As Serbia and Kosovo's " Brussels agreement" entered its second year, both sides must embrace forward-looking approaches to tackling sensitive issues leading up to and beyond next month's elections, the United Nations top official told the Security Council today as the body considered the Secretary-General's latest report on recent developments.
Farid Zarif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), commended the continuing commitment by both sides to resolve differences stemming from the 1999 conflict through a European Union-led dialogue, albeit at a slow pace due in part to general elections in Serbia and the forthcoming legislative elections in Kosovo.
Despite a slower pace in implementing the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations of 19 April 2013, he said there had been some progress and once the Kosovo elections had taken place other areas of mutual interests would be tackled. Moving forward, it was essential for Belgrade and Pristina to stay on track in line with the April agreement, so that the population of Kosovo could fully benefit from building better lives.
The Secretary-General's report on the United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo (document S/2014/305), covering activities from 21 January to 15 April, stated that the remaining challenges to implementing certain provisions of the Agreement, in particular those relating to the establishment of the association/community of Serbian municipalities in Kosovo, should not overshadow the remarkable progress that has been achieved since the start of the dialogue between the prime ministers in October 2012.
“I encourage both sides to continue to make efforts towards the full and faithful implementation of the Agreement and to address the establishment of the above-mentioned association/community in a spirit of openness and goodwill,” the Secretary-General stated in the report. The agreement reached by the parties during the reporting period on remaining technical issues concerning the integration of Serbian parallel judicial institutions into the legal framework of Kosovo was welcomed, as were the steps taken towards the full establishment of the new municipal governments in northern Kosovo. “I commend leaders in the north, as well as in Belgrade and Pristina, for stepping up to face the delicate challenges that this has entailed.”
President Tomislav Nikolić of Serbia told Council members that disagreement over the status of Kosovo and Metohija should not prevent efforts to finding practical solutions to issues, and called for resisting attempts at marginalizing UNMIK or reducing the number of international personnel. The Security Council should also devote more meetings on Kosovo and Metohija, as the coming period was crucial for the implementation of arrangements made and for the further normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
"For historical reconciliation of the two nations and a comprehensive solution for the problem of Kosovo, it is necessary that both sides made compromises," he said, raising concerns that included Serb rights and the Kosovo Armed Forces. "Instead of living in the past and making mutual recriminations, it is time to reach a sustainable solution for the future of the two nations. Our hand is reached out to touch the other side."
Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo took note of President Nikolić's support of the dialogue process and highlighted progress on implementation of the Brussels agreements, which was, among other things, bringing much-needed rule of law to citizens. She hoped negotiations would gain momentum following the electoral processes in both countries. Kosovo was committed to the return of all refugees and displaced persons and to a comprehensive reform process that would enhance future prospects for European Union membership.
In addition, the creation of the Kosovo Armed Forces had sought support and participation of all ethnic communities and the new Special Court to address war crime allegations reflected Kosovo's commitment to justice for all. "The progress achieved thus far should and will be maintained as we stand determined to secure a prosperous future to the young generations," she said.
The Russian Federation's speaker said his Government's position on Kosovo remained unchanged in support of Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and that Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) was fully relevant and an obligation for all as the international legal framework for the resolution of the Kosovo situation. Calling on the Mission to fully implement its mandate, he condemned any attempts to undermine its role.
He noted that, while steps to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina through dialogue had been taken, there was a need to establish Serb municipalities in Kosovo in order to protect their interests and contribute to stability. There had been practically no progress made in the return of Serbian refugees, as they were afraid to return to Kosovo due to ethnically motivated attacks. The routine condemnations by Kosovo Albanian authorities were insufficient and all forms of ethnic and religious intolerance must be combated.
Many speakers also expressed condolences in the aftermath of severe flooding in Serbia.
Also delivering statements were representatives of France, Nigeria, Australia, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Argentina, Rwanda, Jordan, Chad, Chile, China, United States, Luxembourg and the Republic of Korea.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 5:47 p.m.
The Security Council met today to consider the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2014/305), covering activities from 21 January to 15 April.
FARID ZARIF, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), extended condolences to those in the region affected by severe flooding. Turning to recent developments, he noted there was a continuing commitment demonstrated by both sides to the European Union-led dialogue. New elections for the Kosovo Assembly would be held in two weeks, with the Union deploying an observation mission. Despite a lower pace of implementation of the 19 April 2013 agreement, there had been progress and once the Kosovo elections had taken place other areas of mutual interests would be tackled.
Highlighting a number of setbacks, he condemned a series of recent violent incidents in Kosovo, including an assault against the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) operations. Still, progress in the areas of missing persons and addressing the needs of survivors of sexual violence during the war was taking place.
Leading up to the elections, he strongly encouraged leaders in Kosovo and Belgrade to take a forward-looking approach in addressing sensitive issues. Earlier this month, Kosovo had concluded negotiations with the Union to further advance on its European Union agenda. It was essential for Belgrade and Pristina to stay on track with the 19 April 2013 agreement, so that the population of Kosovo could fully benefit from building a better life.
TOMISLAV NIKOLIĆ, President of Serbia, said his country did not recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and Metohija, but was engaged in negotiations with it and would continue to do so. He was convinced that the European Union would provide valuable assistance for confidence-building, particularly with regard to the Brussels negotiations. However, the Union must ensure that international law was respected. If a decision was brought to the effect that Kosovo and Metohija negotiated directly with the European Union independently, it would lead the European "family" to lawlessness and chaos.
While raising a number of concerns, including the prevention of return of Serb refugees and incidents of attacks on temples and churches, he appreciated the approach taken by the United Nations and Mr. Zarif to improve living conditions for inhabitants of Kosovo and Metohija. Disagreement over the status of Kosovo and Metohija should not prevent efforts to finding practical solutions to issues, and attempts at marginalizing UNMIK or reducing the number of international personnel should be resisted. The Security Councilshould devote more meetings on Metohija, as the coming period was crucial for the implementation of arrangements made and for the further normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. He also demanded that Pristina enabled Kosovo Serbs and other minorities to vote in the June elections. Other matters of concern included the property rights of Serbs, the Armed Forces of Kosovo, and reported kidnapping and organ harvesting that had taken place during and following the 1999 conflict.
"For historical reconciliation of the two nations and a comprehensive solution for the problem of Kosovo," he said, "it is necessary that both sides made compromises. We have done our bit and will continue the dialogue with the same intensity and maximum constructiveness. However, Pristina must be made aware that there can be no durable and comprehensive solution without an agreement with Serbia and the decision of the United Nations Security Council." Fifteen years after the end of the armed conflict in Kosovo and Metohija, he said "instead of living in the past and making mutual recriminations, it is time to reach a sustainable solution for the future of the two nations. Our hand is reached out to touch the other side. Our hand is extended for the sake of our and their children."
ATIFETE JAHJAGA of Kosovo highlighted recent efforts that had been made towards the goal of creating a multi-ethnic and multicultural State of equal citizens. Noting President Nikolić's support of the dialogue process, she said "while we have our differences over Kosovo, it is important that we have recognized the reality of Kosovo's independence and its irreversibility".
She noted that some of the Brussels agreements were now facilitating the full integration of the Serbian community in Kosovo, bringing rule of law to citizens. Other efforts had boosted the European perspectives for Kosovo and Serbia based on cooperation and good neighbourly relations while setting them on distinctive paths to the European Union, she said, encouraging the remaining five Union members and United Nations Member States to recognize Kosovo's independence.
Reporting considerable progress in implementing the Brussels agreements, she hoped negotiations would gain momentum following the completion of the electoral processes in both countries. Kosovo had remained committed to the return of all refugees and displaced persons, and to a comprehensive reform process that would enhance future prospects for European Union membership. The creation of the Kosovo Armed Forces had sought support, and participation of all ethnic communities and the new Special Court to address war crime allegations reflected Kosovo's commitment to justice for all. "The progress achieved thus far should and will be maintained as we stand determined to secure a prosperous future to the young generations," she said.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) called on the Mission to fully implement its mandate, condemning any attempts to undermine its role. He noted steps to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina through dialogue at the highest level, agreeing on the need to establish Serb municipalities in Kosovo in order to protect their interests and contribute to stability. Yet, practically no progress had been made in the return of Serbian refugees, as people were afraid to return to Kosovo due to ethnically motivated attacks, which included the looting and usurping of Serb property. The routine condemnations by Kosovo Albanian authorities were insufficient and all forms of ethnic and religious intolerance must be combated.
Calling the creation of a Kosovo armed force "counterproductive", he said the Secretary-General's report had given only a vague assessment of moves by Pristina. EULEX should be guided by its mandate and act in a neutral manner. Further, the report by European Union auditors on the effectiveness of the rule of law by Pristina was insufficient and the Council's authority could not be delegated to Pristina structures. Reports of participation by Kosovo Albanians in the Syrian conflict were worrisome and such activities must end. The Russian Federation's position on Kosovo remained unchanged, in support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia. Resolution 1244 (1999) was fully relevant and an obligation for all as the international legal framework for the resolution of the Kosovo situation.
ALEXIS LAMEK ( France) said it was essential that the spirit of cooperation around the 19 April Normalization Agreement prevail, urging that dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade remain regular and intense. Serb parallel structures should be dismantled, he said, supporting the development of a community of Serbian municipalities endowed with real authority. The Kosovo Parliament's decision to ratify the exchange of letters between the European Union High Representative and Kosovo had shown political maturity. In general, the situation in Kosovo was calm. France supported the development of a sovereign Kosovo living in peace with its neighbours. It was important to ensure the rights of all communities, especially those relating to Kosovo's cultural and religious heritage. He also encouraged the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
KAYODE LARO ( Nigeria) said cooperation among UNMIK, EULEX, Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had contributed to peace and stability in Kosovo, while the integration of former Serbian police into the Kosovo police and dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina had shown the commitment of both sides. Representatives of Kosovo Serb and other communities had expressed concern that the draft law on general elections had set new criteria, which they believed would affect their ability to vote. That law should take into account the concerns of Serbs and other minority groups in Kosovo. It was "significant" that neither the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nor KFOR had been involved in drafting the recommendation in the security sector review for Kosovo's security force to be transformed into their armed forces. The situation in northern Kosovo was a cause for concern, he said, citing restrictions on visits by Serbian officials and attacks on Kosovo police.
PHILIPPA KING ( Australia) noted the "remarkable" progress that had been made by both sides in normalizing relations and in the implementation of 19 April 2013 agreement. The 284 former Serb police officers serving with the Kosovo police had enhanced trust and served as an important confidence-building measure. The Kosovo Assembly's decision to establish a special court to adjudicate allegations arising from the Special Investigative Task Force was commendable. She recognized Kosovo's right to develop its security forces, recommending that all efforts be made to ensure they were developed in full transparency with key regional neighbours. The Council could decrease the frequency of its debates on Kosovo, and Kosovo's new strategy for returnees and encouraging all authorities to fully implement it was welcomed.
MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) welcomed Kosovo’s progress, notably the conduct of local elections in Mitrovica north, and the ratification of the letter exchange to extend the EULEX mandate. The Kosovo Parliament's decision to create a court that would hear cases of the Special Investigative Task Force showed its willingness to confront difficult rule of law issues. Urging Belgrade and Pristina to sustain progress in normalizing relations, he hoped the next meeting would soon take place and that both sides would continue towards implementation of the 19 April Agreement. Both sides also must ensure maximum participation in Kosovo's national elections. Also, while resolution 1244 (1999) referred to armed Kosovo Albanian groups, the Kosovo Security Forces could not be classified as such. The Council could consider reducing the frequency with which it considered debates on Kosovo.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ ( Lithuania) noted Kosovo's constructive approach in negotiations for a Stabilization and Association Agreement, which were completed on 6 May. Belgrade and Pristina had maintained engagement in the European Union-facilitated dialogue, despite that the pace had slowed, due to the electoral cycles in Serbia and Kosovo. She hoped that after results of the June parliamentary elections in Kosovo, steps towards the normalization of relations with Serbia would continue. Kosovo should build on the success of last year’s local elections, which were a “big step forward” from those of 2010, when irregularities had affected trust in Kosovo’s democratic process. She noted that it was in Kosovo’s interest to develop its capabilities to ensure the rule of law, and that it should ensure due process of war crimes investigations and bring perpetrators to justice.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) said the United Nations Mission was providing support, stability and the protection of human rights. Belgrade and Pristina should be supported in their efforts to establish governments in the north of Kosovo. Despite a largely stable situation in Kosovo, acts of vandalism and violence had been reported and authorities must ensure those acts were not repeated. Commitment to dialogue by both parties was welcomed and efforts should be continued to establish a community of Serb municipalities. Authorities should step-up actions against all forms of discrimination and address areas of concern, including the return of internally displaced persons.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) said he hoped the EULEX strategy would continue to enhance stability in communities. He applauded confidence-building efforts in the judicial sector, but remained concerned about the lack of progress with regard to returnees. The role of authorities in ensuring stability and peace was key, and attacks, violent protests and crimes must be investigated by authorities. With regard to the April 2013 agreement, both sides had made strong commitments and should continue down that road.
ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said that the progress made and calm security situation prompted optimism at a time when the Security Council agenda was crowded with complex disputes. He commended the leaders of Kosovo and called on all countries to support both sides. The European Union still had a pivotal role in advancing progress in the dialogue and he hoped the aspirations of both parties for European Union integration would strengthen and promote regional security and stability. All issues that had emanated from the past conflict must continue to be addressed, including those related to displaced persons, returnees and missing persons.
MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF ( Chad), noting progress had been made on implementing the 2013 agreement, welcomed the integration of Serbian officers into the police force, as well as initiatives to establish the assembly of municipalities in the north. It was important that authorities ensure the inclusion all populations in the upcoming voting process in Kosovo as mutual trust was a yardstick of the success in the ongoing talks. Turning to the justice sector, he congratulated EULEX on its efforts and welcomed the decision to renew the Mission's mandate. The strengthening of rule of law throughout Kosovo and the creation of a Special Court to examine war crimes were welcomed.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET ( Chile) welcomed the agreement reached on outstanding technical issues vis-à-vis parallel Serbian judicial bodies within the Kosovo legal framework. He commended Serbia for starting European Union accession talks, stressing the role of regional organizations regarding peacebuilding and the rule of law. The situation of displaced persons was a cause for concern and it was important that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees helps in that regard. While local authorities had shown tolerance in allowing returns, efforts needed to be redoubled to avoid discrimination. He cited the central role played by UNMIK in the area of human rights, saying that only with respect for fund human rights could there be aspirations towards reconciliation. Reconciliation must be based on justice and more work must be done to identify those displaced.
WANG MIN ( China) respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, noting that the best solution could be found in regional agreements that were acceptable to all parties and in line with relevant Council resolutions. The overall situation in Kosovo was calm, with the two parties continuing dialogue. While there had been some positive results, more remained to be done towards resolving the internally displaced person issue, among others, so that all sides could benefit from peace and development. Indeed, a proper solution to the Kosovo issue had a bearing on peace in the Balkans and in Europe. In that context, he encouraged UNMIK to implement its mandate, expressing hope that it would strengthen its coordination and cooperation with EULEX and KFOR towards the peace and stability of Kosovo.
ROSEMARY DI CARLO ( United States) commended both Pristina and Belgrade for their continued dedication to dialogue. Municipal elections in 2013 had shown Kosovo's capacity to meet international electoral standards and it would be important to do the same during the next election period, as open and fair political processes would help Kosovo cement its place in Europe. Commending the exchange of letters on the EULEX mandate extension, she looked forward to prompt consideration of legislation related to trials stemming from the work of the Task Force. The plan to develop a limited self-defence capacity for Kosovo had been built on the existing multi-ethnic force. The United States had engaged Serbia on that issue, while Kosovo had briefed its regional partners and others. With the involvement of NATO, “we can build trust between the two sides”, she said, welcoming assurances by Kosovo to NATO that such a force would undertake no mission in the north without prior the agreement of KFOR.
SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg) said discussions on the organization of judicial entities in the north had made progress and she hoped they would be concluded soon. Citing gains, she said the selection of a mayor in Mitrovica north had taken place "without incident" and she welcomed the launch of a European Union election observation mission, saying the quality of Kosovo's electoral process would be important in assessing the country’s maturity. She encouraged all Serbs to make use of their democratic rights. Once a new Government was in place, the process of normalizing relations could begin again. The Kosovo Parliament had approved the letter exchange on extending the EULEX mandate, she said, citing significant progress since its deployment in 2008. She welcomed the work of the Special Investigative Task Force and view to establishing a special tribunal in that connection. She also recognized Kosovo's efforts to promote reintegration of displaced persons.
OH JOON ( Republic of Korea) said his Government looked to Serbia and Kosovo to continue to engage in the European Union-facilitated dialogue, with a view to resolving the issues soon, including vis-à-vis the Association of Serbian Municipalities. He voiced concern about recent attacks on Kosovo police and EULEX personnel, as well as protests against law enforcement activities, which showed the need to strengthen the credibility of the justice system. He encouraged leaders in the north, as well as in Belgrade and Pristina, to cooperate with EULEX. He encouraged Kosovo authorities to protect minorities, including as regards the safe and voluntary return of displaced persons. In sum, he commended UNMIK, EULEX and other partners for their roles in helping to ensure peace and stability of Kosovo.
Mr. NIKOLIĆ, taking the floor a second time, said he did not agree with some of the statements made today, asking Governments to consider what they would do if such events had unfolded in their countries. "I wish that this never happens in your country," he said, thanking members for their comments about those who had suffered in the recent flooding.
Ms. JAHJAGA strongly condemned recent incidents at Serbian Orthodox property, notably graffiti at a specific monastery, saying that Kosovo had a long tradition of inter-religious tolerance and preservation of common heritage. “These acts go against the spirit of what we are trying to build in Kosovo,” she insisted, saying her Government had acted swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice. In the case of the monastery, police had opened a case on that matter. No church would be destroyed in Kosovo.
Concerning Syria, she said the problem of foreign fighters who had joined that war had been a challenge for all countries, including Kosovo, which was effectively confronting the issue through legal and security measures, as well as public outreach. The Government had approved a law that would punish with 15 years in jail anyone who had joined that fight, as well as revoke citizenship. Kosovo would not be a safe haven or transit route for those fringe elements.