SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL PROPOSAL TO RECONFIGURE UNITED NATIONS PRESENCE IN KOSOVO PRACTICAL, WORKABLE SOLUTION TO DIVISIVE, INTRACTABLE ISSUE

20 June 2008
SC/9366

SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL PROPOSAL TO RECONFIGURE UNITED NATIONS PRESENCE IN KOSOVO PRACTICAL, WORKABLE SOLUTION TO DIVISIVE, INTRACTABLE ISSUE

20 June 2008
Security Council
SC/9366
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5917th Meeting (AM)

SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL PROPOSAL TO RECONFIGURE UNITED NATIONS

PRESENCE IN KOSOVO PRACTICAL, WORKABLE SOLUTION TO DIVISIVE, INTRACTABLE ISSUE

Saying the issue of Kosovo was one of the most divisive, delicate and intractable situations he had encountered in his 40-year diplomatic career, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon presented the Security Council this morning with a proposal to reconfigure the United Nations presence there.

“This package is a practical and workable solution -- a concrete and sustainable response to a complex and difficult situation,” he said.  “It is founded on the imperative, overriding need, as I said, to maintain international peace and security and stability in Kosovo and the region, while responding and adapting to changing circumstances on the ground.”

Kosovo’s legal, political and moral landscape was enormously complex and sensitive, he said.  Recent developments, such as Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February and the Kosovo Serb community’s fierce objection to a new constitution adopted in Pristina, had profoundly changed the environment in which the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was operating.

The package to adjust operational aspects of the international civil presence in Kosovo and reconfigure UNMIK’s profile and structure -- the result of extensive consultations with all concerned parties and Council members in recent months -- was “strictly status-neutral and is fully within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), which remains the legal framework for UNMIK until and unless the Council decides otherwise”.  Mr. Ban said such reconfigurations would involve six areas:  the police; courts; customs; transport and infrastructure; boundaries; and Serbian patrimony.

The package aimed to consolidate the gains of the last nine years since the adoption of resolution 1244, while addressing the concerns of Serbia and Kosovo’s Serbian community, he said.  It also recognized the importance of an enhanced operational role for the European Union in the area of the rule of law under a United Nations umbrella, as part of efforts to promote progress and stability in the western Balkans.  The Secretary-General said he intended to appoint Lamberto Zannier of Italy to be his new Special Representative to lead the new phase.

Several Council members, including the United Kingdom, France and Italy supported the package, but others, notably the Russian Federation, had serious objections to the reconfiguration and the enhanced role of the European Union in Kosovo.  China’s representative acknowledged the many changes in Kosovo since 1999, but said the basis for implementing resolution 1244 had not changed.

The United Kingdom’s representative said the common goal was to create a stable, multi-ethnic Kosovo and that required a reconfiguration, in light of the new realities on the ground, with the European Union taking on a greater role.  While the proposal did not go as far as the United Kingdom would have liked, it did try to accommodate the wide range of views on the matter.  The exact disposition of UNMIK was the Secretary-General’s to make and the Council must respect Mr. Ban’s position.

Italy’s representative supported the “considered, balanced and forward-looking” report of the Secretary-General as the way forward, while France’s representative called on the international community to fully support the reconfiguration and the increased operational presence of the EULEX mission.  The situation in Kosovo remained fragile and uncertainties remained, he said, stressing the need for a continued international presence.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative said any attempts by UNMIK to reconfigure the Mission and bypass the Council were wrong, and no power or functions should be transferred to the European Union.  The Secretary-General’s role in transforming the international presence in Kosovo could take place only after the Council had made the appropriate decisions, he said, stressing that the Secretary-General’s actions in Kosovo should be ruled by the United Nations Charter.  The real task ahead was to strictly fulfil resolution 1244.  Moreover, Kosovo’s declaration of independence ran contrary to international law and resolution 1244.

Boris Tadić, President of Serbia, agreed, saying Kosovo’s unilateral declaration directly contravened the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and other cornerstone documents upon which the international system had been built.  That was why Serbia’s National Assembly had declared Kosovo’s action -- and all subsequent decisions stemming from it -- to be null and void.  The Secretary-General’s report sought to implement the Ahtisaari proposal, which the Council had not endorsed and, therefore, carried no legal weight whatsoever.  The report said that the “constitution” was designed to effectively remove from UNMIK its current powers of civil administration.  That usurpation by the authorities in Pristina of UNMIK’s mandate was deeply troubling, as was the impression the report gave of acquiescing to an unjustifiable violation of resolution 1244.

Fatmir Sejdiu of Kosovo said Kosovo’s independence was declared in line with the Ahtisaari plan in February and the transition to its new status had gone well.  The country had since been recognized by 43 Members of the United Nations and more nations were recognizing it every month as a State desiring full integration into the European Community.  The Assembly of Kosovo also enjoyed the broad support of the people and Kosovo had since adopted over 40 pieces of legislation.  Those changes had created a situation requiring the United Nations to, once again, adapt its presence.  The United Nations would continue to perform rule-of-law functions in accordance with resolution 1244, until the European Union was able to perform fully its operational role -- all steps that Kosovo would support.

The representatives of Panama, Viet Nam, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Croatia, Costa Rica and the United States also made statements.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:20 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2008/354), which describes the key recent developments on the ground in Kosovo, efforts to reach a compromise among the different Kosovo communities and proposals for the possible future structure and profile of the United Nations Mission.  It also contains two letters, both dated 12 June 2008, from the Secretary-General concerning his proposals and the United Nations position on the question of Kosovo’s status, to Boris Tadić, President of Serbia, and Fatmir Sejdiu, respectively.

Opening Statement by Secretary-General

United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said the challenge ahead on Kosovo’s status was enormous.  “In almost 40 years of diplomatic life I have almost never encountered an issue as divisive, as delicate and as intractable as the Kosovo issue,” he said.  Legally, politically and morally, it was a landscape of enormous complexity and sensitivity that required extraordinary objectivity and balance.  The declaration of independence in February, the violence at customs posts and in Mitrovica, the elections organized by the Serbs and the promulgation in Pristina of a new constitution had been fiercely contested by the communities and their supporters abroad, and had profoundly changed the environment in which the United Nations was operating.

“I am very aware that the package I have developed is an effort -- a humble effort -- in the light of these new developments, to try to find an operational modus vivendi to help move Kosovo a few steps back from the brink of further conflict,” he said.  “To many, it may not be fully satisfying, because it does not completely meet the aspirations of any of the key stakeholders.  Indeed, it is not a ‘winner-take-all’ solution.  Nevertheless, personally, after open and transparent consultations with all concerned over the past months, I have come to the view that the package represents the ‘least objectionable’ way forward.”  He said he had presented it to the Council mindful of the need to preserve and safeguard the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations, in the interest of all of its Members.

He said he had greatly benefited from wide-ranging consultations with Council members and their ministers in developing the package, and had drawn richly on their ideas.  His Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations has also benefited from consultations in both Pristina and Belgrade.  That had been further enriched by daily contacts with the Secretary-General’s representatives on the ground, and by UNMIK’s work.

He said his report set out key recent developments in relation to Kosovo.  Following the declaration of independence by Kosovo’s representatives on 17 February, some Member States had recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent State, while others had not.  The differences within the international community had added to the complexity of the issue.  He had taken note of Serbia’s position, as conveyed to him by President Tadić.

Mindful of the divisions in the international community, the United Nations had taken a position of strict neutrality on the question of Kosovo’s status, he said.  UNMIK operated within the framework of Council resolution 1244 (1999), which was the legal framework for its mandate, and which remained in force until the Council decided otherwise.  As he had previously indicated to the Council, UNMIK had continued to operate and implement its mandate in light of the evolving circumstances, however difficult that might be.  That was the foundation of his package.

Following Kosovo’s declaration of independence, UNMIK’s ability to operate as before had come into serious question. The constitution promulgated by the Kosovo authorities came into effect on 15 June and it envisaged no real role for UNMIK.  The powers residing with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General were sought to be assumed by the new authorities.  On the other hand, the Kosovo Serb community had overwhelmingly rejected the new constitution, and the new laws emerging from Pristina.  They had expanded their boycott of Pristina institutions.  And, while they had agreed to continue to apply UNMIK laws, they had opposed -- sometimes violently -- any effort to bring them under the aegis of the new arrangements in Pristina.

“All of this is contributing to a substantially changed situation in Kosovo,” he said.  “It is my assessment that, taken together, these developments have created a profoundly new reality in which UNMIK is no longer able to perform as effectively as in the past the vast majority of its tasks as an interim administration.  This needs to be acknowledged as a fact of life.”

In light of recent developments, the report noted the Secretary-General’s intention to adjust operational aspects of the international civil presence in Kosovo and to reconfigure UNMIK’s profile and structure.  The Secretary-General said he would not repeat the details of the package here, because it was more important for him to hear the Council’s reactions.  A reconfigured and restructured UNMIK would continue to carry out a number of functions.  Those would include, significantly, functions related to the dialogue on the implementation of provisions in six areas contained in his letter to President Tadić -- police, courts, customs, transport and infrastructure, boundaries, and Serbian patrimony.

“I consider that this dialogue -- which was initiated by my Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and will be carried forward by my Special Representative in close consultation with the authorities in Kosovo and with relevant stakeholders -- is of crucial importance for all of Kosovo’s communities,” he said, calling on the Council, and the broader international community, to support his Special Representative’s efforts in bringing it forward.

The European Union had expressed its readiness to perform an enhanced operational role in Kosovo in the area of rule of law, and had put in place measures to do so.  He supported that enhanced role, saying it would be in the interest of the United Nations and of the international community as a whole.  He also noted the aspiration of people of all communities in the region to live in closer association with the European family of nations.  As stated in his report, the European Union would, therefore, take on some increasing operational responsibilities in the areas of international policing, justice and customs in Kosovo, within a reconfigured UNMIK, within the mandate established by resolution 1244, and under an “umbrella” headed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.

Nine years since the inception of UNMIK, the situation in Kosovo has evolved profoundly, he said.  Under United Nations interim administration, Kosovo had made significant strides in moving beyond conflict towards peace, in creating and consolidating democratic governance institutions, and in creating the foundations for a viable economy.  “Not everything has been achieved, but we have come a long way, and we must be sure that, with these latest changes in the situation, we do not lose what has been gained with so much effort,” he said.  “We have to evolve our presence, to ensure that earlier achievements are safeguarded and built upon.”

Noting that the task would be difficult, he said he intended to appoint Lamberto Zannier of Italy to by his Special Representative to lead the new phase of the Mission.  “He will help to carry forward the vision I have presented in my report, and to lead a new phase of dialogue, and he will be scrupulously balanced in his approach,” he said.

“The reconfiguration of UNMIK that I have presented to the Security Council aims to preserve and consolidate the achievements built during a tumultuous period, and to create the foundations for Kosovo’s further progress within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999),” he said.  “In doing so, my overriding objectives are to ensure Kosovo’s overall stability, to protect and promote the interests of all of its communities, and to maintain international peace and security in Kosovo and the broader region.”

Statements

BORIS TADIC, President of Serbia, said that once again, the Council had gathered to discuss troubling developments in Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo and Metohija that had been caused by the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in mid-February.  Serbia believed that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration directly contravened the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and other cornerstone documents upon which the international system had been built.  “Equally important is the fact that Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) clearly places a binding, Chapter VII obligation on all Member States to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of my country,” he said.

While a great majority of United Nations Member States had continued to abide by those principles and obligations -- which Serbia profoundly appreciated ‑- there had been a minority that had, unfortunately, chosen to support the attempt at secession by the Kosovo Albanians.  “This has put at risk the consolidation of peace in the Western Balkans, and set back more than a decade of hard work by this very Council,” he said, adding that it had also created an environment that threatened to destabilize the entire international system.  The potential damage to the founding principles of the United Nations was becoming more apparent, as was the awareness that the legacy the Organization would pass on to future generations would be tarnished.

For its part, Serbia had taken a position that took seriously international law and consistent with its aim for promoting peaceful, just and consensual resolution of disputes.  That was why Serbia’s National Assembly had declared Kosovo’s action -- and all subsequent decisions stemming from it -- to be null and void.  “And that is why we have ruled out the use of force, while affirming our right to employ diplomatic and political means to ensure that Kosovo does not join the world community of sovereign States,” he said, stressing:  “I want to be very clear:  Serbia will never recognize the independence of Kosovo.”  Serbia would, however, continue to work towards a legal way forward that sought to bridge differences, not widen them; to reconcile opposing points of view, not entrench them; and foster cooperation, not discourage it.

Turning to the Secretary-General’s report, he said it referred to a “new reality” on the ground in Kosovo following its unilateral declaration of independence, and the recent passage by Kosovo’s Provisional Assembly of a so-called “constitution”.  He said that document sought to implement the Ahtisaari proposal, which the Council had not endorsed, and, therefore, carried no legal weight whatsoever.  The report said that the “constitution” was designed to effectively remove from UNMIK its current powers of civil administration.  “This usurpation by the authorities in Pristina of the mandate this Council gave UNMIK is deeply troubling,” he said, adding that it was equally worrying that the report gave the impression of acquiescing to an unjustifiable violation of resolution 1244 (1999).

He had, therefore, been led to conclude that the Secretary-General’s report was an acknowledgement that an influential and determined minority could set aside international law, in the name of appeasing an ethnic group that “has been threatening violence if its maximalist demands are not met”.  That must not be the way forward.  International peace and security could only be consolidated through dialogue, not imposition; through agreement, not compulsion; and through law, not threats.

On the situation in Kosovo since its declaration, he said that the province’s human rights record had not improved.  No internally displaced persons had returned.  Jobs had not been created.  Destroyed homes belonging to Serbians had not been rebuilt.  Organized crime had not been reduced.  “And our cultural heritage has not become more secure.”  In fact, things had only gotten worse since February and the uncomfortable, yet incontrovertible truth was that the “new reality” which the report referred to had actually caused further deterioration in the already unstable situation on the ground.  Indeed, the United Nations could not -- and must not -- walk away.

He said that Serbia believed that the course of action submitted in the report could not give rise to a process that lead to a compromise solution to the future status of its southern province.  “That is why Serbia cannot endorse the Secretary-General’s report.  Until the process envisaged in resolution 1244 (1999) to determine Kosovo’s status is complete, the international community, led by the United Nations, has to retain its central role in the maintenance of peace and stability in Kosovo,” he declared.  Further, the “reconfiguration” referred to by the Secretary-General must be decided by the Security Council, the only institution with the power to make legitimate changes to the international presence in Kosovo.

Serbia agreed with the report that several topics mentioned required pressing attention:  police; judiciary; customs; transportation and infrastructure; boundaries; and patrimony.  Every day that went by without working towards a solution and agreement on those and other issues raised the likelihood of bringing up unsustainable hopes and dangerous, uncoordinated outcomes on the ground.

He was concerned that an implicit shift in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s position had taken place a few days ago during its most recent ministerial meeting in Brussels.  While reaffirming its status of neutrality and adherence to resolution 1244 (1299), NATO had also announced the Stabilization Force -- KFOR -- was set to take up “new tasks,” including its intent to supervise the standing down of the Kosovo Protection Force, and supervise the establishment and training of the so-called “Kosovo Security Force”.  That Force was a wholly new institution not approved by the Security Council.  That placed it clearly beyond the scope of resolution 1244 (1999).  Serbia was apprehensive about the establishment and training of a quasi-military force and believed it would call into question the trust KFOR had worked hard to attain among all the communities on the ground.

Serbia was also concerned by “what was perhaps the final negligent act by former Special Representative of the Secretary-General Joachim Rucker”, when just a few days ago he issued an executive decision that initiated a process by which funds totalling more than €426 million could be “illegitimately transferred” to the authorities in Pristina.  Those funds, held in escrow by the United Nations to offset future claims by laid-off, mostly Kosovo Serb, workers and Serbian companies as a result of the questionable privatization processes undertaken by the Kosovo Trust Agency, were not the property of the authorities in Pristina.  The United Nations must immediately take appropriate measures to ensure that those funds remained in its possession, and to guarantee they continued to be made available for their intended purpose.

In conclusion, he stressed the importance of finding a legal way forward on Kosovo, acceptable to all stakeholders and approved by the Security Council.  Only such an approach could produce a sustainable outcome that would enable Serbia to fully construct and integrate, and to grasp the infinite opportunities that the Europe of the twenty-first century offered.  The time had come to truly work in concert, by taking bold steps towards the fulfilment of the entire region’s future.  Indeed, Europe had been transformed from a place of strife to a place of concord.  That was why Serbia saw Europe as the key to its own future success.  “No more divisions, no more discord, and no more conflict,” he said.  “The time to strengthen peace is now.”

FATMIR SEJDIU of Kosovo said much had happened since the beginning of 2008.  Its independence was declared in line with the Ahtisaari plan and the country had since been recognized by 43 members of the United Nations.  More countries were recognizing Kosovo each month as a State desiring full integration into the European Community.  Over two thirds of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had recognized his country’s status.  As stated in Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence, the guiding framework of Kosovo’s efforts was the Ahtisaari plan.  The Assembly of Kosovo enjoyed the broad support of the people.  Kosovo had since adopted over 40 pieces of legislation, including on protection of ethnic minorities and safeguards for its culturally rich heritage, among others.  The new constitution reflected the highest human rights standards.

Despite violent challenges, including attacks that resulted in the death of one United Nations peacekeeper, most of Kosovo had remained calm and orderly, he said.  The transition to its new status had gone well.  Today, the Security Council needed to discuss the future of the United Nations presence in Kosovo.  Nine years ago, the Council took the step of putting Kosovo under United Nations administration.  Hundreds of thousands of Kosovo’s people were displaced as a result of Belgrade’s ethnic cleansing.  He was grateful when the United Nations came to help Kosovo rebuild its shattered society.  Kosovo had since elected leaders through free and fair elections.  The United Nations oversaw the establishment of Kosovo’s institutions, including its municipalities, assembly, judiciary and its police.  In recent years, the United Nations had progressively handed over its governing responsibilities to Kosovo’s new institutions.

Since 1999, UNMIK had scaled down its physical presence and its personnel in Kosovo, he said.  The United Nations had continually taken into account the circumstances in Kosovo and it had conducted its presence accordingly, as Kosovo had developed the capacity to govern.  Kosovo’s independence and the entry into force of its constitution had created a situation requiring the United Nations to once again adapt.  He thanked the Secretary-General for reconfiguring the United Nations presence in Kosovo.  The Secretary-General had proposed a number of talks in Kosovo.  The United Nations would continue to perform rule of law functions in accordance with resolution 1244, until the European Union was able to perform fully its operational role.

He assured the Secretary-General that he would have the ongoing support of Kosovo, as he moved forward.  That support, he said, was indicated in a letter sent to the Secretary-General earlier this week.  The Secretary-General had also proposed a dialogue on possible arrangements to address threats to stability.   He supported and was open to that dialogue, stressing that no arrangements could be viable without the participation and approval of the Government of Kosovo.  It was essential to address threats to stability and the issues of minority ethnic communities.  He said he had reached out to the Kosovo Serbs to assure them that they had a home in Kosovo.

He expressed concern that Serbia had promoted a policy whereby its leaders called for the functional separation of ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.  Serbia had organized illegal elections this spring.  He was concerned about that threat to Kosovo’s sovereignty and was concerned about the message such policies sent to Kosovo.  They did not help bring lasting peace or stability.  All they brought were resentment, or misunderstanding.  With great sadness, he recalled how such policies brought tragedy to his region in the 1990s.  Kosovo was the seventh state to observe independence since the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.  Despite those states’ dark history, they all had a bright and prosperous future.  The United Nations role in bringing about that future was also essential.  He reiterated his gratitude to the United Nations for its work in helping Kosovo recover from war.  The people of Kosovo believed that the best way to honour that legacy was to build a peace-loving State that subscribed to the United Nations highest purposes.

MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) said that his country fully supported the Secretary-General’s “considered, balanced and forward-looking”, report on the way forward in Kosovo.  The uncertainties of recent months had been to no one’s benefit, least of all the ethnic minorities the United Nations had pledged to protect.  Kosovo had made strides since the adoption of Council resolution 1244 (1999), despite the fact that there were still shortcomings towards reaching a fully integrated and multi-ethnic community.  The international community must remain engaged in Kosovo as long as necessary and provide support in that regard.  Italy also shared the Secretary-General’s assessment concerning the enhanced operational role for the European Union in the field of the rule of law, under a United Nations umbrella, and headed by his Special Representative.

He went on to say that the European Union was prepared to back the Secretary-General’s proposal and to provide requisite support, drawing on its expertise in the Balkan region.  Such a reconfiguration of United Nations activities in Kosovo, as laid out by the Secretary-General, would be conducive to major progress in the field of minority rights, including the Serb minority and protection of its religious and cultural heritage.

At the same time the United Nations should redesign its role, while reserving some functions, including, among others, facilitating dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  Italy would be one of the main participants in a stronger European Union role in Kosovo, and believed that interaction would pave the way for Kosovo’s future integration into the European Union.  Quoting Voltaire, he urged all Council members to be audacious, and support the proposals outlined by the Secretary-General to give Kosovo, Serbia and the wider Balkan region a brighter future and ensure that it was smoothly integrated into the European Union.

RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said that, while his delegation wished the situation could have been handled by Serbia and Kosovo, it nevertheless recognized that it was the responsibility of the Secretary-General to implement the mandates given to him by the Council and adjust them as situations changed on the ground.  It could not be denied that the reality on the ground was very different from that of nine years ago.  That situation was also greatly changed, in light of Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February and the entry into force a few weeks ago of Kosovo’s constitution.  Also, regional organizations and the European Union were playing a greater role in the country, along with NATO.

Given those circumstances, Panama supported the Secretary-General’s proposals to adapt UNMIK and the European Union decision to take over some parts of the United Nations duties there.  If the Council ignored realities, it would be ignoring its mandate in favour of national political views.  At the same time, he stressed that all actions taken by the Kosovo authorities must respect international law and the rights of all minorities in and around Kosovo.

JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) said since the Council last met on 15 June, Kosovo’s constitution had begun the process of entering into force.  He welcomed the new framework.  The declaration of independence of Kosovo on 17 February was the fruit of a long process.  France had immediately recognized the new State of Kosovo.  He was aware of the different reactions on the part of the Kosovar community regarding its status.  During the first four months of Kosovo’s independence, the pessimistic scenarios that some people had predicted had not come to pass.  On the contrary, democratic institutions were working in a constructive way.  That had been possible thanks to the international presence and because of their stabilizing action on the ground over the last nine years, in general, and in the last few months in particular.  Still, the situation remained fragile and uncertainties remained.  The international presence should remain to contribute to a multi-ethnic and stable Kosovo.

The Secretary-General had acted in a spirit of transparency and dialogue, he said, with his priority objectives being to maintain peace and security.  Implementation of the reconfiguration of UNMIK needed the full support of the international community and France supported that reconfiguration.  UNMIK should continue its mission in a new context that took into account the necessary operational adaptations.  The EULEX mission would take on an increased operational role.  But, the international presence could not accomplish much if there was not a shared vision for a stable, democratic future.

The people and the authorities of Kosovo had shown that they were responsible, he continued.  Their respect for the rule of law, and multi-ethnicity were strong and encouraging commitments.  He appreciated the President of Kosovo’s full commitment to cooperating closely with the United Nations.  He also welcomed the ongoing commitment of Serbian President Tadić to the European Union integration process.  He was sure that Serbia would become a European Union member and the 29 April signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement was a step in the right direction.  When it assumed the Presidency of the European Union in July, France would give priority to Serbia’s prospects for European Union membership.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said the task now was to strictly fulfil resolution 1244.  Kosovo’s declaration of independence ran contrary to international law, the United Nations Charter and resolution 1244 and that resolution maintained its full force.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNMIK must fulfil the functions and responsibilities entrusted to them, including ensuring that the rights and security of national minorities were maintained and achieving the democratic standards of the region.  It was unlawful to have a European Union rule-of-law mission and the international steering group.  That ran contrary to resolution 1244.

He noted the perplexing behaviour of Mr. Sejdiu, who had said that Kosovo would be managed by the new Kosovo constitution.  That was a clumsy attempt to assume power and it also ran contrary to resolution 1244.  That role should, in fact, be fulfilled by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  No power or functions should be transferred to the European Union, as any attempts by UNMIK to reconfigure the mission and bypass the Council were wrong.  Any attempts to reorganize the international presence in Kosovo and to conceal information from the Council were unacceptable.  The Secretariat must give regular updates to the Council on the situation in Kosovo.

The new direction of UNMIK should draw lessons from what had happened and it should work in an unbiased manner within its mandate and resolution 1244, he said.  Kosovo forces operating in the region should operate within the UNMIK mandate.  He expressed concern over the actions of the ministers of defence of NATO to directly link the training of their forces to the Kosovo force.  He expected the Secretary-General and Kosovo forces to take the steps provided for in resolution 1244 to maintain safety for United Nations personnel and to inform the Council about any violations of resolution 1244.  According to the Council, the Secretary-General’s role in transforming the international presence in Kosovo could take place only after the Council had made the appropriate decisions.  He expected the Secretary-General’s actions to be ruled by the United Nations Charter and for him to refrain from independent action without the Council’s approval to reformulate UNMIK.  Today’s discussion was just a first step.  He called on the Secretary-General to consult with UNMIK, and on all parties involved to consult with the Council on the matter.

LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said that his delegation took “careful note” of the Secretary-General’s report and shared his assessment that the recent events in Kosovo posed significant challenges to UNMIK’s ability to exercise its administrative authority.  Viet Nam also shared the view that there was a pressing need for a consensual solution that preserved the international peace and security of Kosovo.  As resolution 1244 (1999) was the legal framework for the international community’s presence in Kosovo, any change or reconfiguration of that presence would require a new decision by the Council, as well as the consent of all the parties concerned.

He called on both Belgrade and Pristina to refrain from actions that would endanger peace and lead to violence or jeopardize security in Kosovo and the region.  Viet Nam urged both sides to resume dialogue and negotiations aimed at achieving a comprehensive and lasting solution to the issue of Kosovo in the interest of peace, security and stability in the Balkans and wider Europe.  He commended the Secretary-General’s “tireless efforts” and encouraged him, in coordination with existing mechanisms, to engage both parties in diplomatic efforts with a view to ensuring the legitimate rights and interests of all communities in Kosovo, and to facilitate the dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons.

JAN GRAULS ( Belgium) said, apart from a few violent incidents, the situation in Kosovo had remained relatively calm since its declaration of independence last February.  That was to be commended.  Looking at the situation as it stood today, Belgium appreciated the efforts of the Secretary-General to present a way forward.  The proposal for the reconfiguration of the United Nations’ role in Kosovo was necessary and, more than that, it was consonant with resolution 1244 (1999) and within the competencies of the Secretary-General.  The Secretary-General’s plan must be made operational as rapidly as possible, so that EULEX could take up its duties, among others ensuring that the rule of law was in place throughout Kosovo.  It was in the interest of both Pristina and Belgrade to establish a good working relationship.  Belgium called on both parties to come together and make such a relationship work towards a broader partnership, building a future that was solidly in Europe.

MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said that over the past nine years, UNMIK had helped Kosovo establish institutions and launch an economy.  Nevertheless, quite a bit remained to be done, especially towards full integration of all Kosovo’s communities.  At the same time, Kosovo had declared independence last February and its constitution had recently entered into force.  The Kosovo administration had called for changes in the role of the United Nations and European Union on the ground.  Those issues must be decided in an atmosphere of dialogue.  Burkina Faso welcomed the Secretary-General’s report and supported his approach for reconfiguring the United Nations presence.  Burkina Faso would, therefore, call on all parties to seriously consider the Secretary-General’s proposals, so that Kosovo and the wider region could move towards full European Union integration.

MARTY NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said the Council had a common and shared understanding of UNMIK’s work.  It was aware that operational adjustments and fine-tuning in response to developments on the ground were inevitable in any United Nations mission, including UNMIK.   UNMIK’s efforts must be consistent with resolution 1244.  He appreciated the Secretary-General’s use of his good offices to find a sustainable solution to address the current challenge and manage the situation on the ground.  The synergy of efforts between the United Nations and the European Union merited the Council’s support.  The European Union’s efforts to play a greater operational role should be encouraged, as they would provide further support for the region.  Better cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations was important and it could meaningfully and constructively contribute to regional issues.  That had been the case in Asia, Latin America and other regions.

It was important to establish clear links among the United Nations, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the European Union, he said.  The Council needed to keep abreast of the situation on the ground.  Work must be carried out within the framework of resolution 1244, which remained in force.  Dialogue and negotiation were essential to resolve the question of Kosovo’s financial status.  The Council must transmit a unified message that all parties had to exercise restraint.  It was necessary to engage all parties in the region to find a mutually acceptable solution.  He thanked UNMIK for its continued dedication.

NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia) said the Constitution of Kosovo came into force on 15 June.  He congratulated Kosovo on adopting it.  It contained broadly recognized human rights protections.  He hoped for its full implementation and wished Kosovo every success, in that regard.  He expressed his wish for stability and security, as well as Kosovo’s integration into the United Nations, the European Union and NATO.  All countries of South-East Europe belonged to the United Nations.  Croatia stood ready to offer Kosovo its experience and know-how.

Since 1999, the United Nations presence in Kosovo had been very successful, he said.  He commended the work of the Secretary-General and the Secretariat in displaying leadership.  It was not a role that everyone fully supported, but one that they could live with.  He thanked the Secretary-General for not stopping historic events from continuing in the region.  He supported the Secretary-General’s plan presented in his report.  He also welcomed the United Nations’ readiness to carry out transitional tasks in Kosovo, and the European Union’s role in helping establish the rule of law there.  He called on officials in Belgrade and Pristina to continue to cooperate with the United Nations and the European Union and to continue to ensure stability for Kosovo.  That was needed, to ensure that South-East Europe became a stable part of the European Union.

JOHN SAWERS ( United Kingdom) said that the common goal was stability in Kosovo and the whole of the Balkans, and to support the European perspective of Kosovo and Serbia alike.  “We are concerned only with dealing with the practical realities and in creating a stable and multi-ethnic Kosovo in which all communities can live in democracy and peace,” he said.  The United Kingdom took note of the Secretary-General’s report and recognized that he had had to balance a number of delicate questions since Kosovo had declared its independence this past February.  The United Kingdom agreed with the Secretary-General on the practical necessity of that reconfiguration, in light of the new realities on the ground.

He said that the proposals did not go as far as the United Kingdom would have liked, but it recognized that there were a range of views on the matter that the Secretary-General had tried to accommodate.  Still, regardless of his delegation’s views, or those of other members of the Council, and in the absence of an agreed view of the Council as a whole, the exact disposition of UNMIK was the Secretary-General’s to make and the Council must respect the position he had taken.

He went on to say that President Tadić had asked for more time for dialogue, including awaiting a satisfactory outcome from Belgrade on the matter.  “Sadly, we have heard this before,” he said, recalling that, during Mr. Ahtissari’s work to fulfil resolution 1244 (1999), the Government had refused to work or cooperate with him and said that nothing could be agreed without agreement from Belgrade.  “Well, life had moved on,” he said, and while some in Serbia had been left behind, he welcomed the recent outcome of Serbian elections, and added that the United Nations certainly must keep up with the practical realities.

While he agreed that only the Security Council could revoke or change resolution 1244 (1999), nothing in that resolution defined the configuration of the international presence, which indeed had evolved and changed several times, including by decisions taken by the previous Secretary-General.  Finally, he said that the reconfiguration plan would allow the European Union to take on a greater role and for the United Nations to take up duties elsewhere.  He added that NATO had also made clear its readiness to take up security arrangements.

LA YIFAN ( China) said that his delegation had listened carefully to the Secretary-General’s report, as well as the statements by the representatives of Serbia and Kosovo.  In the past four years, the situation in Kosovo had been stable, but “tense and sensitive”, affecting the Balkans and Europe at large.  He called on both Pristina and Belgrade to avoid any statements or actions that raised tensions or endangered stability in the region.

China had always maintained that a comprehensive settlement would be one agreed by both sides and obtained through negotiations.  Such a settlement must also be based on relevant Security Council resolutions.  While there had been many changes in Kosovo since 1999, the basis for the implementation of resolution 1244 had not changed.  China, therefore, believed that the Secretary-General should continue to maintain close consultations with all parties, so that his proposals could be more reliable and feasible, focusing on the proper solution to the Kosovo question.  China also hoped that the European Union would play a positive role, within the framework of resolution 1244, and work with the United Nations to ensure peace and stability in the region.

SAÚL WEISLEDER ( Costa Rica) commended and encouraged the Secretary-General’s efforts and asked him to continue them.  It was necessary to protect the rights of all of Kosovo’s minorities.  He asked the Secretary-General to focus on efforts needed to bring about a return to normal life for displaced people.  He supported the reconfiguration of UNMIK and the view that resolution 1244 should continue to remain in force and be the framework for all activities of UNMIK and the United Nations until the Council adopted a different decision.  It was within the Secretary-General’s mandate to make a proposal for reconfiguration.

It was appropriate to call upon all communities in Kosovo to contribute to the calm and the constructive building of a democratic Kosovo, he said.  That was part of the political process.  He expressed hope that the painful past could be overcome and replaced by a future of well-being, peace and tranquillity for Kosovo and the Balkans in general.

Council President ZALMAY KHALILIZAD ( United States), speaking in his national capacity, empathized with the Secretary-General’s predicament and said he felt his pain.  While most Council members had endorsed his plan, some had opposed it.  The Secretary-General had to act and resolution 1244 gave him that discretion.  It was the basis for the reconfiguration of UNMIK, to ensure that the United Nations presence in Kosovo remained relevant and on top of dramatic changes on the ground.  The United States appreciated the Secretary-General’s report on reconfiguration of the United Nations presence.  The question now was should that presence remain static, or whether it should adapt or adjust appropriately to recent events.  The United Nations had the discretion to reconfigure UNMIK and he supported the Secretary-General’s initiative.

However, he continued, the United States had some concerns about it, even though on balance it may prove to be the most practical way forward.  In 2005 the then United Nations envoy had reported that the United Nations leverage on Kosovo was declining and that the European Union would need to assume a greater role.  Over time, the Secretary-General had continually adjusted the United Nations’ relationship in Kosovo.  The fact that Kosovo was ready to govern was a testament to the United Nations’ good work.

However, the report had proposed a new round of dialogue with Belgrade to discuss institutions in Kosovo, he said.  Such a dialogue should be encouraged if Belgrade could support multi-ethnic institutions in Kosovo.  But, it must also involve Pristina.  He understood the concern of President Tadić over Kosovo Serbs who also remained citizens in Kosovo, saying that he hoped that the concern was for the people and not intended to reconfigure or undermine Kosovo’s status.  The Secretary-General should have acknowledged more explicitly that the United Nations could no longer play such a major role under the present circumstances.

While Kosovo’s new constitution met the highest human rights standards and the rights contemplated in the Ahtisaari plan, he said more was needed to build better institutions.  He expressed concern that Belgrade’s efforts threatened to reverse the progress achieved.  The report expressed the idea that Serbia would continue to have a relationship with Kosovo Serbs, but Belgrade had openly decided to use that relationship to discourage Kosovo Serbs from working with Kosovo Albanians.  Belgrade had pressured Serbs to withdraw from Kosovo’s multi-ethnic institutions established under the United Nations auspices.  Such ethnic partition and separation ran contrary to the United Nations Charter and threatened to undermine the progress achieved in the past nine years.

Taking the floor for the second time, Serbian President TADIĆ reiterated that there were no multi-ethnic institutions in Kosovo, even today.  Only a few Serbs were participating in the institutions that did exist.  Belgrade was not blocking participation -- it had no confidence in the institutions because there had been no results.  While Serbia would like to see more progress to that end, “the problem was coming from municipal institutions in Kosovo”.  Belgrade had from the very beginning participated in talks about those and other issues in an open and democratic manner.  But Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was not democracy.  It was not dialogue.

Belgrade would continue to do everything possible to improve the overall situation, including the human rights situation, of all Serbians, including in Kosovo.  Even after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and its adoption of a “constitution”, Serbia had taken no action against Kosovo authorities.  Also, Serbia disagreed with the assertion that Belgrade was trying to drag the region back to the 1990s.  Serbia was not threatening or making war.  It was trying to make things better, while respecting international law.

Finally, he warned the Council that by accepting the proposal and by recognizing Kosovo’s independence it was setting “a very dangerous precedent”.  There were cases similar to that of Kosovo on all continents.  “And you know what I’m talking about, so ask yourselves:  what is going to be the next case similar to this Kosovo case,” he said.

He believed the Secretary-General when he said this was a very complicated issue for him.  And recalling that Ambassador Khalilzad said that he “felt [the Secretary-General’s] pain”, President Tadić wondered if that representative also felt Serbia’s pain:  the pain of the President of a democratic and sovereign nation who was trying to defend its legitimate interests by using diplomatic means.  He expected the international community to respect and protect Serbia’s legitimate interest, as well as its sovereign integrity.

Mr. SEJDIU thanked the United Nations for its efforts to reconfigure UNMIK until the EULEX presence would be ready to take over those responsibilities.  Kosovo was fully committed to concluding in a successful way the great story of the international investment for peace and stability in Kosovo.  He, as the President of Kosovo, and the Kosovo institutions were fully committed to putting into practice the project put forward by Mr. Ahtisaari.  The day the Constitution of Kosovo went into force, he said he had signed 41 laws.  Most of them referred to the main provisions of the Ahtisaari plan and were related to safeguarding the interests of the minority communities in Kosovo.  He reiterated that, when Kosovo declared independence, both representatives of the United Nations spoke positively about it.  But, they had also stated that the United Nations and Kosovo had been subjected to opposition and to threats.  They had said that bad things would happen.  Kosovo had shown the essence of its commitment and its serious and mature approach.

Serbia was attempting to keep the situation tense, including by burning down two border points the day Kosovo declared independence, he continued.  He also pointed to the incident that resulted in the death of one United Nations peacekeeper.  He stressed, once more, his request that Serbia cease with this approach and allow Serbs in Kosovo to live peacefully in an independent and prosperous Kosovo.  That would be the deepest level of commitment for the European Union integration process.  He expressed high regard for the special role the United Nations and NATO had played and expressed the readiness of Kosovo institutions to continue their work in cooperation with UNMIK during this important transition.

In concluding remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon then said this had been a serious challenge for everyone and that everybody must have felt pain.  It had been a very difficult and painful process for him to engage in the consultation process and to find a mutually acceptable and least objectionable formula to bring peace and security in this region.  “Our mission -- my overriding priority and concern -- is how to bring peace and security and maintain such peace and security, in the region,” he said.  “This is going to be a part of the broad mandate which is given to me by the Charter of the United Nations and by resolution 1244 which the Security Council members adopted in 1999.”

He said he had shared with the Council his assessment of the situation in Kosovo, and described his intensive efforts with the sides and key stakeholders to reach a compromise solution.  Those efforts had resulted in an idea for the international civil presence that is before the Council today.

“This package is a practical and workable solution -- a concrete and sustainable response to a complex and difficult situation,” he said.  “It is founded on the imperative, overriding need, as I said, to maintain international peace and security and stability in Kosovo and the region, while responding and adapting to changing circumstances on the ground.”

“The package furthers the objectives of the United Nations in Kosovo,” he said.  Its aim was to consolidate the significant achievements of 9 years of interim administration.  It took into account the profoundly changed reality in Kosovo, while also addressing areas of concern for Serbia and for Kosovo’s Serb community.  “The package is strictly status-neutral and is fully within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244, which remains the legal framework for UNMIK until and unless the Council decides otherwise,” he said.  “It recognizes the importance of an enhanced role for the European Union in Kosovo, as part of the European Union’s efforts to promote progress and stability in the Western Balkans.”

While no solution was ideal, the package was the result of an effort at compromise and it had benefited from extensive consultations, he said.  It was supported by all the Secretary-General’s senior advisers, who had worked tirelessly and intensively in developing it.  “It is, therefore, the view of the United Nations that this package constitutes the best possible way forward in order to manage the situation in Kosovo,” he said, adding that today’s meeting had provided the Council an important opportunity to consider the package.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.