The senior United Nations envoy to Kosovo today said the coming year will likely see the end of the process to determine the status of the ethnically divided Serbian province which the world body has administered since 1999.
“The past twelve months, like every year, have had their ups and downs - their triumphs and their tragedies,” said the Special Representative for the Secretary General, Soren Jessen-Petersen, in a New Year’s message. “But they have ended on a high - with the opening of the process to determine the status of Kosovo.”
The international community, in partnership with Kosovo’s institutions, has worked on some of the challenges he noted a year ago – the rule of law, the protection of minorities, freedom of movement, the return of displaced persons and decentralization, said Mr. Jessen-Peterson, a lawyer and journalist by training who has headed the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) since June 2004.
“That there was progress on these issues there can be no doubt – the opening of the status process is itself evidence of that. But that there could have – and needs to be – more progress is also plain,” he added. “Many of those issues that were priorities a year ago remain priorities today.”
He said the vehicle for achieving progress remains the Standards framework - eight targets that include building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and setting up an impartial legal system.
Mr. Jessen-Petersen said the Standards framework, along with economic improvements, would form the core of the international community’s work in Kosovo as the coming year is dominated by the status talks.
In early November, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari was appointed as Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special envoy to lead the talks on the future status of Kosovo.
In his statement, Mr. Jessen-Petersen repeated that a sustainable status settlement must be based on the desires of the majority in Kosovo and those desires – peace, stability, security and economic prosperity - must also be ensured for minority communities.
In a report in July, Mr. Jessen-Petersen stressed the need for a stronger commitment by Kosovo’s Albanian leaders to move forward on the return of Serbs who fled their homes during the fighting as well as on the freedom of movement. Kosovo’s Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1. Serbia rejects independence for the province which the UN has run ever since North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid grave rights abuses during ethnic fighting.
The envoy said his hope for Kosovo in the coming year is that everyone can live freely and at ease with their own and each other’s culture, with no reason to fear the future.
“Another hope for Kosovo in 2006, then, must be that it is the year when true political co-operation between all communities becomes a reality,” he said. “These are earnest hopes – and they will be difficult to realize – but in December 2004, twelve months ago – it was equally hard to see Kosovo reaching the point it has achieved today,” he said.