A Security Council delegation on a fact-finding mission to the Balkans today made a stop in Belgrade to meet with leaders there as the 15-member body deliberates the future of Kosovo, the ethnic Albanian-majority province of Serbia that has been run by the United Nations since Western forces drove Yugoslav troops out in 1999.
Led by Belgian Ambassador Johan C. Verbeke, the delegation met with Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.
This is second leg of their six-day tour of the region, and tonight they will depart for Pristina, in Kosovo, after which they will conclude their visit by stopping in Vienna. Yesterday, the delegation, comprising representatives from current Council Member States, visited Brussels to confer with European Union (EU) and NATO officials.
The aim of the trip is to provide Council members with a first-hand understanding of the social, political and economic situation in Kosovo. In particular, the mission will assess whether agreed standards – a set of eight overall targets that include building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and setting up an impartial legal system – have been implemented.
Last month, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the future status process Martti Ahtisaari asserted that the only viable option for Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by nine to one, is independence in a phased process with initial supervision by the international community.
Calling Kosovo “a unique case that demands a unique solution,” Mr. Ahtisaari said in a report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that independence is the only way the province, where unemployment is close to 60 per cent, can become politically stable and economically viable.
Meanwhile, as part of an outreach effort, Mr. Ban’s Special Representative in Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, explained the current state of the future status process of the province and discussed concerns with Kosovo Serbs in a town hall meeting in Parteš/Partesh, a village in the east.
Appearing on a panel, Mr. Rücker told attendees that under the proposal, the village would become part of a new municipality also called Parteš/Partesh, which would have increased responsibilities and comprise three villages.
In 1999 when NATO intervened in the conflict, an estimated 250,000 Serbs and other fled Kosovo after Serbian troops withdrew from the province. Since then, only about 16,000 of them have returned.
“We would like to see more returns,” Mr. Rücker said at the town hall meeting. “It is my perception, however, that many displaced persons are awaiting the decision on the status.”
He reiterated his invitation to Kosovo’s Serbian community to actively participate in the province’s institutions and in the status process.