SRSG Presentation to the Security Council – 27 May 2014
Mr. President, Excellencies,
At the outset, I wish to express my solidarity with the people and authorities of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia, who are facing anunprecedented natural disaster caused by widespread flooding. I also extend my heartfelt condolences to those who lost their belovedfamily members, friends or colleagues as a result of this tragedy. I hope the current rescue operations and assistance, including the efforts undertaken by the United Nations, will help alleviatetheir plight.
Let me now turn to recent developments in Kosovo and relations between Belgrade and Pristina. I should like to notethe continuing commitment demonstrated by both sidesto the European Union-led political dialogue.During the reporting period,the pace of implementation of last year's historic agreements was somewhat affected by the holding of early parliamentary elections in Serbia, and the preparations for the forthcoming early legislative elections in Kosovo. I congratulate Serbia on the successful conduct of the elections on 16 March,and the formation of a new government on 27 April, led by Prime MinisterAleksandarVučić.
The Assembly of Kosovo,in an extraordinary session held on 7 May, decided to dissolve itself with a vote of more than two-thirds of its members, including a majority of the representatives from the Kosovo Serb and other non-majority communities.The new elections for the Kosovo Assembly are scheduled to be held on 8 June, less than two weeks from now. The election campaign will start tomorrow,28 May. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe will provide technical assistance in the preparation and conduct of the elections. The European Union will deploy an Election Observation Mission. I take this opportunity to call on all Kosovo residents, particularly members of the Kosovo Serb community, to take part in the forthcoming elections and exercise their democratic franchise.
Despite a slower pace of implementation of the 19 April 2013 agreement, the partieshave narrowed theirremaining differences, including on the structure and staffing of the judiciary in northern Kosovo.An additional indicator of progress is the operational capability of the Kosovo Police in northern Kosovo. The total number of former Serbian Interior Ministry personnel integrated into the Kosovo Police under the terms of the 19 April agreement has now reached 284.Other elements are continuing to be discussed between technical representatives and experts from each side. It is hoped that, once the forthcoming electoral process in Kosovo is complete and new authorities are in place, the dialogue will resume without delay and a crucial pending matter - the establishment of the Community/Association of Serb municipalities -willbe tackled expeditiously, along with other issues of mutual interest and concern.
The Kosovo institutions have taken some important decisions since my last briefing. On 22 April, the Assembly of Kosovo ratified the exchange of letters between the Kosovo authorities and the European Union on the extension of EULEX’s mandate until 15 June 2016 and on the creation of a special court in relation to the allegations contained in the 2010 Council of Europe report on inhumane treatment and illicit trafficking of organs. The establishment of this court should help strengthen the rule of law in Kosovo and ensure accountability.
On 6 March, the Kosovo authorities approved recommendations resulting from the Strategic Security Sector Review, including on the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into the Kosovo Armed Forces. However, the Assembly of Kosovo has not taken a conclusive decision in this regard. Discussions on the key issues of the electoral reform and extension of the provision of ‘reserved seats’ for the ethnic minority communities in the Kosovo Assembly have been deferred to the next Assembly.
Over the past months, a great deal of efforts was made to overcome challenges related to the finalization of Municipal Assembly statutes of the four Serbian-majority municipalities of northern Kosovo.On 15 May, the municipal assemblies in northern Kosovo approved amendments to their statutes,bringing them into compliance with relevant Kosovolegislation, as requiredby the Ministry of Local Government Administration. This is an important step forward in the implementation of the 19 April 2013 agreement and the process of establishing the future Community /Association of Serb-majority municipalities.
There were aseries of violent incidents in northern Kosovo, including an ambushon Kosovo police in ZubinPotokon 31 March, which resulted in injuries to three police officers, and an assault against EULEX in the same municipality on 25 April, in which EULEX vehicles were hit by bullets, but fortunately no one was injured. The fatal attack on EULEX on 19 September of last year remains under investigation. We have condemned such criminal attacks and have urged all sides to strengthen their efforts touphold law and order and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In Pristina, on 20 May, three defendants, charged with war crimes in the case known as the Drenica Group, escapedcustody from a medical clinic where they were receiving treatment. The individualswere among the group of former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army,whose trial began on 23 May in the Basic Court of Mitrovica. Subsequently, a court order was issued for their detention, and the individuals were apprehended and sent to a high security prison.
We have persistently encouraged the various communities in Kosovo to continue working towards greater reconciliation and integration.Progress has been noted on some important issues, such as missing persons and the recognition of survivors of sexual violence during the conflict. We commend Mrs. AtifeteJahjaga for her leadership at the helm of Kosovo’s efforts to raise public awareness of such issues. In this regard, we welcome the official launch, on 7 March,of the national council for the survivors of sexual violence related to the war, which we trust will focus on the plight of all affected persons, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or language. With respect to the missing persons, we welcome the continued efforts of both Pristina’s and Belgrade’s delegations in the Working Group of Missing Persons. Exhumation work at the mass grave site in Raška, in south-central Serbia, has resumed under the Serbian government auspices,with the involvement of international observersand Kosovo representatives. We encourage all efforts to ensure the transparency and professionalism of this work and particularly welcome the inclusion of visits by the family associations to the site.
A common appreciation of the benefits of cultural heritage for all communities in Kosovo will also be an important step forward towards coexistence and reconciliation among the communities. Despite the efforts of the Kosovo authorities, regrettably,such awareness has yet to reach adequate levels. Similarly, efforts to promote inter-community reconciliation should be significantly strengthened. This will also contribute to further reducing ethnic related incidents and to accelerating the return of internally displaced persons.
In the run-up to the elections, the issue of theunfinished Serbian Orthodox Church structureon the campus ofthe University of Pristina became a political issue. Some Kosovo Albanian officials havereferred tothis church as a “Milošević-era monument”,asserting that it should be demolishedfor having allegedly erected without the requisite building permits.An unfortunate exchange of statements involving political and religious leaders followed. We strongly encourage the leaders in Kosovo communities, as well as the leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, to take constructive, prudent and forward-looking approaches in addressing such a sensitive public issue.
Despite strong condemnation against participation of Kosovo residents in foreign conflicts, including by the Islamic Community of Kosovo, the matter remains a concern. On 9 April, international attention was drawn to reportsof suicide bombing by a 22–year- old KosovoAlbanian in Falluja, Iraq. Several other young Kosovo Albanians have been reported killed while fighting in Syria and Iraq in recent months. We encourage the Kosovo authorities to take further measures, in cooperation with international stakeholders, to ensure that such phenomena are stopped.
On 2 May, Kosovo concluded the negotiations with the European Commission on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The negotiations were launched last Octoberand the Agreement should help Kosovo to further advance in its European integration agenda. On 6 May, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Mr.ŠtefanFüle, visited Pristina , where he discussed with Kosovo leaders key issues on the EU-Kosovo agenda, including the normalisation process with Belgrade, the rule of law and other identified areas for reforms. A day before his visit to Kosovo, Commissioner Fülewas in Belgrade, on the heels of a visit by the EU High Representative, Ms. Catherine Ashton, and met with Serbia’s President Mr. TomislavNikolić and Prime Minister Vučić. Given the above dynamic,as well as the current dialogue process between Belgrade and Pristina, it is apparent that the European perspective will continue to be a key determinant and incentive for Kosovo’s political, institutional and socio-economic progress.
It is essential that Belgrade and Pristina stay on track towards the full implementation of the agreement of 19 April 2013. Equally important are coordinated efforts to make the best use of European and other multilateral and bilateral assistance to local programmes and projects in Kosovo, so that the population of Kosovo can fully benefit in building a better life. In this regard, UNMIK will continue to fully engage in Kosovo,in coordination with other international, regional and local partners within its ‘status neutral’ framework,to make best use of its resources and relations with all communities.
Allow me to conclude by thanking you and all members of the Council for your valuable engagement with the parties, and for your continuing support to the work of UNMIK.