Leaders must put needs of Kosovo’s communities first, says top UN envoy

23 March 2009

Although strides have been made to consolidate stability in Kosovo, leaders in Pristina and Belgrade must give priority to needs of Kosovo’s communities ahead of their own political interests, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

Although strides have been made to consolidate stability in Kosovo, leaders in Pristina and Belgrade must give priority to needs of Kosovo’s communities ahead of their own political interests, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Lamberto Zannier said that since his briefing last July, the situation in Kosovo, which was administered by the UN after Western troops drove out Yugoslav forces amid inter-ethnic fighting over eight years ago, has remained relatively peaceful.

In February 2008, Kosovo declared its independence, in a move rejected by Serbia, and the UN has remained neutral on the issue.

While both Pristina and Belgrade have endeavoured to maintain peace in the area equally, “both have stopped short of where we need to be in order to feel confident that Kosovo is well and truly launched onto the path of lasting peace and prosperity,” Mr. Zannier said at today’s open debate.

He also briefed the Council on the reconfiguration of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Last December, the European Union’s Rule of Law Mission, or EULEX, successfully assumed full responsibility in that sector – which includes police and justice functions – under the overall authority of the UN.

As a result, the number of UNMIK police has decreased from 1,288 to 49, and there are no more UNMIK judges in Kosovo’s courts, although the Mission remains on the ground to consult with various groups on issues, including cultural and religious ones, affecting the area’s communities.

The envoy highlighted some of the challenges Kosovo faces, such as the sharp drop in the pace of the voluntary returns of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the large number of missing persons from the conflict.

Further, the issue of electric power supply “continues to plague the everyday lives of all of Kosovo’s residents,” and the problem is due primarily to non-payment by many consumers, including the wholesale lack of compensation by the Kosovo Serb community, he said.

The Kosovo Energy Corporation has allowed for malfunctions in the power supply to remain unfixed for periods of one week or more in a bid to receive late payment.

“Although this policy is affecting all ethnic groups to different degrees, the issue has been politicized, leading to demonstrations by angry residents of Kosovo Serb-inhabited villages, who have recently clashed with the Kosovo Police when protestors tried to block traffic on main thoroughfares,” Mr. Zannier told the meeting, which heard from over one dozen speakers.

In his latest report to the Council on UNMIK, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that although there is a perception among many Kosovo Albanians that the Mission has run its course, it has stepped up the pace of its adaptation to the changing situation on the ground.

Under “significant pressure” from opposition parties, authorities in Kosovo have repeatedly said in recent months that resolution 1244, which set up UNMIK, is “no longer relevant and that the institutions of Kosovo have no legal obligation to abide by it,” the publication said.

The report noted that, in line with Belgrade’s official policy, many Kosovo Serbs are rejecting the legitimacy of Kosovo’s authorities, although many are applying for identify cards, driver’s licenses and other Kosovo documentation.

Notwithstanding these developments, Mr. Ban said that the reconfiguration of UNMIK, for which he called in response to the “profoundly changed reality” on the ground, has picked up pace.

 

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Kosovo: pace of UN mission’s reconfiguration picking up – Ban

Despite a perception among many Kosovo Albanians that the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Kosovo has run its course, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in a new report that it has stepped up the pace of its adaptation to the changing situation on the ground.