FURTHER PROGRESS DEPENDS ON WILLINGNESS OF MAJORITY TO MOVE TOWARDS MULTI-ETHNIC, DEMOCRATIC KOSOVO, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

27 May 2005
SC/8397

FURTHER PROGRESS DEPENDS ON WILLINGNESS OF MAJORITY TO MOVE TOWARDS MULTI-ETHNIC, DEMOCRATIC KOSOVO, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

27/05/2005
Press ReleaseSC/8397

Security Council

5188th Meeting (AM)

FURTHER PROGRESS DEPENDS ON WILLINGNESS OF MAJORITY TO MOVE TOWARDS MULTI-ETHNIC,

DEMOCRATIC KOSOVO, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

 

Also, Minority Kosovo Serbs Must Be Given Clear Signal by Serbia

And Montenegro to Participate in Provisional Institutions of Self-Government

The pace of further progress towards implementation of standards depended on the willingness of the majority community to continue efforts towards the creation of a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo –- a willingness that did exist, despite the recent, painful conflict, Søren Jessen-Petersen, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, told the Security Council today.

Delivering a briefing on developments in Kosovo, he said also that the degree of participation by the minority Kosovo Serbs in the province’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government would influence the extent to which their interests were reflected in standards implementation and that Serbia and Montenegro must give them a clear, positive signal.

Regarding Kosovo’s final status, he said that the resolution of that question and the ensuing certainty would mean faster and more meaningful progress on a range of issues, and have real benefits for regional dialogue and trade among other issues.  There were clear limits to the results achieved on regional integration that could not be achieved without some certainty on status, and leaving the question pending would delay regional integration and adversely affect the interests of all concerned.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), he outlined progress achieved in the province, commending its political leaders and citizens for managing with maturity a highly unusual situation following the indictment of the Prime Minister by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in March.  In particular, standards implementation had remained on track, and the new Government had shown the same commitment to moving forward on standards and had made continued progress on its programme in April and May.

For the first time in its recent history, Kosovo had a strong opposition that was critical of the Government’s work while in agreement with it on the overall goals for Kosovo, he said.  In order to manage tensions more constructively, and in view of the critical period ahead, he had proposed to bring political party leaders and the President of Kosovo together in a Forum to enhance constructive dialogue and ensure maximum possible consensus on crucial issues.  Its first meeting would convene next week.

Reporting on positive developments in dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, he said that the first meetings of the Direct Dialogue since March 2004 had resumed one year later, beginning with the Working Group on Missing Persons on 16 March.  That had been followed by meetings in April and May on the key issues of energy and returns.  It was vital that political leaders begin to talk with each other, sooner rather than later, and Pristina and Belgrade had every mutual interest in coexisting and interacting peacefully and constructively.

However, not all the news was good, he noted.  There was still no clear signal from Belgrade to the Kosovo Serbs to participate in the Provisional Institutions.  And dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade could not substitute for the direct involvement of the Kosovo Serbs in shaping their own future.  While progress would continue, even without the meaningful participation of the Kosovo Serbs, progress in establishing a fully multi-ethnic Kosovo and integrating all communities would remain limited as long as one ethic group was pressured to stay outside the political, economic and social processes.  The fault for that obstacle towards progress did not lie in Pristina, but the victims were the Kosovo Serbs who were eager to participate.

Nebojsa Covic, President of the Coordination Centre of Serbia and Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohia, said the Secretary-General’s report regrettably linked the most important problems to the Kosovo Serbs and to the Government of Serbia.  It should not have omitted to mention the 230,000 internally displaced Serbs and other non-Albanians who could not return to their homes because UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) could not guarantee their safety and freedom of movement.

The Belgrade authorities were trying to facilitate the achievement of a truly democratic and multi-ethnic society, he said.  The cornerstone of Belgrade’s policy was that state borders could not be changed, and its sovereignty and territorial integrity could not be questioned.  Direct dialogue was the only road to follow if solutions to the problems of Kosovo were to be found.  Hopefully, the Kosovo Albanian leaders would also demonstrate their readiness for dialogue.

He said it would be counterproductive to open future status discussions before the standards had been substantively implemented, but should the decision be to begin the talks in spite of everything, they would be burdened with the extremism of the Albanian leaders, who would get the wrong idea that the international community was yielding to their policy of ethnic cleansing.  The issue of future status must be solved by reaching agreements, above all, with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and Montenegro.

Albania’s representative, stressing that the time had come for important and substantial progress in determining Kosovo’s political status, said the status quo was neither desirable nor useful.  The standards implementation process would help the province’s rapid progress, economy and prosperity, as well as generate security and stability, promoting the advancement of the whole region.  Standards implementation would remain the central focus of Kosovo’s people on living in dignity and moving forward towards Euro-Atlantic integration.

With its current political status, foreign direct investment in Kosovo remained distant, he said.  It lacked eligibility to benefit from International Monetary Fund and World Bank assistance programmes, which would have a direct impact on the development of a stable and efficient economy.  Respect for the free will of the people of Kosovo on their future, as well as guaranteed respect and protection of minority rights, including guarantees for the protection of their inherited cultural and religious values, remained crucial for a just and stable solution.

Council President Per Stig Møller, speaking in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, expressed optimism that the review would lead to a decision to start negotiations that would determine Kosovo’s final status.  However, there should be no automaticity as to the start of such talks.  The outcome of the review would be decisive in that regard.  But the time had come to move on.  Kosovo’s unresolved status created political insecurity, discouraged returns, fed extremist designs, scared off foreign investment and was not sustainable.  The outcome of the status talks should not be prejudged.  But there would not be a return to the pre-March 1999 situation.  Just as a reintegration of Kosovo into Serbia, or a territorial division of Kosovo could be excluded, so could a union of the province with another country or a solution dictated unilaterally by one of the parties.

Luxembourg’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said Kosovo’s political leaders should be aware that the outcome of the proposed comprehensive review process and the initiation of any further steps thereafter were not a foregone conclusion.  Implementation of the standards was a long-term endeavour and was expected to continue throughout the evaluation process and beyond.  Despite the many justified caveats, the Secretary-General’s recommendation to initiate a review this summer was a momentous event for the people of Kosovo and should be interpreted as both a recognition by the international community of progress already achieved and a powerful incentive to maintain and increase the momentum of ongoing reforms.

Also speaking today were the representatives of France, Romania, Brazil, Greece, Philippines, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Benin, Russian Federation, China, Argentina, Algeria, Ukraine and Switzerland.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 1:10 p.m.

Background

Before the Council was the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) dated 23 May 2005, covering that Mission’s activities and developments in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, from 1 February 2005 to 30 April 2005.  Annexed to the report is a set of key achievements and priority standards challenges relating to:  functioning democratic institutions; rule of law; freedom of movement; sustainable returns and the rights of communities and their members; economy, property rights; cultural heritage; dialogue; and the Kosovo Protection Corps.

In the report (document S/2005/335), the Secretary-General observes that the province’s provisional institutions have intensified their efforts to implement the standards and that there are indications that their underlying significance and importance, as well as their form and implementation, have gained increased acceptance among the leadership and people.  There is a growing recognition that sustained progress on implementation is an essential precondition for advancing towards a process to determine the future status of Kosovo.

He notes, however, that none of the standards has been entirely fulfilled and expresses his concern that deficiencies remain in key priority areas.  All standards are important, and the focus of areas of particular importance to Kosovo minorities does not diminish the relevance of any of the eight standards.  It is crucial that the representatives of the provisional institutions, particularly the Kosovo Albanian leadership, recognize that implementation is not simply a test to be passed in order to move on to the next stage.  The standards are goals in and of themselves, as well as measures of Kosovo’s political maturity and the willingness of its leaders and population to create the foundations for a sustainable multi-ethnic democratic society.

The Secretary-General states that the continuing implementation of the standards will be central to the realization of Kosovo’s European perspective and lead to a qualitative change in society.  Encouraged by the public outreach by leaders to the minority communities, and statements and commitments in support of returns, he states, however, that despite noteworthy breakthroughs, including the first returns to urban areas, the overall numbers are low and the process remains fragile.  Ensuring a climate for sustainable returns centres on acceptable security, and economic and property-related considerations remain a central challenge.  The Kosovo Albanian leaders and population must strengthen their efforts to reach out to Kosovo Serbs who, in turn, must demonstrate their concrete willingness to integrate into society.

Expressing his concern at delays in reforming local government, the Secretary-General says that, while not a standard, progress in decentralization is a key measure of Kosovo’s willingness to restructure local governance in a way that is closer and more responsive to the needs of the population, and which accommodates legitimate minority interests.  All communities and political factions should unite to achieve this important goal, which should go forward regardless of Kosovo’s future status.

The Secretary-General welcomes the offer by Serbia and Montenegro President Boris Tadic to meet with Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova and encourages both leaders to initiate a direct dialogue, which is essential to move the process forward.  Also welcome is the expressed intention of Serbia and Montenegro Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi to meet with each other.  This dialogue should occur in addition to a dialogue between and among the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo leaders.

According to the Secretary-General, progress on the eight standards remains the basis of the United Nations policy and must be carried out in a dynamic and priority-based way within the overall framework of a comprehensive and integrated strategy in order to give momentum and direction to the political process.  A comprehensive review should be initiated this summer consisting of consultations with the parties and the international community.

Emphasizing that the outcome of the comprehensive review is not a foregone conclusion, the Secretary-General says that the representatives of the provisional institutions and political leaders will be expected to pursue and strengthen their efforts to implement the standards, and will continue to be assessed on this basis.  The unified and coordinated support of the broader international community, particularly key Member States such as those in the Security Council and the Contact Group is essential.

Briefing by Special Representative of Secretary-General

SØREN JESSEN-PETERSEN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo, said that the three months since his last appearance before the Council had been challenging and that the progress made must be seen in the context of the challenges.  In particular, March 2005 had seen some very difficult moments.  While the Government formed in December 2004 had made good progress through its first 100 days, that Government had ended in early March with the resignation of Prime Minister Haradinaj following notification of an imminent indictment from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  Within 24 hours of the indictment and after appealing for calm and for a continuation of progress in building a democratic society, Mr. Haradinaj had proceeded voluntarily to The Hague.

He said that during those days, Kosovo had shown the region and the world a commendable respect for the judicial process.  Democracy had been respected and a new Government had been formed within three weeks.  Throughout that difficult period the political leaders and citizens of Kosovo had managed a highly unusual situation with maturity and without disorder or instability.  In particular, standards implementation had remained on track, and the new Government had shown the same commitment to moving forward on standards and made continued progress on its programme in April and May.

As in most new democracies there was political tension, he noted.  For the first time in its recent history Kosovo had a strong opposition under the leadership of Hashim Thaci and Veton Surroi, which was critical of the Government’s work while in agreement on the overall goals for Kosovo.  In order to manage any tensions more constructively, and in view of the critical period ahead for Kosovo and the significant political issues coming up, he had proposed to bring political party leaders and the President of Kosovo together in a “Forum” to enhance constructive dialogue and ensure maximum possible consensus on crucial issues.  The proposal had been met with agreement, and the first meeting of the Forum would be convened next week.

Over the past months, there had been greater engagement and dialogue with the Serbian Orthodox Church, which had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government on 25 March, he said.  That agreement allowed for the reconstruction of the Serbian Orthodox Church religious sites and followed a lengthy delay due to talks within the Church on how to proceed.  The Provisional Institutions had already allocated 4.2 million euros last year and were now actively considering the earmarking of an additional 1.5 million euros for the reconstruction of Serbian Orthodox religious sites damaged during the March 2004 violence.

Reporting on positive developments on dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, he said that the first meetings of the Direct Dialogue since March 2004 had resumed one year later, beginning with the Working Group on Missing Persons on 16 March.  That had been followed by meetings in April and May on the key issues of energy and returns.  Those Working Group meetings would take place on a regular basis in Belgrade and Pristina and would be supported by intermediate technical meetings to work on substantive issues.  That dialogue not only served to make progress on the specific issues, but was also an important sign of building confidence.  It was important to continue encouraging political dialogue and the fact that Pristina and Belgrade had expressed their willingness to engage in high-level political dialogue was welcome.  It was vital that political leaders begin to talk with each other sooner rather than later and Pristina and Belgrade had every mutual interest in coexisting and interacting peacefully and constructively.

He said that the long-term preservation of cultural heritage in Kosovo (including Serbian Orthodox, Ottoman/Islamic, Catholic and vernacular sites) must be an increasing priority in the coming months.  Participants in the successful International Donors Conference for the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage of all communities in Kosovo, held two weeks ago at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with the support of the European Union, the Council of Europe and others, had pledged some 10 million euros and technical assistance.

However, not all the news was good, he noted.  Despite recent encouraging developments on dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, there was still no clear signal from Belgrade to the Kosovo Serbs to participate in the Provisional Institutions.  Dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, although welcome and important, could not substitute for the direct involvement of the Kosovo Serbs in shaping their own future in an internal dialogue in Kosovo.  While progress would continue, even without the meaningful participation of the Kosovo Serbs, progress in establishing a fully multi-ethnic Kosovo and integrating all communities would remain limited as long as one ethic group was pressured to stay outside the political, economic and social processes.  The fault for that obstacle towards progress did not lie in Pristina.  The victims, however, were the Kosovo Serbs who were eager to participate.  Those opposing progress could always find some reason to defer participation, but the recent trends had proven that bolder engagement could actually foster real progress for the benefit of all.

Stressing that standards remained the road map for the short and long term, he said it was a way of building and strengthening democracy and a multi-ethnic society, as well as a way for Kosovo to move progressively towards European Union integration.  The structures working on standards implementation had shown themselves to be solid and durable.  Trends in a number of areas had been positive; the authorities, and increasingly the citizens, had understood the need to implement standards and had made efforts to reach out to minorities.

Turning to security, he said it had further improved and paid tribute to the Commander of the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR), whose excellent work and close cooperation with UNMIK and the Kosovo Police Service was playing a key role in maintaining a safe and secure environment.  The environment had been generally calm during the reporting period with only a few incidents of note.  In particular, very little had occurred in the way of inter-ethnic incidents, but unfortunately, there was concern that, partly due to misinformation, perceptions of security remained a problem and led to mainly self-imposed limits on freedom of movement.  There was a tendency in some media to generalize and to misrepresent every incident involving Kosovo Serbs.  Before the police investigations had even begun, some journalists and politicians pronounced an event as ethnically motivated, thus feeding the fears of the Kosovo Serb community, including the internally displaced persons.  In most cases, such assertions had no foundation.

He said there were signs of increased freedom of movement by Kosovo Serbs, although there were still too many who did not feel free to move.  As a sign of the improving environment, there had been a reduction in the escorts and military police present at specific sites or locations.  However, the number of returns remained disappointingly low.  The Provisional Institutions, UNMIK and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continued to work with improving conditions for returns.  The main concern of internally displaced persons in Serbia and returnees in Kosovo was not primarily security, but rather property issues and the lack of economic prospects.  There had been increased efforts on the part of the Government on returns, including personal appeals by the Prime Minister and visits to Podgorica and Skopje by the Minister of Returns, himself a Kosovo Serb.  Those visits had resulted in better understanding and improved regional cooperation, as well as agreements with regional partners.

Regarding functioning democratic institutions, he said that the Assembly of Kosovo had lately shown itself to be a more transparent and democratic place for debate according to the established rules.  The recent debate on decentralization had been a step forward, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) would continue to provide assistance and advice to the Assembly Presidency to ensure its continued democratic functioning.  There was a need for local ownership, and the policy of transfer of competencies had continued.

There had been continued support for the efforts of the Provisional Institutions to coordinate and strengthen institutional capacity-building, he said.  The Prime Minister had given full political backing to an initiative, supported by UNMIK and the international community, to draw up a strategic plan in order to guide assistance and help focus on priorities.  That strategic plan was expected to be developed by the summer and would serve as a basis for better targeting and coordination of donor efforts as considerable donor assistance would be necessary in a number of sectors.

He said there had been significant progress on economic issues, which had helped to improve the investment climate, including in the areas of privatization, access to loans from the European Investment Bank and long-term possibilities for investors.  However, the extremely problematic economic conditions could, at any moment, lead to social instability, as they would in any society with high unemployment and continued stagnation.  In spite of efforts to make the investment climate more attractive and to stimulate the economy, there would be no real overall progress until the status issue was resolved.

In conclusion, he emphasized that the pace of further progress on standards implementation was reliant on the willingness of the majority community to continue to make efforts to create a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo.  That willingness did exist, despite the recent, painful conflict.  Second, the degree of Kosovo Serb participation would influence the extent to which their interests were reflected in the ongoing standards implementation, and Belgrade must give a clear, positive signal.  Third, status resolution and the ensuing certainty would mean faster and more meaningful progress on a range of issues.  Status resolution would also have real regional benefits, including for regional dialogue and trade.  There were clear limits to the results on regional integration that could be achieved without some certainty on status.  Leaving it pending would delay regional integration and adversely affect the interests of all, including Belgrade, Skopje and Tirana.

NEBOJSA COVIC, President of the Coordination Centre of Serbia and Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohia, said that the report heard today, regrettably, linked the most important problems to the Kosovo Serbs and to the Government of Serbia and its authorities.  In view of the fact that Serbs and other non-Albanians lived isolated in enclaves precisely because their safety was jeopardized and there was no freedom of movement, the statement that the freedom of movement existed in all municipalities in the Province except in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica was inaccurate.

The report, he said, should not have omitted to mention that there were still 230,000 internally displaced Serbs and other non-Albanians, who could not return to their homes because UNMIK and KFOR could not guarantee their safety and freedom of movement.  Also, it should be kept in mind that out of 27,000 court decisions that had been passed in the last six years on the restitution of usurped property to its rightful owners, only 300 of those decisions had actually been carried out.  The report should also have included the data on 150 demolished and burnt down Serbian churches and monasteries.  The report also did not mention:  the fact that the Assembly and the Government of Kosovo were not truly multi-ethnic, the illegal privatization of Serbian property, or sufficiently reflect on the problem of organized crime.  The report should not be written to satisfy only one side.

Unfortunately, he said, recent steps taken by UNMIK jeopardized the credibility not only of the Mission but of the United Nations on the whole and questioned the impartiality of the role they should play in the future process.  Making the politically sensitive request for obtaining a special international dialling code, a special international code for the PristinaAirport, and other such activities created an impression that Kosovo was a completely separate entity, thus catering to the interests and requests of only one community living in the Province.  Such activity would not be conducive to achieving a modern, democratic and multi-ethnic society.

The authorities in Belgrade, he said, were trying to facilitate the process of achieving the common goal of a truly democratic and multi-ethnic society.  The cornerstone of Belgrade’s policy was that state borders could not be changed, and its sovereignty and territorial integrity could not be questioned.  Direct dialogue was the only road to follow if solutions to the problems faced in the Province were to be found.  He hoped that the leaders of the Kosovo Albanians would also demonstrate their readiness for dialogue.

He hoped that the new Special Envoy in charge of evaluating the achieved progress would demonstrate a high level of impartiality and personal integrity, and that he would summon enough courage to present the situation in Kosovo as it really was.  It would be counterproductive to open the status discussion before the standards had been substantively implemented.  However, should the decision to commence with the talks on the future status be made in spite of everything, those discussions would be burdened with the extremism of the Albanian leaders, who would get the wrong idea that the international community was yielding to their policy of ethnic cleansing.  The issue of future status must be solved by reaching agreements, above all with full respect for the principle of preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and Montenegro.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) said he fully shared the conclusions of the Secretary-General’s report on the progress made by the Kosovars.  He particularly welcomed the fact that security had been restored throughout Kosovo.  Considerable efforts were still necessary in many areas.  The implementation of standards for Kosovo would be a long-term effort.  He welcomed the encouraging signs from Belgrade, particularly the planned meeting between the two leaders, and he reaffirmed his desire to see Serbia fully associated with the negotiation process.  On the other hand, it needed to put an end to the tactic of obstructing Kosovo Serbs from participating in Kosovo’s political life and institutions.

He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to launch a comprehensive review and appoint a special envoy for that purpose, he said.  The time had come to carry out that review.  He underscored that the outcome of the review was not a foregone conclusion.  It was not just a stylistic exercise.  The special envoy must be given sufficient time to carry out his work, and then consideration must be given to how to follow up on his recommendations.

Also, he supported the conditions established by the Secretary-General with regard to continuing the process.  First, progress must be intensified, particularly in the priority areas.  Clearly, it was necessary to know whether and how the Kosovo Serbs could live in Kosovo or return to Kosovo.  Major efforts were still needed to give full effect to the rights of Kosovo Serbs in areas such as freedom of movement, ownership rights and protection of Serbian religious sites.  That was a challenge for all of Kosovo and not just the minorities.  It would be regrettable if that process was delayed.

MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) welcomed the continuing trend reported by the Secretary-General on standards implementation.  He welcomed in particular the cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the subsequent demonstration of growing political maturity of Kosovo’s leaders.  The standards were the road map not only to the political process to determine the future status of Kosovo, but also, to the very connection and integration with the larger European family.  He noted that the day when a Kosovo Serb or Albanian walked freely, fearlessly and in full dignity anywhere in Kosovo was not yet here.

Given the current situation in Kosovo, he agreed that a comprehensive review should be initiated, as recommended by the Secretary-General.  That review should be seen as a means to encourage the further implementation of the standards, by showing what specific areas needed to be addressed most urgently.  He also believed the Council should look beyond that first review and plan accordingly for a continuation of the review mechanism.

The settlement of Kosovo’s future status was of paramount importance for the entire region and followed with great attention by political leaders and public opinion in South-East Europe.  The leaders of that region had declared that the process of standards evaluation and the beginning of negotiations on the future status of Kosovo, as well as the establishment of a democratic and multi-ethnic society in Kosovo were of great significance for the region’s overall stability.

He asked the Special Representative to provide information on measures taken in Kosovo to fight organized crime, which was an important challenge for the entire region.

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that despite the positive developments, the temptation of an excessively positive assessment of the situation should be avoided.  The Secretary-General had warned that none of the eight standards had so far been entirely fulfilled.  Among other things, the situation of minorities was still a cause for deep concern, and the return of refugees was still slow.  The responsibility for the success of the process must not be put entirely on the Kosovo Government’s shoulders.  Minorities, especially the Serb minority, had the fundamental obligation of engaging fully in the quest for solutions by taking advantage of all opportunities to participate in Kosovo’s institutions.  The Serbs must be encouraged by Belgrade to do so.

The intention of the Secretary-General of appointing a special envoy to lead the assessment process, starting this year, would indicate the road ahead, he said.  By carrying on consultations with the parties and the international community, the special envoy would be able to make an independent evaluation of the work done so far.  The assessment on the level of attainment of the standards would help determine whether the conditions for final status talks had been created.  More than ever, any freezing of the current situation in Kosovo would lead to further deterioration of already difficult political, social and economic conditions.  Therefore, the review process should be carried out seriously.  Above all, its conclusions and results must not be anticipated or taken for granted.  None of the parties should be allowed to unduly influence the results of the review with threats of any kind, and the Council must make it clear that the resurgence of violence would not be rewarded.

ADAMANTIOS VASSILAKIS (Greece) said there could be no alternative to success in the area of returns, and efforts required strengthening.  On the other hand, Kosovo Serbs needed to re-engage in full dialogue on all levels with the Provisional Institutions.  They had to demonstrate their commitment to integrating into Kosovo society.  While improvement had been achieved in freedom of movement, as well as in the security situation, the integrated transport system had yet to become a reality, and the zero-tolerance policy for acts that threatened the freedom of movement should be urgently and fully implemented.

Noting the good steps taken in economic reconstruction, he said progress in the privatization process was long overdue but welcome nevertheless.  Hopefully, the pace of recovery would increase as the necessary structural reforms were being completed.  The regional perspective should be fully exploited, and in that respect the goals of economic cooperation within the South-East European Cooperation Process, and how those could include Kosovo, should be explored and pursued further.  Greece, as part of the region and current Chairman of the South-East European Cooperation Process, was actively engaged in promoting the deepening of cooperation in the region.

Expressing concern over the internal political situation, he said the people of Kosovo had shown remarkable political maturity upon the indictment of Prime Minister Haradinaj.  Nevertheless, internal bickering and tension had continued, along with incidents of violence which were a by-product of those atmospherics, which, if allowed to deteriorate, would inevitably influence the way forward.  The creation of a democratic society in Kosovo was a fundamental prerequisite for the future stability of the whole region, which could not be overlooked.

Agreeing with the Secretary-General’s proposal for a comprehensive review, he said that reaching a new stage in the process would not mean that the goal of standards implementation had been achieved.  On the contrary, for the Provisional Institutions, it should mean shifting into a higher gear.  The international community’s expectations would not only remain but increase as time went by.  The deliverables from Pristina should match that.  The resumption of dialogue on practical matters between Belgrade and Pristina pointed the way to the future; Greece expected that it would resume on all levels, and its Prime Minister had undertaken a series of diplomatic initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue among the parties based on the principle of peaceful resolution of disputers through negotiated settlements.

BAYANI MERCADO (Philippines) said he was encouraged by the progress reported in the Secretary-General’s report, and hoped the momentum would be carried forward.  He welcomed the resumption of direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, and looked forward to the planned meetings between the two leaders.  He also shared the Secretary-General’s assessment that much more needed to be done in the implementation of the standards.  Kosovo was the last piece of the Balkan jigsaw, and it was necessary to put the last piece of the puzzle in place.  He supported the comprehensive review and the positive outcome of last week’s meeting of the Contact Group.

The international community must make it clear that the review was based on the understanding that continued progress would be made regarding standards implementation, he continued.  Kosovo must demonstrate its commitment to creating a community in which all communities could live peacefully.  The Provisional Institutions must exert more efforts to convince Kosovo Serbs to participate in their work.  He also felt the Council should start considering its exit strategy for the Province.  In addition, he supported the sending of a Council mission to the Province, either before, during or after the comprehensive review, to gain an understanding of the situation on the ground.

TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said he was encouraged by what were key achievements in the eight standards set for Kosovo and called on the Government and all other actors to strive to achieve the other priority goals as set out in the technical assessment report.  He also commended the calm reaction by the people of Kosovo on the recent indictment of former Prime Minister Haradinaj.  He was, however, concerned that tension between governing and opposition parties was reported to have intensified.  He urged politicians and rival political parties in Kosovo to cooperate in consolidating progress toward unity and final status for Kosovo.

He noted that efforts to reform local government had faced delays, he said.  Such negative developments only worked to undermine the evolution of important institutions that were critical for genuine self-government.  The local government reform programme must not await final status negotiations.  Delay only weakened the political process.  He welcomed the direct dialogue established between Belgrade and Pristina on practical matters, which was an important step toward normalization of relations between the two sides.

Also, he was encouraged by the reported improvements on the freedom of movement and in the promotion of return of displaced persons, and urged that a more conducive atmosphere be put in place to allow more returns.  He was also encouraged by the steps taken to establish a framework for Kosovo’s economic development and its economic integration in the region as a means of addressing Kosovo’s difficult economic situation and to assist in generating employment.

STUART HOLLIDAY (United States) said that an important milestone had been reached in Kosovo.  After six years of working with the people of Kosovo to establish a stable, multi-ethnic society, the time had come to step back and assess their progress.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to initiate a comprehensive review this summer of Kosovo’s progress in implementing the United Nations-endorsed standards, and his intention to appoint a special envoy to carry out that review.  While Kosovo was on the right track, it still must make a major effort prior to the review to implement the standards.

A positive outcome of the review should not be taken as a foregone conclusion, he said.  Neither should it be assumed that the subsequent launch of a final status process would be automatic.  Both of those would depend on the outcome of the review, and that review was in the hands of Kosovo’s leaders, who should continue their progress in implementing the standards.  Progress was needed on all the standards, but a particular emphasis should be placed on standards affecting the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo.  The primary test of whether Kosovo had overcome the tragic problems of the past and matured sufficiently to allow the start of a final status process would be its treatment of its minority communities.  Effective reform of local government, or decentralization, would be a key test in that regard.

With the review imminent, he looked to Serbia and Montenegro to engage constructively, he said.  He welcomed preliminary signs that it was doing so.  However, Belgrade’s discouraging of Kosovo Serbs from returning to their seats in the Assembly and to their positions in Kosovo’s institutions and political life was counterproductive to the interests of Serbs in Kosovo.  He urged the Government in Belgrade to actively encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate fully in all of Kosovo’s political institutions and working groups.  Participation was the most effective means for Kosovo Serbs to advance their interests in Kosovo.

He added that as the United Nations set out to review Kosovo’s progress, it was appropriate that it also review its Mission in Kosovo to determine whether it was properly organized and sized to meet current challenges.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, said he shared the Secretary-General’s assessment of the situation in Kosovo, although it was clear that further and continuing progress was required.  The United Kingdom welcomed his proposal for a comprehensive review and looked forward to the appointment of a special envoy to conduct it.  Demonstrable progress in standards implementation must continue, up to, during and after the review.  If it was possible to move the next stage -- final status -- it must be recognized that standards were more than just a means to arriving at final status.  While decentralization was not one of the standards, it was a key measure of progress.  It involved reassuring minorities, and it was disappointing that there had been little progress in that regard.

Kosovo Serbs must be allowed to play a full part in the political life of the province, he said, stressing not that they “should” play a part, but that they must be “allowed” to do so.  Their participation in the Working Group in decentralization was encouraging.  The only way for the Kosovo Serbs to take their rightful place was through full engagement in political life.  Also, the best way to address shortcomings in the implementation process was constructive engagement on the part of Belgrade, who should encourage the Kosovo Serbs to take their rightful place.

Also, the United Kingdom supported fully the emphasis on the need to restructure UNMIK and looked forward to the beginning of that process soon, he said.  There could be no room for complacency.  The United Kingdom did not consider the Secretary-General’s assessment of the situation in Kosovo to be embellished, and the Provisional Institutions must make standards implementation a tangible benefit for all Kosovars.  Independence was one option in final status talks, but whatever that status would be, must be negotiated, fair to all and promote regional stability.

SHINICHI KITAOKA (Japan) said he recognized the importance of the “standards before status” policy, and believed that progress in the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan by the parties, with support from the international community, was essential.  The commencement of the comprehensive review would be a significant milestone for the policy.  Notwithstanding recent indications of good faith among the parties, he did not believe that any of the standards had been sufficiently fulfilled.  Instances of harassment of minorities continued to be reported, and a KFOR escort was still required for the movement of those minorities in some areas.  The fragile security situation combined with high unemployment had kept the rate of return of internally displaced persons low.  Much remained to be done regarding the protection of minorities.

The comprehensive review would, he believed, foster further progress in achieving the standards by the parties and crystallize the progress made to date with regard to each standard.  He considered it appropriate to begin the review at this time.  At the same time, he underscored that significant progress in all standards, including in addressing the problems mentioned, must be recognized in the comprehensive review in order for the review to result in a positive evaluation and the “status talks” to begin.

He added that Japan’s total contribution to Kosovo to date in the fields of reconstruction, humanitarian assistance, democratization and human resources development amounted to some $188 million.  Japan intended to continue to play an energetic role in the efforts to shape the future of Kosovo and contribute to the consolidation of peace and economic development in South-Eastern Europe.

ANATOLE BERTIN BABADOUDOU (Benin) said that the improvement in Kosovo’s political climate was due to the efforts of the parties to work together and the need to focus international efforts on standards implementation as a prerequisite for the province’s future status.  Benin urged the Provisional Institutions to continue to display a willingness to conduct the transition process properly by helping to reduce tension and violence on the way towards the establishment of a multi-ethnic, democratic and economically viable Kosovo.

He stressed as priorities the need to improve the working of the Assembly, the resettlement of internally displaced persons, the reconstruction of religious sites and the establishment of a framework for economic reconstruction.  On the basis of all those, Benin supported the appointment of a special envoy to conduct the comprehensive review.  The attention of the international community must remain on Kosovo, and it must continue to support the province’s people and leaders who had the primary responsibility for their own future.  All means must be used to allow the Kosovo Serbs to participate in political life.  The media could play a part in that regard through awareness-raising.

ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation) said he shared the primary conclusions of the Secretary-General’s report, and agreed that in the area of standards implementation, considerable work still needed to be done.  Not one of the eight primary standards had been fully implemented.  He was particularly distressed by the low number of refugee returns.  Genuine standards implementation was not only a test for taking the political process forward, but was, above all, a criterion of the maturity of the province’s political structures.  He was certain that the process of implementation of standards should not be analysed on the basis of emerging trends but on the basis of specific results.  In that area, it was premature to talk of substantive progress.  The task of working out a coordinated international strategy was fundamentally important.  At its recent London meeting the Contact Group had demonstrated its clear intent to work together to achieve the settlement of the Kosovo situation.

The comprehensive review, he said, was not an end in itself.  It must be thorough and lengthy in time, so that the future special envoy would have a genuine opportunity to draw up an objective picture of the development of the situation in Kosovo and prepare a comprehensive policy report for the Council.  It would also be appropriate to continue the practice of technical reports by the head of the United Nations Mission.  Belgrade must remain a full-fledged partner in the Kosovo process.  Today, unfortunately, some speakers had directed their criticisms solely at Belgrade.  The primary efforts for standards implementation needed to be taken by those in the Provisional Institutions.  With regard to having the Serbs involved in those bodies, the direct contact between Pristina and Belgrade was crucial.  He reaffirmed that Council resolution 1244 (1999) was the sole political platform for achieving a settlement in Kosovo.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that in order to achieve the comprehensive and proper settlement of the Kosovo question, it was imperative that the standards be implemented comprehensively and in accordance with Council resolution 1244.  Meanwhile, it was important to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia and Montenegro.

He said there had been little progress on refugee returns and freedom of movement, as well as in dealing with unemployment, economic progress and improving the living standards of ethnic minorities.   However, China welcomed the willingness of the leaders of Serbia and Montenegro to resume direct dialogue with those of Kosovo, and it was to be hoped that dialogue would resume as soon as possible.  This year was crucial for Kosovo as the Council considered the implementation of standards.  There could be no relaxation in the work required in that regard, and all parties must promote the process in a sincere and practical spirit.

MARTIN GARCIA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that sustained progress in standards implementation was a basic prerequisite for the progress that would determine the future status of Kosovo.  It was disturbing that acts of non-compliance existed and that not one of the eight standards had been fully implemented.  It was essential that those who represented the Provisional Institutions agreed to accept and implement the standards, which were understood as goals to be achieved and as a sign of the desire to build a truly multi-ethnic society.  It was undeniable that the possible escalation of violence would have the potential to destabilize the existing situation and interrupt the ongoing process.

He said progress depended on a constructive dynamic between the Government and the opposition.  He welcomed the progress seen in the direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on practical matters, and the declared will of the Belgrade’s political leaders to participate in that process.  It was also encouraging to see greater freedom of movement.  Mutual trust between the different communities in Kosovo was the foundation of lasting security.  He reaffirmed that there could be no peaceful future for Kosovo without full respect for the diversity of its people.  He emphasized the need to respect human rights, international humanitarian law and the rights of minorities.  The political process must be pushed forward by real progress in the implementation of the eight standards.  He supported conducting a broad comprehensive review under resolution 1244 to determine progress made and future steps.

LARBI EL HADJ ALI (Algeria) said today’s debate had allowed an assessment of the progress of normalization and stabilization in Kosovo.  Algeria welcomed the actions of the province’s coalition government and of the local authorities and noted the encouraging improvements in freedom of movement and the return of displaced persons.  It was important to recall the need for all Kosovars to support the democratic process and participate in the Provisional Institutions. 

While the progress achieved in the overall situation deserved praise, it remained insufficient, he said, adding that the international community must establish all the necessary conditions for the successful implementation of standards.  Algeria also supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for a comprehensive review and the appointment of a special envoy to conduct it.

Council President PER STIG MØLLER, speaking in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, said that, during his recent visit to Belgrade and Pristina, he had discussed the situation in Kosovo, particularly standards implementation.  He had made the point that, “we are not there yet”.  Standards implementation must not slow down.  In a number of key areas, much more needed to be done and done quickly.  Among other things, progress needed to be seen with regard to Kosovo Serb participation in the political process.  Standards and the commitment to secure a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo would be a long-term requirement as well for Kosovo’s integration into the European Union.

In general, he said, there had been tangible progress in the reporting period.  A clear demonstration was seen of political will and capacity to maintain momentum in the continued standards process.  He acknowledged that there were still major shortcomings, which needed to be addressed.  But in light of the progress, his assessment was that it was now possible to move on to the next phase, to a comprehensive review this summer.  He was optimistic that the review would lead to a decision to start in the autumn a negotiation process that would determine Kosovo’s final status.  He stated that there should be no automaticity as to the start of such talks.  The outcome of the review would be decisive in that regard.

But, he continued, the time had come to move on.  Kosovo’s unresolved status created political insecurity, discouraged returns, fed extremist designs, scared off foreign investment and was not sustainable.  The outcome of the status talks should not be prejudged.  “But obviously, we will not see a return to the situation before March 1999.  Just as a reintegration of Kosovo into Serbia or a territorial division of Kosovo can be excluded, so can a union of Kosovo with another country or a solution dictated unilaterally by one of the parties.”

JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, noted that some important progress had been achieved since the Special Representative last reported to the Council.  Foremost among them was that the Provisional Institutions had shown an encouraging and demonstrable level of commitment to move forward in the implementation of the standards.  The security situation during the period under review was generally calm.  He called on all communities to actively participate in the Provisional Institutions, as well as in all ongoing processes.

He shared the Secretary-General’s assessment that the comprehensive review should go ahead this summer, he said.  He supported the Secretary-General’s intention to designate a special envoy to conduct the review in the near future and welcomed the envisaged inclusive nature and broad scope of the review process.  Despite the assessment that sufficient progress had been made to justify starting an exhaustive evaluation at the current time, he nevertheless recognized that none of the eight standards had been entirely fulfilled and that deficiencies remained in key priority areas.

Kosovo’s political leaders should, therefore, be aware that the outcome of the review process and the initiation of any further steps thereafter were not a foregone conclusion.  Implementation of the standards was a long-term endeavour and was expected to continue throughout the evaluation process and beyond.  Despite the many justified caveats, the Secretary-General’s recommendation to initiate a review this summer was a momentous event for the people of Kosovo.  It should be interpreted as both a recognition by the international community of progress already achieved and a powerful incentive to maintain and increase the momentum of ongoing reforms.

VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said that while the international presence had achieved a number of important results in strengthening the foundation for the democratic transformation of Kosovo, there had been uneven progress in the implementation of the standards, primarily those focusing on minority issues.  Of particular concern was the continuing lack of headway in the field of minorities’ freedom of movement, sustainable returns and their relevant representation in governmental structures and the public sector as a whole.  While the security situation had remained stable in the last months, the safety of minorities needed further improvement.  Another serious challenge was Kosovo’s economy and high unemployment.

He said the situation in Kosovo remained fragile and required a continuing international presence on the ground, particularly during the extremely sensitive period ahead.  Ukraine, as a major contributor to the UNMIK police force, was aware of the importance of maintaining an appropriate level of security at the present stage.  The Council’s attention was drawn to the need for donors to meet their financial obligations to police-contributing States in a full and timely manner.  A failure to do so might limit the capacity of those countries to provide the necessary personnel, thus compromising security in the region.

As an active contributor to a settlement in Kosovo, Ukraine reaffirmed its commitment to promote peace and security in the province and to ensure its further stabilization and recovery, he said.  The proposed comprehensive review would have a crucial impact on the timing of final status talks, and Ukraine expected that today’s discussions would lead to the adoption of a carefully balanced approach that would facilitate the advancement of the goal of building a politically stable, multi-ethnic and prosperous Kosovo.

PETER MAURER (Switzerland) said it was important to take into account two equally legitimate desires:  the demand of the minorities to live in safety, to have the same opportunities of economic development, to have the same access to social services and education, and to exercise the right of return; and the will of the majority of the population to exercise its right of self-determination.  Also, he welcomed the first steps which had been made towards a dialogue between Serbs and Kosovar leaders.  A return of Kosovo under Serb sovereignty was neither desirable nor realistic.  Thirdly, the Kosovo question must be addressed from a regional perspective.  The commitment of the international community to maintain multi-ethnic States in South-Eastern Europe remained fundamental.  It was the only feasible long-term policy.

He welcomed the fact that the first steps had been made to establish a dialogue between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo, he said.  The readiness to conduct such a discussion at the highest level constituted a sine qua non to unblock the current situation and to advance the discussion on standards and on the status of Kosovo.  Switzerland had been closely involved in the region since the outbreak of conflict in the former Yugoslavia and had backed up its efforts with resources amounting to more than 1.5 billion Swiss francs since 1995.  It was especially active in Kosovo, at different levels.  Even if the status question was resolved in the near future, he added, the prevailing economic conditions and the still poorly developed structures of the rule of law demanded the continuation of a significant international presence in Kosovo.

AGIM NESHO (Albania), stressing that 2005 was a crucial year for Kosovo and the Balkans, said the time had come for important and substantial progress in determining the province’s political status.  The status quo was neither desirable nor useful, and the implementation process would help Kosovo’s rapid progress, economy and prosperity, as well as generate security and stability, promoting the advancement of the whole region.  Standards implementation would remain the central focus of Kosovo’s people on living in dignity and moving forward towards Euro-Atlantic integration.

He said that decentralization should go ahead in parallel with the shaping and strengthening of central government structures.  The autonomy of local authority should not avoid or harm the vertical line of power, and local structures must remain accountable to Pristina.  Parallel structures should be dismantled or integrated into Kosovo’s provisional structures.  While commending the progress and positive steps already achieved, Albania encouraged further attention and harder work in that area, as well as further efforts to revitalize the return process, expand inter-community dialogue and promote respect for minority rights.

Meeting those objectives demanded continuous commitments by the Kosovo leadership, as well as the good will and participation of the Serb and other communities, he said.  The self-exclusion of the Serb minority, non-participation in the Assembly and other institutions only impeded progress in standards implementation.  The Serb minority was part of Kosovar society and, as such, had equal rights and obligations.  They should offer a constructive engagement and end their isolation.  Good governance was a priority objective for Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions.  The establishment of the rule of law, an independent judiciary and public administration, and respect for private property were indispensable in that respect.  Meeting those standards required the transfer of more competencies and responsibilities to the local authorities and the acceleration of privatization, which would have a positive impact on economic development and the foreign investment climate.

With its current political status, foreign direct investment in Kosovo remained distant, he said.  It lacked eligibility to benefit from International Monetary Fund and World Bank assistance programmes, which would have a direct impact on the development of a stable and efficient economy.  Discussing and defining the status of Kosovo must take into consideration basic elements that would produce a long-term solution with a positive impact on stability, security and Euro-Atlantic integration.  Respect for the free will of the people of Kosovo on their future, as well as guaranteed respect and protection of minority rights, including guarantees for the protection of their inherited cultural and religious values, remained crucial for a just and stable solution.

Taking the floor a second time, Mr. COVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) called on the UNMIK to convince Kosovo Serbs that Kosovo would not be independent and that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia would be respected, in order to encourage them to participate in Kosovo’s political life.  He noted that out of 4,500 internally displaced persons following the violence of 17 March 2004, 1,600 had not yet returned to their homes.  Regarding freedom of movement, he asked what kind of freedom existed when children needed a police escort to go to school.  Freedom of movement did not exist, he said.

In general, he agreed that the future status of Kosovo could have an influence on regional stability and trade, but a one-sided solution could be a poor compromise.  A peaceful and permanent solution required time.  Today’s discussion indicated that it was not possible to solve the status question at an accelerated pace.  He also drew attention to some “untrue statements” made today, citing a fear of a lack of an economic future as the reason for internally displaced persons not returning, rather than a lack of security.

Mr. JESSEN-PETERSEN said that he fully agreed with those that underlined that the review must be comprehensive, thorough and objective, as well as with those that underlined that the situation in Kosovo was a complex one, and not one that could be described in black and white.  That was why the Secretary-General’s report and his own assessment had tried to present a “mixed picture”.  He assured the Council that the leaders of Kosovo had heard the statements made today loud and clear.  They had heard, first of all, that they needed to make further demonstrable progress to move forward in the process.  They had also heard that they needed to redouble efforts to address shortcomings, notably in the areas of return, freedom of movement, and the protection of minorities.

Kosovo’s leaders had also heard that the outcome of the review was not a foregone conclusion, he continued.  Standards implementation was not only a requirement to move forward but, above all, about building up a European society that was democratic and multi-ethnic, where the rights of minorities were protected.

Addressing some of Mr. Covic’s comments, he said that the most important aspect of democracy was to exercise the right to vote.  It was necessary to worry about voting first, before worrying about being outvoted.  If the Kosovo Serbs had participated like they had done last time, they would have had the second largest political party in Kosovo.  In addition, he said that the moment the Kosovo Serbs were encouraged to take their seats in the democratic institutions, they would be invited to participate in the Kosovo Forum.  His mandate was to facilitate the process, but status preparations must be the responsibility of Kosovo’s authorities and people.

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For information media. Not an official record.