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Challenges emerge for UN in Kosovo, nearly a year after independence declaration - Ban

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The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has faced significant challenges over the past five months to its ability to perform the vast majority of its tasks after Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

"These challenges have underscored the need to move forward with the reconfiguration of UNMIK," Mr. Ban told the Security Council in his latest report on Kosovo, which the UN took over in 1999 after NATO forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid deadly fighting with the majority ethnic Albanian population there.

The UN is neutral on the question of the status of Kosovo, which proclaimed independence in February this year in a move that Serbia rejects, and Mr. Ban has called for the reconfiguration in response to the "profoundly changed reality" on the ground.

"As anticipated, UNMIK has faced significant challenges to its ability to perform the vast majority of its tasks as an interim administration, including in the areas of civil administration and economic governance and in other areas where new institutions are being created and new roles assumed by the Kosovo authorities under the constitution [they adopted]," he writes.

"The reconfiguration is both timely and necessary and is being accelerated in order to adapt fully to the prevailing circumstances on the ground. It is taking place in a transparent manner with respect to all stakeholders and is consistent with the United Nations position of strict neutrality on the question of Kosovo's status," he adds.

He notes the European Union's preparations to undertake an enhanced operational role with its EULEX mission on the rule of law, and says his Special Representative for Kosovo Lamberto Zannier is facilitating its deployment, which will be carried out in close consultation with relevant stakeholders and coordinated with UNMIK.

EULEX, which will report regularly to the UN, will operate under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the UN, focusing particularly on the areas of international policing, justice and customs.

Mr. Zannier has been in regular contact with the Serbian Government which has accepted these arrangements, while the authorities in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, reject them, favour the quick deployment of EULEX and pledge to cooperate with it in accordance with the mandate foreseen for it in Kosovo's declaration of independence, its constitution and its legislation.

But Mr. Ban says he is "encouraged" by Pristina's indication that "it is willing to cooperate with EULEX and, inter alia, the European Union and NATO."