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Report of the UN SG on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (S/2008/458)

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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 1 March to 25 June 2008.

II. Political situation

2. Since my report to the Security Council in March (S/2008/211), the ability of UNMIK to operate as before and perform its functions as an interim administration has been fundamentally challenged owing to actions taken by both the authorities in Pristina and the Kosovo Serbs. In Pristina, Kosovo's authorities have instituted measures that have sought to effectively assume the Mission's powers. Most significantly, Kosovo adopted a Constitution on 15 June that does not envisage a real role for UNMIK, although Kosovo's leaders have welcomed the continued presence of the United Nations in Kosovo for some time. Kosovo has also passed legislation in a number of fields, whose purpose is to assume legal control and responsibility over areas that were previously reserved to my Special Representative. Kosovo Serbs, on their part, have rejected the constitution and connected legislation and, with the support of Belgrade, have expanded their boycott of Kosovo's institutions and widened and deepened their parallel structures, particularly in northern Kosovo. Kosovo Serbs have also, on occasion, resorted to violent means to express their opposition to Kosovo's authorities.

3. As I noted in my special report on Kosovo, which I submitted to the Security Council on 20 June (S/2008/354), it is my assessment that these events have contributed to creating a profoundly new reality in which UNMIK can no longer perform as effectively as in the past the vast majority of its tasks as an interim administration. In that report, I also informed the Security Council that, in the light of recent developments in Kosovo, I intended to adjust operational aspects of the international civil presence and reconfigure UNMIK in order to allow for the European Union to take on an increasing role in the rule of law sector, operating under resolution 1244 (1999) and under a 'United Nations umbrella', headed by my Special Representative. In conjunction with this reconfiguration, I also informed the Council that my Special Representative, Lamberto Zannier, would engage in dialogue with Belgrade in six key areas of practical mutual concern as set out in my letter to President Tadi? (S/2008/354, annex I): police, courts, customs, transportation and infrastructure, boundaries and Serbian patrimony. The dialogue would be brought forward in close consultation with the authorities in Pristina and with key stakeholders. Following the meeting of the Security Council on 20 June, and in the light of the fact that the Security Council is unable to provide guidance, I have instructed my Special Representative to move forward with the reconfiguration of UNMIK as set out in my special report, in order to adapt UNMIK to a changed reality and address current and emerging operational requirements in Kosovo.

4. Following the 17 February declaration of independence by the Kosovo Assembly, the authorities in Pristina have taken a number of steps to assert their authority in Kosovo. On 9 April, the Kosovo Assembly adopted the 'Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo', which came into force on 15 June, along with a package of laws covering decentralization and borders, and authorizing the creation of a Kosovo Foreign Ministry and Intelligence Service. The constitution makes no mention of any role or function of the United Nations and does not contain a reference to resolution 1244 (1999). The Kosovo authorities have, however, welcomed the continued presence of the United Nations in Kosovo. They have committed themselves to implementing in full the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement prepared by my then Special Envoy for the Kosovo Future Status Process, Martti Ahtisaari, and conveyed to the Security Council on 26 March 2007 (S/2007/168/Add.1). In addition to the adoption of the constitution and connected legislation, on 10 June the Kosovo Assembly adopted a national anthem and on 17 June the Kosovo Government authorized the establishment of nine 'embassies' in Member States that have recognized the declaration of independence. On the ground, there have been several instances where Kosovo authorities have openly challenged the authority of UNMIK, in particular with regard to the application of property and vehicular traffic law.

5. Kosovo Serbs have continued to strongly oppose the declaration of independence and have manifested this through continued protests, some of which have turned violent. Kosovo Serb political leaders, and the authorities in Belgrade, have also declared their opposition to the deployment of a European Union rule of law mission in Kosovo Serb-majority areas, and have stressed that they will cooperate only with UNMIK. A small number of Kosovo Serb political representatives, including the two Kosovo Serb government ministers, as well as some Kosovo Police Service (KPS) and Kosovo Correctional Service officers, have returned to work in Kosovo structures at the central and municipal levels. However, the Kosovo Serb boycott of Kosovo's institutions has been expanded, and their attempts to entrench parallel structures have continued, with the support of Belgrade. The Government of Serbia has attempted to assert its authority in Kosovo Serb-majority areas in Kosovo, particularly in northern Kosovo, through the operation of Serbian railways and courts there. Belgrade has also instructed Kosovo Serbs to stop working for Kosovo's institutions and to renounce their salaries in order to receive payments from Serbia directly. This has affected, most significantly, Kosovo Serbs working for the KPS in southern Kosovo, as well as Kosovo Correctional Service staff, judges and court staff from courts north of the Ibër/Ibar River. On 22 May, 48 Kosovo Serb UNMIK customs staff resigned from their posts. In response, Kosovo authorities have implemented a policy of suspension with pay for Kosovo Serbs who are boycotting Kosovo institutions, even though some of these Kosovo Serbs continue to receive salaries from Belgrade.

6. During the reporting period, President Tadi?, Prime Minister Koštunica, Vice- President of the Serb Radical Party Nikoli?, and other senior Serbian officials visited Kosovo Serb-majority areas in Kosovo. Many of those visits were carried out in the context of campaigning for Serbian parliamentary and local municipal elections held on 11 May and took place without incident. The elections were organized by the Serbian Electoral Commission in 23 out of 30 municipalities in Kosovo where Kosovo Serbs live. UNMIK neither hindered nor supported the elections, and declared the results of the local municipal elections invalid. Following these elections, Serbian officials and Kosovo Serb leaders started to establish parallel municipal government structures in accordance with Serbian law. Some Kosovo Serb leaders, in particular those from Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo, have also expressed their intention to set up a Kosovo Serb Assembly, and have been supported by the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija. On 18 June, executive decisions appointing municipal representatives on an interim basis in five Kosovo Serb-dominant municipalities - which were enacted to ensure continued local government political representation following the Kosovo Serb boycott of local elections in November 2007 - expired. In the three Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo - Leposaviq/Leposavi?, Zveçan/Zve?an and Zubin Potok - these positions are currently being filled by Kosovo Serbs who base their legitimacy on the results of the 11 May Serbian elections, and no incidents have been reported. However, in other areas of Kosovo, such as in the municipality of Shtërpcë/Štrpce and in the village of Graçanicë/Gra?anica (Pristina region), this has led to political confrontation with existing municipal and local governance structures, as well as with representatives of other communities living in these areas.