SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR KOSOVO BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL, WITH FUTURE STATUS TALKS SET TO OPEN IN VIENNA 20 FEBRUARY
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR KOSOVO BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL, WITH FUTURE STATUS TALKS SET TO OPEN IN VIENNA 20 FEBRUARY
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5373rd Meeting (AM)
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR KOSOVO BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL,
WITH FUTURE STATUS TALKS SET TO OPEN IN VIENNA 20 FEBRUARY
Soren Jessen-Petersen Says International Community’s Focus
Must Remain on Building Democratic, Multi-ethnic, Inclusive Society
With the scheduled launch of negotiations on Kosovo’s future status less than a week away, the top United Nations envoy for the province told the Security Council today that the international community’s focus must remain on helping to build in Kosovo a society that was democratic, multi-ethnic, inclusive and tolerant; one that was internally at ease with its own diversity, and committed to peace and cooperation alongside all of its neighbours in an integrated Europe.
“For Kosovo Albanians, the status process inspires hope. But for many Kosovo Serbs, it inspires fear. Every effort must be made by every political actor to reconcile the hopes of the majority and the fears of the Kosovo Serb minority”, said Soren Jessen Petersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), in his briefing to the Council, which was also attended by Kosovo’s Prime Minister Bayram Kosumi.
And while the next few months offered an opportunity for Kosovo’s leaders to redouble their efforts to reach out to Kosovo’s Serbs and the other minorities, and to register solid, substantive progress, Mr. Jessen-Petersen said it was also a period when Kosovo Serbs must seize the opportunity provided by the status talks -- set to open in Vienna on 20 February -- and take an active part in the central and municipal institutions if they wished to shape the future of a truly multi-ethnic Kosovo.
Indeed, the best way to ensure that the Kosovo Serbs had a voice, and that it would be heard, would be for them to engage directly with, and ideally in, Kosovo institutions, he said, adding that Belgrade’s continued refusal to countenance such participation did nothing to improve conditions for Serbs in Kosovo, and everything to worsen their already acute political isolation.
“How can we reassure the Kosovo Serbs today about their future in Kosovo if they are discouraged from participating directly in the design of that future”, he asked, and urged Belgrade to encourage and support the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the institutions. The goal now must be to make good the political wrongs of the past, with a focus on the rights of all people for the future. His hope was that, with the settlement of the status issue, the people of Kosovo could finally leave the past behind and journey towards the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.
At the same time, he warned that the status process should not become an exercise in continuing Kosovo’s “status quo” and, to that end, expressed concern that there had been a notable slowdown in the pace of the standards implementation process late last year, chiefly in the field of minority rights. And that was one area, particularly with the status talks moving forward, where Kosovo’s leaders could “not afford to show anything less that complete commitment, sincerity and action”.
“Standards, as a political priority, cannot be subsumed by status”, he said, stressing that symbolic gestures, though genuinely important, were not enough. Action must be substantive, serious and sustained. The incorporation of standards into the latest European Partnership Document had ensured that the policies that had helped Kosovo into the status process would continue to guide Kosovo’s future even after status settlement.
Boris Tadic, President of the Republic of Serbia, while welcoming a legitimate representative of the Albanian people from Kosovo and Metohija, warned that it would be dangerous if Mrs. Kosumi’s presence today was seen as prejudging the status process. He said talks on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija had formally begun more than two months ago. At that time, the Security Council had stated that fulfilling the standards in Kosovo and Metohija should take place much more rapidly than they had before, in parallel with the future status talks.
Serbia and Montenegro had accepted that position of the Council, demonstrating its readiness to seek a negotiated solution, he said. It remained, however, firmly committed to the fundamental principles and norms of international law, in particular those concerning the sovereignty and territorial integrity of internationally recognized States.
He said the fulfilment of the standards had been far too slow. That situation was harmful for all inhabitants of the province, but far more serious for Serbs than for the rest of the population. They were more frequently the victims of the worst kinds of persecution, and discrimination and injustices committed against them since 1999 had yet to be rectified.
President Tadic said, “a democratic Serbia is ready to engage in [the upcoming status talks]. We shall do everything we can to make them succeed, defending our own legitimate interests while at the same time respecting the legitimate interests of others. If we all act in this manner, I am convinced that the talks will succeed and that we will be in a position to open a new chapter in the long, conflict-ridden history of relations between Serbs and Albanians”.
Regarding the status process, Albania’s representative told the Council that there should be no changes in the current territory of Kosovo, no partition of Kosovo, and no union with any country or part of any country. The most realistic, pragmatic, just and fair option would be the status of independence with support and monitoring by the international community.
A continued international military and civilian presence in Kosova was needed, he said. It would serve as a guarantor for the implementation of the provisions of such a status settlement and assist in making that solution a success in all important components: stability, security, maximum protection of minorities and the guarantee of their rights; and continued progress in standards implementation.
The representative of the Russian federation was among those expressing concern that the slow rate of returns revealed that the situation of the province was far from stable. He joined the Secretary-General’s appeal to the leaders of the province to guarantee real progress in the implementation of standards, as such progress would be an important indicator of the willingness of the Kosovar leaders to lay the foundation of a multi-ethnic society.
He welcomed direct meetings with the Serbs and the Kosovar Albanians and supported efforts to establish a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. He hoped the leadership of the province would do everything possible to ensure calm and security during the talks on the future status of Kosovo. Defining status should be done gradually. First, agreement should be reached on the specific aspects of the process, and only then should status be addressed. And while there were a variety of options, the parties must themselves reach agreement on the future status. The decision must be agreeable equally to Belgrade and to Pristina and must be in line with international law and Council resolutions. It should also be backed by a new Council resolution, he added.
Austria’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, urged Kosovo’s institutions to renew their efforts to ensure substantive, accelerated and sustainable progress in the implementation of the standards, especially in such key areas as returns, equal access to justice and the preservation of cultural heritage. He also called on the authorities in Belgrade to encourage, rather than discourage, the Kosovo Serb leaders to participate constructively in the Provisional Institutions. The Union also expected Kosovo’s institutions to move ahead on the reform of local self-government, he said.
He said all possible efforts must be made to achieve a negotiated settlement in the course of 2006. Whatever Kosovo’s future status would be, it would be firmly rooted in the European architecture. Effective standards implementation, including dialogue and outreach to Kosovo’s minority communities, was a prerequisite for the fulfilment of Kosovo’s European perspective. The Union was ready to assume its responsibilities and to work on an enhanced future Union engagement with a view to assisting a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo in its efforts to realize its European perspective.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Greece, Peru, China, Argentina, Qatar, France, Denmark, Japan, United Republic of Tanzania, Ghana, Slovakia, United States, Ukraine and Turkey.
The meeting began at 11:24 a.m. and ended at 1:55 p.m.
When the Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro), it had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), dated 25 January and covering the Mission’s activities, as well as developments in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, from 23 May to 31 December 2005. Annexed to it is a technical assessment of standards implementation prepared by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.
In the report (document S/2006/45), the Secretary-General welcomes the Security Council’s decision to launch a process to determine Kosovo’s future status, which has become the main political issue in the province. In their efforts to prepare for the future status process, Kosovo’s leaders have established a negotiating team and adopted a political platform.
The Secretary-General strongly urges renewed efforts by Kosovo’s leaders to ensure substantive, accelerated and sustained progress in implementing standards, noting that such progress will provide an important indication of the leaders’ willingness to create the foundations for a sustainable, multi-ethnic, democratic society, in which members of all communities can live in dignity and security. A demonstration of progress in such key areas as refugee returns, dialogue and outreach to minority communities, as well as decentralization, would also help ease political tensions between communities.
But progress in standards implementation has been too slow, the Secretary-General says, noting that there were delays or setbacks in implementing all standards, except in property rights and the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC). Urgent progress is needed to enable the Kosovo Assembly to become a central forum for democratic debate. Also essential is respect for, and consolidation of, an effective, independent civil service. The Assembly has yet to nominate members for anti-corruption institutions, and intimidation of justice system staff has increased security incidents in the late summer, temporarily affecting the free movement of minority communities. The rate of returns remains very low. While uncertainties surrounding the future status process invariably act as a disincentive for internally displaced persons to return to Kosovo, the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government have yet to take essential action to enable those wishing to return to do so. The Government in Belgrade should contribute to the returns process by signing the protocol on returns agreed upon by the returns dialogue working group.
While the security situation is stable, it remains fragile, with violent attacks continuing, including several on the police, according to the report. The most significant attack was the shooting of the senior-most Kosovo Serb officer of the Kosovo Police Service on 28 September. On 3 December, a rocket-propelled grenade hit a bus en route to Belgrade with 11 passengers on board, but failed to explode. There have also been persistent reports of illegal checkpoints being set up at night in remote locations. While these incidents contribute to a perception of insecurity, most particularly among minority communities, the motives may be criminal, rather than ethnic. However, the increase in serious security incidents, including the possible targeting of Kosovo Serbs for ethnic reasons, is a further cause for concern. The perpetrators, whatever their motive, should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
It is important to ensure the active participation of Kosovo Serb leaders in Kosovo’s institutions at the central and local levels, the report states. To achieve that, the authorities in Belgrade need to encourage the constructive participation of the Kosovo Serb leaders in Provisional Institutions, particularly on practical issues. An important first step would be full Kosovo Serb participation, with the support of advisers nominated by the Belgrade authorities, in local government reform. The Secretary-General strongly urges the Belgrade authorities to support and not oppose the full engagement of Kosovo Serbs in the Pristina-based decentralization process.
Some progress was made in direct dialogue at the technical level on practical matters of mutual concern between Pristina and Belgrade, despite the recent hardening of positions on both sides, the report says. The Secretary-General welcomes the first ministerial-level meeting between the representatives of Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions and the Government of Serbia and Montenegro on decentralization and cultural issues, and urges those concerned to move these discussions forward, as direct dialogue is essential to advancing the political process. These exchanges should complement and reinforce the dialogue facilitated by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the future status process, so as to create mutual trust and confidence.
The overall number of refugees and internally displaced persons returning to Kosovo continues to be very low, according to the report, which calls on Kosovo’s leaders to redouble their efforts to reach out unreservedly to minority communities and to demonstrate their support to those wishing to return. By clearly demonstrating their commitment to returns, the leaders can contribute to easing political tensions and deliver concrete results for all. At the same time, the Belgrade authorities are called upon to work constructively with UNMIK on practical matters that can improve living conditions and prospects for the Serb community remaining in Kosovo.
Noting a decline in the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the political process during the reporting period, the report says that representatives of the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija (SLKM), the main Kosovo Serb party, remained outside the Provisional Institutions. Meanwhile, the Serbian National Council of North Kosovo (SNCN) has engaged more actively with UNMIK and has tried to fill the gap left by the SLKM as the main local interlocutor of the international community. The mid-September appointment of Sanda Raskovic-Ivic as the new head of the Serbian Coordination Centre for Kosovo was seen as an expression of Belgrade’s intention to take a more assertive role in political decisions relating to Kosovo and in promoting their implementation through the Centre’s coordinators on the ground.
Regarding possible arrangements following the determination of Kosovo’s future status, the report cites the Contact Group’s guiding principles, which state that an international civilian and military presence will be required for some time in order to: carry out functions such as supervision of compliance with provisions of a future status settlement; ensure security and protection of minorities; and monitor and support the continued implementation of the standards. In October, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative initiated consultations with a view to preparing a technical assessment of the needs for the possible future international involvement in Kosovo, without prejudice to the outcome of the future status process. The assessment is being conducted by UNMIK together with the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as United Nations funds and agencies and bilateral donors present in Kosovo.
SOREN JESSEN-PETERSEN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that since his last report, there had been three major issues defining politics in Kosovo: the tragic loss of President Ibrahim Rugova and orderly transition and election of President Fatmir Sejdiu; the opening of the status process; and the continuing and, indeed, revitalized push on the standards implementation, highlighted by decentralization talks and efforts to ensure the inclusion of all minorities in the process. With the election last week of Mr. Sejdiu as new President of Kosovo, he praised the people of Kosovo for quickly overcoming “the difficult loss” of the late President Rugova.
He went on to praise the international community for its support during the memorial tributes and funeral for the late President, as well the local community, which had planned the event, and the Kosovo Police Force, who had been in charge of front-line security and had shown remarkable sensitivity as they dealt with mourners that numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Kosovo’s political response to the loss of President Rugova had been responsible and dignified, as was the management of his funeral, he added.
As the Council had previously acknowledged, the status quo in Kosovo was not sustainable. Indeed, the status process should not become an exercise in continuing of the status quo. The acceleration of the status process was the best contribution that could now be made to ensuring political stability in Kosovo and the wider region. The Secretary-General’s recent report and his own technical assessment of 6 January had made it clear that there had been, in the latter part of last year, a notable slowdown in the pace of the standards implementation process, particularly in the field of minority rights. That was an area, with the status process under way, where Kosovo’s leaders could not afford to show anything less than complete commitment, sincerity and action.
He said that, thus far, standards implementation initiatives had been pushed forward through short-term, results-oriented action plans, the next set of which was expected to be adopted next week. Still, the commitment to those action plans must be solid and overall efforts must be redoubled in the months ahead. “Standards, as a political priority, cannot be subsumed by status”, he said, stressing that symbolic gestures, though genuinely important, were not enough. Action must be substantive, serious and sustained. The incorporation of standards into the latest European Partnership Document had ensured that the policies that had helped Kosovo into the status process would continue to guide Kosovo’s future even after status settlement.
Meanwhile, decentralization remained a key issue. The upcoming Vienna meeting would present an opportunity to demonstrate that the concerns expressed by minorities were being met on the Kosovo Albanian side with understanding on substance and generosity in spirit. But decentralization was only one of many areas where it was vital that the international community, as well as Kosovo institutions, reached out to the Kosovo Serbs. For Kosovo Albanians, the status process inspired hope. But for many Kosovo Serbs, it inspired fear. Every effort must be made by every political actor to reconcile the hopes of the majority and the fears of the Kosovo Serb minority, he said.
The best way to ensure that the Kosovo Serbs had a voice, and that it would be heard, would be for them to engage directly with, and ideally in, Kosovo institutions. Belgrade’s continued refusal to countenance that did nothing to improve conditions for Serbs in Kosovo, and everything to worsen their already acute political isolation. “How can we reassure the Kosovo Serbs today about their future in Kosovo if they are discouraged from participating directly in the design of that future”? he asked. In the meantime, there were opportunities to promote cooperation, electricity supply being high on everybody’s mind. Such cooperation would make it easier, and more productive, if it came with the acceptance and support of Belgrade.
With the beginning of the status process, UNMIK had entered into a critical phase. The focus must remain on building in Kosovo a society that was democratic, multi-ethnic, inclusive and tolerant -- a society that was internally at ease with its own diversity, outward looking, and committed to peace and cooperation alongside all of its neighbours, in an integrated Europe.
He was convinced that Kosovo -- its people and institutions -- were committed to moving in that direction. But, while much had been accomplished, much more must and would be done. The next few months offered an opportunity for Kosovo’s leaders to redouble their efforts to reach out to Kosovo’s Serbs and the other minorities, and to register solid, substantive progress. But it was, equally, a period when the Kosovo Serbs must seize the opportunity provided by the status talks and take an active part in the central and municipal institutions, if they wished to shape the future of a truly multi-ethnic Kosovo. Finally, it was a period in which Belgrade must encourage and support such Kosovo Serb participation in the institutions.
The goal now must be to make good the political wrongs of the past, with a focus on the rights of all people -- of individuals and families -- for the future. The majority in Kosovo, who suffered so much as the minority themselves in the past, had a right to expect that their aspirations would be met when Kosovo’s status was decided. The minorities, who, in turn, had suffered revenge and isolation, had a right to expect that their concerns would be just as seriously addressed. His hope was that, with the settlement of the status issue, the people of Kosovo could finally leave the past behind and journey towards the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.
ANDREY DENISOV ( Russian Federation) said he was concerned about the rate of returns and that the situation of the province was far from stable. He associated himself with the Secretary-General’s appeal to the leaders of the province to guarantee real progress in the implementation of standards, as progress would be an important indicator of the willingness of the Kosovar leaders to lay the foundation of a multi-ethnic society. He was convinced that concrete results, not gestures, would be an important factor for the success of the negotiating process. The necessary conditions for a status solution in Kosovo were not now present.
He welcomed direct meetings with the Serbs and the Kosovar Albanians and supported efforts to establish a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. He hoped the leadership of the province would do everything to ensure calm and security during the talks on the future status of Kosovo. Defining status should be done gradually. First, agreement should be reached on the specific aspects of the status process, and only then should the status be addressed. In that regard, there were a variety of options, but the parties must themselves reach agreement on the future status. Such an agreement musty be agreeable equally to Belgrade and to Pristina and must be in accordance with international law and Council resolutions. It should be backed up by a new Council resolution. The leadership role in the process rested with the Council. He advised against a set time frame for the negotiations.
When resolving conflicts, the international community should not use double standards, he said. The formula for resolving the problem would have an impact on the resolution of other conflicts. That was why only a negotiated resolution could be supported by the Council. The situation in the province was not unique, and how a solution for the future status was found would be universal in nature.
BORIS TADIC (Serbia and Montenegro), President of the Republic of Serbia, while welcoming a legitimate representative of the Albanian people from Kosovo and Metohija in the delegation of Mr. Peterson, warned that it would be dangerous if his presence today was seen as prejudging the status process. He said talks on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija had formally begun more than two months ago. At that time, the Security Council had stated that fulfilling the standards in Kosovo and Metohija had to take place much more rapidly than they had before, in parallel with the future status talks. Serbia and Montenegro had accepted that position of the Council, demonstrating its readiness to seek a negotiated solution. It remained, however, firmly committed to the fundamental principles and norms of international law, in particular those concerning the sovereignty and territorial integrity of internationally recognized States.
He said the fulfilment of the standards had been far too slow. That situation was harmful for all inhabitants of the province, but far more serious for Serbs than for the rest of the population. They were more frequently the victims of the worst kinds of persecution, and discrimination and injustices committed against them since 1999 had yet to be rectified. About 60 per cent of the Serbian population had been expelled from Kosovo and Metohija during that period. All of the cities in the provinces, with the exception of the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, had been ethnically cleansed of Serbs. Thus, even though there might be some progress in the implementation of standards, if it did not affect the crucial issue of the return of internally displaced persons, such progress was not decisive.
The situation of the Serbs still living in enclaves in Kosovo and Metohija was still precarious, he said. The enclaves were discriminated against regarding distribution of electricity, and access had been blocked to the fixed and mobile telephone networks. Transmission of a Serbian-language television station had been blocked, as well. “The situation in the province being what it is, Serbia, including the Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija, looks forward to the future status process both with hope and with concern.” He was concerned that the negotiations might be undermined by an imposed independence of Kosovo and Metohija, a solution that would both contravene international law and destabilize the political situation in the Balkans.
He said that the Kosovo question must be resolved by applying universal principles of international law, otherwise a dangerous precedent would be established not only for the Balkans, but for other parts of the world. “To argue that secession from an internationally recognized State is an unacceptable principle, but to claim at the same time that the very same demand should be acknowledged in the case of the Kosovo Albanians, because they suffered so much under the Milosevic regime, is to ignore not only international law, but also the political consequences of such a unilateral decision being imposed upon Serbia and Montenegro.” If the claim to independence were recognized in the case of the Kosovo Albanians, why should ethnic groups in other countries that demanded independence just as vocally and passionately be treated any differently? he asked.
Instead of seeing the plight of the Kosovo Serbs as proof that the political elite of the Kosovo Albanians is not truly committed to a multi-ethnic society, it was becoming increasingly common to argue that Serbia should accept the independence of Kosovo and Metohija in exchange for an improvement of the situation of the Serbian community, he said, characterizing that thinking as “deeply alien”. The rights of the Kosovo and Metohija Serbs must be recognized and must never be part of “political horse-trading” between Belgrade and Pristina. “Freedom, right to justice, and democracy belong to every man: it must not be made a chip of political bargaining”, he said.
He said the first round of talks on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija was to begin in less than a week’s time. The agenda in Vienna would contain decentralization, which he saw as a realistic means to restore normal living conditions to the Serb community in the province. The Belgrade decentralization plan had been made public more than a month ago. The attitude of the Albanian side to the plan would give a good indication of what could be expected in the next phase of negotiations, the phase that would address the issue of the future status itself. That phase should be carried out through direct talks between the two sides, with the assistance of the international community, and be devoted to reaching a political compromise between the two seemingly irreconcilable options.
The political compromise offered by Belgrade opened the way for a negotiated settlement of the conflict which avoided a unilateral change of internationally recognized borders, he said. The Albanians of Kosovo and Metohija would politically enjoy a very wide autonomy that would make them totally self-governing in most matters of everyday life in relation to Belgrade, on condition that they accept the same autonomy for the Serbian entity in the province in relation to Pristina. The resulting negotiated settlement would be internationally guaranteed and, after an agreed period of time (say, 20 years) might be subject to renegotiation. The process of the European Union integration of Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo and Metohija, would continue in accordance with appropriate accession mechanism.
In conclusion, he said, “a democratic Serbia is ready to engage in these talks. We shall do everything we can to make them succeed, defending our own legitimate interests while at the same time respecting the legitimate interests of others. If we all act in this manner, I am convinced that the talks will succeed and that we will be in a position to open a new chapter in the long, conflict-ridden history of relations between Serbs and Albanians.”
ALAN THOMSON ( United Kingdom) said his delegation shared the concern that progress in the standards process had slowed, and he called on the Provisional Institutions, as well as Pristina, to step up the process, particularly in the areas of returns and improving the situation of minorities, among others. The United Kingdom joined the World Health Organization (WHO) and others in the international community urging those Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian refugees to leave lead-poisoned camps. He also urged Kosovo leaders and Pristina to work together on matters related to missing persons, which was a priority humanitarian issue.
He went on to say that Kosovo Serbs must be actively encouraged to rightfully take their place in Kosovo institutions, which was the only way for them to take part in political life. Every post-conflict situation was different, and to try to squeeze all situations into a single mold was to risk achieving the Council’s overall objectives of ensuring sustainable peace and security in a particular region. Any settlement resulting from the current future status process should conclude during 2006 and could not disregard the aspirations of 90 per cent of Kosovo’s population.
He stressed that independence was an option – indeed, some would say it was the only option -- to bring peace and security to the region. But the Kosovo Government must demonstrate to the international community and the Security Council that it was genuinely interested in a multi-ethnic Kosovo. Kosovo’s status, whatever it was to be, must be fair to all the interests there, and must promote multi-ethnicity. Now was the time for leaders in Serbia and Kosovo to show the political courage and vision for the futures of both Kosovo and Serbia. The United Kingdom would continue to work to build a sustainable and peaceful future for Kosovo and the region as a whole.
ADAMANTION TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece) said, last November, the Council had stressed the need for increased efforts on behalf of the Provisional Institutions for progress in standards implementation, underlining that the pace of progress would be an important factor in determining the pace and progress of the status negotiations. He regretted that, since then, progress had been too slow. The final assessment of the last months could only be that more needed to be done.
He said the Provisional Authorities needed to do much more on decentralization. The security situation remained fragile and more needed to be done in that regard. More progress was also needed in areas of minority rights, technical dialogue, access to justice and access to basic public services. It was also highly regrettable that there had been a decline in the participation of Kosovo Serb leaders in the political process, and Belgrade should encourage those leaders to participate constructively in the Provisional Institutions.
As for the upcoming meeting in Vienna, which would constitute the beginning of the status negotiating process, he reiterated that implementation of standards was an obligation of Kosovo’s leaders. The goal of the negotiations must be a new democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. He welcomed the launch of the negotiation process and stressed, as one coming from a country in the region, that it would be in everyone’s interest to reach a successful outcome through a negotiated and mutually agreed settlement. That, in turn, would contribute to the stability and prosperity of the region.
OSWALDO DE RIVERO ( Peru) said that, in the search for the status of Kosovo, it was important not to be delayed in the application of the standards. Their implementation was central to the activities of UNMIK. Advancement in the construction of a democratic and multi-ethnic society through the effective application of the standards was also important for the sustainability of the political process. Although the destiny of Kosovo ranged from a territorial entity with great autonomy to an independent State, the important thing was that it should be a democratic entity where the civil liberties were respected, where civil society developed, where political, religious tolerance and respect for minorities existed, and where power was transferred periodically through free, transparent and just elections. All that could not be achieved if a viable economy did not exist.
Although the trend in the Council was to try to solve political problems through elections, it was not enough, he said, and he asked the Council to give greater emphasis to economic and social aspects. The construction of a viable modern economy with sufficient productive capacity to assure the economic sustainability of democracy in Kosovo was vital. The report indicated that quality basic public services were not provided to any community and that urgent improvements were needed, especially in education and health. The modernization and reactivation of the economy were critical for the materialization of the European perspective in Kosovo. In addition, economic opportunities for the local population were essential in order to fight common delinquency, including corruption, money laundering and human trafficking.
WANG GUANYA ( China) said that, although some progress had been achieved in preparations for the status talks, problems remained. Standards in all areas should be implemented in order to achieve progress in decentralization, returns, dialogue and reforms in local institutions. Within the Contact Group, there were still major differences concerning the future status, and Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Kosovo institutions, had expressed their concerns.
He said there was a need to speed up status talks and implement safeguards to ensure the rights and interests of all groups in Kosovo. It was in the long- term interest of all ethnic groups of Kosovo and all parties to come to a compromise on the status question. As future talks would be fraught with difficulties, flexibility on all sides was required and haste was to be avoided. The unique history of the question of Kosovo must be kept in mind, and the peace and stability of the Balkan region should be the ultimate objective. Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and Montenegro was of paramount importance for the status talks. Equally important would be the full participation of all parties in the process. He hoped that the Vienna meeting would contribute to the healthy development of the status talks.
CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said that while, on the one hand, there had been some significant progress in Kosovo on the process designed to determine the future status of Kosovo, on the other hand, the process of standards implementation had suffered “delays or setbacks” in almost every area. He agreed that the implementation of standards by Kosovo’s political leaders and institutions was an obligation of Kosovo’s people. Notwithstanding the relative positive developments in property rights, and with the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), Argentina was especially concerned about overall progress in standards implementation.
He said that Provisional Institutions must ensure the vigorous implementation of standards if they wanted to fulfil the aim of setting the basis of a multi-ethnic and democratic society in which all communities could live in safety and dignity. Effective standards implementation was also absolutely necessary for the fulfilment of Kosovo’s long-term European perspective and must be the focus of the efforts of the Provisional Institutions throughout, and beyond, the status process.
He went on to say that that Argentina believed that there would not be a prosperous future in Kosovo without the respect of its people’s diversity. It was necessary to reach a sustainable solution to the Kosovo issue within the full application of the principle of territorial integrity. In that context, Argentina placed high priority on respect for human rights, including the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said that he hoped the passing of President Rugova would not have any impact on the future status talks on Kosovo, and welcomed the recent election of President Sejdiu. He called on all parties to participate in the dialogue aimed at improving the overall situation. It was also important to reinforce the rule of law and respect the rights of minorities. He added that the security situation in Kosovo continued to be “perilous”, which was hampering the returns process. He called for urgent action in that area.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE ( France) said that, although the authorities in Kosovo were now better prepared to participate in negotiations, thanks to progress achieved over the last months, not enough had been done in the genuine implementation of standards. He expected concrete actions and improvements in the field. Whatever the status of Kosovo would be, it would have to be multi-ethnic. He called upon the Prime Minister and the Provisional Institutions to take the necessary measures to accelerate implementation of priority standards. The capacity of Kosovo authorities in providing solutions would serve as defining criteria for determining the status.
He said that, since the last meeting of the Council, the Secretary-General had appointed Martti Ahtisaari as his representative to lead talks on the status of Kosovo. During this sensitive period, it was essential that the international community and the Council supported his mission unfailingly. Although the approach he had chosen, namely to tackle concrete questions first, was relevant, negotiations should be concluded in 2006. He called upon Belgrade and Pristina to resolutely engage in a constructive dialogue. The upcoming meeting in Vienna would be essential for the dialogue to start on a positive note.
He said the final status would have to be acceptable to the population of Kosovo. Leaders on both sides would have to demonstrate courage and determination. The result of the talks, whatever it would be, would be rooted in Europe. He hoped the parties would make the best use of the coming months.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark) said that substantial dialogue between Kosovo’s communities, as well as between Pristina and Belgrade, was of utmost importance, and she welcomed the first ministerial-level meeting on decentralization that took place in Vienna last September. She urged all parties to engage constructively in upcoming meetings on the matter -- set to start in Vienna on 20 February -- and joined the Secretary-General’s call on Belgrade to encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate constructively in the provisional institutions in Pristina.
Denmark shared the Secretary-General’s assessment that, in spite of progress in some areas, overall progress on standards implementation had been slow on the part of authorities in Pristina. She joined the Secretary-General in urging Kosovo’s political leaders to renew their efforts to ensure substantive, accelerated and sustainable progress in the implementation of standards, including in key areas, such as the return of refugees and internally displaced people, access to justice, the preservation of cultural heritage, and improved conditions for minorities.
She went on to say that the logic of the status process being launched while standards implementation was still ongoing was based on the recommendation of Ambassador Kai Eide. It was important that attention be paid to one of the key principles behind his logic, namely, that success in negotiating and implementing a future status would depend on future standards implementation. Ambassador Eide had further warned that insufficient standards implementation entailed the risk of turning a “future status into a failed status”, she said, adding that the final status depended on both the implementation of standards, and on the constructive engagement of Belgrade and Kosovo’s minority communities. It was in the interest of all Kosovo’s communities – and, indeed, the whole region -- to ensure that Kosovo turned out as a success, she said.
SHINICHI KITAOKA ( Japan) said the delays in the implementation of standards had been discussed on numerous occasions in the Council. He regretted the lack of progress, as the implementation of the standards had become even more crucial since the political process for the future status had been launched. The implementation of standards should remain a priority for the purpose of building a democratic, multi-ethnic society, regardless of the direction of the future status talks. He requested the political leaders of Kosovo to show by their actions their willingness and capability to build a democratic and multi-ethnic society. He hoped that the authorities in Belgrade would support and encourage the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the political process in Kosovo.
He said the international community should devise a strategy to bring about a breakthrough in the issue of the delay of standards implementation, concentrating on areas of high priority. Progress in decentralization could serve as a model case and could create an improved environment for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. It would also be meaningful if substantive progress could be made in cohabitation and tolerance among the various ethnic groups, with the focus on economic aspects. Japan would hold a seminar on “ Community Building in the Multi-ethnic Societies of the Western Balkans -- from the Human Security Point of View” in late March in Tokyo. He hoped that the seminar would contribute to the resolution of the problems in Kosovo, including reforms of local autonomy.
TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said the future status of Kosovo was one of the most serious issues remaining in the Council’s overall efforts to bring peace to the Balkan region. The current efforts being undertaken by the United Nations and other international actors needed to be enhanced by new efforts to push forward the standards implementation process. Increased efforts must also be geared to government reform, decentralization and promoting human rights standards. His delegation had, therefore, been disappointed to hear about slow progress in the area of ensuring minority rights. The low number of returnees was also a cause of concern. Finally, he commended UNMIK, the European Union and other international actors and organizations that had made financial and other commitments to the people of Kosovo to ensure that they were able to embark successfully on a path to a peaceful future.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said he was encouraged that the Provisional Institutions had taken root at the national, municipal and local levels, and hoped that the minority groups, especially the Kosovo Serbs, would continue to be encouraged to get more actively involved in the political and reconciliation process. The recent smooth transition of power to a new administration, following the death of Ibrahim Rugova, was also indicative of a new consensus of peace in Kosovo. Everything must be done to sustain the momentum.
He was concerned that progress by the Provisional Institutions and the Kosovo Albanian leadership on standards implementation and on other political processes had been too slow. The agreed standards for the achievement of a sustainable multi-ethnic society could guarantee lasting peace, security and stability in Kosovo. He, therefore, reiterated his country’s support for the “standards before status” policy, which would lay the preconditions for determining the extremely sensitive issue of the future of Kosovo. The current impasse should not be unduly prolonged. Efforts should be intensified to identify and deal with those who were behind the recent unprovoked attacks on innocent people. Only a negotiated settlement in which the rights of all were guaranteed would be able to provide peace and stability in Kosovo and in the region as a whole.
PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) said his delegation supported the efforts to find a settlement on the future status of Kosovo. At the same time, Slovakia believed that such a settlement should be achieved within the framework of international law, based on talks between Pristina and Belgrade, and contribute to security and stability in the region. Such a settlement should not be imposed from the outside, he said, adding that parties should refrain from statements or actions that would make it seem that the outcome of the negotiations had been prejudged.
He also called for equal treatment of all ethnic and religious minorities in Kosovo and urged that all Kosovo institutions remain committed to the implementation of the standards. He stressed that the low number of returns of refuges and internally displaced persons perhaps revealed that the Government was not doing enough to ensure that all minorities could go back to their homes in safety and security. At the same time, he expressed hope at the reported recent small increase in minority employment in Kosovo. He said that the future status of Kosovo must be disconnected from any other international model.
Speaking in his national capacity, JOHN BOLTON ( United States) expressed his condolences at the passing of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova and congratulated the people of Kosovo on the election of its new President Fatmir Sejdiu.
He said resolving Kosovo’s status would put an end to the tragedy of the 1990s. United Nations envoy Martti Ahtisaari had begun the negotiation process on the future status of Kosovo and hoped to conclude his work in 2006. The status of Kosovo should be established in the context of minority rights and long-term stability, among other things.
Standards implementation was very important, but for the pace of status negotiations to accelerate, Provisional Institutions must do more much more, especially in such key areas as minority rights, decentralization and protection of religious sites, he said. Among all possibilities, independence of Kosovo was a possible outcome. The crisis of 1999 and the period of international administration had made Kosovo a special case.
GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that with the passing of Ibrahim Rugova, Kosovo had lost a historic leader who had devoted his life to promoting the rights of his people peacefully. The Union called on all Kosovar parties and leaders to work together so that further progress was achieved in implementing standards and so that Kosovo participated constructively in the status process. The Kosovo Albanian leaders had made significant progress in preparations for the status process, as well as some progress in areas of protection of property rights and the reconstruction of cultural and religious heritage. However, overall progress on standards implementation had been too slow. He strongly urged Kosovo’s institutions to renew their efforts to ensure substantive, accelerated and sustainable progress in the implementation of the standards, especially in such key areas as returns, equal access to justice and the preservation of cultural heritage.
He said the Union attached particular importance to the establishment of a substantial dialogue between all Kosovo communities, as well as between Belgrade and Pristina. He called on the authorities in Belgrade to encourage, rather than discourage, the Kosovo Serb leaders to participate constructively in the Provisional Institutions. The Union also expected Kosovo’s institutions to move ahead on the reform of local self-government. It urged both parties to participate constructively in the Vienna meeting on decentralization. It further called upon Pristina and Belgrade to engage constructively in the working group on missing persons. He reminded the relevant authorities of their commitment to alleviate without delay the humanitarian crisis created by the continued use of contaminated facilities for the temporary residence of a large Roma community in Mitrovica. A long-term solution for the internally displaced persons should also be found.
He said all possible efforts must be made to achieve a negotiated settlement in the course of 2006. Whatever Kosovo’s future status would be, it would be firmly rooted in the European architecture. Effective standards implementation, including dialogue and outreach to Kosovo’s minority communities, was a prerequisite for the fulfilment of Kosovo’s European perspective. In December, the Union had adopted a new “European Partnership” document for Kosovo within the Union’s broader Stabilization and Association Process for the Western Balkans. That document incorporated the standards as requirements for Kosovo’s long-term European perspective.
He said Kosovo would require an international civilian and military presence to supervise the compliance with provisions of the status settlement to ensure security and protection of minorities and to support the continued implementation of the standards. The Union was ready to assume its responsibilities and to work on an enhanced future Union engagement with a view to assisting a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo in its efforts to realize its European perspective.
VALERIY KUCHINSKY ( Ukraine) said that as an active contributor to international stability, Ukraine was closely observing the situation in South-Eastern Europe, and Kosovo in particular. Sharing the necessity of giving new impetus to the ongoing political process and supporting the efforts of the Contact Group to achieve a viable settlement in Kosovo, the international community should be guided by the need to attain final stabilization of political, economic and security situation in Kosovo on the basis of relevant decisions of the Council, including resolution 1244, and in full compliance with the principles of international law.
Ukraine advocated the negotiating process between Belgrade and Pristina, establishment of an effective dialogue among all Kosovo communities and a search for a mutually acceptable compromise settlement, he said. It attached particular importance to standards implementation, guaranteeing human rights and the rights of all ethnic Kosovo groups. The political process of determining the future status of Kosovo -- initiated by the United Nations and receiving Ukraine’s full support -- should be handled with the utmost care and delicacy, taking into account its possible implications for the whole European security architecture. Any imposed decision or hasty actions could destabilize the situation in the western Balkans and create dangerous precedents. The decision on the Kosovo status should strengthen security and stability of the region, and Europe as a whole. In that context, it was natural to assume that the political process of settling Kosovo status represented a specific case and should not be claimed as a precedent for any other issue.
He added that, from the very outset of the Kosovo crisis, Ukraine had made efforts to settle it by political means and had been assisting the post-conflict stabilization in the region. His country was actively participating in the peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo. Fully understanding the need for continued international presence in Kosovo during the whole process of standards implementation and for ensuring overall security in the region, Ukraine remained committed to making a tangible contribution to the international community’s efforts in that important area.
BAKI ILKIN ( Turkey) said the decentralization process, fair and equitable representation of minorities in Kosovo’s political and administrative structures, respect for the cultural rights of minorities, pursuit of economic reforms, dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, as well as between all Kosovo communities, and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons were among his country’s main priorities for Kosovo. To those ends, Turkey hoped and expected that the future political structure in Kosovo would reflect the wider region’s multi-ethnic character, and would be able to reach out to all communities. Turkey believed that improved security conditions, lessened political resistance in some areas, and region-wide implementation of the property legislation would encourage returns, a process which, at present, remained very slow.
Welcoming the direct talks between Pristina and Belgrade, he said his delegation believed such dialogue should serve as a platform for the parties to address concrete issues. At the same time, any announcement setting a specific deadline for the talks would be counterproductive at this stage; what really mattered was the achievement of a sustainable solution. He went on to welcome the UNMIK-backed launch of decentralization pilot projects, one of which was in the Turkish-Kosovo majority area. Turkey also welcomed the establishment of the Consultative Committee for Minorities.
Turkey believed that it was crucial that minorities be engaged in the status talks and, to that end, a representative for all minorities, in addition to the one for Kosovo Serbs, be included in the negotiating team. Another option would be to institutionalize the relationship between the Consultative Committee and the negotiating team so that all minorities would be able to share their views and proposals at each stage of the talks concerning Kosovo’s future status. Turkey also believed that minorities should be involved in the drafting of a new constitution, he added.
LUBLIN DILJA ( Albania) said that, while sharing the view that the long-term European perspective for Kosova required effective standards implementation, he wanted to reaffirm his understanding that it was an ongoing process. It should and would remain the focus for the Government and people of Kosova, to be vigorously pursued, throughout and beyond the status proceedings. He strongly believed that the definition of the status, in fact, would infuse “huge energy on all standards implementation” and would swiftly accelerate progress in all areas. Various issues in Kosova needed to be tackled with due attention, will and energy. Primarily, they were the responsibility of Kosova institutions, but the political and financial support of the international community was also indispensable.
Decentralization would advance the rights of minorities, strengthen local initiative, and assist the economic and social development of all areas and communities, he continued. However, that was a delicate issue, which should be addressed carefully within the framework of a well defined status for Kosova. As long as the Kosovar central institutions did not enjoy a true and complete self-governing status, the process of decentralization still remained vague and difficult to fully implement. Albania fully supported the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, in which the parties should engage in good faith. Issues of human concern, such as the missing persons and returns, needed to be part of that dialogue.
Regarding the status process, he said that Kosova political leaders had made significant efforts to prepare for it by establishing a unified negotiating team and adopting the political platform for the crucial process of status talks. His Government welcomed the Contact Group Guiding Principles for the settlement of the Kosova status and fully shared the view that Kosova should not return to the pre-March 1999 situation. There should be no changes in the current territory of Kosova, no partition of Kosova and no union with any country or part of any country. The most realistic, pragmatic, just and fair option would be the status of independence with support and monitoring by the international community. A continued international military and civilian presence in Kosova was needed. It would serve as a guarantor for the implementation of the provisions of such a status settlement and assist in making that solution a success in all important components: stability, security, maximum protection of minorities and the guarantee of their rights; and continued progress in standards implementation.
Responding to comments and questions, Mr. JESSEN-PETERSEN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK, thanked the Council for its support for the Mission and the people of Kosovo. He also thanked speakers for the expressions of condolences on the passing of President Ibrahim Rugova and for the congratulations extended to the new President Fatmir Sejdiu.
Welcoming the presence of President Tadic, he said the President had, in the past, recommended the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the institutions. He reminded the President of the many statements today addressed to Belgrade urging Kosovo Serbs to engage in shaping the future of Kosovo. He hoped the President would follow that advice. Direct engagement of Kosovo Serbs was needed for further progress. Without such engagement, progress could not be achieved in areas such as returns and freedom of movement.
He said that Kosovo’s Prime Minister Barjam Kosumi undoubtedly had heard the many statements on minority issues and decentralization. He counted on the Prime Minister to work for more progress in standards implementation. He also and counted on the Kosovo delegation to Vienna to go there with a positive approach.
Concluding, he said that the Mission had entered a critical phase. He counted, therefore, on the continued support of the international community and the Council.
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