KOSOVO FACES ‘UPHILL CHALLENGE’ IN MOVING TOWARDS TOLERANT, INCLUSIVE SOCIETY, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

5 August 2004
SC/8164

KOSOVO FACES ‘UPHILL CHALLENGE’ IN MOVING TOWARDS TOLERANT, INCLUSIVE SOCIETY, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

05/08/2004
Press ReleaseSC/8164

Security Council                                           

5017th Meeting (AM)                                         

KOSOVO FACES ‘UPHILL CHALLENGE’ IN MOVING TOWARDS TOLERANT,

INCLUSIVE SOCIETY, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

Overall Security Situation Is Calm,

But Progress Remains Fragile, Assistant Secretary-General Says

Kosovo faced an uphill challenge in moving forward along the path of normalization, ethnic reconciliation, strengthening of its still-fledgling democratic institutions, and creation of a tolerant, inclusive society, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi told the Security Council this morning.

Following the widespread violence in mid-March, efforts in Kosovo had focused on creating an environment in which confidence between communities could be strengthened and dialogue could move forward, he continued.  While there had been concrete developments, overall progress had remained fragile and serious concerns persisted.

The overall security situation had been calm and stable with few security incidents, he noted.  Only through improved security could Kosovo’s minorities be confident that their future lay in Kosovo, and only then could the displaced feel confident to return to their homes.  The return process had been dealt a severe blow by the March violence.

Among positive developments was an agreed framework document on the reform of local government, and technical preparations for the Kosovo-wide elections in October, Mr. Annabi said.  While the technical groundwork for inclusive elections was being laid, the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the elections remained unsure.  Participation in the democratic electoral process and a re-engagement in Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions were in the interests of Kosovo’s Serbs, and the international community’s concerted support for efforts to ensure their participation was crucial.

Zoran Loncar, Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government of Serbia, said that efforts to overcome the political and moral consequences of the March pogrom against Serbs were not sufficient.  He expressed concern that the Provisional Institutions had failed to condemn the March ethnic violence and ethnic cleansing.

As it was virtually impossible for international troops and the civilian presence to effectively protect basic human rights of Serbs, the Government of Serbia had proposed a plan for a political solution through territorial autonomy and firm institutional guarantees.  He said the plan guaranteed institutional mechanisms for the protection of the rights of minorities with special status for churches and monasteries and a lasting security role for the international forces in the protection of minorities.

He added that the proposed document for local government reform did not address the essential and current problems faced by the Serbs, and did not contain meaningful solutions for their survival and return.  Under such circumstances, the State authorities of Serbia were not in a position to call on the Serbs in Kosovo to take part in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

During the discussion that followed, speakers regretted the setbacks caused by the March violence, urged all the leaders of Kosovo to resume dialogue and efforts to move the standards implementation process forward, and urged the Serbs in Kosovo to participate in the upcoming elections.  Stressing that it was in the greater and long-term interests of Kosovo Serbs to participate in the general elections, scheduled for October, France’s representative encouraged them to register immediately on the electoral roll, which would be closed on 12 August.

While support was expressed for the “standards before status” policy, by which the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government have to achieve certain standards, or benchmarks, before the final status of Kosovo can be addressed, Pakistan’s representative felt that that approach was flawed.  The longer Kosovo remained in international limbo, the more frustration would continue to fester.  The Council should promote a “status with standards” approach as a two-pronged effort, he said, holding Kosovars accountable to implement standards and clarifying Kosovo’s status issue, while seeking to uphold the rights of all minorities.

The achievement of the standards selected by the international community was essential for the new society in Kosovo, and their objectives were necessary conditions for defining its final status, stated Albania’s representative.  At the same time, he agreed that it would be useful for the international community to consider the final status of Kosovo along with the discussion of standards, as the implementation of a policy of “status with standards” would concretely advance the political process in Kosovo and further normalize the situation in the region.

Speaking in his national capacity, Council President Andrey Denisov of the Russian Federation said the widespread surge of ethnic violence in March called into question the agreed-upon timetable of standards implementation.  Unfortunately, the progress made by the Provisional Institutions was limited in key areas, including returns and ensuring freedom of movement.

He was alarmed about the lack of desire by the Kosovo Assembly to focus on the needs of minorities and appealed to the Provisional Institutions to implement all priority measures and to translate into action their commitment to create favourable conditions for the return and integration of displaced persons.  An inter-community dialogue should also be established, and it was necessary to have robust steps to guarantee equal security for all inhabitants of the province.

Statements were also made today by the representatives of Benin, Romania, Angola, Chile, Germany, Brazil, China, Spain, Philippines, United States, Algeria, United Kingdom, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union) and Japan.

The meeting, which began at 10:15 a.m., adjourned at 12:56 p.m.

Background

When the Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2004/613), covering the activities of UNMIK and developments in Kosovo from 1 April to 15 July.

The report states that following the widespread violence in March, Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government had made some progress in reconstruction of damaged or destroyed property, inter-ethnic reconciliation, and reform of local government.  The signing of a joint declaration by Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb leaders on 14 July in which they collectively commit to completing the reconstruction of houses damaged in the violence before the onset of the winter and giving renewed impetus to the returns of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is a significant development, but needs to be followed up with concrete and timely action, as nearly 2,400 people remain displaced.

According to the report, some progress has also been made in implementation of the “standards before status” policy. According to that policy, the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government have to achieve certain standards, or benchmarks, before the final status of Kosovo can be addressed.  The eight standards to be met concern:  functioning democratic institutions; the rule of law; freedom of movement; returns and reintegration; economy; property rights; dialogue with Belgrade; and the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC).

Regarding functioning democratic institutions, the report notes that the performance of the Kosovo Assembly has been mixed.  The Kosovo Assembly’s adoption of proposed amendments to the Constitutional Framework was clearly outside its competences as set out in resolution 1244 (1999), and is unacceptable.  There are indications that overall minority employment at the central levels of administration has decreased.  There is also little resolve within the Provisional Institutions to insulate civil servants from political interference.  Operational responsibility for running the Assembly elections in 2004 will, for the first time, be entrusted to the people of Kosovo.  A multi-ethnic central election commission was created to that end.  Little progress was achieved in the implementation of standards in the media.

The report states that considerable progress has been made in establishing the rule of law, and in bringing to justice those responsible for the violence in March.  International prosecutors are handling 52 cases involving serious crimes, and the local judiciary is handling more than 260 cases related to the violence.  Approximately 100 Kosovo Police Service (KPS) officers have been identified as the subject of allegations of misconduct during the March violence.  However, UNMIK’s efforts to create a multi-ethnic justice system suffered a severe setback as the result of the violence.  The implementation of an anti-corruption strategy launched in March throughout the Provisional Institutions remained weak.

The impact of the March violence on the freedoms of members of non-majority communities and sustainable returns of minority refugees and IDPs was profound, according to the report.  The events also seriously affected the attendance of Kosovo Serbs and municipal assemblies.  The overall situation with regard to minority employment at the municipal level and the use of official languages within Kosovo municipalities remains unsatisfactory.

Also, according to the report, the Kosovo economy continues to be far from self-sustaining.  The number of unemployed continues to rise.  However, progress has been made in establishing a legal framework for a sustainable, competitive market economy, but much needs to be done to move Kosovo closer to European standards.  The privatization of Kosovo’s socially owned enterprises continues to be one of the more politically contentious issues, and the budget process functions in an unsatisfactory manner.  The protection of property rights through the courts and administrative bodies remains problematic.

The March violence and its aftermath have stymied a resumption of the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade through the dialogue working groups, the report states.  Regional dialogue and cooperation in selected areas have proceeded with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Slovakia and Bulgaria.  Although the KPC has moved forward in meeting the objectives set out in the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan, concern remains that it is fundamentally hindered in fulfilling its mandated task of providing civil emergency protection, due to lack of training and equipment.  Gains have been made, however, in minority recruitment.

Statements

HEDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that following the widespread violence in mid-March, efforts in Kosovo had focused on creating an environment in which confidence between communities could be strengthened and dialogue could move forward.  Efforts had focused on reconstruction and creating conditions for the safe return of those forced to flee during the violence, and on moving forward the standards implementation process.  While there had been concrete developments, overall progress had remained fragile, and serious concerns persisted.

The overall security situation, he said, had been calm and stable with few security incidents, none of which had been attributed to extremist groups.  While intimidation of minority communities continued, there had only been one incident that was ethnically motivated -– the murder on 5 June of a Kosovo Serb teenager.  Kosovo’s minority community continued to live in a precarious situation.  Only through improved security could Kosovo’s minorities be confident that their future lay in Kosovo, and only then could the displaced feel confident to return to their homes.

While there had been progress in reconstruction, some 2,400 people remain displaced, he noted.  Some limited return had taken place to temporary locations.  Overall, the return process had been dealt a severe blow by the March violence.  Despite that major setback to the return process, UNMIK was working with Kosovo Serb representatives to identify priority areas for return.  Following a slow start, reconstruction had moved forward.  The Provisional Institutions were responsible for post-violence reconstruction efforts, and an inter-ministerial reconstruction commission was responsible for managing the reconstruction programme.  Much more remained to be done in that area, and a further acceleration of reconstruction efforts was required to ensure that homes were built before the onset of winter.

He noted some encouraging steps by Kosovo Albanian leaders to mend the damage done to inter-ethnic reconciliation.  While those steps were important, they must be followed by sustained public commitment and efforts to ensure that reconciliation really took hold.  Following the violence, the resumption of dialogue was of paramount importance to make progress.  The signing of a joint declaration by Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanians, committing themselves to cooperation in a number of areas, was a significant development and should be followed up with concrete actions.

There had also been progress in the standards implementation process, he continued.  The Kosovo Provisional Institutions had shown renewed commitment to move that process forward.  Timelines for the completion of benchmarks had been drawn up.  While that was an important step forward, the challenge was for the Provisional Institutions to effect concrete change in line with the plan’s requirements.  Kosovo Serbs were called on to engage in the standards implementation process in order to address their concerns. 

There had been progress in joint efforts by UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions to carry out reform of local government.  Following extensive deliberations, an agreed framework document on local government was presented on the devolution of responsibilities to the local level.  The consultation process had been transparent and inclusive, and benefited from the support of the international community.  Representatives of the Kosovo Serb community had participated in an observer capacity and contributed substantially to the agreed text.  He urged all stakeholders to participate in that process to achieve practical results soon.

The Kosovo Provisional Institutions and the Kosovo Government continued to make progress in improving efficiency and effectiveness.  However, the Kosovo Assembly continued to focus on symbolic issues to the detriment of concrete standard implementation and legislative work aimed at improving the daily lives of Kosovo residents.  That was most evident in the Assembly’s move to propose a comprehensive package of amendments to the Constitutional Framework.  Despite UNMIK’s repeated warnings that such a move went beyond the Assembly’s competence, and despite the issuance of a press release reiterating that position, Assembly members voted on 28 July to propose a package of 38 amendments to the Framework, and to forward those to the Special Representative for approval.

Those proposals, which had yet to be formally presented to the Special Representative, impacted a number of areas that were reserved to the Special Representative under the terms of the Constitutional Framework.  UNMIK’s position on that was clear:  it remained open to considering specific proposals for amendments, provided those were not within the reserved powers of the Special Representative.

He said that technical preparations for the Kosovo-wide elections in October had begun, and to a large extent operational responsibility for running the elections rested for the first time with the people of Kosovo.  There had been difficulties in obtaining the required level of cooperation and information from the competent authorities in Belgrade, and as a result, the by-mail operation for the internally displaced outside Kosovo had encountered serious difficulties.  The UNMIK had, therefore, decided to proceed on the basis of currently available information.

While the technical groundwork for inclusive elections with the participation of all of Kosovo’s communities was being laid, he said that the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the elections remained unsure.  Participation in the democratic electoral process and a re-engagement in Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions were in the interests of Kosovo’s Serbs, and the international community’s concerted support for efforts to ensure their participation was crucial.

Overall, the period since the violence in March had seen limited and encouraging progress in Kosovo, but clearly Kosovo’s leaders and population faced an uphill challenge in moving Kosovo forward along the path of normalization, ethnic reconciliation, strengthening of its still-fledgling democratic institutions, and creation of a tolerant, inclusive society.  Consistent progress in implementing the standards for Kosovo was central to the creation of a democratic and tolerant Kosovo. 

He was encouraged by the commitment shown by Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb leaders for the creation of a multi-ethnic Kosovo and efforts to move the political process forward.  Developments since March had shown that although responsibility for progress ultimately rested with Kosovo’s representatives and its people, the international community’s – and the Security Council’s –- consistent support and active engagement remained indispensable.

ZORAN LONCAR, Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government of Serbia, Serbia and Montenegro, said that although much of the political effort in Kosovo and Metohija had been aimed at alleviating the consequences of the attempted “ethnic cleansing” in the Province in March, the consequences of the pogrom by Kosovo Albanian extremists and terrorists committed against the Serbs were far from being addressed.  Reconstruction of 35 destroyed Serb Orthodox monasteries and churches had not even begun.  Moreover, the efforts to overcome the political and moral consequences of the March pogrom against Serbs were not sufficient.

He said the fundamental human right of a safe and peaceful life for Serbs could not be realized without decisive police and judicial investigation and without putting a radical end to such a policy by the Kosovo Albanians themselves.  The past activities of UNMIK and other representatives of the international community in that respect had been insufficient.  He expressed concern that the Provisional Institutions in Kosovo and Metohija had failed to condemn the March ethnic violence and ethnic cleansing.  The UNMIK had not yet fulfilled its mandate under resolution 1244 (1999) to “establish and oversee the development of provisional democratic self-governing institutions to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants of Kosovo”.

As it was virtually impossible for international troops and the civilian presence to effectively protect the basic human rights of Serbs exposed to expulsion by Kosovo Albanian extremist and terrorist structures, the Government of Serbia, in April, had proposed a plan for a political solution through territorial autonomy and firm institutional guarantees.  The plan created the only realistic preconditions for the return of IDPs now in Central Serbia.  As the plan did not offer final solutions to all issues, it was open to amendments.

He said the plan guaranteed institutional mechanisms for the protection of the rights of minorities with special status for churches and monasteries and a lasting security role for the international forces in the protection of minorities.  It also represented a realistic response to the pogrom and to the events of the past five years that had resulted in two thirds of Serbs leaving Kosovo and Metohija since the deployment of UNMIK.  Autonomy and institutional guarantees for the Serbs and other communities in Kosovo and Metohija were the only way forward to preserve the preconditions for a future multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society.

He said international circles had shown a great interest in the plan and had initiated the establishment of a working group within the Provisional Government of Kosovo and Metohija to formulate decentralization proposals.  However, the draft of the reform of local self-government, prepared by the group, did not address the essential and current problems faced by the Serbs, and did not contain meaningful solutions for their survival and return.  Under such circumstances, the State authorities of Serbia were not in a position to call upon the Kosovo and Metohija Serbs to take part in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

The direct and heightened activities of the Contact Group represented the best framework for putting in place the possibility of an “applicable policy of standards” in Kosovo and Metohija.  The implementation of those standards should lead to the establishment of a system of European values.  A European character of Kosovo and Metohija, within Serbia and Montenegro, was not to the detriment of Albanians, Serbs or others.  Any other solution would breed dangerous new hatred, conflicts and policies of revanchism and represent a constant potential source of new conflicts in the Balkans and in Europe.

JEAN-FRANCIS REGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said the report gave a sense that things were gradually returning to normalcy and the Joint Declaration of the Serb and Albanian leaders highlighted the positive developments.  It reflected a commitment of both communities to overcome the legacy of the past.  He welcomed the plan for implementation of standards.  However, the arrangements should be supplemented by rules of procedure of the government and their ministries, he said.  He endorsed the principle of holding the majority community responsible for the welfare of the minority communities and protecting the interests of Serbs.  The participation of Serbs in the Provisional Institutions was a key factor in that regard. 

The low rates of returns of displaced persons remained a concern, he said. Beyond the need to accelerate reconstruction of destroyed property of displaced persons, the security situation also needed to be addressed in order to have displaced persons return.  Inter-community dialogue must be renewed at the local level and with neighbouring countries and Serbia and Montenegro.  Property rights must also be protected, and the rule of law should be strengthened.  He encouraged the Provisional Institutions to strengthen their efforts to establish a legal framework to promote economic growth in Kosovo.

MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) said that the report before the Council contained references to insufficient progress in almost all categories of standards implementation.  He had noticed an increased ownership of responsibilities by Kosovo’s institutions in addressing Kosovo’s problems.  He was not 100 per cent sure that the lessons from the March violence had been adequately learnt in Kosovo, and there were many examples to confirm that impression in the Secretary-General’s report.  There might still be extremists willing to derail Kosovo from the right path and from addressing its most stringent priorities.

He looked forward with great interest to a prompt presentation of comprehensive recommendations from the Secretary-General on the way forward for Kosovo.  Also, while appreciating the work of UNMIK and the Secretariat to compile a comprehensive report on the status of standards implementation, he felt that for the next reports an even more detailed presentation would be necessary.  Such presentations should follow the exact structure of the Standards Implementation Plan, should establish clear and realistic priorities for each of the periodical reviews until mid-2005, and should take into account feedback from the Contact Group.  Also, the Provisional Institutions should contribute to the reports.

JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said the report showed a situation in Kosovo that contrasted sharply with the optimism prevailing before the March violence.  The presence of extremist forces had hindered the expectations of the international community for Kosovo.  The implementation of standards was a challenge because of a lack of capacities in the Provisional Institutions.  The UNMIK decision to establish areas of minority protection and return as key areas underlined the central issue of Kosovo.  Implementation of standards would only make sense if the rights of minorities were protected.

A lot remained to be done without delay, he said.  Applied justice to all those involved in acts of ethnic violence, real efforts in the reconstruction of destroyed property, and ensuring freedom of movement for minorities were benchmarks that the Provisional Institutions and UNMIK must meet in the shortest possible time.  According to Kosovo Serbs, not much had been done in matters of reconstruction and freedom of movement and returns.  The refusal of Kosovo Serbs to participate in political life was, therefore, not surprising.

CRISTIÁN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) said that, while mindful of their seriousness, the events of March could not be converted into a permanent obstacle to reconciliation.  The violence was a setback in achieving a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo, and required enhanced efforts in areas such as human rights, the implementation of standards, reconstruction and creating conditions for safe return.  On local government reform, he noted the adoption in principle of the framework document by the Kosovo Government.  He reaffirmed the validity of the standards-before-status policy and welcomed the declaration signed on 14 July.

Cooperation between the autonomous government and UNMIK was more than ever essential, he stated.  He called on the Provisional Institutions to continue to implement the six emergency measures under the Standards Implementation Plan, drawn up in response to the March violence.  Inter-ethnic dialogue was essential, and anything that promoted that deserved support.  It was urgent to achieve progress in the areas described in the report.  It was still necessary to build a multi-ethnic justice system.  Property damaged or destroyed needed to be rebuilt, and compensation must be paid.  The restoration of sacred and holy sites was also essential. 

The Kosovo Assembly, he added, should adhere to its areas of competence to avoid incidents such as those that took place in early July.  Without the significant return of IDPs and refugees and without freedom of movement, the building of a multi-ethnic society would be hard to achieve.

WOLFGANG TRAUTWEIN (Germany), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said the events of March had been a severe blow to Kosovo’s development in many areas.  Key in the reconciliation process was the reconstruction of destroyed property.  The Joint Declaration and the public commitments of Kosovo authorities to complete reconstruction on time was good news.  Regarding punishment of those responsible for the violence, more efforts were necessary.  Noticing that Serbs and Albanians seemed to talk more about each other than to each other, he stressed the importance of more dialogue.

He said it was essential that the Serb population became fully engaged in the Kosovo political life.  They had to speak up for themselves in the Provisional Institutions and to participate in the forthcoming elections.  He was deeply concerned about discussions on boycotting those elections.  The direct dialogue between post-conflict Pristina and Belgrade must resume.

The standards implementation had been too slow in various areas, particularly in the area of the economy.  However, the working groups on standards implementation seemed to be working efficiently.  He welcomed the finalization of the framework document on local government reform.  All inhabitants of Kosovo would benefit from such reform, he said, as it was aimed at more democracy for the whole of Kosovo.  It would also help to solve many of the problems encountered in standards implementation.

HENRIQUE VALLE (Brazil) said that, unfortunately, the overall situation of the rights of minorities had deteriorated.  Kosovo Serbs and other groups were still facing severe restrictions to their freedom to work and travel, and, in practice, they were being denied the right to a normal life.  The international community must take a firm stance in protecting them against the continued violation of their fundamental rights and in encouraging the Provisional Institutions to honour the commitments set out by the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan in that regard.  Although he did not oppose decentralization and a degree of autonomy for minorities, he remained faithful to the principle that peace and reconciliation in the region must be based on compliance with resolution 1244 and the “standards before status” policy.

He called on the Provisional Institutions to enhance their commitment to the fulfilment of the Standards Implementation Plan, which was the only viable path towards meeting the standards that would allow a future decision on the status of the province.  Progress towards peace would not be fostered by unilateral acts such as the recent movement by the Kosovo Assembly to make amendments to the Constitutional Framework, on issues that fell into UNMIK’s sphere of competence.  All minorities, he noted, and especially Kosovo Serbs, must be aware that refusal to participate in shaping a new political panorama would only aggravate exclusion and helplessness.

The March riots, he said, had served as a reminder that the persistence of an environment of underlying violence and anger in the province could threaten the stability of the whole region and potentially generate more ethnic clashes.  He called on authorities in Pristina and Belgrade to resume the work of the dialogue working groups.

MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said the Secretary-General’s report was a sobering assessment of the situation in Kosovo.  While there had been progress in certain areas, issues such as freedom of movement, sustainable returns and others continued to suffer from the March events, and the economy continued to need substantial donor support.  He called for the resumption of the direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade and welcomed positive developments in regional dialogue.

He said the March violence continued to hamper the building of trust between the communities of Kosovo.  However, a deeper and fundamental problem was the fact that the standards-before-status approach was flawed.  The longer status determination was delayed, the more it would feed tensions in Kosovo and delay necessary investments of financial institutions.  The longer Kosovo remained in international limbo, the more frustration would continue to fester.  He reiterated Pakistan’s proposal that the Council should promote a “status with standards” approach as a two-pronged effort, holding Kosovars accountable to implement standards and clarifying Kosovo’s status issue while seeking to uphold the rights of all minorities.  He urged the Council to give that option serious thought.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) noted that, in the recent past, Kosovo had witnessed some progress in implementing standards, rebuilding communities and promoting inter-ethnic reconciliation.  However, the international community still had a long way to go to eliminate the impact of the March violence and achieve a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo.  All parties in Kosovo were duty bound to play a greater role.  The most pressing task was for the leaders in Kosovo to translate commitments into action, to fully implement the Standards Implementation Plan and observe resolution 1244.  The Kosovo Assembly should work strictly within its mandate and should not interfere in the mandate reserved for the Special Representative.

It was important to do a good job in improving living conditions for minorities, ensuring security and freedom of movement, reconstruction and accelerating the return of refugees.  It was also necessary to strengthen efforts to investigate the incidents of March and bring the perpetrators to justice, as well as to ensure the legitimate rights of minorities in Kosovo.  Pristina and Belgrade should resume direct dialogue at an early date.  He hoped that UNMIK and the offices of international organizations would continue to support the Provisional Institutions, particularly the preparations for the conduct of elections in the fall.

IÑIGO DE PALACIO (Spain), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said much remained to be done in order to address the psychological and material damage done in March.  The representatives of the Kosovo people still needed to express their genuine commitment to a society in which the rights of all would be respected.  The Albanian leaders still had a special responsibility to address the events of March.  Numerous Serbs had not yet returned, and minorities did not enjoy real freedom of movement.  He urged that all those responsible for the violence be put on trial and expressed concern that UNMIK’s efforts to create a multi-ethnic justice system open to all had been seriously undermined by the March events.

He said the working group on local government had come up with a number of interesting recommendations.  Its main frame of reference had been the European Self-Government Charter, and its recommendations should be put into effect.  The Provisional Institutions needed to implement all priorities established in the revised plan for implementation of standards.  The validity of the principle of standards before status needed to be reaffirmed.  The Serb community could no longer remain on the sideline of political life.  He urged for resumption of the direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade and to set the right conditions for the October elections.

BAYANI S. MERCADO (Philippines) said that last March Kosovo was faced with the worst inter-ethic violence since the international community had intervened five years ago.  His country, which was a troop contributor to UNMIK, had joined others at that time in expressing indignation over the violence.  Two months ago, he had stated that UNMIK’s most important challenge was to build the necessary trust and confidence between the two communities.  He was sad to note that little progress had been made in that regard.  The people of Kosovo had still not mustered the confidence and trust to overcome the province’s problems.

While he took note of UNMIK’s progress in the standards implementation process, he believed that it should exercise a greater degree of flexibility.  Likewise, the international community should place the onus of protecting Kosovo’s minorities on the majority Kosovo Albanian community.  Those responsible for the March violence should be prosecuted and the damaged and destroyed homes rebuilt.  He agreed with Romania on the need for the Council to keep the situation in Kosovo under close coordination.  In that regard, the Council could consider sending a mission to Kosovo to attain an understanding of the situation on the ground.

STUART HOLLIDAY (United States) said the March violence had been a wake-up call.  He welcomed the progress achieved in reconstruction of destroyed property and rebuilding dialogue between the communities.  The overall implementation of rights of minorities was key.  It was time for concrete action for implementing the standards.  As the responsibility for progress in that regard rested with the Kosovo leaders, the international presence should move increasingly to a monitoring role, instead of a transfer role.  Additional competencies could be shifted to local authorities.

For Kosovo to move ahead, he said it was essential that all communities participated in elections.  A boycott would be a mistake, and the Serbs should participate without preconditions.  He appreciated the introduction of the Belgrade Plan.  He urged both sides to continue the dialogue.  In conclusion, he said the treatment of Kosovo minorities would be the single most important yardstick to measure progress.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said that the current report was of particular importance, coming four months after the March violence and allowing the Council to gauge the progress made in the standards implementation process.  He welcomed the progress achieved.  The commitment of Kosovo leaders to rapidly complete the rebuilding of damaged property and ensure conditions for safe return, as well as the finalization of the framework document for local government, heralded the beginning of a process of détente that augured well for all.

The advent of an economically prosperous, multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo was still the common objective, which required the full implementation of resolution 1244 and the policy of standards before status.  Any discourse that promoted unity would bolster all efforts undertaken in Kosovo.  The international community must also create the right conditions for a speedy implementation and fulfilment of the eight standards to address the final issue of status.  Kosovo’s economic recovery, reducing the disquieting unemployment rate and improving social services, would allow for progress to be made in achieving the standards set out.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), associating himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said all sides needed to learn the lessons of March.  He looked forward to a more coherent and focused approach by the international community in Kosovo and expected a constructive response from the Kosovo communities.  The Special Representative should initiate a programme to transfer responsibilities to the Provisional Institutions.  Increased transfer of competencies should take place in conjunction with a decentralization programme.

He said standards remained basic in Kosovo, and he looked forward to the review process in mid-2005.  The standards accepted in 2004 remained a vital goal, but, at the same time, a robust prioritization was needed on the standards.  Immediate effect should be given to minority rights.  He expected concrete and effective action to help minorities, not just “pious statements of commitment”.  Priority work should focus on returns, and decentralization.

There had to be a dialogue with Belgrade, he said, but Belgrade could not exercise oversight or veto.  The debate should be held by the people who had to live under the arrangements in Kosovo.  Non-participation in the elections would disenfranchise the Kosovo Serbs.  They should participate in the elections and rejoin the institutions.  The immediate priority now was to rebuild tolerance and to reassure the Kosovo Serbs.  Belgrade and the Kosovo Serbs should make a constructive contribution in that regard.  Unilateral statements on status by any side were unacceptable.

MICHEL DUCLOS (France) said that a strategy for Kosovo had been elaborated last autumn and was set forth in the Council’s presidential statement of December 2003.  The regrettable events of March were a particularly negative development, which France had condemned.  The strategy had not changed.  However, it was now known that the situation was extremely precarious, and there was little time to act, particularly in light of the deadline of mid–2005.  He was fully convinced that inaction would be the worst action to take.  He, like others, would like to receive the report on the evaluation of the standards implementation process.

The joint declaration, adopted by Kosovo leaders on 14 July, was a step in the right direction to get the political process back on track, he noted.  However, that declaration would only have value if it was translated into tangible action.  He welcomed the positive results of the joint UNMIK-Provisional Institutions working group on decentralization.  The framework document was a good basis on which to move in the direction indicated by the Council in its presidential statement of 30 April.  He hoped the Serbs in Kosovo and others concerned would play an active part in the finalization of that decentralization plan.

More generally, he encouraged the Serbs in Kosovo to participate fully in the institutions that the international community had set up in Kosovo, particularly in the elections.  He was convinced that it was in the greater and long-term interests of Kosovo Serbs to participate in the upcoming general elections, scheduled for October.  He encouraged them to register immediately on the electoral roll, which would be closed on 12 August.  It was important for others to also encourage them to do that, as well as to ensure that the Serbs of Kosovo were not deterred from doing so.

Speaking in his national capacity, the Council’s President, ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation), said the widespread surge of ethnic violence instigated by Albanian extremists in March against Serbs called into question the agreed-upon timetable of standards implementation.  The situation required full implementation of resolution 1244 (1999).  His country was committed to full and consistent implementation of the standards-before-status policy.  Unfortunately, the progress made by the Provisional Institutions was limited in such key areas as implementation of the revised Implementation Plan, including returns and ensuring freedom of movement.

He said that since March, the process of returns had been reversed, and local communities had not supported UNMIK’s activities to maintain law and order.  Minority rights continued to be flaunted.  He was alarmed about the lack of desire by the Kosovo Assembly to focus on the needs of minorities and appealed to the Provisional Institutions to implement all priority measures and to translate into action their commitment to create favourable conditions for the return and integration of displaced persons.  An inter-community dialogue should also be established, and it was necessary to have robust steps to guarantee equal security for all inhabitants of the province.

The reform of local governance was important in order to ensure that all communities were able to live together in security, he said.  The working group should further take into accounts the interests and concerns of the non-Albanian population.  Much remained to be done to build the capacities of the Provisional Institutions.  Their involvement concerning reserved powers should be brought into full compliance with resolution 1244 (1999).  Such participation should be preceded by an ad hoc decision of the Council.  The Albanian leaders bore the primary responsibility for establishing a relationship with the minorities in the Province.

DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the violent events of mid-March had constituted a serious setback for Kosovo’s future.  Taking stock of progress made towards reconciliation, a mixed picture had emerged, but a modestly more positive one since the March violence.  Half of the displaced people had returned to their homes, and around a third of the properties damaged had been reconstructed.  The intention to establish a Ministry of Community Matters, Human Rights and Return was a promising sign, as was the recent agreement on an anti-discrimination law.

While the Union commended the Kosovo Albanians for those efforts, it also called on them to undo all the consequences of the March riots, he said.  The remaining displaced persons must be able to return to their homes as soon as possible.  Likewise, he called on the Kosovo Serbs to be responsive to overtures by Kosovo Albanian leaders.  The lack of involvement of the Kosovo Serbs in the political process was still a cause for concern.  Participation in the Provisional Institutions and in the upcoming elections was in their interest and should be encouraged.  The resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was essential.

It was also necessary to question whether enough was being done to prevent a repetition of events, he said.  The Secretary-General had taken his responsibility by requesting Ambassador Kai Eide to review the policies and practices of all actors in Kosovo.  Ambassador Eide’s mission had been timely, and the sharing of his conclusions would be welcomed.  The Union looked forward to working with the United Nations and the Secretary-General’s new representative to find ways to improve the international community’s action.  Meanwhile, progress on standards -– not just in reports but visibly on the ground –- was needed.  The Union was committed to the full implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the policy of standards before status.

Noting that the Joint Declaration of 14 July was a positive signal of commitment by Kosovo leaders of all origins, he commended the working group on local government for its proposals, as reforms of local government and decentralization were important steps for ensuring sustainable government, the protection of minority communities and better living conditions for all.  In that regard, he called on all communities and interested parties in Kosovo to fully engage in the process and take concrete steps to implement the reforms as soon as possible.  A strong contributor to Kosovo’s economic development and reform, the Union looked forwarded to renewed momentum for the process and called on all parties to take a rational, non-political approach to the privatization issue.  The Union’s commitment to Kosovo was not limited to Pillar IV.  As Kosovo’s future was within European structures, the Union would do its utmost to enable Kosovo to become part not only of the political and economic union the European Union constituted, but also of the community of values for which it stood.

SHINICHI KITAOKO (Japan) said he welcomed the drafted framework document for devolution of responsibilities to local authorities.  He hoped that through the careful implementation of the framework, the human rights of minorities would be better protected and the establishment of a democratic and multi-ethnic society would be accelerated.  Establishment of tolerance in Kosovo was the key to the successful implementation of the standards.  He emphasized that the restoration of homes destroyed in the March violence should be completed as soon as possible in order to improve mutual trust among the communities involved.

He said that building tolerance would require a positive change in the mental attitude of the people.  They must have reason to hope for a better life for themselves.  Regrettably, unemployment in Kosovo was rising again.  That situation must be changed.  The UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions, with the assistance of the international community, must redouble their efforts to address that issue within the framework of the Standards Implementation Plan.  His Government had contributed $186 million to stabilize the situation in Kosovo, which was essential for the stability and prosperity of the entire region.

AGIM NESHO (Albania) said there was a need for the rapid implementation of the “standards before status” policy while focusing on a democratic and multi-ethnic society, where the rule of law and tolerance prevailed.  That could only be achieved when the legitimate organs of the democratic institutions in Kosovo possessed complete responsibility for building up their society.  For that to happen, it was necessary to transfer UNMIK’s competences to Kosovo’s executive institutions, and to restructure UNMIK’s role from a monitoring and decision-making body to an advisory one.

In addition, he said, there was a need for the continued presence of international institutions, such as the multinational security force (KFOR), as a guarantee for stability and peace in the region.  It was important that the climate of understanding and the process of integration continue.  The minorities must participate in the parliamentary elections and not boycott them.  Kosovo needed its minorities to participate in the construction of the country, as well as in governing it.

He reaffirmed his support for the implementation of the “standards before status” policy.  The achievement of the standards selected by the international community was essential for the new society in Kosovo, and their objectives were necessary conditions for defining its final status.  It would be useful for the international community to consider the final status of Kosovo along with the discussion of standards, as the implementation of a policy of “status with standards” would concretely advance the political process in Kosovo and further normalize the situation in the region.

He supported an expanded dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  For its part, Albania was committed to furthering its dialogue with Serbia and Montenegro in the fields of mutual interest and in the framework of Balkan and European integration.  That would serve to strengthen relations between the two countries and to create a better and constructive climate between Albanians and Serbs in the region.

Closing Remarks by Assistant Secretary-General

Responding to comments, Mr. ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that UNMIK was facing a serious financial situation, as there had been significant delays of payment of assessed contributions.  The Secretary-General had suggested that surpluses from completed peacekeeping operations be retained, but that had not been accepted by the General Assembly.  Stressing the seriousness of the situation, which might lead UNMIK as early as next month to curtail some of its activities, he urged the prompt payment of outstanding contributions in full.

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For information media. Not an official record.