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Report of the UN SG on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (S/2008/211)

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I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), by which the Council decided to establish the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and requested the Secretary-General to report at regular intervals on the implementation of the mandate. It covers the activities of UNMIK, and developments related thereto, from 16 December 2007 to 1 March 2008.

II. Political situation

2. On 19 December 2007, the 2007 electoral process was concluded with the certification of the results of the second round of mayoral and municipal elections. The Assembly of Kosovo held its inaugural session in two parts. On 4 January 2008 the members of the Assembly took their oath. On 9 January the Assembly elected its President and members of its Presidency, and re-elected Fatmir Sejdiu as President of Kosovo. On the same day, the Assembly voted into office a new coalition government formed by the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and the Democratic League of Kosovo, led by Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi (PDK). Six out of 10 Kosovo Serb members of the Assembly took the oath of office; the remaining four did not. Representatives of political parties representing the Kosovo Serb community were allocated the Ministry of Communities and Returns and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, while the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning was allocated to a party representing the Kosovo Turk community.

3. On 17 February, the Assembly of Kosovo held a session during which it adopted a 'declaration of independence', declaring Kosovo an independent and sovereign State. The declaration stated that Kosovo fully accepts the obligations of the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement (S/2007/168/Add.1). Prime Minister Thaçi stated that there would be equal opportunities for all of Kosovo's inhabitants and that discrimination against members of minority communities would be eliminated. The declaration also pledged that Kosovo would adhere to resolution 1244 (1999) and would commit itself to working constructively with the United Nations. One hundred and nine out of 120 Assembly members present voted in favour of the declaration. The 10 Kosovo Serb deputies of the Kosovo Assembly did not attend the session.

4. I immediately drew this development to the attention of the Security Council, so that it could consider the matter. In doing so, I reaffirmed that, pending guidance from the Security Council, the United Nations would continue to operate on the understanding that resolution 1244 (1999) remains in force and constitutes the legal framework for the mandate of UNMIK, and that UNMIK would continue to implement its mandate in the light of the evolving circumstances.

5. On 18 February, I received a letter from Javier Solana, the European Union's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, informing me of the decision of the European Union to deploy a rule of law mission within the framework provided by resolution 1244 (1999), and to appoint a European Union Special Representative for Kosovo who would, among other functions, coordinate the work of the European Union in Kosovo.

6. The authorities in Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs condemned the declaration of independence. On 18 February, Boris Tadiæ, President of Serbia, informed me that Serbia had adopted a decision stating that the declaration of independence by Kosovo represents a forceful and unilateral secession of a part of the territory of Serbia, and does not produce any legal effect either in Serbia or in the international legal order.

7. The Kosovo Serbs reacted to the declaration of independence in a number of ways. They held daily, largely peaceful protests in several areas in Kosovo where Kosovo Serbs live, including northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, Graçanicë/Graèanica, Kamenicë/Kamenica and Shtërpcë/Štrpce. Regrettably, however, some protests turned violent, particularly in northern Kosovo, where on 19 February two Customs service points on the Administrative Boundary Line were attacked and destroyed by small groups of violent demonstrators.

8. Following Kosovo's declaration of independence, Kosovo Serbs, with the support of the Serbian authorities, have expanded their boycott of the institutions of Kosovo to include UNMIK Customs, the Kosovo Police Service (KPS), the Kosovo Corrections Service, the judicial system, municipal administration, and UNMIK railways. This expanded boycott has not been uniform, however. Although Kosovo Serb civil servants have stopped coming to work in municipalities where they make up either a majority, or a significant proportion, of the population, such as Shtërpcë/Štrpce, Kamenicë/Kamenica, Novobërdë/Novo Brdo and Gjilan/Gnjilane, they continued to work in municipalities where they remain a small minority, such as Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje, Lipjan/Lipljan and other areas. Kosovo Serbs also continued to work in the Kosovo Police Service in northern Kosovo, where international UNMIK police exercise direct operational command of policing functions. At the central level, leaders of Kosovo Serb political parties continued to have informal contacts with UNMIK and the Government of Kosovo. Although Kosovo Serb ministers in the Ministries of Labour and Social Welfare and Communities and Returns were not present in their workplaces on a regular basis, they remained engaged informally in the work of their ministries.

9. The Kosovo Albanian community's reaction to these events has been restrained. The Kosovo Government repeatedly called for calm, patience and trust in the ability of the international civil and military presences in Kosovo to manage the situation. Prime Minister Thaçi held outreach visits to the Kosovo Serb minority community throughout Kosovo.

10. My Special Representative continued to reach out to the Kosovo Serb community, meeting with different groups, including the mayors of Kosovo Serbmajority northern municipalities, students of Mitrovic"v/Mitrovica University and residents in Gracanic"v/Gra.anica, in order to instil calm and to reiterate that UNMIK continues to operate under the framework of resolution 1244 (1999). UNMIK has addressed the challenges faced in Kosovo Serb majority areas following the declaration of independence in a manner consistent with resolution 1244 (1999). Where and when required, UNMIK has taken measured steps, in cooperation with KFOR, to impose law and order, with the aim of ensuring that the political and security situation in Kosovo remained stable. Nevertheless, Kosovo Albanians voiced their frustration with UNMIK, and perceive it as not having dealt adequately with those challenges. This has manifested itself through statements made by Kosovo Government officials criticizing UNMIK for not preventing Serbian Government Ministers from visiting Kosovo, and statements expressing an expectation that UNMIK will cease its operations and transfer its powers to the local authorities by June.