PAST THREE MONTHS MARKED BY POSITIVE TREND IN KOSOVO, BUT CONSIDERABLE CHALLENGES REMAIN FOR ‘CRUCIAL YEAR’ OF 2005, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

24 February 2005
SC/8320

PAST THREE MONTHS MARKED BY POSITIVE TREND IN KOSOVO, BUT CONSIDERABLE CHALLENGES REMAIN FOR ‘CRUCIAL YEAR’ OF 2005, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

24/02/2005
Press ReleaseSC/8320

Security Council

5130th Meeting (AM)

PAST THREE MONTHS MARKED BY POSITIVE TREND IN KOSOVO, BUT CONSIDERABLE

CHALLENGES REMAIN FOR ‘CRUCIAL YEAR’ OF 2005, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

Special Representative Says Tangible Progress Made by Provisional

Institutions in Implementing Eight Standards Required for Status Talks

The past three months had been marked by a positive trend in Kosovo, although the challenges ahead were considerable in what would be a crucial year, the Security Council was told this morning.

Briefing the Council on the situation, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Søren Jessen-Peterson, said while the security situation continued to improve, without evidence of ethnic bias in policing and judicial processes, many members of the minority communities continued to feel insecure.  Perceptions of insecurity also prevented many Serbs from returning to their homes.  Provisional Institutions of Self Government had made tangible progress in implementation of the required eight standards before final status could be discussed, but there was more to do to ensure that the positive processes were translated into action on the ground.

He said a comprehensive review of standards was planned to take place in mid-2005.  Should that review conclude that sufficient progress had been made, the international community should be prepared to embark on the process leading to status talks.  Partition of Kosovo was simply not a realistic option.  There was now broad agreement on a clear way forward and a clear timetable that could lead to negotiations on final status in the second half of the current year.  To prolong the process for much longer would only prolong the pain, increase the risks and delay the day when the region would turn its back on a painful past and move forward to a common European future.

The representative of Serbia and Montenegro told the Council that the difficult situation of Serbian and other non-Albanian communities in Kosovo and Metohia had frequently been misrepresented in the official reports coming from the Province.  He reiterated that the lives of Serbs and other non-Albanians in the Province were intolerably poor.

Running through a detailed list of examples to convincingly illustrate for the Council the reality in Kosovo and Metohia, he emphasized that Parliament and the Government of Kosovo and Metohia were not truly multi-ethnic; there was no protection for non-Albanian communities from being out-voted; there was no strategy to resolve the huge unemployment gap or to embark on real economic recovery; the constant attacks on Serbs and other non-Albanians were not “isolated incidents”; no efforts were under way to reconstruct the Serb cultural heritage; and there were no efforts to encourage returns of expelled and displaced persons.

If the Province’s current on-the-ground reality was the yardstick by which the standards of democracy, rule of law and minority protection were to be measured, then “not only do we not have status quo in Kosovo and Metohia, we have general regression”, he said.  Suggestions that the policy would be reformulated into a “both standard and status” approach actually implied the international community’s failure, and its search for a quick-exit strategy, deliberately embracing a “detrimental compromise” regarding the creation of a truly multi-ethnic and democratic Province.

The representative of Albania said that the tangible accomplishment of UNMIK and the new Government formed a solid and optimistic base for further progress on the implementation of the standards during the upcoming months.  The process of implementation, however, was a complex process that needed time.  The issue of minorities demanded the engagement of all levels of governmental institutions and civil society, but also required the engagement of the Serbian community.  The Serbian minority was part of Kosova society and had equal rights and obligations.  The parallel structures should immediately be dismantled.  Discussion of the status of Kosova had to take into consideration:  the respect for the people’s free will; guarantees for the protection of minority rights; and excluding the possibility of partition.

Council members hailed the progress made in the implementation of standards, but noted that, as none of the eight standards had been fully implemented, more had to be done, particularly in areas of the protection of minorities, freedom of movement, establishment of the rule of law, return of refugees, and combating organized crime.  The dire economic situation should also be addressed, they stressed, and direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade was essential.  They stressed that only if the Kosovo Serbs participated in all activities, could the goal of a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo be attained.  The representative of the Russian Federation said the Serb’s level of trust remained low and fears were fuelled by incidents that were often not eliciting a due reaction from local authorities. 

As for negotiations on status to be started later in the year, the representative of Denmark stated that the start of such talks was not automatic.  Any outcome would be based primarily on the authorities’ ability to secure a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo.  Crucial to that process would be to efficiently deal with Kosovo’s dire economic situation.  It was important for the efforts to secure economic growth and employment in Kosovo that UNMIK had access to international lending institutions.

The representatives of Japan, Argentina, Philippines, Algeria, Brazil, Romania, United Republic of Tanzania, Greece, United Kingdom, United States, France, China, Benin, Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union) also spoke.  The representative of Serbia and Montenegro and Mr. Jessen-Peterson made concluding remarks.

The meeting, which started at 10:20 am, was adjourned at 1:05 pm.

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/2005/88), covering the activities of UNMIK and developments in Kosovo from 1 November 2004 to 31 January 2005.

According to the report, and specified in an annex, there had been some encouraging and tangible progress in the commitment of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) to the implementations 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).

The report notes, however, that none of the eight standards had been completely fulfilled.  The continued unwillingness of the Kosovo Serbs to engage in dialogue and support the implementation of the standards has hampered the ability to move forward.  On the other hand, the transition from the successful October 2004 elections to the installation of the new coalition Government evidenced growing political maturity.

The security situation remained stable, the report states.  There had been no serious inter-ethnic crime -- and no murder of a Kosovo Serb -- since June 2004.  The Prime Minister had reached out to Kosovo Serbs in many public statements.  The violence of March 2004 resulted in a 40 per cent decrease in returns in 2004 compared to 2003.  The Provisional Institutions had yet to go beyond declarations, pledges and funding to actively demonstrate their willingness to assume responsibility for the security of Kosovo Serbs and other communities.  The reconstruction programme has not been completed.

Most authorities in Belgrade had not been supportive of participation by Kosovo Serbs in the Provisional Institutions.   There had been no meetings of the working groups of the direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade since March 2004, mainly because of obstacles raised by Belgrade.

The report notes that a recent mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) described maturing economic institutions and policies.  The Government continued working, in coordination with UNMIK, to finalize a draft 2005 budget within tight macroeconomic constraints.  The privatization process continues.

The Secretary-General was pleased to note that progress had been made in the implementation of a comprehensive and integrated strategy through the engagement of Kosovo’s leaders and the engagement of international partners.  It could not be overemphasized that forward momentum depended on the Provisional Institutions, political leaders and people from all communities, and that positive words and intentions must be translated into concrete and sustainable results in all areas, benefiting all people in Kosovo and those who have been displaced.

Minority communities’ trust in Kosovo’s political and administrative systems remained low, says the report.  Serbian parallel structures continued to exist in the health and education sectors.  The Secretary-General urged Kosovo Serbs to engage in the local government reform process.  The Provisional Institutions were obligated to pave the way for a meaningful participation by minority groups in all aspects of life.  Trust and reconciliation between the communities could be enhanced through, among other things, positive engagement by all sides on the issue of missing persons.  The Secretary-General called upon all parties to immediately follow through on their recently voiced commitment to participation in the direct dialogue working group on missing persons.

Statements

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report, SØREN JESSEN-PETERSON, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said the past three months had been marked by a positive trend in what was a crucial year for Kosovo.  The challenges ahead, however, were considerable.  The security situation continued to improve.  Levels of serious crime were low; not higher than in comparably populated areas of Western Europe.  Crime rates were showing no evidence of ethnic bias in policing and judicial processes.  Community policing and the ongoing transition of policing responsibility to the Kosovo Police Service were bringing policing closer to the people.  Nevertheless, Kosovo’s security environment remained fragile.

Unfortunately, many members of the minority communities continued to feel insecure, he said.  The Serb community was often the victim of misinformation.  Consequent fears translated into self-imposed limits of freedom of movement.  Those perceptions of insecurity also prevented many Serbs from returning to their homes.  It was important that political leaders and citizens follow the example of the Prime Minister, who continued to reach out to Kosovo Serbs and other minorities.

The new two-party coalition government under Prime Minister Ramush Haradinay had, since 3 December 2004, undertaken a sustained effort to accelerate implementation of the Standards.  The Technical Assessment had made clear that the Provisional Institutions had made tangible progress, but that there was more to do to ensure that the positive processes were translated into action on the ground. He was pleased to report that President Rugova, in accordance with the Constitutional Framework, had announced his resignations from the position of President of the political party he helped found, the Democratic League of Kosovo.

He said the Government had undertaken the reconstruction of almost all domestic and service-providing properties damaged or destroyed last year in March and had provided cash grants to returning families.  The Provisional Institutions had transferred 4.2 million euros into the 2005 budget to finance the reconstruction of religious sites.  Progress had regrettably been blocked since September by a senior figure in the Serbian Orthodox Church.  However, the Holy Synod had now decided that the Church would re-engage constructively.

The Government was also moving on the devolution of authority to the local level to realign centralized structures from the past to European standards of local self-government, he continued.  It had just agreed on five pilot municipalities, two of particular interest to the Kosovo Serbs.  The next step would be to define the exact nature of additional municipal competencies, with particular attention to areas such as policing, justice, education and health.

Over the last six months, the transfer of competencies from UNMIK to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in areas not related to sovereignty had been accelerated.  Three new ministries -- Communities and Returns, Local Government Administration, and Energy and Mining -- had been created.  In the field of the economy, significant transfers were taking place.  In order to ensure that competencies could be exercised efficiently, donors were encouraged to coordinate and target their efforts better to help the Provisional Institutions build capacity across all areas.

Economic stagnation remained a serious concern, however, he added.  Unemployment was rampant and the social safety net did not exist, he said.  The social and economic hardship could at any moment turn into a threat to political stability.  The European Union pillar of UNMIK was making some progress. Privatization had been given an added impetus.  Real progress required certainty on status combined with a healthy environment for investors and a functioning market economy.  The Government was engaged in developing a comprehensive Kosovo development plan comprising different sectors of the economy, including energy.  The full receipt of telecommunications revenues would give an important boost to the economy.  A study group of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) had just concluded that there was no obstacle to the allocation of a dialling code to UNMIK on a temporary basis.

Work was proceeding on a census of the population, which would include internally displaced persons in Serbia and Montenegro, he said.  That was needed as a basis for important activities, including the development of economic strategies and the reform of local self-government.  The Provisional Institutions would present its project document to a donor’s meeting on the census next month.

He said dialogue remained essential at various levels, including local dialogue between majority and minority communities.  Regrettably, Kosovo Serbs were still staying outside most political and democratic processes following their election boycott last October.  He said he had the impression that many Kosovo Serbs were frustrated and were waiting for more positive signals from Belgrade.  The direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade was about to resume after 12 months of boycott by Belgrade.  The Working Group on Missing Persons would resume on 10 March with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as chair.  He was hopeful that the recent more positive signals from Belgrade would result in an intensification of the direct dialogue.

In the international field, UNMIK, the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) and the Kosovo Provisional Institutions were maintaining close and frequent contact with the Contact Group and with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  There was also frequent dialogue with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Council of Europe.

He said there was progress, but at the same time problems remained.  More had to be done to reassure the minorities, to guarantee freedom of movement and to speed up the process of returns.  Improvement of the economy in the short term, pending outcome of status discussions, must receive constant attention and action.  A comprehensive review of standards was planned to take place in mid-2005.  Should that review conclude that sufficient progress had been made, the international community should be prepared to embark on the process leading to status talks.  However, moving towards the status process might give rise to tensions.  Those bent on derailing the process might see violence as their only means.  The message must be clear:  provocations and violence could not be allowed to stop progress towards a stable, multi-ethnic society.

Partition of Kosovo was simply not a realistic option, he continued.  Kosovo must have space for all communities as a stable, tolerant, multi-ethnic democracy.  Partition would betray European values of integration and coexistence and would also sacrifice the 60 per cent of Kosovo Serbs who did not live in the north.  The year 2005 was a key year for Kosovo.  There was now broad agreement on a clear way forward and a clear timetable that could lead to negotiations on final status in the second half of the current year.  To prolong the process for much longer would only prolong the pain, increase the risks and delay the day when the region would turn its back on a painful past and move forward on a common European future.

“I count on the Security Council to continue supporting the efforts of the institutions and the people of Kosovo to develop and shape their society and their future in Europe -- a multi-ethnic, stable, tolerant and democratic Kosovo, at peace at home and at peace with its neighbours”, he said in conclusion.

NEBOJSA COVIC, President of the Coordination Centre of Serbia and Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohia, said that time and again he had attempted to draw the Council’s attention to the difficult situation of Serbian and other non-Albanian communities in Kosovo and Metohia -- an issue that had frequently been misrepresented in the official reports coming from the Province. He had been told repeatedly that the world was tired of returning to this issue, that Kosovo and Metohia “would never be like Switzerland” in terms of modern democratic standards, and that it was necessary for Belgrade to change its approach before it “missed the train that is leaving the station”.  But even at the risk of being reproached again, he reiterated:  the lives of Serbs and other non-Albanians in the Province were intolerably poor.

Before continuing, he praised the work of UNMIK Chief Søren Jessen-Peterson, who had consistently insisted that none of the standards were even close to being fulfilled by the newly elected Provisional Institutions in the Province, despite the aggressive Albanian and international campaign to portray the achievements of those bodies in a more favourable light than their real work actually warranted.  The pretext for such a situation should be sought neither in the Kosovo Serbs nor in Belgrade, but in the general environment prevailing in the Province, which was characterized by a “lack of political maturity” on the part of the leaders of the majority community.

Running through a detailed list of examples to convincingly illustrate for the Council the reality in Kosovo and Metohia, he emphasized, among many others, that that Parliament and Government of Kosovo and Metohia were not truly multi-ethnic; there was no protection for non-Albanian communities from being out-voted; there was no strategy to resolve the huge unemployment gap or to embark on real economic recovery; the constant attacks on Serbs and other non-Albanians were not “isolated incidents” and were not condemned or addressed by local political leaders; no efforts were under way to reconstruct the Serb cultural heritage; there were no efforts to encourage returns of expelled and displaced persons; the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) was a training ground for violent Albanian extremist groups; and there was no rule of law -- Serbs and other non-Albanians did not have access to the judicial system.

“Serb and other non-Albanian communities have practically no confidence in the political and administrative system in Metohia and Kosovo”, he said.  With almost no chance to participate in the political process, the Province’s minority communities had been marginalized such that they were now virtual “second class citizens”.  Implementing key provisions of Council resolution 1244 would be a major step forward, he said, particularly since one of the most sensitive issues related to Kosovo and Metohia -- maintaining its multi-ethnic character -- was actually getting worse.  “For almost six years now, the reality ... has been that one national community, the Serbian one, has been disappearing under the pressure of violent acts by the majority community.”

If the Province’s current on-the-ground reality was the yardstick by which the standards of democracy, rule of law and minority protection were to be measured, then “not only do we have status quo in Kosovo and Metohia, we have general regression”, he continued.  The facts could not be hidden, and after six years of poor results on the implementation of the “standards before status” approach, it was unjustifiably optimistic that there would now be a major turnaround in just a few months, thus, creating conditions for negotiation on the future status of the Province . At the same time, suggestions that the policy would be reformulated into a “both standard and status” approach actually implied the international community’s failure, and its search for a quick exit strategy, deliberately embracing a “detrimental compromise” regarding the creation of a truly multi-ethnic and democratic Province.

From the beginning, Belgrade had been sincerely trying, as partners within the international community, to contribute to the building of such a multi-ethnic society, as well as to the implementation of confidence-building measures.  Belgrade was also committed to ending months-long deadlock with Pristina as soon as possible, following the mass violence perpetrated against Serbs by Albanian extremists this past March.  Belgrade believed, then, as now, that the survival of Serbs was most directly connected to more reliable and efficient institutional protection within Kosovo and Metohia. That was why its activities had been focused on decentralization as a crucial issue of security and institutional reform in the Province.  Belgrade stood ready to participate, at all levels, but on equal footing from beginning to end, in all processes.

ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark) called on all authorities and communities of Kosovo to engage in dialogue and standards implementation.  The continued unwillingness of the Kosovo Serbs to do so was worrying, counter-productive for themselves and unhelpful for the process.  The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government could not be held accountable for delays caused by the unwillingness of the Kosovo Serbs to participate in the process.  Belgrade and other opinion leaders in Kosovo carried their fair share of the responsibility for rectifying that situation.  She urged Belgrade to resume direct dialogue with Pristina.  The Provisional Institutions should be given a real chance to show its worth.  She supported a further transfer from UNMIK to the Provisional Institutions of all competencies not directly involving sovereignty.  That should be accompanied by greater accountability and increased capacity-building.

She believed a decision to start negotiations on Kosovo’s final status should come this year.  But the start of such talks was not automatic.  Any outcome would be based primarily on the authorities’ ability to secure a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo.  Crucial to that process would be to efficiently deal with Kosovo’s dire economic situation.  It was important for the efforts to secure economic growth and employment in Kosovo that UNMIK had access to international lending institutions.  Clarification of property rights and, at a later stage, of Kosovo’s future status would help attract severely needed foreign direct investment.  In general, probably only a regional approach to economic development and a common long-term European perspective would provide the necessary framework for narrowing the economic gap with the rest of Europe.

ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation) said, despite some advances, progress in implementation of standards remained uneven.  None of the eight standards had been fully implemented.  Real progress in implementation would become possible only when the statements of the political leaders of the province were reflected in concrete action.  The non-participation of Serbs in Provisional Institutions proved that Kosovo was still far from creating a multi-ethnic society.  The level of trust of Serbs remained low and fears were fuelled by incidents that were often not eliciting due reaction from local authorities.

He said the Provisional Institutions today must take visible and practical steps to encourage minorities to cooperate and participate in all activities.  Speedy restoration of power supplies to minority communities would be helpful.  Post-March rebuilding and accelerating refugee returns from non-Albanian community, among other things, would also help.  The restoration of religious and cultural heritage site damaged during the March violence was also important.  Involving Belgrade would help to find a solution to a range of priority problems for minorities.  The Belgrade proposal to resume direct dialogue on missing persons and energy could only help to restore trust.

He welcomed progress made in resolving economic difficulties and took note of increased oversight in the pension and banking systems.  However, assigning additional authority to the Provisional Institutions should be accompanied by greater accountability.  There should be sanctions against those whose actions ran counter to the tasks set forth in the standards.  The lasting stabilization of the province was only possible if there was an international strategy under the leadership of the Council.  Launching the process on determining status should not be automatic –- there must be progress in real democratic standards.

SHINICHI KITAOKA (Japan) acknowledged that many challenges remained, which should be addressed by the Provisional Institutions on the implementation of the standards.  In particular, he was concerned that progress had been impeded in the areas of minorities’ freedom of movement and sustainable returns.  While expressing appreciation for the efforts of all parties concerned, including KFOR, to main security as a prerequisite for implementing the standards, he pointed out that fear was the major obstacle facing the minorities.  Therefore, he strongly urged political leaders in Kosovo to demonstrate further initiatives to remove such fear.  He called on the Provisional Institutions to engage in inter-community dialogue to rebuild confidence and trust.  Through those efforts, he expected an increased participation of Kosovo Serbs in the standards implementation process.

Macroeconomic indicators showed Kosovo to be in a calm recovery phase, he said.  With the unemployment rate remaining high and the poverty rate increasing, Kosovo’s economy remained in a serious situation.  He expected that Joachim Rucker, the new head of UNMIK Pillar IV, in cooperation with the Provisional Institutions, would make utmost efforts to realize economic development through the privatization of the socially owned companies, and formulation and implementation of the social development plan.  He agreed with the Secretary-General’s report that the lack of reliable electricity was a serious constraint on Kosovo’s development.  While the stable provision of electricity was essential for long-term development, the reform of Kosovo’s energy sector should not be politicized.

CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) underscored the positive signs mentioned in the report regarding progress in the implementation of an integrated strategy for Kosovo.  He agreed that increased attention to the standards and efforts for their implementation were ongoing.  Notwithstanding those efforts, the report had stated that none of the eight standards had been fully implemented.  He urged all concerned to ensure effective compliance with the standards.  Moreover, he believed that the majority community must create the necessary conditions for the broad participation of minority groups in all aspects of Kosovo life, including through facilitating their participation in political life.  Efforts must also be taken to facilitate the return of displaced person, who must be made to feel safe enough to return and stay in Kosovo.

It was also worrying, he continued, that there were still parallel structures in health and education.  He appealed for compromise and cooperation among those responsible for establishing and promoting a stable, multi-ethnic society.  That could not be achieved while the minority community was still worried about their safety and freedom of movement.  The lack of necessary interaction between the communities had heightened existing ethnic divisions.  Those concerns were greater as a result of isolated incidents that were not condemned.  He urged the authorities to take all necessary measures to penalize violations of the language laws, and promote a culture of human rights, as well as faithfully implement the guidelines developed by UNMIK for the respect of minority rights.  The marginalization of the minority community in the area of employment would not help create a sustainable, multi-ethnic Kosovo.  He trusted the commitment of the new Government to maintain political will to implement the standards for Kosovo as a priority.

LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines) said that Kosovo had been run as a United Nations protectorate for the last six years.  It could not remain in some sort of international limbo indefinitely.  Also, under present circumstances, neither Kosovo’s return to Belgrade’s rule nor its partition, nor any possible unification with Albania, had a chance of being supported.  In addition, neither Kosovo Albanians nor the Kosovo Serbs, nor Belgrade, were able to adopt accommodating positions.  It was time that the international community begin to act decisively.  The NATO and the Group of Eight had key roles to play.  The six-member Contact Group should be able to devise a road map for Kosovo. 

Time was of the essence, he emphasized.  A repetition of the deadly uprising in March of last year was an unwanted, but a likely possibility if continuing uncertainty prevailed on the ground.  Another explosion could unravel whatever progress or gains NATO, the European Union and UNMIK had achieved for Kosovo.  A process for determining the future status of Kosovo -- with timelines and guarantee of the protection of minority rights -- was an attractive proposal.  An independent conflict prevention group, the International Crisis Group, had a concept paper on Kosovo.  It would be instructive to hear the Special Representative’s comments on the Group’s proposal.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said he appreciated the limited but important progress in the stabilization of the overall situation.  He welcomed the establishment of the coalition Government and its commitment to continue on the path of reform and implementation of standards.  He also welcomed the commitment of leaders to complete speedily the reconstruction of property and infrastructure during the reprehensible March violence.  Their resolve to relaunch the process of return was a positive trend.

He said that the progress made was, however, insufficient regarding standards implementation and improved social and economic conditions.  The fact that Serbs were not participating in the Provisional Institutions remained of concern to the international community.  He appealed to all parties to participate fully in confidence-building efforts and to promote reconciliation.  Attainment of a democratic, tolerant and multi-ethnic Kosovo was incumbent on the leaders and the people of Kosovo.  The international community must, however, create all necessary conditions for implementations of the standards and proceed to consideration of the final status of Kosovo.

PAULO ROBERTO CAMPOS TARISSE DE FONTOURA (Brazil) said there was little doubt that, despite encouraging movement, standards implementation was the toughest challenge in Kosovo.  He noted the achievements in the functioning of democratic institutions and the establishment of the coalition Government, as well as the improvement of the Kosovo Police Service, which was now fully multi-ethnic.  In spite of the good progress made, none of the eight standards had been completely met.  Most refugees and displaced persons were still afraid to return to their villages.  They feared that last year’s violence could be repeated, and that prevented most of them from returning to their homes.  It was clear that the situation of minorities continued to be particularly precarious.  Their basic rights were not respected and access to services was still denied.  He could understand why most Kosovo Serbs regarded the standard relating to the rule of law as the most important one.

The Kosovo authorities should do more to ensure the effective participation of minorities in government structures, he said.  Kosovo Serbs must also do their part to engage in the political process.  He urged the Provisional Institutions to continue to address standards implementation as its highest priority.  Joint efforts were needed by the international community and Kosovo authorities to foster progress in standards implementation.  Brazil supported the efforts of the Contact Group in facilitating dialogue among the parties, and hoped the Group’s next meeting, to be held in the coming week, would advance that dialogue.  He also encouraged Belgrade to resume dialogue with Pristina.  Concerned with the human dimension of the situation in Kosovo, he stressed the urgency of tackling unemployment, gender disparity and deficits in health and education.

MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) emphasized that thorough standards implementation and dialogue were essential.  There were indications of growing political maturity in Pristina, proven by a rather smooth electoral process and the energetic approach to standards by the new Government.  Standards would be said to have succeeded when Serbs would not fear for their lives in Kosovo.  He recalled the standards for Kosovo document, which stated that the future of Kosovo must be one in which all people, regardless of ethnic background, race or religion were free to live, work and travel without fear, hostility or danger, and where there was tolerance, justice and peace for everyone.  That was clearly not yet the case, in Kosovo.  Security was one of the biggest challenges ahead for the political leaders in Kosovo and it would be a clear and objective test of standards implementation.  He also called on the Serbs living in Kosovo to take the future in their hands and work with UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions to find ways to end such fears. 

Dialogue at all levels, between all communities in Kosovo and between Belgrade and Pristina was crucial, he noted.  He echoed the call of the European Union Council and High Representative Javier Solana to all communities in Kosovo, as well as authorities in Belgrade and Pristina, to engage in substantial dialogue.  Romania continued to promote a Security Council mission to Kosovo in the course of this year.  Although the best moment for such a mission was yet to be determined, the Council needed to take its message closer to all actors involved, and also to find ways to stimulate cooperation and dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.  He reiterated that a solution for Kosovo must be based on the broader European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes. 

AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that implementation of the standards remained key for Kosovo.  Thus, new mechanisms and structures needed to be put in place for specific actions, with the potential for providing positive results.  There were no alternatives to the standards; they should not be renegotiated.  He urged greater efforts to get the cooperation of the Kosovo Serb community with the Provisional Institutions, since that remained a major hurdle in constructing the necessary institutions of governance under the constitutional framework.  At the communal level, more deliberate initiatives were required to promote incremental measures for more inter-communal trust, interaction and accommodation.

The progress made in the area of local government reform was commendable and needed support, so as to increase the pace for devolution of authority at the local level.  Local communities needed to be encouraged to make full use of that opportunity to enrich their cultural identities and aspirations.  He encouraged the measures taken, albeit still limited, in promoting gender equality, including the filling of obvious gender gaps and revisiting of legal issues, together with having an action plan for gender equality.  He also noted that the security situation had remained stable and that the safety of minorities had improved slightly.  That freedom of movement had remained delicate was a source of concern that required urgent attention.  Kosovo Serbs who considered themselves at risk needed to be reassured of their freedom.

ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said there were indeed encouraging signs of commitment by the leadership of the Provisional Institutions to the implementation of the standards, but progress was uneven.  As yet, none of the standards had been fully implemented, while there was discrepancy between progress reported in their implementation and the widening of the gap in the ethnic divide among the two communities.  Attention must be paid not only to the observance of the listed actions and recommendations under the Standards Plan, but also on how that translated in the reality of the lives of the communities.

Focusing on some shortcomings, he said progress limited itself mostly to the central power structures, he said.  Provisional Institutions had failed to embark on rebuilding the confidence and trust of the minorities.  A serious effort in revitalizing the returns process, improvement in the freedom of movement and in the rates of employment of minority members in the public sector would go a long way towards ensuring real progress.  There could not be full progress without the participation of the Kosovo Serbs and, therefore, without a resumption of the dialogue with Belgrade.

He said the Kosovo economy was a key challenge.  Progress in privatization was essential along with strengthening the institutional capacity and infrastructure.  The restoration of all religious sites and properties should be a priority for the Provisional Institutions.  He trusted that, with the assistance of the international community, the right framework of protection would be formulated and that reconstruction programmes would be promptly implemented.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said he shared the Secretary-General’s assessment that progress in the implementation of standards had been tangible and encouraging.  The new Government had shown commitment in striving to implement the standards.  The focus must now be on continued delivery in the run up to the comprehensive review to be conducted later this year.  He stressed four points related to the priorities for Kosovo in the coming months.

First, he said, Kosovo could not take its eye off standards implementation, particularly those relating to the minority community.  The onus was on all authorities and communities to make sufficient progress on standards, so that the comprehensive review could decide that it would be possible to move to the next phase of the process and discuss status.  That was achievable if all made the necessary efforts and current trends continued.  But standards, particularly those related to minorities, were not just a means to starting the status discussion.  They were essential to improving the daily lives of all in Kosovo and moving towards European integration.  Any refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague and any incitement to violence would be serious setbacks.

Second, he said, local government reform was important to reassure the minorities.  Third, Kosovo’s struggling economy was a threat to political stability.  The European Union and UNMIK’s Pillar IV had an important role in helping the Provisional Institutions to develop an economic development plan and support job creation.  Fourth, Kosovo Serbs remained largely outside Kosovo politics.  There had been some progress recently, and there was some Kosovo Serb participation in the decentralization working groups.  But despite efforts, a much more constructive approach was needed.  The only way for Kosovo Serbs to have a say in the future of Kosovo was to engage in the political life of Kosovo.

The year 2005 would be a key year for Kosovo, he said, and the onus lay with the people of Kosovo to make progress to allow for final status discussions to start.  It was important to recognize that a European destination for Kosovo would be key to ensuring that outcome, but that destination came with heavy conditions.

STUART W. HOLLIDAY (United States) welcomed the energy and determination that the new government of Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions had brought to the implementation of the standards.  More needed to be done in securing the right of return for the refugees and displaced persons, ensuring security for all communities and reforming local government.  Sufficient progress on the standards was necessary before the international community could begin a process to determine Kosovo’s future status.  Mid-2005 would present itself as the first opportunity for a comprehensive review of Kosovo’s progress in implementing the standards.

He said decentralization was an area of special importance in implementing the standards and would help make local governments more responsive to the needs of its residents.  The best chance for building a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo would come if all of Kosovo’s communities participated.  He encouraged the Kosovo Serbs to rejoin political institutions and working groups and Belgrade to support them.  It was not appropriate to deride the conditions for minorities in Kosovo, while refusing to engage in efforts to improve them.  In that regard, he welcomed the plans to resume the missing person dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and encouraged the resumption of all aspects of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. 

In conclusion, he reaffirmed the need for all governments of the region to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  That was not only an important step in moving beyond the legacy of war, but fundamental to establishing the rule of law, he said.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union and expressing full support for Mr. Jessen-Peterson, said he welcomed the commitment of the provisional authorities to make progress on the eight standards.  However, he said, progress still fell short in a number of areas, such as protection of minorities, freedom of movement, establishment of the rule of law, return of refugees, and combating organized crime.

He said the responsibility of the majority was to create a climate in which the minorities, in particular Kosovo Serbs, felt they could live in Kosovo in conditions of safety and dignity.  Substantial progress had to be achieved in those areas and the provisional authorities must sustain the progress achieved.  Only then could negotiations be considered, following a comprehensive assessment of standards implementation.

He appealed to all parties to participate constructively and to the Serbs to become constructively involved in the institutions in Kosovo.  Acknowledgement of the legitimate interest of the parties could only be achieved by participation in the institutions and the implementation of standards –- not by withdrawal.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that, at present, Kosovo was at an important moment.  Developments during the current stage would have an important bearing on its future.  A sound and comprehensive settlement of the question of Kosovo would require a comprehensive implementation of Council resolution 1244.  The situation in Kosovo remained stable.  He welcomed the active efforts of UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions to implement the standards.  He also noted that progress in some key areas still remained insufficient, including in promoting the return of refugees and freedom of movement for minorities.

In addition, efforts to address unemployment and economic development had been slow.  He hoped Kosovo leaders would cooperate with UNMIK to address those areas and promote trust and reconciliation among all communities, laying the foundation for peaceful coexistence among all communities in Kosovo.  Furthermore, he hoped the Provisional Institutions and Belgrade could resume their direct dialogue as soon as possible.

Noting that this year was a crucial one for Kosovo, he hoped all sides could demonstrate and promote standards implementation.  Any violence, like that seen last March, would be unacceptable and would have a negative impact on the situation.  He hoped Kosovo could achieve substantial results in the areas of security and economic development, and improve the lives of all communities in Kosovo.

Council President JOËL W. ADECHI (Benin), speaking in his national capacity, said the situation in Kosovo was developing satisfactorily and progress had been attained in implementation of the standards.  He welcomed the strict compliance of the Government with the constitutional framework and the respect for consistent implementation of standards to stabilize the economic and security situations.  He was encouraged by the Government’s commitment to integration.  Striving for confidence of the minority without losing the confidence of the majority was essential in that regard.

He said the Government needed to step up initiatives to overcome the reluctance of the Kosovo Serbs to participate in the Provisional Institutions.  The Serbian side must be willing to engage in dialogue.  Belgrade’s refusal to participate in direct dialogue had been an impediment to progress and implementation of the standards.  The UNMIK should intensify its discussions with Belgrade.  Kosovo authorities should adopt a clear position on incidents that continued to taint the atmosphere in the province.  The international community must remain mobilized and speak with one voice to obtain the hoped for results.

JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that nearly one year after the outbreak of violence derailed the political process in Kosovo, and just a few months into the functioning of the new central-level institutions, his delegation shared the view that the Provisional Institutions had shown some encouraging and tangible progress in their commitment to the implementation of the standards.  The new Government’s public statements of resolve in that regard was also worthy of note.

The European Union supported UNMIK’s prioritization of actions within those standards that most directly affected minority communities and the goal of a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo, especially those concerning the return of refuges and internally displaced persons, the protection of minority communities, freedom of movement and decentralization.  He called on the Provisional Institutions to make full use of the competencies recently transferred to them by UNMIK, and likewise encouraged the Mission to examine the possibility of further such transfers.

In addition, the European Union attached great importance to the establishment of a substantial dialogue between all Kosovo communities, as well as between Belgrade and Pristina, he said, calling upon all parties to participate actively in the ongoing processes, including pilot projects, leading to local government reforms and the establishment of a decentralized, sustainable administration that could guarantee the protection of minority communities and improved living conditions for the population at large.  The Union would call particularly on the Kosovo Serb community to engage constructively with the Provisional Institutions at a central level.  Kosovo Serbs must recognize that it was in their immediate interest to participate in the ongoing political process as the best way for them to promote their legitimate concerns and to have a say in shaping the future of Kosovo.

While acknowledging certain progress in implementation of some of the standards, he said that substantial further movement across all eight standards would be necessary, particularly on the priority actions inside those standards.  That was especially important as the comprehensive review of the implementation of the standards in mid-2005.  That review would have a major impact on the timing of the final status talks, and it was, therefore, in the common interest of all concerned to ensure that real, verifiable progress had been made in the implementation of the standards.

AGIM NESHO (Albania) said that the tangible accomplishment of UNMIK and the new Government formed a solid and optimistic base for further progress on the implementation of the standards during the upcoming months.  The process of implementation, however, was a complex process that needed time.  An effective, multi-ethnic, stable and democratic society required, first of all, commitments in areas of minority issues, good governance and decentralization.  The issue of minorities demanded the engagement of all levels of governmental institutions and civil society.  It also required the engagement of the Serbian community.  The non-participation approach not only impeded progress in standards, but also brought into question the establishment of multi-ethnic institutions and society.

He said the Serbian minority was part of Kosova society and had equal rights and obligations.  The parallel structures should immediately be dismantled, so that minority was not held hostage by the past.  Decentralization remained one of the key processes for the establishment of a democratic society.  Three aspects should be taken into account, in that regard:  respect for the parameters according to the principles of the Council of Europe; broad, but also gradual, implementation; and avoidance of cantonization.  Decentralization should go in parallel with the shaping and strengthening of the central government structures.  The autonomy of local authorities should not harm the vertical line of power and should not encroach on the territory of Kosova.

The Council, in cooperation with the Contact Group, the United States and the European Union, needed to move forward with the discussion of the status of Kosova, he said.  Discussion of the status of Kosova had to take into consideration:  the respect for the people’s free will; guarantees for the protection of minority rights; and excluding the possibility of partition.

Mr. COVIC, President of the Coordination Centre of Serbia and Montenegro, said that the Kosovo Serbs were not victims of misinformation.  Their feeling of insecurity was the consequence of the horrible reality in which they lived in Kosovo.  Prior to 17 March 2004, everyone had been full of optimism.  Some said that the violence of 17 March 2004 was just an incident.  He left it to the Council to decide whether it was just an incident.  There would be violence if the status quo was maintained in Kosovo.  Today, some had said that Kosovo would never be under Belgrade’s rule.  Some had said that the partition of Kosovo was not acceptable.  He appealed to the Council to figure out if the independence of Kosovo was acceptable or not.  The problem of Kosovo went beyond diplomatic exchanges of views.  Over 200,000 people had not been able to return to their homes for over six years.  A few speakers had mentioned the lack of will on the part of the Kosovo Serbs.  What kind of will where they supposed to show when their houses were set on fire, and when they needed to have armed escorts for their children to go to school? he asked.

He appealed to the Council to stop accusing Belgrade for something it should not be blamed for.  Belgrade would only accept responsibility for something it should be blamed for.  The Contact Group should have influence over the standards

implementation assessment.  The assessment could not be reduced to only desires and wishes.  It was necessary to know how many people had returned and stayed in their homes.  It was known that many would not go back.  He was encouraged by the Secretary-General’s report, which had started using percentages and figures, which was the only way to assess progress.  But how would it be possible to measure whether security had improved?

Belgrade would not impede any processes, he stated.  Nor would it accept an arrogant approach by UNMIK.  It was not an easy task to encourage Serbs to enter the Provisional Institutions.  No one had mentioned that Serbs at one point did participate in the Provisional Institutions, but had subsequently left.  Parallel structures provided better living conditions for 35,000 people in Kosovo.

In closing remarks, Mr. JESSEN-PETERSON thanked the Council members for the many supportive words directed towards UNMIK.  He expressed perplexity and sadness about the two statements of the representative of Serbia and Montenegro.  The technical assessment had been clear, factual and based on reality.  The Secretary-General’s report was also very clear, as had been recognized -- there had been tangible progress, but there were still a lot of shortcomings.  His focus over the next several months, working with Provisional Institutions and minorities, would, therefore, be to address those shortcomings and improve the conditions of the minorities.

He cited the alleged lack of elementary security as one example of Mr. Covic’s statement that was out of touch with reality.  It was a fact, he said, that there had not been one serious ethnic-related incident since last June.  The perpetrator of that incident was due in court.  Many Kosovo Serbs did enjoy freedom of movement.  He would now focus on the far too many who did not have freedom of movement, as it was not acceptable that some of the minorities had to live behind barbed wire.  Unfortunately, two of the Kosovo Serbs who had contested the elections had been exposed to serious incidents.

As for the alleged lack of access to media, he quoted the independent Media Commissioner who had said that minority access to the media compared favourably with the situation elsewhere in the Balkans.  It was important that dialogue was based on honesty and facts, he said.  That was the reason he welcomed the recent readiness by Belgrade to resume the dialogue.  Belgrade had a key role to play.

He also addressed Mr. Covic’s remarks regarding telecommunication, saying that Kosovo was loosing 15 million euros a year because telephone lines were under the control of people outside Kosovo.  The UNMIK was not in any way pretending to prejudge the final outcome.  It had simply asked for a temporary access code in the interest of the Kosovo customers.  The problems with electricity affected some 600,000 people, 95 per cent of them Kosovo Albanians.  In order to have enough revenues, one had to insist on customers paying their bills, irrespective of ethnic background.  He welcomed statements that the Serb Orthodox Church seemed ready to engage, so that restoration of monuments could be continued. 

He would return to Kosovo determined to continue, in close partnership with the Provisional Institutions, to address all the shortcomings in standard implementation.  He would continue his daily efforts to reach out to the Kosovo Serbs, as well as the very important dialogue with Belgrade and other States in the region.

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For information media. Not an official record.