however, Russia would work for a just solution of the situation.

IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) reiterated his country’s support for Mr. Holkeri’s efforts in Kosovo.  The direct dialogue in Vienna, he said, was a big step forward, even without government participation.  Serious participation in that dialogue could make progress on many practical aspects of the Kosovo situation.  He agreed with the “standards before status” approach of the international community.

Remarkable progress had been made in Kosovo, but such progress should not end watchfulness on the part of the international community, he said.  The recurrence of violence had effects in many areas.  Authorities in Kosovo must work towards conditions that allow a fully multi-ethnic society.  The UNMIK must also remain resolved to foster the full return of the rule of law, even though it itself had been the target of violence.

INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said the priorities established for UNMIK remained fully in force. It was essential that the Provisional Institutions and UNMIK worked together to attain the stated objectives.  He reiterated that the Albanian side could not be an interlocutor at the negotiating table and at the same time an opponent on the ground.

While supporting the "standards before status" policy, he said attainment of the benchmarks in that regard was essential.  Transfer of responsibilities must be conducted in an orderly way in all spheres, including privatization and management of financial issues.  Direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina must be maintained, he said, and expressed regret that key interlocutors were missing in the progress.

He asked why the parallel institutions remained still in place and what measures were foreseen for their eradication.  He also asked why the number of returnees was so low and what the involvement was of local authorities in that regard.

ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said the situation in Kosovo was encouraging, but efforts must be redoubled to implement resolution 1244 (1999).  The policy of "standards before status" must be continued.  He encouraged authorities to recruit more minorities.  Deploring the continued existence of parallel structures, he urged Serbian authorities to cooperate better in that regard.  He remained concerned at the ongoing violence, as well as at the situation in prisons and the issue of free movement.  He encouraged police cooperation at the regional level and strengthening efforts to combat organized crime.

He said returns were a matter of concern, as well, and welcomed in that regard the robust intervention by representatives of the Provisional Institutions as expressed in the “open letter”.  He was encouraged by progress in the economic sector, but was concerned about the high unemployment rate.  He hoped the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in Vienna was just the start of a process.  He appreciated steps taken by UNMIK and KFOR to make the Kosovo Protection Corps more professional and operational.

CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) welcomed Mr. Holkeri’s work and the beginning of direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.  Such dialogue, and work for further progress in Kosovo, should concentrate on matters that could make a difference for the normalization of everyday life in Kosovo.  It was also important for structures to be created to allow the minority community to have confidence in the local government in Kosovo.

He was deeply concerned by the violence of the past months, he said.  Such acts deserved not unconditional condemnation on the part of all parties, but also action to bring the perpetrators to justice.  The sustainable return of displaced persons depended on the improvement of both security and economic conditions.  He expressed satisfaction that there had been progress in mainstreaming a gender perspective in Kosovo.  Also, he asked Mr. Holkeri to expand on the “amnesty for arms” programme and on the incident that occurred in the Dubrava prison.

ISMAEL ABRAAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) noted progress towards autonomy in Kosovo, which he said was an encouraging development.  He saluted the efforts of UNMIK in improving the operations of the provisional government, especially its hiring practices.  The functioning of the Kosovo assembly and judiciary was also encouraging.

He expressed concern, however, over the continued lack of security and condemned recent acts of violence.  Such acts represented a real setback in efforts to create a multi-ethnic society.  It was important, therefore, to continue to strengthen the Kosovo Police Service.

He welcomed progress in the economic area, such as in privatization, and the opening of direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina on practical issues.  He urged Mr. Holkeri to help the dialogue progress both in effectiveness and scope, leading to a discussion of political issues, while supporting the strategy of “standards before status.”

HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said that without rule of law, repatriations and economic development, it would be impossible to promote self-government in Kosovo.  On 14 October in Vienna, the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical matters of mutual interest had started, and he hoped that that significant event would have a positive impact on the daily life of the people.  Progress in the transfer of non-reserved competencies to the Provisional Institutions ought to be encouraged and could be complemented with transfer of Special Representative competencies.

He said it was regrettable that, despite progress in the economy, the situation of women and property claims, the perpetrators of the recent violence in Kosovo and against UNMIK had not been apprehended.  The violence against UNMIK must be condemned in the strongest terms, and efforts must be stepped up to end impunity, as impunity was an invitation to further violence.  The level of integration among communities remained low.  The Provisional Institutions should continue to work to fulfil the benchmarks in the framework of "standards before status" policy.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said progress had been made in institutional strengthening, returns, and the fight against organized crime.  On 14 October, the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina had finally started, and four working groups of experts had been established.  That was a step in the right direction towards the final settlement of the Kosovo problem.  He hoped the leadership on all sides would seize the moment to take part positively in the dialogue.

The final settlement of the Kosovo question hinged upon overall progress made in political, social and economic benchmarks, he said.  Those benchmarks needed to be further detailed so that they could become more operational.  He hoped UNMIK, KFOR and the Provisional Institutions would intensify efforts to improve the security situation in order to improve freedom of movement and the return of minorities.

STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria), supporting the statement to be made by Italy on behalf of the European Union, said he agreed with the conclusions of the Secretary-General’s report.  The implementation of resolution 1244 must be the focus of efforts, including the return of refugees, with guarantees of security to create a multi-ethnic, tolerant Kosovo.  He agreed with the “standards before status” strategy and said that the tracking mechanisms established by the European Union were useful and should be developed further.  He also supported the efforts of UNMIK and others working in Kosovo to put in place a rule of law, and encouraged leaders in Kosovo to work with Mr. Holkeri to implement resolution 1244 in full.

He expressed concern that organized crime and violence could pose major obstacles in the effort to normalize life in Kosovo.  Bulgaria was particularly interested in investigations into the killing of a United Nations staff member who was a Bulgarian citizen, and he said the perpetrators must be brought to justice.  He called the launch of direct dialogue a great step forward and hoped that dialogue would be deepened by technical groups and at the local level.  He hoped the Bulgarian diplomatic liaison office in Pristina could help resolve the problem of Kosovo.

ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) said that the beginning of direct dialogue could have been a step forward towards normalization and a multi-ethnic society.  For that reason, he regretted the non-participation of Kosovo principals.  He supported the policy of “standards before status” and said it was important that Mr. Holkeri hear clearly that it was the Council’s approach.  It was essential to make progress in standards before final status could be addressed.

He was concerned about extremists in the Kosovo Protection Corps and welcomed the “open-letter” initiative to welcome the return of displaced persons, but more had to be done in that area.  In the same vein, he said that parallel structures must go.

Speaking in his national capacity, JOHN D. NEGROPONTE (United States) said the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical matters of mutual interest was a significant step towards improving regional relations and fulfilling one of the eight standards.  He was disappointed that some of the parties from Kosovo chose not to participate and called upon all parties to participate in the follow-up working groups.  To facilitate further dialogue, he reiterated his country’s support for resolution 1244 (1999) and the Constitutional Framework.

He said his Government would also support UNMIK efforts to transfer all non-reserved competencies to the Provisional Institutions in a timely manner.  The working plan to further operationalize the eight standards must be completed in the near term, and his Government would continue to offer technical expertise to UNMIK in developing that plan as needed.  Violent attacks had targeted members of the Serb minority and UNMIK, and he called on all citizens of Kosovo to cooperate with UNMIK and Kosovo police to solve those crimes.

DEJAN SAHOVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) said the security situation in Kosovo and Metohija remained a cause for grave concern.  The increased insecurity for minorities was undermining efforts to improve their return and freedom of movement.  Moreover, it was threatening prospects for reconciliation in Kosovo and Metohija.  The fact that no perpetrators had been identified in the recent crimes against minorities or UNMIK personnel further demonstrated the area’s difficulties.  He supported Mr. Holkeri’s priorities to establish the rule of law, promote economic development and improve the security situation, particularly for non-Albanians.

Serbia and Montenegro was fully ready to participate in the meetings of the working groups and address their agendas in good faith, he continued.  He supported the “standards before status” policy and the UNMIK mission performance action plan for the implementation of benchmarks.  Improved contacts and cooperation with the Serbian Government was essential for the development of effective institutions of self-government in Kosovo and Metohija.  He agreed that relations between UNMIK and Belgrade had improved since Mr. Holkeri’s arrival in the areas of police, security and justice, he said, adding that his country was firmly committed to strengthening such cooperation.

MARCELLO SPATAFORA (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union and acceding, as well, as associated States, welcomed the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical issues, held in Vienna on 14 October, as a key benchmark in the international community’s strategy of “standards before status”.  Addressing issues that directly affected people’s lives, it was a vital step towards normalization in Kosovo.  The European Council had stressed the importance of setting up technical working groups in November on energy, transport and communication, as well as returnees and missing persons.  He urged all parties involved, namely, the representatives from the Kosovo Provisional Institutions, to fully commit themselves to working group talks.

He encouraged Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions to strengthen cooperation and consultation with UNMIK.  He welcomed the development of a work plan aimed at making operational the standards-before-status strategy, adding that direct dialogue talks should be part of that plan.  Much remained to be done in Kosovo to guarantee full respect for the rule of law, as well as human and minority rights, including adequate minority participation at both central and local levels of government.

VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the major challenge faced by Kosovo society was a lack of domestic inter-ethnic community dialogue.  Confidence-building measures in the region required proactive involvement from all actors, including the Provisional Institutions, local communities and federal authorities of Serbia and Montenegro, as well as UNMIK and the involved international and regional organizations and donors.  In that regard, he welcomed the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical issues of mutual interest, but was disappointed that some interlocutors chose not to attend the meeting.

He said it was important that the transfer of non-reserved competencies was conducted in an effective, gradual and controlled manner and that the Kosovo Provisional Institutions continued to adopt policies which addressed the concrete and urgent needs of the local population.  He looked forward to improving the current situation in the field of sustainable returns and minority rights.  The latest assessment in that regard made by the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had indicated that the changes noted were not yet fundamental enough to conclude that conditions would exist for large-scale returns of ethnic minorities in the near future.

YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in Vienna was the outcome of the parties’ sincere efforts and was an important step towards the resolution of the Kosovo issue.  He strongly hoped that confidence between the parties would be built by continued dialogue, leading to a concrete agreement on the various issues Kosovo was facing.

He said the issue should be resolved based on resolution 1244 (1999) and the "standards before status" policy, and urged all parties concerned to adopt a cautious and restrained attitude.  As the "standards before status" policy was the one and only tangible method for resolving the Kosovo issue, his country in the past had extended $187 million in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in such areas as refugee returns, housing and electricity.

AGIM NESHO (Albania) emphasized the constant commitment of Albania to implement resolution 1244 and to work together with all the countries of the region to achieve peace and stability, along with full democratic integration into the European Union.  He welcomed dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  Consciousness-raising for such dialogue, however, would have probably been better achieved if the representatives of Kosovo felt entitled to represent their country and represent their free will.  The lack of full executive competencies, the impossibility of accelerating privatization and the absence of a judicial framework had also slowed down constructive dialogue.

In addition, he said the Secretary-General had rightfully expressed concern about parallel structures in Kosovo and of various pressures that had hindered the creation of a multi-ethnic society.  In some cases, pressures from officials in Belgrade were exerted on United Nations institutions of justice, while there had never been an apology concerning the monstrous crimes committed against the Albanian people of Kosovo.  Albanians could forgive, but they could not forget.  New messages of trust and confidence should bond together both countries.

Albania believed that “standards before status” represented the right priorities for Kosovo, he said.  Finally, he reiterated the importance of the presence of representatives of legal Kosovo institutions in Security Council discussion, so that they could better take responsibility for their own future.

Concluding Remarks

Addressing comments and questions raised, Mr. HOLKERI said, in reaction to Pakistan’s statement on “standards before status”, that the policy remained valid as long as the Council did not decide otherwise.  He intended to complete transfer of non-reserved competencies to the Provisional Institutions by the end of the year.  Reserved powers, however, would remain his responsibility unless the Council made a different decision, but he intended to involve the Provisional Institutions in some reserved areas without transferring them.

Regarding comments on benchmarks and indicators, he said work on that had been ongoing for four months.  Specific goals and indicators had been devised to measure progress by local actors.  He would finalize the implementation plan before his next visit to the Council.  Addressing other concerns, he said that allegations of corruption were taken seriously and would be subject to a thorough investigation.

Parallel structures continued to exist in administrative and service areas in the public sector, he said.  They were detrimental to the rule of law and prevented integration of Kosovo Serbs.  The UNMIK would deal with parallel structures in the administrative area in a straightforward manner, but would take a step-by-step approach in the area of services until the Provisional Institutions were able to provide the same level of service.  He had also addressed the issue in his contacts with Belgrade.

The rate of returns continued to accelerate with a total of more than 2,600 returns this year, he said.  That brought total number to 8,768.  Compared to last year, Kosovo Serb returns had grown 50 per cent.  Returns depended on security conditions on the ground and on opportunities for returnees.  UNMIK’s priority tasks in that area were to improve security and create necessary economic conditions on the ground.

The last round of weapons amnesty could hardly be considered a success, he said, as only around 150 weapons had been surrendered.  He noted, however, that it was the third exercise of that kind, and it had run parallel to continued searches for illegal weapons by UNMIK and KFOR, which had been more successful.

Regarding the incident in the Dubrava prison on 4 September, he said that when prison guards tried to force back prisoners who had occupied a block to protest prison conditions, the prisoners had set fire to mattresses, resulting in five deaths and 16 injuries.  A police investigation had been launched immediately, and an independent commission of inquiry had been established.  He assured the Bulgarian representatives that all progress regarding the open investigation into the killing of a Bulgarian United Nations staff member would be communicated to them.

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For information media. Not an official record.