MARCH VIOLENCE IN KOSOVO ‘HUGE SETBACK’ TO STABILIZATION, RECONCILIATION, UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

13 April 2004
SC/8056

MARCH VIOLENCE IN KOSOVO ‘HUGE SETBACK’ TO STABILIZATION, RECONCILIATION, UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

13/04/2004
Press Release
SC/8056


Security Council                                           

4942nd Meeting (AM)                                         


March violence in Kosovo ‘huge setback’ to stabilization, reconciliation,


under-secretary-general for peacekeeping tells security council


The onslaught in mid-march led by Kosovo Albanian extremists against minority Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities had been an organized, widespread and targeted campaign and represented a huge setback to stabilization and reconciliation in the province Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council today.


Briefing the Council, he said from 17 to 19 March communities had been surrounded and threatened and residents forced to leave their homes.  The inhabitants of entire villages had been evacuated and had their homes burned to the ground.  Most disturbing and reprehensible, the extremists had looted, burned and damaged or destroyed Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries and religious, as well as cultural sites.


He said the demonstrations that had followed the original incidents –- the shooting of a Kosovo Serb youth and the drowning of two Albanian children -- although apparently spontaneous at the outset, had quickly been taken over by organized elements with an interest in driving the Kosovo Serbs from the province and threatening the international presence there.  Two days of violence followed, resulting in 19 deaths, 954 civilians injured, and 730 houses, near or belonging to Kosovo minorities, burned or damaged.


While commending the constructive role played by the Government of Serbia and Montenegro in collective efforts to stem the violence, he noted that the initial response by the leadership of the Kosovo Provisional Institutions of Self-Government had been ambivalent.  Concrete action by Kosovo’s leaders and its people was needed to address the causes of the ethnically-motivated violence that continued to plague the province and to ensure that it would not be repeated.


Council President Gunter Pleuger (Germany), speaking in his national capacity, also emphasized the need for Kosovo’s political leaders to leave no doubt about their commitment to protecting minorities and building a multi-ethnic society.  They must be unequivocal about their determination to isolate and punish violent extremists, explain the rationale of reconciliation to their constituents, and be prepared to pay the political costs.  Sending extremists to prison and firing police officers who had failed to protect minorities may be politically unpopular, but those steps were essential for the creation of a stable society.


The representative of the Russian Federation said the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) should have been more decisive in identifying nationalistic behaviour and eliminating extremist groups.  The desire to indulge in wishful thinking and attempts to inculcate high democratic standards without looking at the real situation had contributed to the current instability.  The Standards Implementation Plan required thoroughgoing revisions, particularly towards reinforcing security measures, ensuring freedom of movement and the rights and freedoms of all minorities.


Serbia and Montenegro’s representative stressed that the March violence had not been an isolated incident, recalling that since 1999, Serb and other ethnic communities in Kosovo had been exposed to almost daily attacks and intimidation by Kosovo Albanian extremists.  In such circumstances the Standards Implementation Plan quite simply failed to provide sufficient guarantees for the survival of Serbs in the province, let alone the safe return of displaced Serb populations.  The failure to fully establish such guarantees would signify an end to the possibility of a multi-ethnic Kosovo, in the very presence of the international actors that would share responsibility for such an outcome.


Albania’s representative, while noting that nationalistic ideals and parties that might try to exploit instability should not be allowed to flourish, reiterated that the March violence should not be used as an excuse to continue to create or maintain parallel structures that impeded the establishment of a multi-ethnic society.  Neither should it be used as an excuse to support nationalistic policies or as an excuse not to address internal political issues.


Pakistan’s representative, joining in the condemnation of the March violence, said his country had been one of the few voices -– and perhaps the lone voice on the Council -- that had consistently called for a speedy final political settlement for Kosovo.  While violence must not be rewarded and those responsible for extremist behaviour must be rooted out and punished, the longer a decision on the thorny issue of final status was delayed, the more that cycle of violence would be perpetuated.


Also addressing the Council were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Algeria, Romania, Brazil, Philippines, Angola, Benin, France, Spain, Chile, China, United States, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union) and Japan.


The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 12:30 p.m.


Background


The Security Council met this morning to consider the recent violence in Kosovo and to hear a briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.


Statements


JEAN-MARIE GUEHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the violence appeared to have been directly sparked by events in the days preceding the clashes, which had raised tension between the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities.  In particular, the shooting of a Kosovo Serb youth on  15 March and the drowning of two Albanian children on 16 March -– the circumstances of which had not yet been established -– had provided a catalyst for the ensuing violent acts.  Inflammatory and biased media reporting on both incidents had contributed to raising tensions further.


He said that the demonstrations following the incidents, although apparently spontaneous at the outset, had quickly been taken over by organized elements with an interest in driving the Kosovo Serbs from Kosovo and threatening the international presence there.  The results of two days of violence throughout the province spoke for themselves:  19 persons had died and 954 civilians had been injured in the course of the clashes and rioting.  In addition, 65 international police officers, 58 Kosovo Police Service officers and 61 KFOR personnel had also suffered injuries.  Approximately 730 houses, nearly all belonging to Kosovo minorities, had been burned or damaged.  More than 150 vehicles, including over 100 United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) vehicles, had been destroyed or severely damaged.


While the overall situation was currently quiet, it remained tense, he said.  There continued to be a potential for further violence and sporadic attacks continued to occur, including against the international and local police presence.  In the worst of those, a Ghanaian UNMIK police officer and a Kosovo Albanian Kosovo Police Service officer had been killed when a group of Kosovo Albanian uniformed men had fired on their UNMIK patrol vehicle.  Seven individuals had subsequently been detained in connection with that incident. 


The onslaught led by Kosovo Albanian extremists against Kosovo’s Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities had been an organized, widespread and targeted campaign, he said.  Properties had been demolished; schools, communities surrounded and threatened; and residents forced to leave their homes.  The inhabitants of entire villages had been evacuated and, following their departure, their homes had been burned to the ground.  Most disturbing and reprehensible, the extremists had looted, burned and damaged or destroyed 16 Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries and religious and cultural sites.  The attacks had not been simply against places of worship, but against Kosovo’s cultural heritage.


He said the violence had completely reversed the returns process, which had, prior to the attacks, shown limited but encouraging progress.  The total number of persons displaced as a result of the recent wave of violence was 4,100 people, more than the total number of returns for 2003.  The UNMIK had responded to the crisis and, together with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), had moved to ensure the urgent distribution of humanitarian assistance and to gradually stabilize the conditions of the displaced.  The priority now was to assist those who were prepared to return.


The initial response to the violence by the leadership of the Kosovo Provisional Institutions had been ambivalent, he noted.  While Prime Minister Rexhepi should be commended personally for his public pronouncements and actions and his calls for an end to the violence, the Kosovo Government had issued a statement focusing on the drowning of the Kosovo Albanian children and assuming it had been caused by Serbs as a result of inter-ethnic hatred.  That claim had been unsubstantiated at that time, and remained so.  The statement issued by municipal assembly presidents had initially condoned or justified the violence.


He said that during and immediately after the violence, the authorities in Belgrade had played a constructive role in collective efforts to stem the violence and stamp out any extremist reaction.  The steps taken by the leaders of Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions were commendable and necessary, although they had come late and only under outside pressure.  However, they were not enough.  What was clearly needed was for Kosovo’s leaders to identify those officials who may have provided active backing or passive support for the extremists and who may have used the events to further promote intolerance.  Kosovo’s leaders must leave no doubt of their commitment to tackle and confront extremism and extremist positions.


The brutality and breadth of the events indicated that Kosovo still had a long way to go on the path to multi-ethnicity.  The violence represented a huge setback to the stabilization and normalization of Kosovo’s security and political environment and to the efforts by UNMIK and the international community to promote reconciliation.  The March events had shown that the international community’s determination to ensure Kosovo’s progress on the path of coexistence and reconciliation was, on its own, not sufficient.  What was required now was the concrete action by Kosovo’s leaders and its people to address the causes of the ethnically motivated violence that continued to plague Kosovo and to implement measures to ensure that the violence would not be repeated.


ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) said the tragic events that took place in Kosovo in mid-March had been the most serious outbreak of inter-ethnic violence since 1999.  It had severely damaged Kosovo’s reputation and showed that the province had a long way to go.  It was clear that the international community needed to learn lessons from those incidents -- it should ask hard questions and own up to mistakes made.  It must also take up a robust lessons learned exercise.  The UNMIK, for its part, should take up a speedy examination of the events.  While the violence was a huge setback, the United Kingdom believed that the international community’s goal of a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo and implementation of the agreed standards plan were still possible.  He congratulated UNMIK, as well as KFOR, in restoring calm.  He also praised the Kosovo Albanian leaders in promoting tolerance.


He said that the recent events had been a setback, but had not killed the prospects for democracy.  Beyond renewed international engagement, there were several key challenges for UNMIK, KFOR and the wider international community.  Chiefly, suppressing and deterring violence was a priority.  Authorities must ensure the safety of displaced persons so they could return home.  Extremist groups must also be tackled.  The United Nations and the international community must ensure better information and communications in and about Kosovo and the region.  To that end, it must better publicize the standards mechanism and work assiduously to stop rumours before they began.  Everyone must also bring about a more responsible media.


He went on to say that the international community must reassure the Kosovo Serbs that the progress made since 1999 would not be reversed.  A humanitarian assessment of the current situation of the Kosovo Serbs must also be undertaken, in order to ensure the region that Kosovo and the international community were committed to a multi-ethnic Kosovo.  All must consider effective local government, and devolving power to local institutions to give communities more control over their own future.  To that end, the United Nations and international community must show a commitment to that devolution.  If Kosovo was to become a real democracy, its leaders needed to learn how to govern, he added.


It was also important to ensure that no party was allowed to profit or advance a political agenda through violence.  The wider international community must also address the young people’s feelings that they had “no future” in the region.  International financial institutions needed to be fully engaged.  For the Council, he said there should be an early presidential statement supporting the standards plan as a step forward.  That statement should also call on all parties to implement those standards.  Anything less would be failure, he said.


ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that the recent violence had made it clear that Kosovo had not yet fully recovered from the brutal wars of the 1990s.  The Kosovar leadership must learn lessons from the excessive violence that took place last month and ensure that such incidents never happened again.  The standards plan was a step in the right direction even though, sadly, all communities in the province had not participated in its drafting.  The implementation plan established guidelines that Kosovo must take, within a strict timeline, to meet the agreed standards.  The international community must help Kosovo meet the goals.  Joint efforts and solidarity were indispensable -- building a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo was the responsibility of all, he said.


In order to implement the standards fully, Kosovo would require the support of its children, which required the establishment of security and the promotion of multi-ethnic tolerance.  Such tolerance and cooperation could not be decreed, and a gradual reconciliation process must be undertaken to ensure a stable society for all.  The events in March were a stark reminder of the urgent need to create a tolerant society to which the world should remain committed.


Without such tolerance and eradication of parallel governing structures, it would be difficult to guarantee the participation of all groups in the government and social life.  He added that economic revival required stability and calm in order to promote domestic and foreign investments and to create jobs.  It would also depend on opening up regional markets to the province’s products.  The standards process should be politically and financially supported by the entire international community, he said.


MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) said that images of people forced from their homes, murdered and assaulted, their holy sites burned and destroyed on account of belonging to a different ethnicity, did not serve the aspirations of prosperity and the higher value of democracy and freedom for the entire Balkans region.  Neither did they belong to a twenty-first century Europe.  Based on the valuable, though sad, lessons learned, Romania called on the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to commit fully and unconditionally to a multi-ethnic Kosovo, in particular, with respect to the promotion of rights and freedoms of minority communities.


Romania appreciated the launch on 31 March of the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan, he said.  The Plan was a working and guiding document, which, if genuinely implemented and adequately reviewed in light of the recent events, could maximize Kosovo’s progress in reaching the standards.  Romania continued to strongly support the “standards before status” policy devised for Kosovo in applying Council resolution 1244 (1999).  At the present stage, the standards were the only sound way towards a stable Kosovo.


RONALDO MOTA SARENBERG (Brazil) said that a peaceful and democratic Kosovo was a key element for stability in the Balkans.  But after the events of last March, it was clear that extremism and separatism were “very much alive” in the province.  Those responsible for the murderous riots must be brought to justice.  He stressed that peacekeepers and international police forces could not stop the violence that had led to so many casualties.  Even worse, KFOR soldiers and UNMIK staff had been targeted.  Brazil believed that the way forward required an independent evaluation, which could lead to valuable suggestions for improving the effectiveness of the work of the United Nations mission in the province.


Brazil remained aware of the fragile situation on the ground, he continued.  The brutal incidents had revealed intentions on the part of some parties to force a solution on the status of Kosovo through violence and intimidation.  The international community must respond in a clear and unequivocal manner.  It must condemn the violence, particularly ethnically motivated violence.  Armed groups carrying out their own agendas cannot be allowed to jeopardize the United Nations long commitment, or to derail the reconciliation process.  He added that it was the mission of the United Nations and the wider international community to ensure shameful events such as ethnic cleansing never occurred again.


He said the goal of a stable, democratic, peaceful and multi-ethnic Kosovo could only be reached through joint action.  Full protection of human rights was essential to reach peace based on international law.  Rebuilding confidence and trust between the different ethnic communities went in tandem with rebuilding the churches and homes that had been destroyed in March.  In that regard, Brazil welcomed the launch of the Standards Implementation Plan, which, it believed, must be carried out in strict compliance with Council resolution 1244. 


The Plan, which took into account recent widespread violence, set valuable guidelines and goals in key areas such as building of democratic institutions, holding locally-managed elections, enforcement of minority rights and strengthening the economy.  Success of the Plan required dialogue and the participation of all individuals and groups, including all minorities.  He said strong commitment of the Provisional Institutions, engagement in the political process, and adoption of economic reforms remained the only hope against the resurgence of conflict.


LAURO BAJA (Philippines) said Kosovo was an area where violence could be expected to be at a minimum, since it was under the control of the international community’s state-of-the-art conflict-resolution mechanisms in UNMIK and KFOR, as well as being technically under the protection of the United Nations.  However, that had not been enough to prevent the recent violence.  However, he commended the efforts to restore security and stability.


He said that the political transformation must keep pace with the fight to restore security.  The situation was essentially an ethnic dilemma, with the Kosovo Albanian clearly wanting nothing less than independence, while the Kosovo Serbs wished to remain part of Serbia and Montenegro.  UNMIK’s task was to bridge that divide.  To what extent had the people of Kosovo accepted the strategy of standards before status?  The people themselves must be able to own the strategy and the Standards Implementation Plan so that nobody felt ostracized. 


Expressing concern about the growing problem of organized crime, he also raised the possibility of Kosovo becoming a haven for Al-Qaida.


ISMAEL ABRÃAO GASPAR (Angola) said that peace in the Balkans was intrinsically dependent on the success of the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan.  Despite recent successes, serious challenges remained, as the recent violence had made clear.  He said that lack of security remained a serious concern.  Working to ensure stability was the only way to improve the economy, promote democracy and ensure the return of displaced persons.  He also said that properly functioning governing institutions and a multi-ethnic police force was critical.


The sustainability of returns and fulfilment of rights by the different ethnic communities required the involvement of authorities or representatives from all those communities and at all levels, he continued.  Political leaders and all political institutions of self –governance must actively promote tolerance and ensure freedom of movement for all the people of the province.  He called upon the parties to develop and intensify a constructive dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.  That would ensure that all people of the province lived in peace and in dignity.  He urged all parties to cooperate in a constructive manner with Ambassador Holkeri to ensure a multi-ethnic, democratic society in Kosovo.


JOEL ADECHI (Benin) condemned the ethnic cleansing and the deliberate destruction of cultural property that had taken place last month.  It was imperative that the perpetrators be identified and that the most rigorous measures be taken against them.  Benin welcomed the investigations that were under way, which should be implemented impartially.


Welcoming the Standards Implementation Plan, he said it correctly reaffirmed the goal of standards before status and the establishment of a multi-ethnic Kosovo.  There was a need for an unequivocal commitment to those goals on the part of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government.  The major challenges facing UNMIK, KFOR and the provisional authorities remained ethnicity and the Serb parallel structures.  It was extremely important that the elections scheduled for next fall take place on time, under conditions of impartiality and transparency.


GENNADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said the recent events in Kosovo had laid bare the ongoing tensions and policy of ethnic cleansing of non-Albanian populations.  Russia had long warned of the possible recurrence of such events, but those warnings had gone unheeded by the Council and the wider international community.  He said that all along UNMIK should have been more decisive in identifying nationalistic behaviour and putting an end to extremist groups.  The failure to take a critical look at the reality on the ground, failure to fully implement resolution 1244 (1999), the desire to indulge in wishful thinking, the attempt to inculcate high democratic standards without taking a hard look at the real situation had all contributed to current instability in the province.


In the wake of last March’s brutal violence, taking a hard look at the realities would be unavoidable, he said, adding, “We cannot pretend that nothing has happened.”  Promoting the Standards Implementation Plan without a close examination of the incidents that took place in March was unacceptable.  Those events should be investigated and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.  The UNMIK and international authorities should also consider ways to ensure tighter control over provisional structures of self-rule, as well as better and tighter controls on illegal weapons, which continued to fall into the hands of extremists.


Moreover, he said, in light of the recent events and the re-evaluation of the situation that must be undertaken, talks of moving ahead on the final status of the province seemed premature.  He was convinced that such an approach would lead to further complication and might even spark further pogroms and ethnic cleansing.


He said the logic of a Kosovo settlement in no way included the hasty implementation of a Standards Plan.  Russia was convinced that the Plan required thoroughgoing revisions, particularly towards reinforcing security measures, ensuring freedom of movement and the rights and freedoms of all minorities.  Efforts would have to be made to restore dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.


Also, there should be a thorough consideration of the idea of decentralizing the province’s administration, in order to take into account all the communities.  Russia was prepared to work with all those in the international community committed to putting a speedy end to the tragedy in the Balkans and ensuring the implementation of Council obligations.  He added that resolution 1244 (1999) remained the only legal basis for a Kosovo settlement.  He hoped serious conclusions could be reached which avoided double standards and focused on a just settlement, which was so crucial for Europe.


MICHEL DUCLOS (France), associating himself with the European Union, said the events of March had been a clear blow to the peace process.  It would be useful to have some collective soul-searching about what had happened, the main lesson of which was that extremist forces continued to play a very major role.  An effort must be made to isolate the extremists from those who wanted a democratic Kosovo.  The UNMIK had given the impression of having been taken by surprise.  It must show it had the close relationship with the people of Kosovo that was necessary for it to carry out its proper role.


Noting that the economic environment in Kosovo was deplorable, he said the Serb minority must be reassured that their destroyed property would be restored.  The Kosovo Serbs must also be assured that those wishing to return to their homes could do so, and that those responsible for the violence would be punished.  In addition, the provisional authorities must adopt a responsible attitude, as they must be the first to take responsibility for a positive climate.  There should be no change to the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan, which was a useful document that could highlight the rights of minorities, human rights and the rule of law.


ANA MARIA MENENDEZ (Spain) joined other Council members in condemning the recent spasm of violence in Kosovo and said the perpetrators must be brought to justice in order to prevent a recurrence.  What had happened had been a serious setback to normalization in Kosovo.  Everyone must take a hard look at the real need to ensure the rights of all minorities in the province.


Publication of the Standards Implementation Plan at the end of March had been a step forward, she said, but added that no one should think that everything was moving along as it had before the recent uptick in violence and increased ethnic tensions.  Therefore, an assessment of the standards required that particular attention be paid to ensuring the safe return of refugees, as well as the freedom of movement of all minorities.  Spain would reaffirm its support for the Provisional Institutions of Self Government and would stress the need for provisional authorities to be reminded of their responsibility to ensure the implementation of the agreed Standards Plan.


CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) reiterated that those responsible for last month’s violent acts that had caused so much tragedy must be brought to justice.  Impunity must not be allowed to take hold in Kosovo.  While it was too soon to reach a firm conclusion about what had happened, lessons must be learned and adjustments made to prevent a recurrence of the violence.


He said it was clear that, if the international community hesitated in establishing a multi-ethnic community through implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999), the extremists would have won.  The Standards Implementation Plan, whose legal foundation was the standards before status policy, remained the basis for the establishment of a democratic, peaceful and multi-ethnic Kosovo.  Belgrade’s role in the realization of those aims was crucial.


MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) joined others in condemning the March violence in Kosovo and said his delegation had been pleased to hear that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was on the scene monitoring the damage and spearheading efforts to rebuild cultural institutions, homes and churches that had been destroyed.  While others had said the violence had been “a wake up call”, Pakistan had been one of the few voices –- and perhaps the lone voice on the Council -- that had consistently called for the speedy final political settlement for Kosovo.


And while violence must not be rewarded and those responsible for extremist behaviour must be rooted out and punished, the longer a decision on the province’s final status was delayed, the more that cycle of violence would be perpetuated.  Indeed, such violence would keep repeating itself unless and until some resolution was reached on the thorny issue of status.  He reiterated that the only way to peace and prosperity was to address final status for Kosovo.


He said, however, that the full implementation of the Standards was not an obstacle to Kosovo’s progress, and agreed that the establishment of a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo was critical to the implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999). And while he welcomed the publication of the Standards Implementation Plan last month, he was concerned that not every community had participated in its drafting.  He hoped that would not later be an obstacle to its implementation.  He stressed that reviving the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was crucial.


While Pakistan was still studying the Plan, it was prepared to give its initial, though cautious, support.  He reiterated that lack of participation in drafting must not be used to hamper implementation down the road.  He also said that the bar for the Standards, or the methods of achieving them, must not be set so high that even countries such as the States members of the European Union would have trouble implementing them.  The Plan must be realistic.  He encouraged the Contact Group on Kosovo to more actively cooperate and consult with Council members when making its decisions.


ZHANG YISHAN (China), noting that the situation in Kosovo was still precarious, deplored the acts of violence perpetrated against the Kosovo Serbs and cultural and religious sites.  The truth must be established and the perpetrators brought to justice.  It was hoped that the rule of law and public order would be restored.


Calling on all the parties concerned to continue to commit themselves to ethnic reconciliation, he said the solution to the problems of Kosovo must be based on Council resolution 1244 (1999) and on the standards before status policy.  China emphasized that the only way out was political dialogue.  Violence would not solve anything.


JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) joined others in condemning the recent violence in Kosovo.  He said the continuation of such actions was a “dead end” for the province, as well as the people of the region.  He had been pleased to see that nearly 180 persons had been arrested, and they should be brought to speedy trial.  Particular attention should be paid to identifying and charging those authorities that had been involved in the violence.  He applauded those in the Government that stood up to the violence, as well as the leadership in Belgrade that had been vocal in its condemnation of the events and calling for calm.  He urged all to follow through on promises and pledges to aid in the reconstruction efforts to rebuild damaged churches, homes and cultural sites.


He said the United States remained committed to a peaceful and democratic Kosovo.  He urged all to work with his Government to ensure that the recent violence did not stand in the way of Kosovo’s achievement of the Standards that would eventually lead to a final status for the province.  Those that believed that violence could be used to further a political agenda must not prevail, he said, urging the wider international community, as well as the United Nations, to work to ensure a peaceful way of life for all Kosovo’s communities.


He reiterated that commitment to the Standards was the surest way forward, but stressed that the Council could not continue as if nothing had happened.  It was clear that an assessment should be taken of priorities that had come to light in the aftermath of the recent violence.  Kosovo must, therefore, work to ensure participation of all communities in the democratic process, as well as the devolution of authority to local governments.  The United States would remain committed to working with all those who wished to see Kosovo build a better future.


GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany), subscribing to the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said the violence had forced all parties, local political leaders and the international community to make a sober appraisal of the policies they had been pursuing up to the present.  Clearly, the lesson to be learned was not that they should give up on the aim of building a democratic and tolerant Kosovo, but the contrary.  The violence had highlighted the stark choice between a civilized society and one where extremists influenced the people.


He said that, for the political leaders in Kosovo, the most important lesson was that they must leave no doubt about their commitment to protecting minorities and building a multi-ethnic society.  The recent letter by Kosovo Albanian leaders to the people of Kosovo had been an important gesture.  Words must now be followed by deeds.  Political leaders must also be unequivocal about their determination to isolate and punish violent extremists.  They must explain the rationale of reconciliation to their constituents and be prepared to pay the political costs.


Funding the reconstruction of all the destroyed houses and churches out of the Kosovo Consolidated Budget may not make the provisional leaders more popular with their constituents, because other high priorities must be deferred as a consequence.  Nevertheless, all the houses and churches must be rebuilt.  Sending extremists to prison and purging their parties and governing structures of extremist influence may also cost political leaders some support.  Firing officers of the Kosovo Police Service who had failed to protect minorities may also be politically unpopular.  But, all those steps were essential in order to create a stable society.


One especially important area for improvement was bringing government closer to local communities through devolution of political authority, he said.  Local communities needed to have a greater say over institutions, such as schools, so that government could be responsive to local needs.  As a by-product of such devolution, illegal parallel structures could be eliminated.  Devolution would continue to be promoted as a way to create more stable and effective local governments in Kosovo, which was also in the interest of minorities.


He said the international community must also make its commitments clear.  First, it must reaffirm that its commitment to the minority communities was ironclad.  International troops and police, as well as elements of the civilian administration, would stay in Kosovo in adequate numbers until all its people could live in freedom and security.  Second, the international community must make clear that it was acutely sensitive to the difference between lip service to ideals and actual fulfilment of standards, and that it would only accept concrete actions and tangible progress.  Finally, it must analyse why hatred was still so strong and what could be done to help reconciliation among all communities.


ROKSANDA NINCIC (Serbia and Montenegro) said efforts to transform the western Balkans into a stable and secure region had suffered a “serious setback” when the recent spate of ethnic violence and intimidation orchestrated by Albanian extremists and terrorists had broken out in Kosovo.  According to Council resolution 1244, the international security presence was mandated to establish a secure environment in which refugees and displaced persons could return home in safety.  By the same text, the international civil presence had been mandated to maintain civil law and order, to protect human rights and likewise assure the safer return of all persons that fled their homes during violence or conflict.  “Both had failed to fulfil those obligations”, she said.


Serbia and Montenegro had taken note of Mission Chief Harri Holkeri’s announcement that UNMIK was determined to bring justice to all those persons found to have been involved in the March 17 to 19 violence in any way.  Her Government would also welcome the speedy trail of the perpetrators.  There had been ample opportunity during the five years of Kosovo’s and Metohija’s international administration to demonstrate that a culture which bred ethnically motivated violence would not be tolerated, she said, adding that this may be one of the last opportunities to prevent impunity.


Stressing that the March violence had not been an isolated incident, she said that since 1999, Serb and other ethnic communities in Kosovo had been exposed to almost daily attacks and intimidation by extremists in the majority population of Kosovo Albanians.  In such circumstances -- where ensuring the physical security, as well as safeguarding the rights of the Serb communities in Kosovo and Metohija was increasingly at stake –- it was difficult to envisage the smooth and rapid implementation of the concepts of democracy and multi-ethnic prosperity laid out in the standards and the Implementation Plan.


Those documents, quite simply failed to provide sufficient guarantees for the survival of Serbs in the province, let alone the safe return of displaced Serb populations, she said.  The failure to fully establish such guarantees would signify an end to the possibility of a multi-ethnic Kosovo in the very presence of the international actors, which would share responsibility for such an outcome.


“Therefore, we need to have real security and reliable institutional guarantees for the Serb and other ethnic communities in Kosovo and Metohija”, she said, adding that it was essential that particularly vulnerable ethnic communities enjoyed meaningful autonomy in order for them to be able to protect their personal well being and property and ensure their freedom of movement.  With all that in mind, her Government expected the Council to support proposals aimed at providing the non-majority ethnic communities of Kosovo and Metohija with institutional guarantees to ensure their survival, their return, their rights and their cultural and religious heritage.


RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said his delegation had strongly condemned the recent ethnically motivated violence, loss of life, property damage and the destruction of religious and cultural buildings and artifacts in Kosovo.  The Union had also condemned the attacks on KFOR and on the personnel and sites of the United Nations mission there.  He called on all the leaders, especially the Kosovo Albanian leadership, to take responsibility for the situation and ensure that such acts and threats of violence were not repeated.  Those that were responsible for the violence must be brought to justice, he added.


The European Union also called on the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to demonstrate their commitment to a multi-ethnic Kosovo.  As an immediate step, he said the Union welcomed their decision to allocate funds for reconstruction and would urge the Institutions to take further responsibility for the speedy reconstruction of damaged property, including places of worship, to ensure the earliest possible return of internally displaced persons.  He stressed the need for political leaders to work closely with UNMIK and KFOR to ensure the physical security and the full protection of the rights of members of all Kosovo’s communities.


He said that the recent events had been a serious setback for Kosovo and had endangered the progress made in recent years.  The Union reaffirmed its strong support for UNMIK Chief Holkeri, as well as KFOR, in their efforts to stabilize the situation and to ensure implementation of Council resolution 1244 and the policy of standards before status.  Those remained the foundation of the international community’s commitment to Kosovo and the path ahead lay in their implementation.  The Union took note in that regard of the presentation on       31 March of the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan as a step forward in that process.


KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said the most important lesson learned from the violence was the need for redoubled efforts to establish a multi-ethnic society.  There was no alternative except the implementation of Kosovo standards in reaching that goal.  Japan supported UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in the implementation of its standards and appealed to the international community to express its support for the recently publicized Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan.


He said the violence had demonstrated the increased need for security in Kosovo.  Japan supported the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, UNMIK and KFOR in their strengthened efforts to stabilize the situation immediately after the violence.  At the same time, on the basis of the assessment of measures taken by UNMIK before the violence, it was necessary to think seriously about how to increase security in a sustainable manner.  One of the immediate tasks should be to upgrade Kosovo’s security organizations, including the training of police officers.  Japan had been cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), through the Illicit Small Arms Control Programme and the Trust Fund for Human Security, and called on all Member States to join in similar efforts.


AGIM NESHO (Albania) said last month’s violent events in Kosovo -– already soundly condemned by the wider international community, as well as the people of Kosovo –- indicated that both the democratic process and the future of democracy in the province and region should not, and could not, be taken hostage by extremists from any side.  Neither old nationalistic ideals nor those parties that might try to exploit instability should be allowed to flourish.  He added that it was clear, nevertheless, that the international community, as well as Albania, were committed to building a free, multi-ethnic and democratic society in Kosovo, as it strived to find its place in the wider European family.


The Albanian Government also reiterated its support for the efforts of UNMIK and its leader Ambassador Holkeri, he said.  The Government also commended North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s quick response in sending more peacekeepers to the province.  Albania also praised the actions of the Provisional Institutions during the violence, as well as the commitment of the Government and Prime Minister for rebuilding the houses and orthodox churches that had been damaged.


He said that the implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the overall road to stability and democracy demanded serious efforts by all relevant actors.  Also, the people of Kosovo and their Provisional Institutions should cautiously, but courageously, draw appropriate lessons from the recent events.  They should all redouble their efforts for the implementation of the standards, revitalize dialogue, and adjust their approaches to the various strategies to address everyday realities.  All that would help ensure a clearer perspective and speed up implementation of the standards.


He added that Albania was concerned by the ongoing existence of parallel structures in Kosovo, which impeded the establishment of a multi-ethnic society and challenged the work of UNMIK on the ground.  With that in mind, he reiterated that the violence that erupted in March should not be used as an excuse to continue to create or maintain such structures.  Neither should it be used as an excuse for nationalistic policies, nor as an excuse not to address internal political issues.


Responding to the statements, Mr. GUEHENNO said nobody would wish to characterize Kosovo merely on the basis of the March violence.  Before last month, violence had been declining steadily and people of different communities had begun living side by side, although coexistence had still been fragile.


Regarding the questions raised by the representative of the Philippines, he said that while he was not privy to information about Al-Qaida, organized crime did represent a serious problem in Kosovo and UNMIK police were taking active measures to fight it.


On the sorry state of the economy, he said crime was both a cause and a consequence.  It was easier to make a living through crime than by legitimate means.  There would certainly be fewer refugee returns if there were no jobs and no investment, and if there was no sense that there was a vibrant economy.  It was a vicious cycle.


He said when he had been in Kosovo just before the eruption of violence, he had been struck by the misunderstanding that the standards were an artificial exercise.  The implementation of standards was the means by which various communities could live in peace, without the heavy presence of UNMIK and KFOR.


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For information media. Not an official record.