What do people in Kosovo want? Last week I visited Ferizaj/Urosevac, the third largest town in Kosovo, Pejë/Pe?, at the foot of the mountains and Mitrovicë/Mitrovica on the banks of the river Ibar.
In Ferizaj a baker from a socially owned enterprise asked for: "a secure job". A student wanted: "an end to corruption, so I don't have to buy my place at university". In Pejë, a shopkeeper told me: "beat crime". In Mitrovica, a teacher from a minority community said: "I want to move around Kosovo without fear". So, it's jobs, security and respect for multi-ethnicity.
Many politicians know this and are working hard in the Provisional Institutions all over Kosovo. However, I am concerned that others in Pristina are becoming more assertive about status and status-related competencies and do not concentrate enough on the real bread and butter issues.
At the same time Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has now changed course in Belgrade by also calling for an early resolution of Kosovo's status and requests the return of the Serbian State to Kosovo. As the international community concentrates on standards, on what the people want, politicians focus on status.
In tandem with the changing view in Belgrade we have seen two contrasting moves on the part of Kosovo Serbs. It is good that we will have Coalition Povratak back in the Assembly after months of boycott. Serb interests in Kosovo can best be represented through the legitimate institutions.
The second move, a unilateral step by others to set up a union of Serb municipalities in the north of Kosovo is having a damaging effect on these interests. This union is based on mono-ethnicity. It has no legal relevance, but it undermines work on decentralisation by the Council of Europe, which will be starting its mission in Kosovo this coming Monday.
In the light of these developments how does UNMIK address the challenges of 2003? As you know, much has been accomplished in the last 12 months. The Kosovans and the International Community can be proud of this. But we need to move further. So this year we intend to focus on:
- the three priorities: jobs, security and real multi-ethnicity;
- transfer of power;
- establishing direct dialogue Pristina-Belgrade; and
- preparing for European integration.
I Focus on Standards
For different reasons, and with opposite ideas of what the resolution should be, some in Pristina and Belgrade now seem to agree on 'status first'. But what actually counts on the ground is improving quality of life - by delivering on the standards or benchmarks. The Security Council's mission saw this for itself during its recent visit. This is also evident from the quarterly report by the Secretary-General who was in Kosovo in November.
But let us be clear: Our focus on standards in no way precludes opening direct talks between Pristina and Belgrade. On the contrary, dialogue with Belgrade is one of the eight benchmarks. As the Secretary-General has said, talks on issues of mutual interest should start as soon as possible.
The handout in front of you is intended to serve as a baseline indicator against which progress towards the benchmarks could be measured each quarter from now on. It summarises how we intend to operationalise the process.
While there is general agreement on the goals, the Kosovo institutions have not yet engaged with the benchmarks with sufficient vigour. Several Kosovo Albanian politicians have claimed that Kosovo has already achieved the standards. A senior official has publicly claimed that Kosovo has "risen above the governments of the region" in its approach to returns, property rights and freedom of movement.
The standards to be met must of course be realistic and seen against the region's performance. It would be unfair to compare Kosovo with, say, Switzerland. However, as the Security Council mission stressed in December, Kosovo is still a long way from having truly functioning democratic institutions and a society where minorities can fully participate.
We obviously do not expect the institutions to deliver in areas where they do not have instruments. But public figures can and must be held accountable for a sustained effort to promote the values of the rule of law, for example. We expect them to take a stand against crime, to refrain from extremist statements, and to call on the public to cooperate with the police and courts. Tacit tolerance for crime and corruption must stop.
With your help, I hope that we can convince political leaders and Kosovo society to embrace the benchmarks as a positive challenge. Kosovo institutions will have to rise to it. They have to understand that only the fulfillment of these standards will give the International Community confidence that Kosovo is ready for substantial self-government. The fulfillment of these standards is also necessary to remove the causes of future conflict - and to make Kosovo a normal European society.
Let me also state that there are many politicians, public figures and journalists in Kosovo who are very supportive of this course. Their vision is encouraging.
II Priorities for 2003
UNMIK's strategy is to focus on the standards that are required for a decent life in Kosovo, on what the people actually want. I will concentrate on the priorities for 2003:
First, Crime: Overall levels of serious crime declined significantly in 2002. The number of murders last year was half that of 2001 and the clearance rate of murder cases has risen to 80%. However, Kosovo has been rocked at the turn of the year by a spate of violence and killings. In the space of four weeks, there were three car-bombings. Over the last months there have also been a number of high profile murders. Some of the victims have been witnesses for the Hague or in organized crime cases.
No one is above the law. We are intensifying our attack against organized crime, corruption and politically and ethnically motivated violence. Members of the Kosovo Police Service will use their new skills to participate in the most sensitive areas of the fight against serious and organized crime. They will contribute their knowledge of crime networks in Kosovo and the region. Last Thursday I saw in the police station in Peje/Pec that this can work. I am also pleased that Italy's Guardia di Finanza have now begun their work in the new Financial Investigation Unit to fight corruption and fraud.
Second, the Economy: Unemployment continues to be the number one concern. But jobs can only be created by attracting investment. And investment will only come when investors can be confident that their money will not be lost. This will only be the case when they can rely on the legal system, trust the institutions, and when freedom of movement and property rights apply. In other words, when the standards of a functioning democratic society are met.
Together with the government, I will seek to do everything possible to develop the legal system, the institutions and the basis for property rights that are needed to generate investor confidence. Here the privatisation process will be key. We also have to make it easy for business to invest in Kosovo. For this, we will be opening an office where investors can get through registration and legal requirements quickly. A one stop investment shop.
Third, Multi-ethnicity: I am concerned about ethnically defined interest politics on the part of both Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, as well as by Belgrade.
We cannot allow parallel structures to operate. This is also the reason that we established the UNMIK Administration - Mitrovica on 25 November and are introducing the Kosovo Police Service in the northern part of the town. More still needs to be done. However, after three and a half years of hearing of nothing from there but the Bridge Watchers, the International Community is now in control.
Belgrade has been helpful on Mitrovica, but in other areas it continues to support parallel structures, operating on a mono-ethnic basis. While insisting that Kosovo is part of Serbia, in reality Belgrade focuses exclusively on only 10% of Kosovo's population.
But the majority Albanian community in Kosovo has equally failed to take ownership of the interests of the Serb community and other minorities. Minorities are still being harassed. Minorities are still afraid to move freely throughout Kosovo. They often lack access to education, health care, public utilities and jobs. We in UNMIK are working hard to create the conditions for increased returns. In 2003 more returns will be possible. But minority rights and returns need to be supported also by the Provisional Institutions with budget appropriations and concrete programmes.
Kosovo must prove that it is creating a multi-ethnic society where every Kosovan regardless of ethnic origin can live in security and dignity.
III Transfer of Powers
It is good that the Assembly and the other institutions want to take on responsibility. I am ready to hand over all competencies I legally can by the end of this year to the Provisional Institutions. But the institutions must make progress against the benchmarks and demonstrate that they are equipped to handle added responsibilities - and really accomplish things.
The municipalities now have more than two years' experience of running local affairs. We will soon be able to fully hand over executive responsibilities to the most successful municipalities, and withdraw into a monitoring and oversight function.
On the central level, UNMIK is carrying out a review of how effectively we have actually handed over real responsibility in the transferred areas. We will also seek to identify together with the Provisional Institutions all further areas that can be transferred this year. We will then work out together with them how this transfer can best be done.
Our principle will be effective empowerment. But it is important that the transfer of authority does not take the form of the International Community simply abandoning the Kosovo political structures, losing sight of 1244. It is not even one year since the Government was set up. There is still a lack of effective checks and balances between the executive, legislative, judiciary and media. Minority protections are still weak throughout the institutions. The Government itself has asked for our continued support. Despite our own shortcomings - as surely UNMIK makes mistakes - we are still needed in Kosovo.
In addition, there are certain things that I cannot fully transfer to the local institutions. I am mandated to act as guarantor for the equal rights and fair treatment of minorities. Together with KFOR, I answer for security and civil order. And I will retain authority for external relations.
I don't believe that 2003 is the time for finally solving Kosovo's status. But it is the time to lay the groundwork for the political process which in the end will determine status. Dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on practical issues of mutual interest is necessary in itself and will help enable political dialogue further down the line. Indeed paragraph 11 (e) of Resolution 1244 mandates me to promote such a process.
It is crucially important that the UN Security Council, representing the whole International Community, remains in charge of Kosovo until the main objective set out in 1244 is fulfilled. At the same time Kosovo must also prepare for the process of European integration together with its neighbours in the region.
The European Union is expected to outline a more energetic strategy towards the Balkans at its Thessaloniki Summit on 21 June. In his letter to the Greek and future Italian EU Presidencies, Commission President Romano Prodi calls for 'an even stronger political commitment' of the EU and a 'clear and unambiguous' membership perspective. At a meeting last week in Brussels of the international representatives from the region with High Representative Javier Solana and Commissioner Chris Patten we all saw this as essential for success.
But any engagement by the International Community must be matched by equal engagement of our local partners in fulfilling the standards - the standards of a functioning democratic society.
To conclude: So, what do people in Kosovo want? What are our priorities? Jobs, security and multi-ethnicity. This is what the standards are about. This is what the International Community wants. And this is what people in Kosovo want.