14 May 2012
Mr. President, Excellencies,
During the last briefing to the Council in February, Assistant Secretary-General Edmond Mulet urged the Council to see the year of 2012 as a year for fresh re-examination of the international effort in Kosovo. He suggested that this year would offer both opportunities and risks to the goals of peaceful resolution and longer term stability in Kosovo and in the region. This has been borne out by the developments during the first quarter of this year, and is well documented in the report that you can find before yourself.
Some of the developments during this reporting period give reason for cautious optimism and satisfaction. Others are stark reminders of the persistent fragility and instability that remain far too close to the surface, some thirteen years after the adoption of resolution 1244 (1999).
I believe the stage is now set for more decisive efforts from the international community to tackle fundamental issues, before the end of this year. Accordingly, alongside the Secretary-General’s report today, I wish to implore the members of this Council to consider anew the possibilities for greater political consensus and harmony of efforts in the application of resources.
As matters stand today, “business as usual” is not only proving inadequate to guarantee stability, but it is also expensive, and often inexcusably inefficient in achieving progress toward a more durable peace in the region.
Before briefly highlighting Mr. President, a few key trends during the latest reporting period, I want first to acknowledge an important development which took place only eight days ago in Serbia and in Kosovo:
Voting for the Serbian general and presidential elections was facilitated safely and calmly in Kosovo on 6 May. Even though political agreement from the parties came very late, a highly professional facilitation operation was organised and carried through by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in line with the provisions of Security Council Resolution 1244. This OSCE engagement with Serbia was instrumental in diminishing tensions related to controversies with Serbia, the controversies about voting in Kosovo for the Serbian elections. The OSCE’s exemplary performance was greatly assisted by contributions of KFOR, EULEX, and the Kosovo authorities – who provided essential support, and helped to ensure that voting proceeded without major incidents. This successful operation demonstrates how the international community, by operating in a united manner, can effectively manage sensitive issues and support the emerging peaceful solutions supported by all sides.
OSCE facilitation for a second round of voting in the presidential election will again be conducted on 20 May. I call on all concerned to show on this occasion the same sense of responsibility and cooperation as demonstrated on 6 May.
Mr. President, there have been more other positive developments during the reporting period which i want to share briefly to you:
Ties of the Western Balkans with the European Union took significant steps towards the decision to grant candidate status to Serbia, and also to launch a feasibility study in Kosovo. The organization of EU institutional presences on the ground have, since February, been consolidated under the fresh leadership, of the EU Special Representative for Kosovo, Samuel Žbogar, who moved swiftly to prioritize EU activities on the ground, and has already formed close working partnerships with other key stakeholders.
In spite of the fact that two municipalities in northern Kosovo proceeded with plans to conduct their local elections – outside the framework of resolution 1244 – unambiguous positions on this matter have been taken both by Belgrade and by the International Community, which have left no doubt about the legitimacy question. I have impressed upon local leaders in the North that they will need to pursue a different path if they wish to attain such legitimacy. I am currently leading a consultative process to explore possibilities for promoting more legitimate and viable local representation, and will call upon the support for these from this august Council for any emergence in the future.
Despite tension in the North, including surrounding the matter of elections, there has been some progress in that area, which deserves noting. In the preceding reporting period, EULEX reached a point at which it enjoyed almost no freedom of movement in the North. Since then, it has implemented new outreach strategies, including more regular dismounted patrols and other modes of direct communication, which are having an impact, although so far not in the area of Zubin Potok. Our own institutional presence in the North is operating in close collaboration with KFOR, EULEX and OSCE among others to ensure common messaging and outreach towards the communities.
Regrettably, Mr. President, some negative trends did continue during this period as well. Foremost, a concentration of serious security and criminal incidents throughout ethnically mixed areas – but particularly in the North – were documented during this period, and they have continued both before and since the Serbian election. While the occurrence of any such incident could significantly inflame tensions, a greater concentration and frequency of incidents in this reporting period are ample evidence that status quo is not a stable one.
Unfortunately, incendiary and opportunistic political rhetoric has been the frequent response to incidents by local politicians on all sides. Rather than assuming responsibility for reducing tensions, choices are instead made to inflame passions, in what amount to efforts at short-term political point-scoring. These continue to bear high costs to the prospects for achieving far more serious goals. A “tit-for-tat” police arrests during this reporting period, directed from both Pristina and Belgrade, illustrate the same fundamental problem.
The power of the EU perspective for the region, is an incentive for the parties to overcome differences and to be able to enhance their prosperity and political future, is absolutely critical. Regrettably, this incentive is itself sometimes undermined by a demonstrable absence of unity of purpose among key international actors. In such circumstances, results obtained from substantial international investment, primarily in form of mandated international presences in Kosovo, will continue to be less than what they could or should be.
As the European Union steps forward in more institutional leadership roles, its room for manoeuvre and effectiveness depends heavily upon strength or lack of broader international consensus. Closer cohesion of efforts among international actors, including members of the Security Council, may help facilitate efficient rationalisation of efforts on the ground. A clearer sense of perspective and common purpose is necessary, therefore to improve the overall efficiency of the use of limited international resources.
For example, the European Union is currently considering an important review of activities and plans for EULEX, which operates under the overall authority of the United Nations. I hope that this opportunity will be used to take full stock, in a coordinated manner, of the challenges that lie ahead. In this context, the disposition of stewardship over key executive powers given under resolution 1244, and subsequently entrusted to EULEX, need to follow a careful analysis of the implications of progress towards original objectives set for the mission.
I also continue to stress that our common efforts should not wane on issues that are fundamental to reconciliation and to the protection of the rights of minority communities throughout Kosovo. These especially include progress in determining the fate of the missing; creating conditions for safe voluntary returns; the fair adjudication and resolution of property claims; and full and effective implementation of the legal frameworks for the protection and preservation of the cultural and religious heritages. And I reiterate my call on the Kosovo authorities to improve their outreach messages and efforts, and clearly demonstrate their intention to listen to and take into account the concerns of the Kosovo Serb community north and south of the Ibar River.
With the conclusion of the election in Serbia, we expect a new government to be soon in place in Belgrade, holding a fresh mandate also to look into matters related to Kosovo. Importantly, general elections in Kosovo are not foreseen for the next eighteen months. And accordingly, we are approaching a period in which it may be possible to explore avenues of political engagement more removed from the rhetorically charged atmosphere of the frequently held political campaigns and elections.
To the extent the parties can increasingly find ways to put the past behind them, and focus instead on shared interests in prosperity and stability, new space may open for settling some of the differences that have remained unresolved. Lessons and limitations exposed in the current framework of technical dialogue, especially concerning follow-up and implementation should be used to inform improvements during this next phase.
The international community now faces opportunities alongside the familiar risks. Achieving better results will require, in practice, not only renewed energy and focus from those working on the ground and around the region, but, I would submit, also from the members of this Council and all among the international community who have invested heavily in Kosovo.
I wish to thank the Council members for their continuing support of UNMIK, and equally to ask them to assume a pro-active approach to the continuing challenges. I urge that you use your authority and influence with the parties to encourage them to engage in good faith, something which is, in the end, very clearly in their own interests.
And above all, I ask for your support in forging increased unity of purpose that may help the sides and all of us to deal with “unfinished business”, and reach substantial solutions, sooner rather than later.
Thank you Mr. President.