Top United Nations Envoy in Kosovo Says Recent Ballot Was Successful, as Other Speakers Highlight ‘Fragile, Explosive’ Situation

19 November 2013
SC/11181

Top United Nations Envoy in Kosovo Says Recent Ballot Was Successful, as Other Speakers Highlight ‘Fragile, Explosive’ Situation

19 November 2013
Security Council
SC/11181
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7064th Meeting (PM)

Top United Nations Envoy in Kosovo Says Recent Ballot Was Successful,

 

as Other Speakers Highlight ‘Fragile, Explosive’ Situation

 

The successful conduct of Kosovo-wide municipal elections on 3 November was an important milestone in the implementation of an agreement governing normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, the top envoy of the United Nations in Kosovo told the Security Council today.

Farid Zarif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), during his briefing on recent progress in implementing the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations, said that “the growing maturity of Kosovo’s polity” was in evidence in that election.  A significant number of Kosovo municipalities had recorded substantially higher voter turnout in November compared to that of the previous ballot held in 2009.

However, he said, isolated incidents of violence had occurred on election day in northern Mitrovica resulting in a repeat vote.  “Enthusiasm over the considerable success achieved through local elections must be tempered,” he cautioned.  The formation of the future Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities would require major efforts.  It was crucial to continue to translate the progress made at high political levels into “local confidence and ownership on the ground”.

The European Union was poised, he noted, to take important decisions regarding the further integration of States of the Western Balkans.  The aspiration of the people of Kosovo and Serbia to a fuller association with the institutions of Europe and the commitment of Pristina and Belgrade to the institutional steps required for that association were underpinning the process of normalizing relations.

Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo said that the “transformative power” of the European Union was in evidence in the Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia for the normalization of relations.  The successful elections of 3 November were a result of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.  In its recent Progress Report, the European Commission had praised Kosovo’s relations with its neighbouring States and noted that “Kosovo was moving towards establishing a functioning market economy”.

Kosovo would continue, he added, to perform its constitutional and legal obligations for strengthening the rule of law, especially in the north.  While the elections were a prerequisite for the establishment of Kosovo municipalities with a Serb majority, the Association would not have executive or legislative functions.

The representative of the United States welcomed the municipal elections in Kosovo, saying they were “orderly, transparent and credible” in most areas and that the dialogue process between Kosovo and Serbia had shown the value of direct communication in reducing tensions between States.  The elections and progress in dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina were positive steps towards advancing to European Union membership.

Prime Minister Ivica Dačić of Serbia noted that despite significant political breakthroughs, there needed to be consistent implementation of what was agreed to in the dialogue.  Pristina had not taken necessary steps to implement the Brussels Agreement.  Conditions such as status-neutral election materials had not been met and 6,000 Albanians — who had never lived in northern Kosovska Mitrovica — had been entered onto the voters list.

“The rule of law has not been established in Kosovo and Metohija yet,” he said voicing concern about the human rights of minorities.  Three quarters of localities in which Serbs had lived before the war had been “ethnically cleansed”.  The number of returnees to those areas had also reduced in the current year.  Further, Serbia’s position regarding the non-acceptance of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence had not changed and Kosovo must desist from unilateral moves.

The Russian Federation’s representative also expressed concern about the plight of the Serb minority in Kosovo, stressing that without the return of people to their homes, there could be no national reconciliation process.  But Serbian refugees and those internally displaced had been impeded from returning by the Kosovo-Albanian authorities.  The electoral process in Kosovo had gone “far from smoothly”, he added.  The cases of violence and intimidation only highlighted how fragile and explosive the situation was.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Luxembourg, France, Pakistan, Australia, Morocco, Togo, United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Guatemala, Argentina, Azerbaijan and China.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:20 p.m.

Background

Before the Security Council today was the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2013/631), covering its activities and related developments between 16 July and 15 October 2013.

Briefing

FARID ZARIF, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that the implementation of the 19 April First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations between Pristina and Belgrade had passed an important milestone through the successful conduct of Kosovo-wide municipal elections on 3 November.  A significant number of Kosovo municipalities had recorded substantially higher turnout than was the case in the 2009 elections.

On election day, he noted that problems occurred in northern Mitrovica when masked persons forced their way into three major polling centres and destroyed or contaminated many boxes of cast ballots.  Taking into account the irreparably damaged integrity of those materials, a repeat vote at the three affected centres was ordered by the Central Election Commission and that revote took place three days ago, without any problems.  He said that the incident was deplorable.  It was isolated and did not reflect the overall positive conduct of the elections, which, he stressed, demonstrated the “growing maturity of Kosovo’s polity”.

He said went on to say that UNMIK was supporting the newly elected municipal authorities, especially in the north.  The formation of the future Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities, a key component of the 19 April Agreement, would require major efforts during the upcoming period.  “Enthusiasm over the considerable success achieved through local elections must be tempered,” he said.  That success marked an essential, but still preliminary, step of translating progress at the high political level into local confidence and ownership on the ground.  Partnerships and cooperation with newly elected municipal leaders, along with the provision of appropriate resources and support, were critical elements.

The aspiration of the people to fuller association with the institutions of Europe, he added, continued to be a crucial factor underpinning the current process of normalization agreed between the leaders of Pristina and Belgrade.  The European Union was poised, in one month’s time, to take important decisions regarding the further integration of States of the Western Balkans.  In late October, talks had commenced on a Stabilization and Association Agreement between the European Union and Kosovo, which when completed would mark the first contractual relationship established between those two parties.  Serbia was expecting detailed consideration of its accession negotiating framework at the forthcoming European Council meeting in December.

Those steps, he stressed, were much more than formalities.  Both Pristina and Belgrade had committed themselves to the institutional steps required for a closer future association to the European institutions.  The reforms demanded that a closer association must be carried out alongside the dialogue process.  In Kosovo, that meant significant reforms of public practices, not just in the rule of law but across all of Kosovo’s public services and institutions.

The Council continued to play a key role in supporting the process under way in Kosovo, he continued.  Besides the complex issues involved in direct implementation of the 19 April Agreement, attention must also be focused on economic and humanitarian issues.  It was incumbent upon political leaders in Pristina and Belgrade to engage one another and for international partners to ensure the adequate resources needed for the parties to persevere along the path they had chosen.

Statements

IVICA DAČIĆ, Prime Minister of Serbia, noting the “significant” political breakthroughs that had been made in the last year, said the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations had been reached, and must be followed by a consistent implementation of what had been agreed.  The Brussels Agreement had resulted from political dialogue that determined the framework for local elections and provided for a Community of Serb-majority Municipalities to be established in Kosovo and Metohija.  That Community would have an assembly, president and an executive organ.  Serbs from those areas had been called to delegate, at the local elections, their representatives to the Community.

However, despite the “precise” agreements made on the pre-election process in Brussels, Serbia had had to travel to the European Union headquarters to establish again the list of conditions that had been previously reached, he said.  Pristina had not fulfilled many of them, including for status-neutral election materials.  With no legal framework, and in order to influence election results, 6,000 Albanians — who had never lived in northern Kosovska Mitrovica — had been entered onto the voters list, while a significant number of Serbs in the northern part of that town had been placed onto the list for the southern part of the town.  Nevertheless, he was satisfied that more than 45,000 people had voted in the Serbian municipalities, even though Serbia’s highest-ranking officials had been banned from visiting Kosovo and Metohija.

Calling on Pristina and “international factors” to ensure the conditions for holding the second round of local elections in municipalities with Serb majorities, he said that Pristina had not taken necessary steps in key areas to implement the Brussels Agreement.  In regard to the draft text amending the “Law on Local Self-Government”, which would incorporate the Community into the legal framework of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, Pristina was interested only in regulating the procedure for abolishing the Community.  In addition, although the Law on Amnesty had been adopted, the “Constitutional Court of Kosovo” had assessed as unconstitutional some of its articles.

There had been more than 7,000 attacks recorded since the 1999 arrival of international civil and military personnel in Kosovo and Metohija, he said.  Three quarters of localities in which Serbs had lived before the war had been “ethnically cleansed”.  Citing data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), he said some 18,000 people, of a total 230,000, had returned to those areas since 1999.  The “drastic” decrease in the number of returnees in 2013, as compared to the previous two years, was of concern.

“The rule of law has not been established in Kosovo and Metohija yet,” he said, and human rights were not being protected, especially those of minorities.  His country was committed to constructive negotiations with Pristina at all levels and implementing agreements reached thus far.  He urged Pristina to desist from unilateral moves, reiterating that dialogue in Brussels had a status-neutral character.  Serbia’s position regarding the non-acceptance of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence had not changed.

HASHIM THAÇI of Kosovo said that 2013 was a historic year for his region, with the European Union’s acceptance of Croatia as the twenty-eighth member State and the first agreement reached for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.  That Agreement was “evidence of the transformative power” that the Union had on the countries that wished to integrate into it.

He went on to say that on 3 November, Kosovo had for the first time organized local elections for mayors and municipal assemblies throughout its territory with a turnout exceeding 50 per cent, despite isolated incidents organized by Serb extremist groups in three polling stations in northern Mitrovica.  The elections served as a direct test and also a result of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.  The elections were a prerequisite for the establishment of Kosovo Municipalities with a Serb majority as a result of the 19 April Agreement.  However, he stressed, the association would not have executive or legislative functions.

Furthermore, he said that the European Commission’s recent Kosovo Progress Report was positive and praised Kosovo’s relations with its neighbouring States.  The Report also noted that “Kosovo was moving towards establishing a functioning market economy”.  The institutions of Kosovo were committed to successfully concluding negotiations with the European Commission on the Stabilization and Association Agreement before spring of next year with the aim of opening the way to Kosovo’s accession process to the European Union.

He said that the number of international recognitions for Kosovo had increased to 104.  Kosovo would continue to perform its constitutional and legal obligations for strengthening the rule of law, especially in the north.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), observing that the 3 November municipal elections were the first to be held in Kosovo under Kosovo law, said that voter turnout in the north were key points in the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalizations of Relations.  She condemned the violence that had occurred at polling stations in northern Mitrovica, noting that a revote had just taken place.  As well, recently in Brussels, an important energy and telecoms agreement had been reached.  She called for the 19 April Agreement to be completed in the fields of customs, police and justice, notably the regulating modalities for Serbian police and judiciary personnel into Kosovo structures.  The normalization of relations must be followed by “energetic” reforms to guarantee the rule of law in Kosovo, with an important role to be played by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).  As well, the perpetrators of the September attack against a EULEX convoy must be brought to justice.  More than half of Member States recognized Kosovo’s independence and the time had come to take account of those new realities, including in the Security Council, and adapt the international presence on the ground.

ALEXIS LAMEK ( France) said the 19 April “historic compromise” had sparked much hope, while the May road map had allowed for more progress to be made between the two countries, as had been seen with the energy and telecoms agreement.  Laws for ratifying the 19 April Agreement had been adopted in early September by the Kosovo parliament, proof of parties’ commitment to implement the text.  The first round of municipal elections had been held in relatively satisfactory conditions.  The November revote in three polling stations in northern Mitrovica suggested that lessons had been learned from incidents that had previously taken place.  The attack on EULEX contrasted with the overall security situation in Kosovo, which remained relatively calm.  The decision to open European Union accession talks with Serbia and to negotiate the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo followed significant progress in normalizing relations.  Both parties must remain committed to improving those relations.

MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan) commended the efforts of the parties to achieve a negotiated peace.  However, the violence in the recent elections and the low voter turnout in the re-vote were matters of concern.  He called on those who had boycotted the elections to join the political process.  Nonetheless, he noted that despite challenges, the two sides had maintained the political momentum.  The continued engagement by the two Prime Ministers played a significant role in that, reaching key agreements on telecommunications and energy.  As well, the number of reported incidents against minority communities had declined.  Those were all encouraging signs and demonstrated that when the leadership was determined, even serious obstacles could be overcome.  As both Prime Ministers had indicated in their interventions today, there were many problems.  Still, they should continue to build mutual trust.  They had broken fresh diplomatic ground and must take the process to its logical conclusion.

VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he supported the efforts of Belgrade to reach a settlement through dialogue.  Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) remained fully in effect and continued to be the universally binding international basis for the Kosovo settlement.  UNMIK played a critical role especially in northern Kosovo, where the situation remained tense.  Therefore, the Mission needed relevant personnel and financial resources.

He noted that the electoral process had been far from smooth, with cases of violence and intimidation which highlighted how fragile and explosive the situation was.  The plight of the Serb minority in Kosovo continued to be disturbing.  An analysis of the situation showed that the Kosovo-Albanian authorities had effectively paralysed the return of Serbian refugees and internally displaced persons, violating their rights.  Without the return of people to their homes, there could be no national reconciliation process.

MICHAEL BLISS ( Australia) welcomed steps to implement the 19 April Agreement, attributing progress to the leadership of both Prime Ministers and the central role of the European Union in facilitating dialogue.  The key political development had been the holding of municipal elections, which Australia viewed as part of Kosovo’s commitment to a multi-ethnic society.  Condemning the attacks on the polling centres in northern Mitrovica, he urged that the perpetrators be prosecuted.  Despite that, he welcomed voter turnout and said that the elections were critical to the functioning of Kosovo’s governing institutions.  He urged that no effort be spared to ensure for voter participation in a second ballot on 1 December.

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) commended the commitment of Serbia and Kosovo in the dialogue process, saying that it had shown the value of direct communication in reducing tensions between States.  She congratulated Kosovo, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and others on the holding of municipal elections in Kosovo, which were orderly, transparent and credible in most areas.  All people in Kosovo should be able to vote for their representatives without fear and she condemned violence at polling stations in northern Kosovo.  She was encouraged by orderly voting in Mitrovica on 17 November, which showed Kosovo was capable of conducting future elections.

For its part, the United States supported a normalization of relations, she said, which was crucial for stability and reconciliation in the region.  Her Government looked to Kosovo and Serbia moving forward with the full implementation of the 19 April Agreement, as well as previous accords.  The United States viewed the elections and progress in dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina as positive steps towards both sides advancing towards European Union membership.  The United States was ready to support Kosovo’s effort to implement reforms to achieve Euro-Atlantic goals, including for the protection of minority rights and the development of a strong, market-based economy.

ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL ( Morocco) said that despite progress, the 19 April Agreement continued to come up against difficulties due to the scepticism of certain political factions leading to tension in the northern region and campaigns against the elections.  UNMIK, UNHCR and the European Union had made great efforts that contributed to keeping the security situation calm.  However, the September attack on EULEX had plunged the region into a climate of uncertainty and Morocco condemned the loss of human life.  Additional efforts were needed to establish a climate of trust.  Further, the protection of cultural heritage and the protection of religious shrines was a shared responsibility.

KOKOU NAYO MBEOU ( Togo) said that despite repeated obstacles, Kosovo and Serbia had continued to implement the Agreement to normalize relations between them.  Meetings organized under the European Union’s aegis had enabled that progress.  The parties had committed to lifting obstacles towards the elections and that had opened the way for a transparent and credible electoral process.  Togo condemned the attacks by certain Serb nationalists who tried to compromise the elections through violence.  Further, after three years of intense negotiations, agreements had been reached on various issues and Kosovo would be able to connect directly to the international phone network.  Such progress was possible due to the political courage of the leaderships of Kosovo and Serbia.

MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) welcomed the recent “largely successful” local elections, as well as efforts of both Serbia and Kosovo to encourage a large voter turnout.  Condemning the violence of extremists at three polling stations, he urged that the perpetrators be swiftly brought to justice.  He welcomed both Prime Ministers’ commitment to the municipal elections, which underlined the value of the dialogue they had established.  Ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections, Pristina should implement a wider reform of its electoral process.  Commending the progress made on energy and telecoms, he urged both sides to resolve outstanding issues.  The normalization of relations was integral to both countries’ European Union accession paths and both sides must work to better integrate Kosovo Serbs in the north.  He urged that the perpetrators of the September attack on EULEX be brought to justice.  As the Council’s debate on Kosovo had grown more positive, he wondered if it should reduce the frequency of its discussions on that matter.

JOON OH ( Republic of Korea) welcomed the significant progress in the implementation of the 19 April Agreement, attributing it to efforts by the Prime Ministers.  He called on Belgrade and Pristina to build on their hard-won achievements and scale-up efforts towards the normalization of relations.  The fact that municipal elections had been carried out in a largely successful manner showed the positive prospects for the consolidation of peace and security in Kosovo and the region.  However, elections in northern Kosovo — and the reholding of them — showed the challenges ahead.  The grievances of minority Serbs in that area had impeded durable peace and genuine reconciliation in the area, and he urged both sides to “win the hearts and minds of ethnic Serbs” and work together to address both economic and political concerns.  Finally, he voiced concern about the violence that had led to the death of a EULEX customs officer, stressing that the perpetrators must be held accountable.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA ( Rwanda) said that his delegation was pleased to hear that Serbia and Kosovo had continued to work together on implementing the 19 April Agreement and commended the role played by the parties in holding the historic elections of 3 November.  While the security situation remained calm, the incidents reported in ethnically mixed areas were a matter of concern.  Rwanda condemned the attack that had resulted in the death of an officer of EULEX.  He said that greater efforts were needed to find missing persons and to improve Kosovo’s judiciary.  On human rights, Kosovo was making tremendous efforts to protect the rights of minorities.  Kosovo must also work to create a conducive atmosphere for the safe return of refugees to their homes.  That was necessary for sustainable peace.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said that it was time to focus on the post-election period as the representatives who had been elected were to implement elements of the 19 April Agreement.  The Security Council must carefully follow the evolution of the electoral process.  In that new phase, UNMIK had a central role to play.  Guatemala welcomed the intensification of efforts by UNMIK in mediation and negotiation in northern Kosovo.  There was a wide range of activities in which UNMIK was using its resources to reduce the tension and, therefore, it must enjoy the full support of the international community.

MARIO OYARZÁBAL ( Argentina) said that his country had voted in favour of resolution 1244 (1999), which served as the legal basis for addressing the situation in Kosovo.  Expressing concern at the attacks and acts of intimidation in northern Kosovo on 3 November, he said UNMIK’s role was essential.  Serbia had shown its firm commitment to the 19 April Agreement and the European Union-facilitated dialogue.  Indeed, Serbia had persevered despite the challenges it had been presented and there had been “commendable” progress in erecting local structures.  He hoped the sides would continue to advance implementation of the Agreement, urging that they overcome the past in good faith.  The overall security situation had been calm, but there had been problems in northern Mitrovica that required action to prevent future tension.  He said that UNMIK played an essential role in supporting political processes, especially in protecting cultural heritage.  He urged for the full respect of human rights for those who had been displaced.

AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said his Government’s position on Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as on the non-recognition of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, remained unchanged.  Resolution 1244 (1999) served as the legal framework for settlement of the situation through political processes and negotiations.  UNMIK played an important role, working with communities and coordinating with international “presences” to enhance the success of the political dialogue.  It should also coordinate all international efforts in the status-neutral framework.  Welcoming the commitment of both parties to progress on the 19 April Agreement, he commended them for having met regularly.  The agreements reached in telecoms and energy, police and the judiciary offered a “starting point” for agreement in other areas.  He commended UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNMIK for facilitating the return of those internally displaced, noting the security situation should be a priority.

LIU JIEYI ( China), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, saying that his country respected Serbia’s territorial integrity and understood that country’s legitimate concerns.  The best approach was to find a mutually acceptable settlement through dialogue, based on the Charter and relevant Council resolutions.  Serbia was to be commended for its efforts to achieve a political solution.  He also welcomed the pragmatic dialogue pursued by both parties, leading to agreements in energy and telecoms.  Both parties must continue to effectively implement the already signed Agreement and work to maintain peace and stability in the Balkans.  He also expressed support for UNMIK’s efforts to discharge its mandate.

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