On third anniversary of its arrival in Kosovo, UN reports progress in key areas

On third anniversary of its arrival in Kosovo, UN reports progress in key areas

UN police on patrol in Kosovo
Marking the third anniversary of the arrival in Kosovo of a United Nations mission and an international security presence, the top UN envoy in the province today hailed progress achieved in a wide range of areas.

"We have much to be proud of," said Michael Steiner, the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Pointing to signs of "continuing reconstruction and great personal energy," he said attributed the achievements to peoples' initiative as well as to more than $2 billion committed by international donors, mostly the European Union.

At the same time, he emphasized that Kosovo no longer lived on donations alone, noting that 93 per cent of its €374 million (euros) budget would come from locally generated revenues, with only 7 per cent contributed by outside donors.

Among other positive signs, Mr. Steiner cited statistics showing a dramatic drop in crime – from 245 murders in 2000, to 118 in 2001, to only 30 so far in the first half of this year. “All in all, we have cause to celebrate, but now we must get down to work,” he said. In another important area, he pointed to the fact that there were 420,000 children attending nearly 1,200 schools in Kosovo, as well as some 15,000 students who were pursuing higher education in two universities in the province.

Also today, members of the Kosovo Government took the oath of office, an event that Mr. Steiner called “deeply satisfying,” especially as it occurred on the third anniversary of the arrival of the international community in the province.

"We are here to mark the completion of the multiethnic government of Kosovo," he told officials taking part in the swearing-in ceremony. "We are in the process of transferring powers to the government; substantial responsibilities from UNMIK are already in your hands and there are more to come."

During the brief ceremony, the Prime Minister and other government ministers, as well as the Inter-ministerial Coordinator for Returns, pledged to uphold the law, the institutions of Kosovo and the functions of office "in the best interests of all the inhabitants of Kosovo without discrimination on any ground."

Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said he was pleased that the Government had been fully constituted. "We will be working on behalf of all citizens of Kosovo," he said.

Mr. Steiner voiced confidence that the Prime Minister would strive to build a society based on democracy, multi-ethnicity and the rule of law. "You can also trust me in my pledge that we will fully support you in this endeavour," the UN envoy said, adding, "Now that the government is fully completed, let's get down to work."