Security Council: United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo

Report
from UN Security Council
Published on 31 Oct 2019 View Original

Note: Owing to the liquidity crisis impacting our Organization, only a partial summary of statements made in today’s meeting of the Security Council is available at this time. The complete summary will be issued later as Press Release SC/14008.

Briefing

ZAHIR TANIN, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), provided an overview of the recent parliamentary election — held on 6 October — which “has brought forth the most significant change in the landscape in Kosovo in 12 years”. Noting that the turnout was the highest since 2010, he recalled that the snap decisions were convened at a time characterized by internal political division, broken unity within the governing coalition and a public perception that the Government was unable to deliver on its promises. The preliminary results point to victory by the opposition party, known as Vetëvendosje, or “Self‑Determination”, and the Democratic League of Kosovo, which are currently exploring coalition options.

Noting the decision of most voters to rally behind unconventional political candidates — who do not share the background or visions of past leaders — he said the Kosovo Serb‑majority areas recorded their highest voter turnout in recent times, confirming a trend of active participation in Kosovo elections. Overall, the elections were assessed positively by international observers, but several challenges — including campaign financing issues, intimidation and voter pressure in Kosovo Serb‑majority areas — were also registered. Noting that the elections also marked the first time a major political party nominated a female prime ministerial candidate in Kosovo, he cited other encouraging signs such as high women’s participation and campaign pledges made with a view towards greater gender parity in the Government.

Expressing hope that the new leadership will use that momentum to deliver on its promises of advancing the rule of law, fighting corruption and organized crime and tackling unemployment, he said the international community also expects the new leaders to affirm their commitment to the negotiations with Belgrade and ensure that obstacles are removed. Welcoming efforts being made by many international partners to push forward that dialogue, he went on to recall that on 28 May, two UNMIK staff members were arrested by Kosovo police during an operation targeting smuggling and organized crime. Noting that the Mission stands fully behind efforts of Kosovo institutions to combat those phenomena, he said the two staff members were badly beaten and criminal proceedings instituted against them. To ascertain the facts, he established an investigation team comprised of United Nations Secretariat staff from outside the Mission with extensive expertise, which has now submitted a report.

Outlining the facts of that case, he said the investigative team found no evidence to support the accusations of wrongdoing. They found evidence of excessive use of force by the Kosovo police, which resulted in the staff members suffering significant injuries. The arrest and detention of UNMIK personnel while on official duty, as well as the institution of criminal proceedings against them, were in clear violation of their immunity from arrest and detention and from legal process. He noted that those actions, as well as the excessive use of force, are in clear violation of Council resolution 1244 (1999) as well as UNMIK regulations and human rights law standards. All ongoing criminal proceedings against the two staff members must therefore be terminated immediately, he stressed, calling on the Kosovo authorities to investigate the police officers involved in the incidents.

“In advancing our mandate, we continue to foster the rule of law and human rights, an essential element of which is access to justice for every individual,” he said. Noting that an UNMIK‑funded legal aid centre provides free access to justice to people from vulnerable groups, he said the Mission is also assisting the local authorities in northern Kosovo to establish the first‑ever shelter for survivors of gender‑based violence. Among other things, it has engaged language experts from Belgrade and Pristina to prepare the first Serbian‑Albanian/Albanian‑Serbian dictionary since 1984, which is now available. He also encouraged Member States to support the United Nations Trust Fund in support of the Ashkali, Egyptian and Roma communities in Kosovo.

Statements

IVICA DAČIĆ, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said this is his twenty‑second time delivering a statement in the Security Council over the past seven years and he has seen nothing done in Kosovo and Metohija to enable the Serbs and other non‑Albanians to lead a life worthy of man. Even before any agreement is reached, these people must be ensured physical safety; freedom of movement and religion; the right to return, to employment and to participate in political life; and protection of their cultural and religious heritage. These rights have disappeared from this Council’s deliberations after the unilateral declaration of independence by so‑called Kosovo. The Brussels Agreement signed six years ago was a ray of hope. The agreement was the result of difficult negotiations. The people in Kosovo and Metohija must not be made dependent on Pristina’s whims and one‑sided acts aimed at aborting the continuation of dialogue, he said, declaring that Serbia is ready to resume the negotiations even tomorrow, provided the conditions to do so concur.

He noted that Pristina last November increased tariffs on goods from central Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by 100 per cent. The tariffs have been in force for almost a year, with the damage from this measure estimated at several hundred million dollars. It is not fair for the representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom, at almost every Council meeting, to call on Member States to recognize the independence of Kosovo while asking Serbia to end a campaign to get the recognition of so‑called Kosovo withdrawn. Turning to the general elections held in Kosovo and Metohija recently, Serbia had warned that the election campaign would be used to ramp up political and other hype against the Serbs. “Regrettably, it came to pass,” he said, noting that the Serbs were attacked, their shrines vandalized and provocations abounded.

He went on to warn that the rising new leader, Albin Kurti, has no intention of giving up on the idea of creating “Greater Albania”. The potential prime minister refused to speak with the legitimate representative of the Kosovo and Metohija Serbs, saying he would demand that all the agreements reached thus far be re‑examined once he gets in power and the establishment of the community of Serb municipalities set out in the Brussels Agreement will be a “dead letter”. Recalling that in June, his counterpart from Kosovo said, without any legal, political or moral foundation, that the question of Kosovo and Metohija was a matter of decolonization. Kosovo and Metohija are not mentioned in any United Nations decolonization document. Citing increased security incidents and other measures against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, he said the review of the situation on the ground gives a reason for the continued presence of UNMIK and other missions. Serbia will continue to seek a solution to make the space where Serbs and Albanians have cohabitated for centuries a better place to live in the twenty‑first century.

VLORA ÇITAKU of Kosovo stated: “While the long shadows of conflict continue to chase us, we meet here today in an atmosphere of rising hope.” Underscoring the importance of Kosovo’s 6 October elections, she described them as a paradigm shift resulting from the efforts of the United Nations and its various partner agencies over recent decades. Thanking the international community for support in rebuilding Kosovo from the ashes and devastation of war, she said that the elections were preceded by a competitive but cordial campaign characterized by robust debate and a plurality of ideas. The elections were free and fair, with record high participation from all communities, which represents a testament to the maturity of Kosovo’s democracy. The humility with which the winners accepted the results was paralleled by the grace the losers showed in conceding, without drama or contestation.

While those results are no cause for self‑satisfaction, she said they do signal cause for hope and faith in Kosovo’s democracy. The one exception to that healthy atmosphere was the fact that members of the Serbian community were threatened, intimidated and pressured to vote for one particular Serbian party. Noting that the violations were recorded by international observers, she said Belgrade is the only actor involved which is perpetrating disenfranchisement in Kosovo. “These intimidation tactics are not a novelty,” she said, adding that they are used daily against Serbian members of the Kosovo Security Forces and others, whose homes are attacked with grenades and their families terrorized. “These kinds of practices must come to an end, once and for all,” she stressed. Moreover, for over two decades, the Serbian State has employed “creative accounting” to bolster their claims that 200,000 Serbs fled Kosovo after the liberation in 1999. Such claims are mathematically impossible, she said, declaring: “Despite Serbia’s ambitions, we do not live in a post‑truth world.”

Urging Belgrade to stop using false data to concoct false narratives, she expressed concern that “there is something fundamentally wrong with a people so consumed by the bitterness and hatred of the past that they can find no peace with the present”. She expressed hope that, one day in the future, Serbia will own up to the brutal savagery that it perpetrated in the Balkans, and denounce the monsters who slaughtered women and children. Kosovo has already demonstrated its ability to undergo a smooth transition from consumer to contributor of society, and made great strides in capacity‑building, modernization and harmonization with the standards of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It is a highly tolerant, secular and diverse society.

On the matter of the recent arrest of an UNMIK staff member, she said the Kosovo Police acted with the utmost professionalism, including by filming and making the footage of the entire operation available to the public. That evidence makes it clear that the UNMIK employee refused to show identification and cooperate with the police. The police and judiciary are currently conducting an investigation of the matter, whose results will be shared with the Council. Emphasizing that there is no reason for the Council to continue to convene with the current level of frequency on Kosovo, she stated: “It is paradoxical that the Council gathers more often to discuss Kosovo than it does Syria, or other pressing issues which need your attention.” UNMIK’s mandate has long been surpassed and those valuable resources should be used elsewhere, she said.

DAVID CLAY (United Kingdom), welcoming progress in Kosovo, said that, however, much more needs to be done to counter corruption and organized crime and to strengthen the judicial system. Affirming that Kosovo police should be able to confront organized crime wherever they find it, he stressed that it is also important that international personnel should be given the immunities due. He urged both Pristina and Belgrade to cooperate fully with the Special Chambers and proceed with domestic prosecution of historic crimes. He also highlighted the importance of support to survivors of sexual crimes. Commending the country on the elections, he expressed concern about some reports of intimidation. He called on the new Government to focus on tackling the pressing issues facing the country, to improve inclusivity and to work for regional security. He called on Pristina to remove tariffs and on Belgrade to cease the “derecognition” campaign, also calling on both sides to resume European‑sponsored talks under a renewed commitment to helping secure peace for future generations. He thanked UNMIK and all those who contributed to Kosovo’s stability and development and pledged his country’s continued support.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France), congratulating Kosovo on the conduct of elections, expressed hope for progress in reform in the rule‑of‑law sector. Welcoming UNMIK’s work in bringing people together and other areas, she emphasized the need to respect immunity for international personnel. Stressing the importance of normalization between Pristina and Belgrade, she called on the two parties to resume dialogue. Her country will continue to work with Germany to move the dialogue forward, she said.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that the situation in Kosovo remains inauspicious and the dialogue seems to be in a coma. Expecting an intensification of European Union activity to resume the talks, he said that in order for progress, however, the tolerance for Pristina’s provocations needs to be nipped in the bud. Unfortunately, he saw no progress regarding respect for the rights of Kosovo’s Serbian community, given reports of intimidation, raids by police and growing aggression towards UNMIK personnel. The commission’s conclusions on the detention and beating of an UNMIK staff member coincided with the findings of the Russian investigation: the goal was to prevent the staff member from carrying out his duties. The images of the incident do not show a young beautiful democracy as has been claimed. He said that the brutal beating showed how low the police culture is in the country and why Kosovo should not participate in the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). At the same time, UNMIK is basically being squeezed out of Kosovo so no one will be able to witness the lawlessness there. In addition, regional security is threatened by the Greater Albania project and the return of terrorist fighters to Kosovo. Nothing is being done by the European Union to address this, or to address the tariffs and impunity of criminals in Kosovo. His country’s position is clear: a settlement must be agreed upon by the parties themselves based on Council resolution 1244 (1999). Meanwhile, the situation requires a watchful eye. He called for the distribution of a draft presidential statement his country had submitted on the issue.

Statement by Germany to come.

Statement by the Dominican Republic to come.

Statement by the United States to come.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), congratulating Kosovo on the conduct of the elections, expressed hope that the change in the political spectrum will bring about effective governance that is able to continue reforms. In regard to the United Nations Mission, she said that the need to freshly assess its comparative advantage is becoming even more apparent as time passes. At the same time, she expressed deep appreciation for UNMIK’s historic role, commending the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo and the International Security Force in Kosovo for their contributions as well. As her country continues to view the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina as key to the stability of the whole region, she called on the parties to resume talks towards a comprehensive agreement for that purpose. In that context, she encouraged Kosovo to remove punitive tariffs, encouraging Serbia to desist in actions aimed at undermining Kosovo’s international position. She called on the political elites in Kosovo, regardless of affiliation, to continue reforms that lay the basis for a just, inclusive and prosperous environment. Adding that Kosovo is fully capable of managing its own future, she pledged her country’s willingness to continue to extend assistance and share experiences.

Statement by China to come.

MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) called on both parties to engage in sincere actions to deescalate tensions on the ground. Religious sites are sacred sanctuaries to create a positive spirit, he said, condemning all vandalism and calling on law enforcement to investigate and bring those responsible to justice. Dialogue remains the only feasible way to achieve a win‑win solution for both parties. He regretted that no high‑level meetings were held between Belgrade and Pristina within the framework of the European Union‑facilitated dialogue. Trust‑building cannot be successful if the rule of law is not strengthened and the judiciary is not perceived as credible, independent and impartial. Underscoring the vital role of UNMIK in engaging grass‑roots communities, he expressed concern about the incident in Zubin Potok, involving the arrest of UNMIK staff by the authorities in northern Kosovo. “We urge a thorough investigation on the incident that clearly violated international law and immunities of international United Nations staff members,” he said.

Statement by Kuwait to come.

Statement by Côte d’Ivoire to come.

Statement by Belgium to come.

Statement by Equatorial Guinea to come.

Statement by Peru to come.

XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, reiterated his country’s support to UNMIK in creating an environment conducive to compromise, reconciliation and stability. “We commend UNMIK’s continued engagement with all stakeholders in pursuit of building trust amongst the communities through dialogue and with initiatives aimed at empowering the youth and women,” he said. South Africa remains concerned about the situation regarding the arrest of UNMIK personnel. The continued stalemate in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is of concern as well. “We call on the two sides to refrain from actions or rhetoric that may increase tensions and further entrench divisions between the parties,” he added. South Africa can attest that the path to achieving long‑term solutions to what seems like intractable situations may not be easy but is vital to the peace and security of the region. South Africa called on all parties to show flexibility and take the necessary steps to actively pursue the resumption of dialogue, with the aim of working towards a viable and mutually acceptable solution and the normalization of relations between the two sides.

For information media. Not an official record.