8655th Security Council Meeting: Report of Secretary-General on UNMIK

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31-Oct-2019 02:30:35
Recent Kosovo election marks most significant change to political landscape in 12 years, Special Representative tells Security Council at 8655th meeting.

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A recent election in Kosovo — characterized by high voter turnout and the victory of unconventional, opposition candidates — marked the most significant shift in the political landscape in more than a decade, the top United Nations official there told the Security Council today, while also touching on the long‑stalled deadlock between Kosovo and Serbia and a recent security incident involving two peacekeepers.

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 6 October snap parliamentary election, noting that it was held against the backdrop of internal political division, broken unity within the governing coalition and negative public perception of the Government. Initial results point to victory by two unconventional parties, including the main opposition, which are currently exploring coalition options.

Pointing out that Kosovo Serb‑majority areas recorded their highest voter turnout in recent times, he said that, while the election was assessed positively overall by observers, incidents of voter intimidation were recorded in the Kosovo Serb‑majority areas. He expressed hope that the new leadership will use its momentum to deliver on promises to the people, and to push forward the stalled dialogue process between Pristina and Belgrade.

Turning to a security incident on 28 May in which two UNMIK staff members were caught up in a Kosovo Police operation targeting organized crime — and subsequently beaten and detained — he said a United Nations team deployed to examine the facts of the case found no evidence of wrongdoing by the staff members. However, the excessive use of force by Kosovo police officers, along with criminal charges brought against United Nations staff, constitute violations of Council resolution 1244 (1999) and human rights law standards.

Council members, as well as representatives of Kosovo and Serbia, then took the floor to weigh in on those developments.

Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, underlined the urgency of making sure that Serbs and other non‑Albanians in Kosovo are provided physical safety, freedom of movement and religion and the right to employment and political participation. Noting that Belgrade is ready to resume negotiations provided the conditions are right, he denounced the high tariffs imposed by Pristina on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia had previously warned that Kosovo’s parliamentary election would be used to ramp up hype against the Serbs. “Regrettably, it came to pass,” he said, noting that the Serbs were attacked, their shrines vandalized and provocations abounded.

Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo described the 6 October election as a paradigm shift resulting from decades of effort by the United Nations and other partners. The process was free and fair and saw record high participation, with the exception of threats against members of the Serbian community who were pressured to vote for a Serbian party. Kosovo has demonstrated its ability to undergo a smooth democratic transition, a testament to its maturity. On the matter involving UNMIK staff members, she said the Kosovo Police acted with the utmost professionalism. Urging the Council to stop meeting so often to discuss Kosovo, she characterized the fact that the organ convenes more frequently on that topic than it does on Syria as “paradoxical”.

Germany’s delegate, while describing Kosovo as a “young, beautiful democracy”, expressed concern about the electoral problems recorded in Kosovo Serb‑majority areas. Calling for the urgent continuation of the Belgrade‑Pristina dialogue, he warned that too much time has been lost as that process lay dormant. He went on to call on Kosovo to remove its high tariffs, and on Belgrade to stop urging other Governments to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo. Meanwhile, UNMIK should adapt to the changing realities on the ground, including through a formal transition of its tasks to Kosovo institutions, he said.

The United States representative emphasized that every one of the goals mandated to UNMIK in 1999 have been either completed or become obsolete. While the United Nations and the international community can provide Kosovo with support, they no longer need a peacekeeping mission to do so. Against that backdrop, he called for the phase‑out of UNMIK, while calling on Serbia to end its provocations and cease its derecognition campaign. Meanwhile, both sides should commit to engaging in dialogue and to making critical reforms, he said.

The representative of the United Kingdom also welcomed progress in Kosovo. However, he said, more needs to be done to counter corruption and organized crime. Affirming that the Kosovo Police should be able to confront organized crime wherever they find it, he stressed that international personnel must also be given their due immunities. Among other things, he called on the new Government to focus on tackling the pressing issues facing the country, to improve inclusivity and to work towards regional security.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, meanwhile, said that the situation in Kosovo remains inauspicious and the dialogue seems to be in a coma. Unfortunately, no progress has been registered in ensuring respect for the rights of Kosovo’s Serbian community. With regards to the detention and beating of UNMIK staff, he said the findings of the United Nations investigation mirror those of a Russian one: the goal was to prevent the staff members from carrying out their duties. Warning that UNMIK is being squeezed out of Kosovo so no one will be able to witness the lawlessness there, he stressed that the situation requires a watchful eye.

Also speaking were the representatives of France, Dominican Republic, Poland, China, Indonesia, Kuwait, Côte d’Ivoire, Belgium, Equatorial Guinea, Peru and South Africa.

The meeting began at 3:20 p.m. and ended at 5:51 p.m.

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