Kosovo: Michael Steiner takes over as new head of UN mission

Kosovo: Michael Steiner takes over as new head of UN mission

Michael Steiner (right) greeted at Pristina Airport
The new United Nations envoy to Kosovo, Michael Steiner, arrived in Pristina today, saying that as head of the UN mission he would focus on three priorities: the rule of law and government building, the economy and jobs, and security in and around the province.

“It is in everybody’s interest to feel safe in Kosovo,” Mr. Steiner, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for the province, told reporters at the headquarters of the UN Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK) in Pristina.

Declaring that Kosovo was in a “new phase,” Mr. Steiner said his work would differ from that of predecessors Kouchner and Haekkerup.

“Under Kouchner, Kosovo was in an emergency phase,” he noted. “Under Haekkerup, it was in an administrative and design phase. Today Kosovo is in a transfer phase. We will have to concentrate on the transfer of authority to the newly elected government. I am looking forward to a good cooperation with the people and the leaders in this regard.”

Mr. Steiner takes over at a crucial time as Kosovo’s political leaders, elected in November, have so far failed to put together a governing coalition for the province. Other challenges ahead include the return of some of Kosovo’s displaced Serb population, and organized crime and security issues.

The Special Representative said that Kosovars had to begin looking beyond Kosovo and instead, at their surrounding neighbourhood. “It matters what happens in Belgrade, [the former Yugoslavia Republic of ] Macedonia and The Hague,” Mr. Steiner said. “So we have to take a broader look at things. Because in the end we must set Kosovo on the European track.”

Mr. Steiner was former foreign policy chief to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and previously served as head of the Liaison Office for German Humanitarian Aid in Zagreb and was Germany’s key negotiator during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.