As Serbia and Kosovo strove to overcome the legacy of hostility and conflict by working together on subjects of common concern, they should avoid procrastination on implementing the remaining steps of the April 2013 agreement or allowing older issues to shackle opportunities to open new ground, the top United Nations official there told the Security Council today.
During his quarterly briefing to the 15-member body, Farid Zarif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) described the two meetings between the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo in the framework of the Brussels dialogue as “important milestones”.
It was encouraging that recruitment of judges and prosecutors had begun with a number of applications for those positions, in a process that required continued flexibility and goodwill, Mr. Zarif said. However, the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities, a core provision of the April 2013 agreement, remained unresolved. “Steady leadership is required from both Pristina and Belgrade in order to enable progress.”
While fully acknowledging the complexity of issues and time required to establish the functional Community/Association, it would be vital to demonstrate goodwill in order to maintain the political momentum through the international community’s firm support, he said. There should be no undue delays in the steps required from Kosovo towards the establishment of the special court in order to try cases arising from the findings of the European Union Special Investigative Task Force. Swift progress on the issue of 1,653 missing persons also was essential to healing the wounds of conflict and alleviate the grief of the families the victims.
Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said endeavours under resolution 1244 (1999) would make it possible to achieve a sustainable political solution to the question of Kosovo and Metohija. In that context, Serbia was making every effort to build a stable and prosperous western Balkans. While there was reason for optimism, the recent terrorist attacks in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were clear demonstrations of the fragility of the region’s stability.
All of that, he said, bore out the assertions that he had consistently made in the Council, namely, that the undiminished presence of UNMIK was of paramount importance for “creating conditions conducive to a lasting and sustainable solution of the question”. The Secretary-General’s report noted the cooperation of Serbia in the effort to achieve normalcy in the region, as well as its European integration, he recalled, adding: “There is no doubt that the participation of the Serbs in the political life in Kosovo and Metohija is a contribution to that end.”
Going forward in the dialogue, he said the key questions for his country remained the return of internally displaced persons and property issues, including the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church. He emphasized Serbia’s constructive stance towards Pristina’s participation in international forums without changing its views on Kosovo’s status.
Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo, describing UNMIK as one of the Organization’s most successful missions, said the broad-based Government had made an encouraging start towards social and economic development. After last year’s political crisis, there was an outflow of Kosovars to other European nations, he said, adding that unscrupulous activities by sections of the Serbian Government had encouraged that movement. Efforts to stem the flow were continuing and were beginning to show results. High-level dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia on reforming judicial institutions also had been gathering pace, he said, stressing the need to end the “propaganda”.
He said that greater engagement between Kosovo and Serbia at all levels on the basis of good-neighbourliness would provide the impetus for both to eventually join the European Union in the quest for shared prosperity. Accusations of “Greater Albania” were baseless and discussed more in Belgrade than in Pristina. Those against Kosovo’s membership in the Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were spreading such fears. Kosovo had adopted a law prohibiting its people from participating in foreign wars and it had made specific proposals on ways of weakening violent extremist groups. It had ensured constitutional protections for minority and marginalized groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Commending the ongoing political process, Council members urged both sides to consolidate gains by implementing all agreements, with the representative of China stressing the need to work within the framework of the United Nations Charter and Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) to resolve all questions about Kosovo.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that the Kosovo problem still had a destabilizing impact on the region. The fact that radical Kosovar Albanians had been connected to the attacks in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia showed how UNMIK’s presence was still needed and that disbandment of Albanian armed groups must still be addressed.
The delegate of the United States, looking forward to further negotiations in specific priority areas, urged Kosovo to take seriously all allegations of crimes committed during the war, by promptly setting up special courts. In order to make better use of the Council’s time and resources, he agreed that the reporting period on Kosovo should be extended, a call echoed by several speakers.
New Zealand’s representative said the Council’s consideration of UNMIK was not calibrated appropriately. He stressed the need for more flexibility in how the body organized itself to monitor the situation so as to adjust its activity in a way that reflected developments on the ground.
Also making statements today were the representatives of Chad, Nigeria, Jordan, Angola, Chile, Venezuela, Spain, Malaysia, United Kingdom, France and Lithuania.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:23 p.m.
IVICA DAČIĆ, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that he continued to believe that endeavours under resolution 1244 (1999) would make it possible to achieve a sustainable political solution for the question of Kosovo and Metohija. In that context, his country was making every effort to build a stable and prosperous western Balkans. He affirmed that much progress had been achieved and that there was reason for optimism. However, he added, the recent terrorist attacks in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia were clear demonstrations of the fragility of the region’s stability.
All of this, he said, bore out the assertions that he had consistently made in the Council that the undiminished presence of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was of paramount importance for “creating conditions conducive to a lasting and sustainable solution of the question”, given the Interim Administration’s status-neutral engagement aimed at a peaceful life for all residents, regardless of community, and in respect of their human rights. He also expressed appreciation for the presence of the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Mission in Kosovo (OMIK), as well as the specialized agencies of the United Nations.
Reaffirming commitment to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he said that the essence of the normalization process was finding mutually acceptable answers to questions that burdened the lives of the people concerned and prevented their realization of their basic rights. That could only be achieved through dialogue and readiness to compromise. The Secretary-General’s report notes the cooperation of Serbia in the effort to achieve a normal life in the region, as well as its European integration. “There is no doubt that the participation of the Serbs in the political life in Kosovo and Metohija is a contribution to that end,” he added.
Going forward in the dialogue, he said, the key questions for his country remained the return of internally displaced persons, the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church and other property issues. Emphasizing what he called Serbia’s constructive stance towards Pristina’s participation in international forums, he said his country had not changed its views on Kosovo’s status. However, without discussion, such participation must not exceed what had already been agreed.
Outlining conditions needed to enable the return of displaced persons, he said physical insecurity remained a major concern, citing widespread attacks against the minority community. He also described widespread attacks on Orthodox churches and obstruction of access to them, as well as other efforts to alter facts to eliminate the history of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. As the need for greater security has assumed added dimensions, given global recruitment and financing of terrorism, he pledged Serbia’s resolute commitment to counter-terrorism and said he expected the international missions in Kosovo and Metohija and the local authorities to make their appropriate contributions.
Other issues must be addressed, he said, including actions of the Kosovo Privatization Agency, which he said were contrary to human rights conventions. All such activities must be returned to the proper legal framework, particularly in light of the ethnic element. In addition, he underlined the importance of the continued monitoring of the judiciary and other sectors under Pristina’s authority and their readiness to assume the executive powers now exercised by EULEX. The current situation bore out the assessment that the conditions for such transfers of competencies had not been fulfilled, he maintained.
Finally, he stressed that reconciliation, for which Serbia was working to resolve the missing persons issue, could not be completed without prosecuting former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army responsible for the persecution of Serbs, Roma and other non-Albanians, as well as against political opponents of varied nationalities. It was also important to try cases arising from findings of the European investigation of trafficking in human organs. European standards must be employed for all such efforts, he added, stressing that European integration was the “principal driving force behind the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina”.
HASHIM THAÇI of Kosovo, describing UNMIK as one of the Organization’s most successful missions, said the broad-based Government had made an encouraging start towards social and economic development. Bold economic policies had drawn growing investments in Kosovo, as the Government engaged with international financial institutions on ways to boost development. The focus must be on job creation.
After last year’s political crisis, there was an outflow of Kosovars to other European nations, he said, adding that unscrupulous activities by sections of the Serbian Government had encouraged that movement. Efforts to stem the flow were continuing and, recently, were bearing results. High-level dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia on reforming judicial institutions had been gathering pace, he said, stressing the need to end the “propaganda”.
Greater engagement between Kosovo and Serbia at all levels on the basis of good neighbourliness would provide the impetus for both to eventually join the European Union in the quest for shared prosperity. The Government of Kosovo condemned the violence used in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, he said, calling for solutions based on dialogue. Accusations of “Greater Albania” were baseless and were talked about more in Belgrade than in Pristina. Those against Kosovo’s membership in the Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were spreading such fears.
Kosovo had adopted a law prohibiting its people from participating in foreign wars and had made specific proposals on ways of weakening violent extremist groups. It had ensured constitutional protections for minority and marginalized groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Kosovo was dedicated to investigating abuses committed during the war and to punishing those convicted. However, any attempt to use institutions to rewrite history would not be tolerated by Kosovars. It was indisputable that the Serbian Government had been the principal cause of the war in Kosovo, whose independence was an unalterable reality; it had joined the Francophone countries and the International Olympic Community, and was engaged in the process of reconciliation, integration and stability, by learning from the lessons of the past.
BANTE MANGARAL (Chad) commended political progress in Kosovo and the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, as well as greater contacts between both authorities. However, he expressed concern over demonstrations and accompanying developments. Welcoming Kosovo’s law against joining foreign armed groups and the publication of the book memorializing those lost during the conflict of the 1990s, he said further normalization required providing assurances to minorities on all rights-based concerns. He commended OSCE efforts to resolve property disputes, as well as all the efforts of UNMIK, KFOR and EULEX.
KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) encouraged both sides to consolidate gains made in their dialogue by implementing all agreements, and encouraged the Kosovo authorities to quickly operationalize the law against joining foreign armed groups. It was important that the property rights of Kosovo Serbs be respected in order to encourage returns and consolidate respect for law and human rights. He expressed full support for UNMIK’s work.
LIU JIEYI (China) stressed his country’s respect for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and said it was necessary to work within the framework of the United Nations Charter and Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) to resolve all questions about Kosovo. He commended Serbia for actively trying to find a political solution, and welcomed the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Implementing agreements, protecting the rights of all people and avoiding counter-productive words and actions were critical. He supported UNMIK’s continued efforts to carry out the Council’s mandate, along with efforts by KFOR and EULEX.
EIHAB OMAISH (Jordan) commended ongoing efforts of Kosovo’s authorities to deal with the numerous challenges facing it, including those in development and reform, as well as for adopting the law against joining foreign armed groups. More participation of all communities in Kosovo must be further promoted and more work on the economy was needed. Equal rights for all citizens must be guaranteed. He supported efforts in line with international law by Kosovo authorities, cooperation with EULEX and the establishment of a special court to try cases resulting from the European investigation. He called for a reform programme that prioritized peaceful community relations and he urged further progress on neighbourly relations in the region to boost stability and prosperity. He finally urged that Kosovo be integrated into all international forums as long as it met the respective requirements, and he supported consideration of a longer time period between Council meetings on the UNMIK report.
JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) reiterated that resolution 1244 (1999) remained the applicable legal framework for reaching a durable solution in Kosovo. It was encouraging that the overall situation remained stable and generally calm, he said, underlining the fundamental role played by the United Nations. Welcoming the resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, he urged the parties to move forward towards implementing the outstanding elements of the 2013 agreement. The Government’s new ambitious agenda focused on sustainable social and economic development and rule of law, among other things, and also set out important measures for performance. The prohibition on Kosovars from fighting foreign wars was an important step towards combating violent extremism. He urged all actors in Kosovo to desist from using violence as a tool to further political aims. Greater efforts should be made towards fostering genuine reconciliation. He reiterated calls made during previous sessions that public meetings of the Council on Kosovo should be held every six months in order to make best use of time and resources.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) welcomed the resumption of high-level dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and encouraged the European Union to pursue its role at mediator. He urged Kosovo authorities to scale up efforts to prevent outward migration and to promote inter-ethnic harmony and reconciliation. Continuing impediments in assuring property rights of Kosovar Serbs were a source of concern. Justice was important to building peace and national reconciliation.
DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) expressed happiness at the progress made in Kosovo-Serbian dialogue and looked forward to further negotiations in specific areas of priority. Kosovo must take seriously all allegations of crimes committed during the war, by promptly setting up special courts. He urged the Government to grasp the momentum of recent months to make further progress in areas necessary to achieving durable peace and security. He lauded both Kosovo and Serbia in the anti-ISIS/ISIL coalition and called for greater support for Kosovo’s membership in the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). The Kosovo Government had provided a measured response to recent events in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In order to make better use of the Council’s time and resources, he agreed that the reporting period on Kosovo should be extended.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said resolution 1244 (1999) provided the legal foundation for the settlement of the Kosovo issue. Both sides should deepen their engagement towards achieving lasting peace and security. Lauding the role played by UNMIK, as well as by European and other organizations, he said their actions should conform to their respective mandates. The human rights of those displaced must be fully respected and the situation of those who had disappeared during the war must be clarified. Expressing concern at recent attacks on heritage sites, he urged both parties to work together to prevent further actions that would undermine reconciliation.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) welcomed recent developments in Kosovo, but said that progress was too slow in creating conditions for the return of displaced persons, as well as in other areas. Much remained to be done on reconciliation between communities. In that light, he commended UNMIK on its role and stressed the importance of implementing all agreements. Growing contacts between Belgrade and Pristina were welcome, and for that reason, the quarterly meetings of the Council should be maintained. He called for quick steps to be made to establish a special court and added that the dialogue process should prioritize agreements that would have a positive impact on the lives of the peoples concerned.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) welcomed the formation of a new government in Kosovo and resumption of the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue. He looked for further dialogue and implementation of all agreed principals. He supported the continued work of UNMIK and EULEX, as well as efforts to establish a court to try war crimes cases resulting from the violence in the 1990s. He stressed the need for socioeconomic reforms. Condemning incitement of hatred, he urged all parties to intensify their efforts for reconciliation, human rights and rule of law.
ALEXANDRA DAVISON (United Kingdom) welcoming progress in many areas, said that delay of a vote on a court dealing with war crimes was, however, of great concern, and she urged that to happen as soon as possible. The parties must also press ahead with the reform programme. She commended the Kosovo police on their response to protests and the approach of the Government in promoting calm following other incidents. Urgent progress was needed in the rule of law and laying down conditions for economic development, particularly given the migration of people out of Kosovo. Strongly supporting both Serbia’s and Kosovo’s European aspirations and the progress in the realities on the ground in Kosovo, she said fewer Council meetings on the topic should be considered, with a greater focus on the dialogue taking place in Brussels.
VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that the Kosovo problem still had a destabilizing impact on the region. The fact that radical Kosovar Albanians had been connected to the attacks in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia showed how UNMIK’s presence was still needed and that disbandment of Albanian armed groups must still be addressed. Gaps in the rule of law had resulted from avoiding those crucial issues. Lack of progress on the association of municipalities and on the establishment of special courts was also worrying. The perpetrators of crimes must be brought to justice irrespective of their status, and the participation of Kosovo citizens in foreign conflicts should be one of UNMIK’s concerns, he said, underlining his country’s unchanged position on status issues and on the continued relevance of resolution 1244 (1999) and, hence, on the continued importance of the Council to remain seized of the matter.
GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) strongly encouraged dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as the European Union’s support for the process. Long-term reconciliation required due attention to the past to prevent it from blocking future progress. He encouraged continued attention to the question of missing persons and greater efforts in addressing property issues and other matters that affected the return of displaced persons. Regional partnerships, engagement of community leaders, and economic reforms to improve conditions for all residents of Kosovo would be important in countering the issue of foreign fighters. The Council’s consideration of UNMIK was not calibrated appropriately, he said, stressing the need for more flexibility in how the body organized itself to monitor the situation so as to adjust its activity in a way that reflected developments on the ground.
PHILIPPE BERTOUX (France) recalled that four months ago there were fears that nationalist and ethnic rhetoric would overtake Kosovo and unravel the gains made in the preceding years. In recent weeks, Pristina had made progress towards creating a favourable environment through dialogue with Belgrade. The agreement on the judiciary was a new step towards dismantling parallel structures and recent progress should not lead either side to cease their efforts. In particular, Serb Kosovars must feel that they were not foreigners. True reconciliation depended on prompt and effective investigation of past abuses. Full implementation of agreements would open the door to both countries to join the European Union in a spirit of shared partnership.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania), noting what she called positive developments taking place on the ground in Kosovo and the region, encouraged the Kosovo authorities to stay focused on outstanding issues. She stressed the importance of implementing existing agreements, rebuilding economic links and bringing about inter-community reconciliation. She encouraged both parties to further engage in constructive dialogue concentrating on the priority areas set at the last high-level meeting in Brussels on 21 April. Affirming Europe’s commitment to supporting Kosovo in pursuing reform and European integration goals, she stressed the importance of establishing respect for rule of law through, among other measures, establishing a special court to address allegations raised in the Marty report of 2010. She welcomed commitment to reform on the part of Kosovo authorities, praised Kosovo’s efforts to be a good regional neighbour, as well as its adoption of a law against joining armed conflicts abroad. She concluding by suggesting that debating the UNMIK report twice a year, instead of quarterly, would be a step forward on recognition of the normalization of the situation between Belgrade and Pristina and the growing stability in the region.