​UNMIK chief briefs UN Security Council on Kosovo 

4 December 2014​ - Statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Kosovo, Farid Zarif, to the United Nations Security Council in New York:


Mr. President, Excellencies,

Almost six months after the 8 June legislative elections in Kosovo, which saw the politically courageous participation of the Serbian-majority municipalities of northern Kosovo, the new Kosovo Assembly and government are finally expected to be formally constituted in the coming days.  On November 18, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) led by Mr. Hashim Thaçi, who is here with us to represent the Kosovo institutions and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by Mr. Isa Mustafa, reached a power-sharing agreement in principle.  This compromise between Kosovo’s two largest political parties excluded other parties, which had previously formed a post-election block.  The two parties are now in negotiations on the structure and programme of a new government, with the participation of the Kosovo Serbs and Other Communities, and to reconvene the Kosovo Assembly.  President Jahjaga played a key role in this respect by engaging with the leaders of the political parties and encouraging a solution.

I urge Kosovo’s political leaders to complete the process of constituting the new government and institutions and to focus their efforts on establishing good governance.  It is also imperative that a spirit of inclusiveness and collective responsibility prevails at this critical time.

The six month delay was damaging for Kosovo and led to increased public dissatisfaction with political leaders and further delays in bringing about pressing institutional reforms and in the resumption of the EU-facilitated political dialogue with Belgrade. In the interim, however, technical meetings have continued under the aegis of the EU, and I note with appreciation the consistent efforts of the Belgrade and Pristina technical teams and welcome their agreements, which enhance implementation of previously reached agreements on energy, integrated management of crossing points and freedom of movement. I also wish to highlight the new arrangements agreed between Belgrade and Pristina on administering official visits that took effect on 1 December as an indication of further progress.  Nonetheless, I reiterate that new momentum needs to be generated and high-level meetings must resume as soon as possible, so that both sides can fulfil the promise of this process and avail themselves of the opportunities presented by the European Union integration process.

Mr. President,

I welcome the cooperation and coordination demonstrated by the municipal structures functioning in northern Kosovo during the preparation of the 2015 municipal budgets, despite the complexity of the current municipal set-up in the northern municipalities. I trust that all sides have now been convinced of the value of dialogue at the local level for delivering better governance.  It is high time that issues related to construction in the ethnically-mixed North Mitrovica suburb of Kroi i Vitakut/Brdjani are resolved through mutually agreeable steps. It is also essential that momentum be sustained toward the administrative integration of the four northern Kosovo municipalities.  In this context, advancing the establishment of the Community/Association of Serb-majority municipalities, in line with the 19 April 2013 Agreement, remains vital.

I commend the Kosovo Police and security bodies for their contribution to containing transnational violent extremism. The police operations of this summer were followed by more investigations and arrests in the months since. I also note the continued responsible guidance on these sensitive issues provided by the Islamic Community of Kosovo and its leaders, as well as the public stance by other religious and secular leaders, unanimously denouncing extremism.

Mr. President,

The protection of religious and cultural heritage in Kosovo remains an issue, and a concern.  I welcome the cooperation between local authorities and KFOR in addressing illegal construction in the Special Protective Zone surrounding the UNESCO World Heritage site of Visoki Dečani Monastery. Instances of offensive graffiti in the vicinity of the Monastery in early October are a clear indication that reconciliation efforts need to be sustained and strengthened further on the ground.  In this respect, I note with appreciation the calm and strong condemnations of those incidents by President Jahjaga and other Pristina leaders, as well as by representatives of other religious communities of Kosovo.

Recent developments in improving community and religious interactions have also been encouraging. Members of the Islamic Community of Kosovo and the Serbian Orthodox clergy at the Visoki Dečani Monastery exchanged visits and publicly emphasised the importance of dialogue for promoting religious tolerance in Kosovo. Additionally, on 24 November, a delegation of the Islamic Community of Kosovo attended the Patron Saint Day liturgy at the Monastery, where the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church conveyed messages of tolerance and appealed to all Kosovo Serb displaced persons to return. I also note the 12 November visit of 32 Kosovo Albanian primary and high-school students to the Monastery as part of the OSCE’s awareness project promoting cultural heritage preservation among youth. Such initiatives are vital for instilling mutual respect and appreciation of the value of cultural heritage for all communities in Kosovo.

The pace of returns and reintegration of internally displaced persons has remained slow. The matter is of wide concern for both local and international stakeholders. In this light, I note the initiative of the Serbian Office for Kosovo and Metohija to create a new consultative body, which includes the Kosovo Minister for Communities and Returns, as well as the UN and other international organisations. However, the continued occurrence of security incidents affecting returnees and their properties cannot but undermine confidence. I welcome the prompt and clear condemnation of such incidents by the relevant Pristina institutions. It is imperative that both local and central authorities demonstrate greater political will to effectively address issues of greatest concern to the current and potential returnees.

With regard to progress in the process of establishing the fates of persons still missing from the 1998-99 conflict and its aftermath, I welcome the conclusion, on 13 October, of the repatriation of the bodily remains recovered from the Rudnica stone quarry in Serbia’s Raška municipality. I commend the commitment and professionalism of both the Belgrade and Pristina teams of experts, who conducted this sensitive process without politicisation. I urge both sides to demonstrate greater political will and to be more proactive in addressing the cases of remaining missing persons, allaying the terrible anguish suffered by their families, contributing to further conciliation and, thereby, bringing this painful chapter to a closure.

Mr President, as you are aware, the corruption allegations made recently against current and former members of the Eulex mission has drawn a considerable amount of public and media attention. The new EULEX Head of Mission, Ambassador Gabriele Meucci, has confirmed that investigations into the allegations have been, and remain, on-going since 2013. On 10 November, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms. Federica Mogherini, appointed an independent expert to review EULEX Kosovo mandate implementation with a focus on the handling of the corruption allegations. I wish to emphasise that no space should be given, regardless of speculations, to questioning the integrity of EU Rule of Law principles or indeed their central importance for future progress in Kosovo. At the same time, the work of the EU Special Investigative Task Force also remains critical for the process of justice and reconciliation in Kosovo.  I urge the Kosovo Assembly, once fully constituted, to prioritise the adoption of the required legislation, so that the “specialist court” can become operational early next year and begin tackling cases that will be brought before it, in order to swiftly follow up the work conducted by the Special Investigative Task Force.

Turning to regional developments, the ethnically-motivated incidents that occurred in various parts of the Western Balkans in the wake of the interrupted football match between Albania and Serbia, held in Belgrade on 14 October, demonstrated that both the authorities and the public need to act responsibly, so that the momentum toward enhancing regional cooperation is not reversed. Despite the incidents, the visit of the Albanian Prime Minister to Serbia in November, the first of its kind in 68 years, is a welcome step in the right direction.  Likewise, the 23 October informal regional meeting between the EU and Western Balkan Foreign and Economic Affairs Ministers in Belgrade, with the participation of Kosovo ministers, was a clear signal of the improved atmosphere for regional cooperation. The joint ministerial statement issued by the participants also holds promise for much needed economic development in the Western Balkans.

Finally, Mr. President, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to all Council members for maintaining their engagement with the parties, particularly in light of the many other pressing matters which demand your attention.  UNMIK will continue working closely with its local and international partners in accordance with its mandate, helping to ensure that the progress made to date will be sustained and further advanced.

Thank you very much.