Well it’s a pleasure as usual and Happy New Year to all of your listeners.
Having just entered into the New Year, we wanted to hear your impressions on the current political developments and your take on the progress. So far the elections of 12 December are still not complete. There’s a revote scheduled for Mitrovica on 23 of January and we also know there have been a number of allegations being reported to the press, so what will be your assessment on how will that impact the political process in Kosovo now?
Well, of course we have to say that this phase has been rather complicated. In my view, the repeat of the elections is however showing that there is an effort to make things better. We will have to wait and see the results of the last revoting in Mitrovica on the 23rd, and then at that point assess the situation. We may face a situation where the negotiations for the formation of the government may take some time, that I would say, is normal enough. What is important from my perspective is that as a result of this process we have a situation where everybody is happy with the results, where the negotiations on the new government result in a government that is supported, that is representative, that is authoritative and that is recognized by everybody and strong enough to take on the challenges that await Kosovo down the road, in all areas. You know, economy, and I repeat often, is one of the key problems for Kosovo and you need a strong government, you need an assembly in place to adopt a budget, and these things have to go forward because the situation needs to be improved. For the solution of many of the problems, there is, in my view, and in the view of many and this was also recognized in New York, a need for more direct engagement of Pristina with Belgrade, so I think it is important that the new government is also strongly engaging in that, in solving some of the issues that are open because they are important for the future of Kosovo and for the future of the region. And as I stated in the past, I think the role of the European Union in this process will be important because of the perspective that it brings with it. Therefore, we from UNMIK certainly support very strongly the European Union and the role of the European Union in facilitating this process of dialogue.
And apart from the challenges you see ahead, the economy, the formation of the government but more on the people’s level, what do you see as immediate issues of concern of the people of Kosovo that are not being resolved currently?
Well there are many issues. You just open the papers and see what is there. There is this question of the license plates of the cars that is now focusing attention of everybody but there are also other important issues in which we are, one way or another, involved that need addressing. There is the issue of the chairmanship of CEFTA coming up and the handling of that, there is the issue of the census. There is the issue of the census that should be held in the region and how to do it and making sure that everybody participates in this because this would be important also for the region to move forward, and it will be important to facilitate the resolution of some of the open issues, but if it is handled badly this can create additional problems instead of helping solve them. One of my concerns in this is that the internal political processes are in a way delaying the beginning of the dialogue but these issues are urgent and there is a need for people to deal with them. So I think that ways must be found to really deal with these issues that cannot be moved down the line, waiting for this dialogue to begin when the conditions are ripe.
So you just mentioned the issue of the license plates, we have been reading about it in the media, it’s a hot topic these days. What would be your comments on this issue and how does this fit into what you are talking about, into dialogue, and how it could be solved?
You see when I look at this, I can tell you in a minute what is legally our position but my immediate concern is that this dispute on the license plates has a potential to impact first of all on the freedom of movement in Kosovo because we may also see people constrained in travelling with cars and
license plates throughout Kosovo in one way or another. On top of that this could have an impact on security and on stability, and my primary concern is to help and facilitate keeping conditions of security and stability in Kosovo. So that’s part of my mandate and I am very much looking on that and that’s why I am concerned. If you look into the merit of the issue I would have to say there are flaws on all sides. The Serbian newly introduced license plates for Kosovo, as was the case with the old ones by the way, are not in compliance with our mandate which is Resolution 1244. On the other hand, neither the newly introduced license plates are status neutral so there is a problem on both sides, so what is the way forward? The way forward is really talking to the two sides and avoiding steps that can destabilize while solutions are found on how to handle these problems.
You also mentioned CEFTA chairmanship as one of the issues that has a deadline that has to be met and there is a sense of urgency in negotiating CEFTA. So do you foresee any problems in the CEFTA chairmanship in 2011 and you can also comment on what has been reported in the media, the use of the Gymnich format. What do you think about that?
Well I have a concern there because in fact I hear some people here in Kosovo talking about the use of the Gymnich model and I hear on the other hand Serbia and some of the non-recognizers within CEFTA such as Bosnia or Moldova arguing that no, this is a legally based agreement, and UNMIK is the signatory and therefore there should be clear nameplates identifying the parties that carry legal obligations. Of course all of this is extremely complex and there are no easy answers, but just to assume that a formula which has been used only in political contexts may work in a legal framework is not good enough if this is not supported by proper negotiations between the sides. So, as UNMIK, I don’t have a specific line as long as the sides agree on how to do it, I am happy to go ahead with that agreement, but what I am stating is that as I can see from my perspective now, this agreement is not yet there. I think that we have made progress towards reaching an agreement and some creative solutions are possible, but if the sides and the parties of the treaty want to score political points on this issue, then the risk is that the very chairmanship will be harmed and Kosovo will suffer from it. I will give you an example: I have seen some here mentioning Kosovo as the participant in CEFTA. The fact that Kosovo is chairing CEFTA after Serbia and before Albania, depends on the fact that chairmanships are run in alphabetical order, and after the [letter]"S", Kosovo comes in because it's the letter "U" coming before the "A" of Albania, and that is UNMIK. So, you can try to hide it as much as you can, but it is still there and the handling of that will have to be made somehow. So, that is my only point, you cannot hide reality, but you can try to manage it in a way that does not hurt you. So, that is what we all should try to do from all sides, and I think once again the long term objective of all sides should be that of making this mechanism work in the interest of everybody.
There has been recently also the Dick Marty’s report that we have been reading about and we would like to know if in your view if there are any implications of this report the issues such as the ones you mentioned, CEFTA or even the census that is upcoming and also if in your answer you could respond to maybe the allegations that contained in this report regarding UNMIK.
Let me start with the Marty report then I will say a couple of words about the census that you’ve mentioned. On the Marty report, I would say what is important is that this issue doesn’t become in some way an obstacle or an element that slows down the political processes that are needed and first of all the dialogue. I think the engagement between all relevant sides on solving issues such as the ones I mentioned has to go ahead independently of any developments on this report. As to the Marty report, I can only support all those who say that if there is new evidence there should be investigations and the evidence should be brought up, it should be investigated, and if there is something, we all certainly welcome, and from the UN point of view, we will support any steps that in this case EULEX I assume will have to take to continue this. So, certainly that support is there. Then of course you mentioned some allegations for the past...there is a clear UN policy, the UN policy is the independence of the judiciary. So I think that applies to the UN, to all its operations, to UNMIK, and that is one of the key principles on the basis of which we operate.
All of this happened much before my time, but from what I have seen, and as I understand, is that at some point UNMIK was made aware of. certain allegations, there were certain indications emerging, possibility that something had happened. All information that UNMIK had at the time was given to ICTY, because the ICTY was competent for dealing with war crimes, so initial findings, files that we had, everything was transferred to the ICTY. Now, if I remember well at some point Mrs. Del Ponte maybe even after she concluded her mandate at the ICTY, she stated publicly that she did not have enough evidence to put together a case for the prosecution to go ahead with this and I think this is the problem, if the Marty report is based on new evidence then there should be action on that, certainly I think that should be the line, if there isn’t I think we are back in the situation where we were when Mrs. Del Ponte said she didn’t had enough to go ahead. The census that you mentioned, I think the census is important for the future of the region to have a clear idea of who is where and in the Security Council we have heard often discussion about issues of return, about numbers in the community etcetera... I think it will be good to take stock of the current situation, also as the bases for progress on this; we are all in favour of more progress on returns for instance. I don’t think the census will crystallize the situation, but it can help bring down in the way or calm down the degree of animosity around these issues. What is important is that the census is not politicized, but it is really run as a technical process and we from the UN, we are ready to help out in the areas where there maybe the status related considerations where it can make the census complicated. We can certainly play a role bringing it more in a context, where the status consideration may be allayed in a way. and where technicality of the process prevails over the political aspect of it, because of the involvement of technical agencies of the UN for instance, but what is important is that the region as such runs this in the compact way in the same time and it shouldn’t be differentiated steps, differentiated areas which would highlight instead the political problems.
Well SRSG, thank you very much. I think we have an overview of the challenges ahead, so we wish you luck in your tasks.
Thank you very much, luck in something we all need together and not only for us in UNMIK, but for all the people here in the region. Thank you very much.