The situation in United Nations-administered Kosovo has greatly improved since the riots of March 2004, but there are new threats from organized crime and corruption and the next few months may be difficult as the ethnically divided province moves towards a decision on its final status, the top UN envoy said today.
“We know that there are still those who believe that violence will force the way ahead,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Søren Jessen-Petersen said at a change of command ceremony for KFOR, the force mustered from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which maintains security in Kosovo.
“We also know that there are those who believe that provoking violence may stop the way ahead. They are both, of course, wrong. The overwhelming majority of the citizens of Kosovo are peace-loving people who want to see Kosovo develop into a democratic, multi-ethnic and tolerant society,” he added.
“Our responsibility in KFOR and UNMIK (UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) is to support all the communities of Kosovo in developing that society, and to prevent the enemies of democracy and dialogue from turning back the clock” he said of the province, where Albanians outnumber other communities, mainly Serbs, by about 9 to 1.
The UN has run Kosovo since NATO drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave human rights abuses in fighting between Albanians and Serbs in 1999. In March 2004 UNMIK faced the worst violence since it took over when 22 people were killed and 500 injured in ethnic fighting.
Two Serbs were shot dead and two injured last Saturday, but today Mr. Jessen-Petersen referred to the incident as a “political jolt.”
“You and I both arrived under difficult circumstances,” he told outgoing KFOR commander, General Yves de Kermabon. “Both our organizations – United Nations, NATO/KFOR – were reeling from the shock of the March 2004 riots. Both organizations had suffered setbacks to their internal morale and their external prestige.
“How things change. The KFOR I see now is confident in itself and has restored confidence in Kosovo. Its presence has allowed UNMIK, working with the PISG (the provisional Albanian-majority local government), to take a grip on the political situation and to move it forward,” he added. “The security situation is significantly improved since last year in spite of all the political jolts that have hit Kosovo this year – most recently only a few days ago.”
All sides need to show clear progress on the so-called Standards to move on to final status talks. These are eight goals in such areas as building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and establishing an impartial legal system.