UNMIK’s presence in Kosovo in an undiminished scope to guarantee stability

Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, H. E. Mr. Ivica Dacic at the meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to the work of UNMIK.

“Mr. President,

Distinguished Members of the Security Council,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank Secretary-General Guterres and his Special Representative Tanin also on this occasion for the submission of the Report and the overall engagement in the realization of the mandate of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), carried out under UNSCR 1244 (1999). I also thank the President and the Members of the Security Council for recognizing the importance of a continued review and consideration of this issue.

UNMIK’s presence in Kosovo and Metohija in an undiminished scope and an unchanged mandate as a guarantor of the status neutrality of the international presence is of paramount importance for promoting security and stability and for building trust between Kosovo and Metohija communities. Strengthening its financial and personnel capacities will enable the international community to assess and address, in a comprehensive and sustainable way, the problems and challenges facing the Serbian and non-Albanian populations every day.

The political situation, sensitive as it is in Kosovo and Metohija, has a major impact on building trust and confidence among its communities; UNMIK’s undiminished presence, therefore, ensures necessary security and provides guarantees, as well as impetus, to Serbs and non-Albanians to involve in the processes initiated by the Brussels agreements without fear for the future of themselves and their families. The fact that today, eighteen years after the arrival of the international presence in the Province, 200 000 internally displaced persons (IDP), forced to flee Kosovo and Metohija, continue to live in Serbia outside the Province, is a powerful argument that UNMIK’s scope should not be changed. Sustainable return has been achieved only by 1.9 per cent of them and, I am sure the Secretary-General will agree, is one of the key questions that UNMIK should accentuate in the future. But, let me point out also on this occasion, the IDP numbers in Kosovo and Metohija given in the Report do not reflect adequately the magnitude of this problem and do not call for attention to be accorded it by the Mission.

A number of structural shortcomings of the institutional and judiciary systems in Kosovo and Metohija are noted in the Report; these shortcomings have negative consequences for vulnerable communities, primarily regarding the protection of the rights of the Serbs and other non-Albanians in the south of the Province and the rights of the returnees, as well as the process of reconciliation among communities. The negligible number of returnees is due to the failure to try offenders who instigate racial, ethnic and religious hatred and intolerance, continuous institutional discrimination of the Serbs and the ethnically motivated restriction measures, including arbitrary arrests. Instances of such arrests in the south of the Province, in particular, made on trumped-up charges, testify to general physical and legal insecurity and are aimed at making it possible for usurpers to take possession of property by illegal means. The Report of the Secretary-General, therefore, should accord attention, in a separate section, to the violation of the human rights and freedoms of the returnees to the south of Kosovo and Metohija. UNMIK must invest additional efforts to strengthen all its capacities in order to ensure the necessary level of protection of IDP human rights and freedoms and to create optimum conditions for sustainable returns, including restitution of property, i.e. the guarantee of property rights.

It is observed in the Report that ‘[no] progress [was made] with regard to implementation of the […] ruling of the Kosovo Constitutional Court which confirmed’ the ownership by the Visoki Dečani Monestary of the surrounding land. On the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Monastery was founded in the first half of the fourteenth century by Serbian king Stefan Dečanski and was desecrated many times in the past, including by adherents of ISIL. The Report also draws attention to some other disputes related to the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church. These issues provide ample evidence of the importance of the protection of Serbian historical, cultural and religious heritage which belongs among the invaluable heritage of Europe and the world.

The international community, too, should make additional efforts to establish in Kosovo and Metohija a society in which the rule of law will be respected, conditions created for effective, impartial and credible trial of war criminals and the fate of the missing persons clarified, and contribute thus to the process of reconciliation among communities. As the legal framework to try perpetrators of war crimes in the Specialist Chambers has now been fully emplaced, we expect that those suspected of the commission of the crimes against the Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija will be indicted and tried.

Mr. President,

Serbia continues to be firmly committed to the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština, facilitated by the European Union. Despite numerous doubts, second-guessing and challenges encountered on the way, Serbia demonstrated great resolve to find compromise solutions, not always simple and easy to come by. Such a constructive approach has been evinced by the implementation, by our side, of a number of obligations assumed in the dialogue, including the recent integration of judges and prosecutors in the judicial framework of the Province. Serbia’s commitment to solving all outstanding issues peacefully and through dialogue is motivated, first and foremost, by its strong conviction that this approach has no alternative and that only within a status-neutral framework it is possible to contribute to regional peace, security and stability, as well as to the region’s progress towards integration in the European family of nations. The responsible approach has been re-affirmed also by the bold political decision of the representatives of the Serbian List to enter, after the parliamentary elections, Ramush Haradinaj’s Government. The decision confirmed once again the political unity of the Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija and the continuation of the constructive policy of protection of their status and interests. Explaining the decision, the representatives stated that the conditions under which they decided to participate in the ‘Government of Kosovo’ are very clear: the need to protect the interests of the Serbs and the demands, key among their other demands, to establish the Community of Serbian Municipalities, protect property and ensure IDP returns.

Regrettably, the efforts made by Serbia to find realistic, status-neutral and mutually acceptable solutions through compromise have not been reciprocated by the other side, particularly in respect of implementing the agreements reached thus far. Let me point out in that connection that, even four and a half years after the obligation to establish the Community of Serbian Municipalities was assumed as the key part of the First Agreement of principles governing the normalization of relations, no progress has been registered in its implementation. Surprisingly, no mention has been made of this fact in the Report. For us, the establishment of the Community is the most important question, a cornerstone of the protection of the interests of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.

Distinguished Members of the Security Council,

I take this opportunity to call on the representatives of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) in Priština to demonstrate goodwill and commitment to dialogue and proceed to establish the Community of Serbian Municipalities without delay, i.e. to implement the obligations they have assumed and carry out the most important element of the Brussels Agreement. In this way, the credibility of the statement made by Ramush Haradinaj to the effect that ‘there is no alternative to dialogue’ and that it should be ‘directed towards people and not merely the political elite’ would be fortified.

The stalemate in the dialogue accounted for the emergence of a whole range of problems in the implementation of the agreements. Priština continues to violate the provisions of the Agreement on Official Visits and banned, without a valid reason, entry to Kosovo and Metohija to Serbia’s Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development Mladen Šarčević and Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Đurić. In addition, the problems in the field of the freedom of movement and integrated border management continue to exist: IDP are treated inadequately, i.e. they are requested additional personal data and their passports issued by the Coordination Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia are not recognized as they attempt to enter the Province.

Mr. President,

Motivated by a desire to find a lasting solution for the question of Kosovo and Metohija, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić called on the citizens of Serbia to embark on internal dialogue, institutionalized in the meantime by the setting up of a Working Group. A lasting solution is a precondition of Serbia’s progress, as well as of the progress of the entire region. We need a serious, responsible and forward-looking approach in our relations with Priština and are ready to offer a soluton that will contribute to regional stability, political cooperation and economic prosperity. Rather than a cause of new divisions, misunderstanding and conflicts, it will provide an opportunity for an historic agreement with the Albanian community in Kosovo and Metohija.

I, therefore, take this opportunity to call on the Members of the Security Council and on Priština’s representatives to focus in a joint effort on substantive issues and a quest for a lasting and sustainable solution for Kosovo and Metohija rather than on technical aspects, such as the dynamic and the format of Security Council meetings. Calls to change the years-long modality of informing the Security Council and all the United Nations Member States about this important issue at the time when we are trying to find a durable solution for this problem can only bring about new divisions within the Council and deepen the differences between Belgrade and Priština. Counter-intuitive, they are not conducive to the creation of a constructive atmosphere for the continuation of dialogue.

Serbia’s efforts are aimed at protecting, in a legitimate way, its national and State interests and at asserting the authority of international law, United Nations Charter and UNSCR 1244 (1999), guaranteeing Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Each and every attempt to solve any question in the relations between Belgrade and Priština unilaterally is unacceptable and may negatively affect implementation of obligations assumed in the dialogue. In this context, I would like to emphasize my county’s disapproval, as well as the disapproval of the international community, of the efforts to establish ‘Kosovo armed force’; such unilateral acts of Priština are fraught with potential to destabilize the security situation in the region and threaten the process of normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština. At the same time, Priština’s efforts to promote its UDI by way of applying for membership in international organizations and, by the same token, of politicizing their work are denounced by a large number of countries, including some of those who have recognized the UDI. I take this opportunity to thank them for standing firm in the defence of international law and order and to emphasize that the only right thing to do in this international context is to discourage Priština to seek admission to international organizations and focus on dialogue in goodwill as the only way of solving all issues. It is also worth mentioning in this connection that recent events have shown that States can and do back-track and renounce the UDI of Kosovo. Sao Tome and Principe and Suriname proved that it is possible indeed.

Before I conclude, Mr. President, let me take this opportunity to recall that Serbia has warned for the last ten years of the danger of unilateral acts and drawn attention that recognition of Kosovo’s UDI may open Pandora’s box of many other separatist and secessionist movements around the world. Regrettably, we have seen this happen of late. Serbia condemns each and every attempt at declaring independence unilaterally in the strongest terms and supports unequivocally the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty of all States.

In concluding my statement, I express special thanks to the States that have not recognized the UDI of Kosovo for their principled position and respect for UNSCR 1244 (1999) and the Charter of the United Nations.

Thank you, Mr. President.”