21 August 2012Delivered by Ambassador Michael Tatham
I would like to start by thanking the Secretary General’s Special Representative, Mr Farid Zarif, for his briefing today, for his work, and for the work of UNMIK as a whole. I would like to welcome also to the Council His Excellency Mr Hashim Thaci, the Prime Minister of Kosovo. I would also like to welcome His Excellency Mr Ivica Dacic, the Prime Minister of Serbia, to today’s Council session and to congratulate him on his appointment. The United Kingdom is looking forward to working closely with the new government in Serbia.
The United Kingdom is grateful for the Secretary General’s comprehensive report. There continues to be steady progress in Kosovo on the political level, as reflected by the International Steering Group’s decision to work towards an end to Supervised Independence in September. This is recognition of the positive steps taken by Kosovo over the last 4 years, in particular in its adoption of laws complying with and implementing the Comprehensive Settlement Plan. Of particular note are the laws on Prizren and Velika Hoca, the appointment of a Language Commissioner and moves to appoint a Director for a new Serbian TV Channel, RTK2.
The momentum created by Kosovo’s desire to end supervised independence must be maintained through its EU accession path. Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations are an integral part of EU accession. It is understandable that the election period in Serbia and subsequent process of government formation has created a hiatus in the process of EU facilitated dialogue. However, with the formation of the new Government in Serbia we hope to see the resumption of the EU-facilitated dialogue with Kosovo as soon as possible – and indeed not just resumption but to use the Special Representative’s word “reinvigoration”.
It is crucial that Belgrade implements technical agreements already reached on regional cooperation, freedom of movement and, crucially, integrated border management. I welcome the commitment to this that we have just heard from Prime Minister Dacic and hope to see rapid follow up.
Pristina must also maintain its active commitment to these agreements and put in place those measures necessary for implementing the agreement on cadastral records. We support the development of the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue to address key political challenges, including northern Kosovo.
On the situation in northern Kosovo, Pristina and Belgrade need to engage with each other to tackle key outstanding issues. It is important that they act responsibly, cooperating with both EULEX and KFOR. The United Kingdom is grateful for the professional way which EULEX and KFOR have continued to carry out their mandate in demanding circumstances. Attempts to inhibit the freedom of movement of EULEX and KFOR, and the instances this set out in the Secretary-General’s report, are of course unacceptable.
It is the responsibility of Pristina to identify a way forward, but this needs to be supported by Belgrade in line with the EU conditions set in December 2011 for visible and sustainable improvement in relations with Kosovo. We want to see an approach from both sides, and from all members of the new government in Serbia, which creates space for compromise and co-operation. This must be supported by action to address the illegal parallel structures which exist in the north.
The Kosovo Government must demonstrate its commitment to minorities across Kosovo. It needs to set out its strategy for the north, including a socio-economic vision. In this regard, we welcome the opening of the Mitrovica North Administrative Office. This is a crucial first step towards providing practical support to Kosovo’s citizens in the north. We hope the international community will demonstrate its support to sustainable governance in northern Kosovo by assisting Pristina in consolidating this initiative.
The United Kingdom is concerned by recent ethnically motivated violence. The incidents during the St Vitus celebrations were unacceptable. Key to engaging Kosovo’s Serbian community in the north will be visible measures to prevent inter-ethnic incidents.
We welcome efforts by the Special Representative to focus on returns and the challenges faced by minorities in Kosovo. Security is an important factor for returnees, but in our view the overriding considerations are socio-economic, including access to employment and education. UNHCR attributes the recent drop in returns to the “lack of available land for returnees and the limited number of houses being built”. It is essential that funding is maintained to support the continuation of the returns process - both by the Kosovo government and from the international community. The United Kingdom is the largest bilateral donor, contributing £400,000 to returns projects in 2012 – we encourage others to offer their support.
The United Kingdom welcomes the thorough and vigorous work being carried out by the EULEX Special Investigative Task Force looking into the allegations relating to organ trafficking made in the Marty report. We remain strongly of the view that EULEX is the right body to take forward this work. It has the necessary authority and jurisdiction. It has established close cooperation with key stakeholders including the authorities in Albania and Serbia. We are confident in its capacity and its determination to take forward this important work.
The United Kingdom will continue to support the irreversible progress of both Kosovo and Serbia towards EU membership. We look forward to their EU perspectives being embedded further in the Commission’s enlargement package this autumn. We hope both Pristina and Belgrade will underpin their EU progression with a spirit of cooperation and constructive reconciliation when the EU facilitated dialogue resumes.