29 August 2013 SRSG Presentation to the Security Council
Madam President, Excellencies,
During the latest reporting period and since, important progress has continued toward implementation of the Agreement reached between the parties on 19 April. Leaders in Pristina and Belgrade have sustained their commitment to work toward implementation of the Agreement in a timely and constructive manner, notwithstanding some complications in the process. Such progress remains fundamental to building mutual trust and realizing the key aspirations of both parties, the population in Kosovo, and indeed of the region.
Following the appointment in June of a Kosovo-Serb from the north as Commander of the northern Regional Police Directorate, his full leadership team was announced on 20 August, including a Kosovo-Albanian deputy. On 11 July, the Kosovo Assembly approved a revised version of the draft Law on Amnesty in order to facilitate the transition of qualified personnel from the Serbian Ministry of Interior police offices in northern Kosovo to the Kosovo Police. However this law, along with two others essential for implementation, face challenges raised by the opposition in Kosovo’s Constitutional Court.
In early July, Serbia's Interior Ministry completed the closure of its police offices in the four northern municipalities, subsequently verified by EULEX, KFOR and UNMIK. While the local population remains wary of changes in the status quo, the initial stages of implementation in the police area have broadly been met with public acceptance.
On 17 June, Serbia's High Judicial Council instructed the three operating Serbian courts in Kosovo to cease receiving cases in anticipation of full implementation of the court-related components of the 19 April Agreement. The provisions on the functioning of a unified justice system in Kosovo – elaborated both in the Agreement and its integral implementation arrangements of 22 May – will require substantial additional work by the parties in order to be fully realized. It is commendable that each side has demonstrated full awareness of the importance and delicacy of the subject, and has proceeded with further talks on implementation in a cautious and deliberate fashion.
During their 15th round of meetings in Brussels on 27 August, Prime Minister Dačić and Prime Minister Thaçi discussed the complex subjects of telecommunications and energy, on which progress has been slow, and agreed that discussions would continue at the technical level. The parties also took stock of progress in the implementation of the 19 April Agreement, including preparations for holding local elections in Kosovo on 3 November. Given the short timeframe, organizing local elections throughout Kosovo has presented particular challenges. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has responded swiftly, and has garnered necessary resources to facilitate voting in the northern municipalities, as well as by eligible internally displaced persons.
The registration of political entities for the elections is also an intensive exercise in this short time window. Although registration has begun, it remains a challenge which requires a flexible, confidence-building approach from all quarters, as does finding other mutually acceptable voting arrangements and material. It is crucial that elections succeed in delivering viable local authority which can properly represent and defend the interests of local communities, as foreseen in the Agreement. To this end, it is important that full participation in this election is encouraged, particularly in the northern municipalities, where local authority has long lingered in dispute and controversy. To achieve this result, steadfastness and flexibility will be required from each side, in particular to address effectively the concerns of the local population and overcome the uncertainty which currently prevails in the North.
As I have previously stated in this august Council, implementation of the historic 19 April Agreement and each of its elements is a delicate process that demands sustained efforts and focus. In this light, it is essential for the parties to keep their focus on the implementation of what has been agreed, without introducing additional fundamental issues which are, at present, outside the agenda of the political dialogue. Doing otherwise may put at risk the progress achieved thus far.
Of equal importance for success is a sustained effort to improve confidence and promote progress in inter-community reconciliation. This is a shared responsibility of political leaders at all levels, and will also require continuing international support.
Accordingly, long-standing issues of vital importance for reconciliation should also receive renewed attention and vigor during this period, alongside bolstering the political process. Determination of the fate of persons missing since the time of the conflict has made little new progress over recent months despite the joint efforts of the Kosovo-Albanian and Serb family associations of missing persons to encourage more effective and collaborative action. While EULEX is prepared to undertake new investigations, within its mandate and means, to support comprehensive reviews of legacy cases, and to support new police investigations when and wherever new evidence can be uncovered, it cannot succeed in this task without additional information from all concerned. Achieving greater success in this regard requires foremost the exertion of renewed political will, to encourage more information to be brought forward and to afford adequate witness protection. The affected families rightly demand justice, reparation and closure on the cases of their missing loved ones. On the eve of the International Day of the Missing, I call upon the parties to rededicate their commitment toward this end.
Of similar importance are the further steps being undertaken to safeguard religious and cultural sites in Kosovo, both in the context of the high-level dialogue and through work at municipal levels. Successful preparations by the Kosovo Police enabled it to take over from KFOR the responsibility for protection of Peć Patriarchate in early August. It is important that such efforts do not falter, as is threatened, for example, by the procedural delays in the establishment of the cultural heritage council in Rahovec/Orahovac.
An important and timely visit in June by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, underscored many of these same issues, and outlined a range of areas in which institutions responsible for rule of law and human rights protection in Kosovo can be made more effective. Her recommendations focused in particular on remedies for weak legislation, and on a more vigorous implementation of the laws, as well as tougher responses to instances of hate speech and ethnic intolerance.
On the 28th of June, the European Council issued important decisions on enlargement, including the decision on the start of the accession negotiations with Serbia, and the opening of negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo. These major steps are, in great measure, attributable to the visionary leadership demonstrated by both sides during the EU-led political dialogue. Helping the parties sustain momentum is now the shared and central goal of all the international presences.
Among the greatest challenges is the building of confidence in this process in the North, where little such confidence presently exists. I wish to acknowledge efforts being made in this respect by the parties, and equally to note the significant gap that is yet to be closed. The formation, outside the framework of the 19 April Agreement, of a “Provisional Assembly for Kosovo and Metohija” is a sign of the still predominant apprehension in northern Kosovo concerning implementation of the Agreement. The political challenge involved is hard to over-estimate, not least given the ambitious timelines foreseen in the implementation plan. Accordingly, the parties should preserve a high degree of creativity and flexibility, and redouble efforts to address the substantive and detailed questions emanating from the population in the North.
For our part, UNMIK continues to actively adapt its activities on the ground in order to most effectively support the political process as well as related work on the ground. UNMIK's facilitation and mediation roles have been enhanced by the additional experienced personnel in the North, while the UNMIK Administration in Mitrovica has continued to be actively engaged in local mediation and conflict prevention. Preparations are currently underway for the implementation of confidence-building and reconciliation projects in a number of key areas throughout Kosovo, mostly through the United Nations Kosovo Team and other international partners. Our local mediation role and capacity continue to be drawn upon throughout Kosovo, providing an effective communication link in support of resolving practical public and social service issues. We are contributing to building local confidence, which helps keep residual tensions low and, in turn, widens the space for further progress in the political dialogue.
Implementation of the 19 April Agreement requires concentrated efforts, and the avoidance of distractions related to issues that are yet to be tackled through direct dialogue. Through its ongoing support to the parties as they pursue solutions by making necessary compromises, the Security Council continues to play a key role in supporting the long run success of this process. I wish to express deep appreciation to the Council members for their continuing political engagement in this regard.
I close by thanking you, Madam President, and all members of the Council for your support to UNMIK's work as we continue to promote progress and reconciliation on the ground.
Thank you, Madam President.