Today we have a major press briefing on civil registration and pre-election preparations by the heads of OSCE and UN Civil Administration. We will limit our regular press briefing to a few minutes, and should there be any questions for Lieutenant Colonel Philipp and myself, we will be available outside the briefing room following the registration briefing.
The SRSG, Bernard Kouchner, arrives here today from New York and Paris. Tomorrow he will describe his briefing to the UN Security Council to the Interim Administrative Council. The IAC will discuss preparation for elections, the boundaries of municipalities and draft regulations on the next administrative departments to be set up.
Tomorrow, Dr. Kouchner will launch the first release of the new UNMIK postage stamps which will be used to send mail via the Kosovo Post and Telecommunications service. The ceremony takes place at 2:15 in the Grand Hotel. Media interested in attending should see Angela Walker.
The launch of the stamp series is not only a significant step forward in restoring communication within Kosovo, and ultimately to the outside world, but it is also an event for stamp collectors.
The five stamps, which come in denominations of 20 Pf to 2 DM, were designed by Kosovo artist Shyqri Nimani, who won a public competition to illustrate Kosovo's heritage around the theme "Peace in Kosovo". Their use in the international mail system was approved by the Universal Postal Union.
The French postal service, La Poste of Paris, printed 8 million stamps and delivered them to Kosovo by military aircraft.
First day covers can be purchased Wednesday, 15 March, in six post offices in Pristina and in Ferizai, Prizren, Djakova, Peja, Mitrovica and Gjnilane. Outside Kosovo, collectors can order stamps through their local vendors from the UN Postal Administration in Vienna, Geneva and New York.
Mail service inside Kosovo will begin this week, through the Post & Telecommunications of Kosovo. In mid-May, international service should be available.
With funding from the European Agency for Reconstruction, UNMIK and the PTK have opened 80 of 130 post offices in Kosovo, employing 700 staff. 60 vehicles, also donated by the European Agency for Reconstruction, are to arrive in late April.
Please see the press release outside for more details.
Also tomorrow, Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy will be visiting Prstina, meeting with SRSG Kouchner, UNMIK pillar heads and General Reinhardt. He meets as well with members of the IAC, with the independent members of the KTC and with Archbishop Artemije. He will hold a press conference in the Government building at 15:45.
It has been a rather violent weekend, with four murders and several cases of arson and explosive attacks.
There was a double murder yesterday involving an alleged dispute between two families in Dobrosevac, near Glogovac. Two suspects have been arrested (Kosovo Albanians).
Yesterday, a Serb was found murdered in the Pec/Peja region, shot in the head in Kulina.
On Saturday at 4:30 in the afternoon, a Serb man was found shot dead in his field, 3 kms north of Pristina (Donja Brnjca). UNMIK police are investigating.
Several arson fires were reported over the weekend in Pristina, Kosovo Polje and in Gnjilane--mostly involving minority-owned property. In Vitina an Albanian-owned building was damaged by an explosion. Also in Prizren at 2 a.m. Saturday a hand grenade was thrown into a café, ownership unclear. Grenade attacks were also reported in the Serb and Roma quarters of the town over Saturday night. In Pec/Peja on Friday, six mortar bombs exploded at 3:15 in the morning near the Roma village of Fidaje. No damage or injuries were reported.
An UNMIK Police officer was assaulted Friday by a crowd after he stopped a vehicle in northern Mitrovica.
In Mitrivoca, there was a question regarding arrests and detentions since the 3 February outbreak of violence. As of today, we have one man in custody. Charges were to have been filed today. UNMIK and KFOR have detained temporarily, questioned and interviewed dozens of other people in connection with the violence in northern Mitrovica of 3 February, the shooting of the French soldiers on 13 February, and the grenade attacks of last Tuesday, 7 March. Investigations are ongoing and regarding the 3 February events, the police investigation is nearly closed. Once the international judiciary which we are setting up in Mitrovica is operating, more arrests will undoubtedly be forthcoming.
We would like to protest strongly the article in Koha Ditore today maligning the former administrator of Mitrovica, Mario Morcone. Mr. Morcone was a much respected administrator who did a remarkable job in a short period of time to defuse tensions and to return Kosovo Albanians to their flats in northern Mitrovica. He was admired by community leaders and by ordinary people on both sides of the line in Mitrovica. He left at the end of his contract, as he had always planned to do, to return to his post in Italy.
This morning, the Kosovo Electric Company shut down unit 1 of Kosovo B for repairs to tube leaks. They expect it to be running again early next week. Currently no units of Kosovo A are operating, but at least one should be on line later this week. We are currently receiving imports which involve trading power within the regional network of electrical companies, with whom we have strong cooperation.
KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Henning Philipp
Yesterday, KFOR again arrested several thousands for illegal possession of weapons and confiscated a number of rifles, pistols and a huge amount of ammunition. Details of those incidents you may find, as usual, in our press release outside, after this briefing.
OSCE Spokesman Mr. Roland Bless
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the second part of this briefing. The civil and political parties registration, although directly linked to the forthcoming elections, has a much broader implications. We are joined today by Tom Koenigs, Head of Pillar II which is the Civil Administration, as well as Ambassador Daan Everts, Head of the OSCE Office, the Institution Building pillar. Mr. Koenigs will introduce the civil registration process first, the we will have opening remarks by Ambassador Everts on the Central Elections Commission and some hints and pieces of the party registration process, after which they will be glad to take your questions. At 2:30 p.m. today at OSCE HQ, we will have a seminar-style session for you where you can ask all technical questions and example-specific individual cases on the matter.
Mr. Tom Koenigs, Deputy SRSG for Civil Administration (Pillar II)
The Joint Registration Task Force is in place, and we will ask Kosovars to register in the new civil registry. All those who have registered will then automatically and free of charge obtain the new Kosovo ID card which is a modern falsification-proof plastic card containing all necessary data to confirm that the person holding such a card is a legal resident of Kosovo.
We only will ask those over 16 years of age to come in the first three months of registration. They should come to the 200 registration centres, 75 of them are fixed for all the three months of registration and 125 will be mobile. Children will be registered after this period by their parents. They certainly will not need an ID card before they are aged 16.
Who can register? Of course, all Kosovars, those who have their habitual residence in the territory of Kosovo. These are those who either were born in Kosovo or whose father or mother were born in Kosovo. Second, those who have lived in Kosovo for at least five consecutive years and can prove this. In addition, there are some provisions with regards to those who had been forcibly removed from Kosovo and could not return, so that they can register too.
UNMIK wants to include all those who rightfully belong to Kosovo, regardless of their ethnic group. UNMIK wants to exclude those who have entered Kosovo illegally and do not belong to this territory.
All those who have registered may at the same time apply for a travel document, which is an UNMIK travel document, not a passport, even if it looks like. It should also be falsification-proof and - which is the main point - it should be accepted by all those countries the Kosovars want to travel to. The high quality, certainly, costs an amount of money, so UNMIK will charge 60 deutsche mark for adults and 30 deutsche mark for children. This is certainly more than the costs of the passport in a neighbouring country, but it is for the production costs. The better this document is by technical quality - which means mainly that it should be falsification-proof, as well as that you can use it if you have washed it in the machine, with 100 degrees, and if you have carried it through the winter, with minus 30 degrees - this was checked in Switzerland...
We are doing this exercise to make as many countries as possible to accept this document. We held negotiations with the Schengen countries in Brussels last week, and we are happy to communicate that in principle all these countries are prepared to accept this document. Certainly, the necessary checks will have to be made in the course of the next weeks.
This will lead, I do hope, to the consent of acceptance of this document by the Macedonians. You know that there has been a debate in the papers whether or not to accept it. But we have indications that if the Schengen States accept this document, the neighbouring countries will accept it too.
The registration is a pre-condition for these travel documents, because we need all this data, so that it is clear that the person who holds this document holds the other at the same time and is habitual resident of Kosovo.
All those who have registered here in Kosovo and are over 18 years of age will be entered in the electoral list-Mr. Everts will talk about this in more details.
Those Kosovars who are living outside Kosovo, however, will not be entered in the civil registry, but in the electoral registry. Therefore, they will not be sent an ID card or a travel document. If they want to obtain it, they will have to come to their country and register here and get confirmation of the habitual residence here and their ID card and, if they wish so, get the travel document.
We are certainly prepared to answer all questions either at this meeting or at the technical meeting in the afternoon.
Ambassador Daan Everts, Head of OSCE Office in Kosovo (Institution Building)
I have two topics: the elections and the registration of political parties.
It's very clear and has been endorsed by all the political leaders in Kosovo that elections to be held in Kosovo - the first ones to be free and fair--must be credible. This is the key word. We have to have credible elections. We cannot afford flawed elections, elections that will be challenged inside Kosovo and outside. So, they have to be high-quality, OSCE-standard elections.
It means that we have to put great effort in establishing reliable, accurate voter lists of actually those votes that belong here. And that means that we have to have a reliable civil registry, from which voter lists are extracted. And that's why Mr. Koenigs and myself are so keenly together in this Joint Registration Task Force.
Let me just remind you - those who were there - of Bosnia of 1996, where the elections were held on the basis of all census lists, but there was no registration effort done, and you know the criticism that came. And already the next year, it was decided for better elections to have them based on special registration effort. We don't want to repeat the mistakes that we have witnessed in the past. Hence, the enormous investment in a high scrutiny registration. And this is the only explanation why we have the elections not now, in March or April, but have them, at the earliest, in the fall - most likely, around 1 October.
Who will vote? Who is eligible? Obviously, since these are the municipal elections, the voters must have a link to their municipality. But that was a technical problem, because many Kosovars had been displaced, as you know. So, we have to pick a date, then we could establish a residency, that we have it prior to the major displacements that took place from early 1998 onwards. So, we have - as a cut-off date - 1998, 1 January. Whoever was residing in a municipality then will have a right to vote in that municipality.
It means that all those who had to leave, who had been displaced inside and outside Kosovo, will be eligible to vote. And we will seek them out inside and outside Kosovo in the registration process, and it possible for them to participate in the municipal elections.
How they are going to vote, that is in the regulation foreseen, the possibility to choose on the basis of residency claims to their original municipality or for the current one, if there is credible proof of people having moved permanently to another place. So, that dual option exists.
Of course, those who are outside Kosovo have only option to vote for the original municipality, if they can verify the claim that they have the link to that municipality.
We hope to have together the Central Elections Commission in the course of the next days. We are inviting parties and civil society groups to nominate candidates to establish this commission which will have a crucial task in devising and adopting rules of the game, all kinds of details dealing with the conduct of the elections. This Central Elections Commission will consist of 12 members, nine of whom will be Kosovars, and three internationals. The nine Kosovars members will be nominated by the four Kosovar IAC parties - the parties of Mr. Rugova, Mr. Qosja, Mr. Thaci, and the Serb community - and there will be two additional minority representatives, from the Turkish and Bosniac communities, as well as three independents nominated by, respectively, the academic world, the NGO world, and the media world - the latter one not being an active journalist, but someone familiar with the media world, because there will be massive media attention to this process, and we at the OSCE will make it possible that there is the widest possible coverage of the campaign and the actual elections process.
With regard to the political parties registration, all parties which want to be politically active in Kosovo are invited to register. In order to be a registered party, they have to meet a host of criteria, to demonstrate the Kosovo nature of the party, so that Kosovars have to need it. And they have to submit a list of 4,000 supporters identified by names, addresses, and meet a number of smaller criteria which are all in the papers that will be discussed this afternoon.
Questions and answers
Q: How are you going to conduct registration in Serbian enclaves in Kosovo, when Serbs boycott the whole process?
DE: We are not anticipating a boycott, because it's so clearly in the interests of the Serb community to participate. And we have in fact received some encouraging signals, but they are not unanimous, I must admit. We are pleased now to confirm the official approval by the Russian Federation of the elections and the registration process. This hopefully will help Belgrade to be cognizant of the need to have the Serb displaced persons - and Roma, by the way - in Serbia to register. It would be adding insult to injury if they would be disenfranchised by Milosevic. So, we hope there will be strong international and Serb community pressures to enable the participation. This afternoon, in fact, they are having a meeting in Liposavic with all the Serb parties that are in the northern part of Kosovo to discuss the elections, registration and their participation. And we are very, very keen to encourage it. We are also making sure, and Mr. Koenigs can elaborate on this, that in the municipal structures there would be certain guarantees, assurances for an effective minority representation. On our side, on the UNMIK/OSCE side, there is a very clear determination to do the maximum to make it not only possible, but also attractive for ethnic minorities to participate.
Q: Is the postponement of the general elections connected with the fact that the final political status of Kosovo is not defined? Will several thousands Albanian refugees who are outside of Kosovo participate in the registration?
DE: There are technical reasons. If you want to have elections in 2000, which we want and many Kosovars want, then for the reason that I have explained - credibility - we can only organize municipal elections. It would be too much in terms of the registration and verification efforts to include the whole world of Kosovars, as should be done for central elections. Municipal elections are the only possible elections to be held this year. But there is another reason why holding of the central elections is not an attractive proposition at this point, because there isn't a legal framework to relate the elections to. And that is an issue which Dr. Kouchner raised in the Security Council. They are asking for more clarity on the legal framework in this interim period. And that's another reason why we cannot go forward, even if we could do so technically, for premature central elections. So, there's actually no postponement - it just has to be at a later date. But our first goal is the municipal elections, because they can be related to a municipal framework.
On the refugees, if you don't mean the recent refugees from the Presevo Valley who have been moving into Kosovo, because they are not, of course, a part of a municipal framework and cannot vote in municipal elections here... If you are referring to those who left before 1998, the answer is that they can return, there is no impediment for their return to Kosovo, take their residence and participate. We have, however, included in the legislation a provision that if they are special categories of people who are, for whatever reasons, not in the position to return, we can try to seek them out and enable them to forward their mail.
TK: If they are out of Kosovo registration, there will be a voter registration. And it will be done by IOM. And the provision has been made that all those who are, say, in Germany or Switzerland can take part in this
Q: What about those who left Kosovo since 1990, most of them young boys who had refused to join the VJ, and for other political reasons, and travelling all around they see that most of the villages are still empty, where this population is? I suppose that most of them have been somewhere abroad... It's not just the question of the refugees who left Kosovo in 1998.
DE: Well, the same answer applies. To the extent that there is a category that cannot return yet to Kosovo to re-establish the link with the municipality, they can be included in voters' list. There is a provision for that. Those who left and have no link whatsoever with the municipality and do not intend to return, they cannot participate in municipal elections, obviously. They would be very much eligible for central elections, but not for municipal elections where you have to have a direct link between the resident and the municipality.
Q: If registration of minorities displaced in recent months, the Serb minority, will be organized either in Serbia and in Kosovo, is there a technical possibility to organize the registration of the population abroad, for example in Germany?
TK: I didn't get your point properly. Because for those who are in Serbia to register, we will try to register them for elections. Those who are in Germany can certainly be registered by IOM, so the full right of election granted, if I've got your question right. If a person is a refugee and cannot return, he can register abroad. There is a firm definition of a refugee by the UNHCR. And those who are registered as refugees by the UNHCR and if they cannot return, they can certainly be registered, there is a special provision on this in the regulation.
Q: Many Kosovars do not want to get Yugoslav passports, because they do not consider themselves Yugoslav citizens. Are you, by giving them these registration and travel documents, giving them another reason not to get a Yugoslav passport?
TK: We don't care whether somebody has a Yugoslav passport or not and whether he likes it or not, or whether he uses it or not. But we do care that all Kosovars, especially those who for several reasons did not get a Yugoslav passport or don't have it, could have a right to travel. This is very essential. For this we have the agreement of the United Nations to issue these documents to all those who want to travel and have their habitual residence in Kosovo. If a person is registered legally as habitual resident, he has a right to get this travel document which is not a passport, because he cannot carry simultaneously two passports. And for these reasons, we have the agreement of those countries where holders of such documents may wish to travel.