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UNMIK at Nine Months

Re-establishing normal life
In bringing together the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the European Union under one umbrella, UNMIK is a unique team effort. Its structure and scope provides an unprecedented chance to bring peace and security to Kosovo.

Since its establishment on 13 June 1999, UNMIK has come a long way in its effort to re-establish normal life in the territory.

The UNMIK Administration has been set up in all five regions and 29 municipalities, and UNMIK Police has established 42 police stations across Kosovo.

A total of 30 regulations has been issued to date as the first body of applicable law in Kosovo. These regulations cover issues such as the appointment and removal of judges, banking, licensing, the establishment of a Central Fiscal Authority and a Kosovo budget.

UNMIK is also issuing birth, marriage and death certificates as well as licences for small businesses and construction projects.

Moreover, UNMIK is assisting tens of thousands of employees in returning to their jobs. The Interim Administration has also been distributing stipends to about 70,000 public service workers and started paying salaries in February.

The process of registering vehicles, which entails the issuance of licence plates, began on 30 November 1999. Five thousand vehicles have been registered so far.

In preparation for the establishment of commercial banks, UNMIK set up a Central Banking and Payments Authority with the mandate to accept and disburse funds. Taxes are being collected and the first commercial bank in the region, the Micro Enterprise Bank, opened in January.

UNMIK has also established a limited postal system with newly-printed Kosovo postage stamps, and a mobile telephone system is in the process of establishing low-cost and widespread communications while the landline system is being repaired.

Civil registration and elections

Registration of the population is the first important step towards holding elections later this year. This process has, however, been delayed due to both financial and logistical problems. A considerable percentage of the population has problems producing personal identification and the process has been delayed further because of the absence of legislation on civil or voter registration. The registration process is scheduled to begin in earnest on 1 April.

All people resident in Kosovo or who formerly lived here but fled during or after the conflict will be registered and those 16 years of age and over will be issued identity cards. The registration will permit administrators to compile a census and a voters. list and will also serve as the basis for the provision of travel documents.

At least 822,000 refugees of the 900,000 who fled Kosovo during the conflict have returned and registration will also go on outside Kosovo where former residents have fled.

Political participation of the local population

In a substantial step towards establishing autonomy for Kosovo, a Joint Interim Administrative Structure (JIAS) was set up in December last year. This executive body will allow the people of Kosovo to administer the region jointly with UNMIK until elections are held in late 2000.

Nineteen departments and some ten independent agencies, covering all aspects of local administration, will be co-directed by UNMIK staff and representatives from the four local partners in the JIAS. The first four departments - Education and Science, Health and Social Security, Budget and Finance, and Local Administration - have already been established. The remaining departments are expected to be established in three phases ending by mid-April.

The agreement also established an Interim Administrative Council (IAC), which defines the policies that the departments will follow and recommends new regulations or amendments to current law.

Parallel structures, so-called governments, were dismantled on 1 February.

The reinforced and enlarged Kosovo Transitional Council (KTC) continues to meet every two weeks and is advising the JIAS how to administer the territory. The Serb members, having withdrawn from the KTC, continue their participation in the KTC Joint Security Committee. The KTC membership now includes representatives from political parties, minority and religious communities, civil society and women.

Other active consultative bodies include the Joint Advisory Council on Legislative Matters, the Joint Civil Commissions, the Economic Policy Advisory Board, and the Commission on Prisoners and Detainees, which gathers information on, and advocates the release of, the people of Kosovo who are still imprisoned in Serbia. In addition, a Gender Advisory Group has begun to address key issues facing women in Kosovo and has nominated a woman to the KTC.

Health and Education

UNMIK, the World Health Organization and the Department of Health and Social Welfare are planning a Kosovo-wide revitalization of primary health care in the territory. Basic health care services are provided all over Kosovo and the immunization programme which was interrupted by the conflict resumed, despite extremely limited resources and a budget that was half of what donors had promised.

Drugs, generators, laboratory supplies, blankets and hygiene articles have been purchased and distributed across the health sector. Steps are also being taken to implement food and drug controls.

More than 300,000 of a potential 500,000 students have returned to school since the official school year began in October last year. Some 250 schools have been repaired and furnished with tens of thousands of desks and chairs. New textbooks have been published in Albanian, Serbian, Bosnian and Turkish.

Policing and security

Seventy-five per cent of Kosovo's population lives in areas where UNMIK has responsibility for law enforcement. UNMIK Police, responsible for law and order in Pristina and Prizren, as well as certain policing duties in Mitrovica, Gnjilane and Urosevac, conduct investigations, make arrests, interact with the community and direct traffic. UNMIK Police also manage the Mitrovica and Prizren detention centres.

The authorized strength is currently 4,700, but only 2,000 are deployed at the moment. In order to further improve the security situation and, in particular, to counter crime and intimidation against ethnic minorities, the Head of UNMIK, Dr. Bernard Kouchner, continues to urge the international community to increase the strength of the police force. In addition to inadequate funding, deployment has been made more difficult by the fact that the mission in Kosovo is the first full executive police enforcement mission in the history of UN peacekeeping. As such, the standards for recruitment of police officers are stricter and have proven harder to fulfil than those in an ordinary UN police monitoring mission.

The development of a local police service in accordance with international standards has been of primary concern to UNMIK. A special sub-section of the UNMIK Police is tasked with developing the future Kosovo police, the Kosovo Police Service (KPS). Two classes with a total of 350 recruits of the multi-ethnic KPS have already graduated from the OSCE-run KPS School in Vucitrn. Twenty per cent of the graduates are women and 15 per cent are members of ethnic minorities. A total of 4,000 officers from the school will gradually assume law enforcement duties in the territory under international supervision. Great success has so far been achieved in recruiting women, at a rate of 20-25 per cent.

The overwhelming security challenge in Kosovo today remains the physical protection of minorities. UNMIK has deployed Civil Affairs Officers to Serb villages and other enclaves in Kosovo to improve the security of vulnerable groups and at the same time prevent them from becoming isolated. An inter-agency Task Force on Minorities is coordinating efforts to assist and ensure the physical safety of minorities by providing isolated communities with satellite phones, establishing hot lines and installing reinforced doors. A shuttle bus programme is in place to provide freedom of movement between enclaves for minority populations. Promoting unhindered and non-discriminatory access of minorities to food, health care, education and other public services is also high on the agenda.

After the recent outburst of violence in the northern town of Mitrovica, some 560 additional UNMIK Police were deployed in the ethically divided city to help ensure security for the population.

Another issue related to security is mine clearance. So far, more than 16,000 houses and 80 per cent of all schools have been cleared of mines. Over 15,000 mines, cluster bombs and other ordnance have been removed from public areas. Mine awareness programmes are continuing in communities all over Kosovo, including training of local mine-awareness educators. A programme is also in place to ensure that victims have access to emergency care, rehabilitation and psychosocial support.

A multi-ethnic judiciary

A judiciary has been set up with around 300 appointed judges and prosecutors of Albanian, Bosniak, Roma and Turkish extraction. A second round of appointments for an additional 200 judges and prosecutors is expected within the next few months. An Advisory Judicial Commission is currently attempting to recruit more Serbs to join the judiciary and ensure their security.

In response to the recent unrest and the inadequate judicial response in Mitrovica, extraordinary measures to revitalize the judicial system were put in place. A prosecutor and a judge from the international community have taken office.

Until recently, judges and prosecutors refused to apply the laws of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in Kosovo. The controversy was put to rest in December last year, when it was decided that applicable law in Kosovo will consist of UNMIK regulations and the law that was in force in Kosovo before the province was stripped of its autonomy in 1989. FRY law will apply in situations not covered by UNMIK or pre-1989 law.

UNMIK is also making concerted efforts to establish a War and Ethnic Crimes Court as soon as possible.

The Kosovo Protection Corps. Transformation to civilian life

The process of demilitarizing the Kosovo Liberation Army was completed in September last year and the reintegration of its former members into civil society is continuing.

The creation of the civilian emergency agency Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) is a big step in that direction. At press time, some 20,000 applicants, interviewed and tested by the International Organization for Migration, are hoping to join the Corps. Ultimately, the KPC will consist of 3,000 active members and up to 2,000 reserves. Some of the candidates are also participating in various winterization and environmental projects. Ten per cent of the KPC was expected to be from minority groups, a quota which has yet to be fulfilled.

The formal establishment of the KPC and the group's full transformation into a civilian body took place at UNMIK headquarters in January, with the swearing in of the organization's top leaders.

A budget for Kosovo

As part of the development of a transparent and efficient fiscal process, a Central Fiscal Authority (CFA) was established on 6 November. The CFA is responsible for the overall financial management of the Kosovo Consolidated Budget, estimated at 562 million deutsche mark for the fiscal year 2000. The budget, 35 per cent of which consists of funds from donors, has been approved and priority is given to paying civil servants. The budget is consistent with the overall framework agreed to at the Second Donors' Conference in Brussels where more than US $1 billion was pledged for the year 2000 for reconstruction.

This year, it is expected that over 130 million deutsche mark will be collected at Kosovo's borders and boundaries in duties, taxes and excises. In order to raise more revenues, UNMIK aims to increase the number of customs officers and border crossing points in the near future. The collection of import duties on trucks coming from Montenegro started in mid-February. UNMIK is now regularly using customs and tax revenues for expenses incurred by the Kosovo administration.

A new tax on hotels, food and beverages came into effect on 1 February. The 10 per cent tax applies to approximately 1,500 establishments across Kosovo with monthly gross receipts of 15,000 deutsche mark.

Rebuilding infrastructure

Infrastructure in the region has suffered heavy damage; over 120,000 homes were seriously damaged or destroyed in the conflict, resulting in some 400,000 people requiring alternative accommodation. Only 50,000 of the houses damaged were repairable, and UNMIK, with the aid of numerous non-governmental organizations and local and international agencies, has implemented the largest emergency shelter programme in recent history. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other organizations prepared community centres, repaired rooms and roofs, distributed winter shelter kits, stoves, firewood and coal, and assisted host families who were providing shelter to homeless families. Most of the people who lost their homes are living with host families. As a result, the vast majority of the population in Kosovo is now warmly housed, albeit temporarily.

New procedures at the Blace border crossing with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, however, led to serious delays in the delivery of humanitarian aid and materials needed for winterization. UNMIK is currently preparing a Status of Mission Agreement with the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in order to improve the situation. The Interim Administration has also taken a number of practical steps to ease congestion at the Blace border crossing, such as the opening of a KFOR bypass, the simplifying of controls of empty trucks leaving Kosovo, and a so-called one-stop customs clearance procedure.

Significant difficulties were experienced during the extreme winter months in the public utilities sector, particularly lengthy power cuts which resulted in lack of water and heating. Emergency repairs to the power generation facilities have been carried out and the difficulties have largely been overcome.

Repairs to Kosovo's major roads and bridges have begun and commercial air services and limited rail transportation have resumed.

A strong and independent media

An important step in the process of democratization is the development of a strong and independent media in Kosovo. The region's public broadcasting system has been established; Radio-Television Kosovo is on the air with two hours of daily programming in Albanian and additional news in Serbian. UNMIK's Blue Sky Radio is broadcasting 24 hours a day in Albanian and Serbian. The staff from Blue Sky Radio is training the personnel of Radio Kosovo. The Head of UNMIK, Dr. Kouchner, has appointed a Temporary Media Commissioner to oversee the regulation and development of Kosovo's rapidly growing media.

A regulation prohibiting national, racial, religious and ethnic hatred recently came into effect. This regulation can also be used to prevent the media from spreading discord and hatred in society. A code of conduct for the press is also being developed.