New York

20 June 2008

Secretary-General's opening statement to the Security Council Debate on Kosovo

Thank you, Mr. President, Distinguished members of the Council.

Let me start by thanking you for this opportunity to present the Security Council with my assessment of the situation in Kosovo and my idea for the way forward for UNMIK as the international civil presence in Kosovo. Before doing so, I would like to welcome the presence here today of His Excellency, Mr. Boris Tadic of Serbia, and of His Excellency, Mr. Fatmir Sejdiu of Kosovo.

The challenge facing us is an enormous one. In almost 40 years of my diplomatic life, I have never encountered an issue as divisive, as delicate and as intractable as the Kosovo issue. Legally, politically, morally, it is a landscape of enormous complexity and sensitivity that required the exercise of extraordinary objectivity and balance. The declaration of independence in February; the violence at the customs posts and in Mitrovica; the elections organized by the Serbs; the promulgation in Pristina of a new constitution: all of these recent developments - and many before them - have been fiercely contested by the communities and their supporters abroad, and have profoundly changed the environment in which we are operating.

In coming before you today, to listen and to seek the Council's guidance, 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. To many, it may not be fully satisfying, because it does not completely meet the aspirations of any of the key stake-holders. 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. I have 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.

If there is any wisdom in this package, I should also thank you. I have greatly benefited from my wide-ranging consultations with you and with your ministers in the development of this package. Indeed, I held consultations with every member of this Council as well as with the parties and other stakeholders, including the distinguished leaders present here today. I appreciate their flexibility and admire their leadership. I have drawn richly on their ideas. My Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations has also benefited from consultations in both Pristina and Belgrade. This has been further enriched by the daily contacts of my representatives on the ground, and by the work of the men and women of UNMIK.

The report which you have before you (S/2008/354) sets out the key recent developments in relation to Kosovo. As you are aware, following the declaration of independence by Kosovo's representatives on 17 February of this year, some Member States have recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state, while others have not. The differences within the international community have added to the complexity of this issue. I have taken note of the position of the Republic of Serbia as conveyed to me by President Tadic.

Mindful of the divisions in the international community, the United Nations has taken a position of strict neutrality on the question of Kosovo's status. UNMIK operates within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), which is the legal framework for its mandate, and which remains in force until the Security Council decides otherwise. As I have indicated to the Council on prior occasions, UNMIK has continued to operate and implement its mandate in light of the evolving circumstances, however difficult this might be. This is the foundation of my package.

Following the declaration of independence by Kosovo, UNMIK's ability to operate as before has come into serious question. The constitution promulgated by the Kosovo authorities came into effect on 15 June. This constitution envisages no real role for UNMIK. The powers residing with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General are sought to be assumed by the new authorities. On the other side of the ledger, the Kosovo Serb community has overwhelmingly rejected this new constitution, and the new laws that are emerging from Pristina. They have expanded their boycott of Pristina institutions. And, while they have agreed to continue to apply UNMIK laws, they have 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. 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 notes that I intend to adjust operational aspects of the international civil presence in Kosovo and to reconfigure the profile and structure of UNMIK. I will not repeat the details of the package here –it is more important for me to hear your reactions. I will just note that a reconfigured and restructured UNMIK will continue to carry out a number of functions. These will include, significantly, functions related to the dialogue on the implementation of provisions in six areas contained in my letter to President Tadic –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 stake-holders - is of crucial importance for all of Kosovo's communities. I look to the Security Council, and to the broader international community, to support my Special Representative's efforts in bringing forward this dialogue.

As the Security Council is aware, the European Union has expressed its readiness to perform an enhanced operational role in Kosovo in the area of rule of law, and has put in place measures to do so. I believe that this enhanced role would be in the interest of the United Nations and of the international community as a whole. I also note the aspiration of people of all communities in the region to live in closer association with the European family of nations. As I have set out in my Report, the European Union will 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 Security Council resolution 1244, and under an 'umbrella' headed by my Special Representative.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

Nine years since the inception of UNMIK, the situation in Kosovo has evolved profoundly. Under United Nations interim administration, Kosovo has 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. We have to evolve our presence, to ensure that earlier achievements are safeguarded and built upon.

The task will be a difficult one. To lead this new phase of the mission, I intend to appoint Mr. Lamberto Zannier of Italy to be my Special Representative. 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.

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). 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.

Taking this opportunity, I once again express my profound appreciation to the members of the Council and the leaders of the concerned parties for their valuable support and understanding in the broader interest of peace and security in the region.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.