Lack of communal reconciliation in Kosovo risks social unrest, UN envoy warns

17 May 2010

The absence of a significant process of reconciliation between the communities in Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, together with economic difficulties, continues to present the risk of social unrest, a senior United Nations envoy warned today.

But the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) continues to devote close attention to issues affecting relations between the majority Albanian and other communities, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Lamberto Zannier told the Security Council.

UNMIK administered Kosovo from 1999 when North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid bloody ethnic fighting between Serbs and Albanians, but it gave up its administrative role after the independence declaration. The declaration was rejected by Serbia, which still seeks a robust role from the mission as opposed to that envisaged by the authorities in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital.

“Relations between UNMIK and the Kosovo authorities are courteous, if at arm’s length, and UNMIK staff continue to maintain a variety of daily, fruitful contacts at the working level with their Kosovo counterparts,” Mr. Zannier said.

With UNMIK’s facilitation, the sides continue to have direct dealings on missing persons – according to Red Cross estimates there are still 1,862 people missing across Kosovo – but “regrettably, direct practical cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina has not extended” to other areas generally, he added.

The Mission continues “to offer its good offices for the resolution of practical issues between Pristina and Belgrade, in the expectation that more direct channels of dialogue for the resolution of such issues can be activated between the parties.”

Mr. Zannier noted that the situation in Kosovo has remained stable, although the potential for volatility and instability, especially in northern Kosovo, remains. “The absence of a significant process of reconciliation between the communities continues to be a challenge and that, coupled with economic difficulties, continues to present the risk of social unrest,” he said.

He was presenting to the Council Mr. Ban’s latest report, which highlighted UNMIK’s unique position to facilitate dialogue between the communities and called for ongoing international support for the operation.

Mr. Ban today met with Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, who attended the Council session, and reaffirmed the UN commitment to status-neutral engagement, including facilitating regional cooperation and communal dialogue. He stressed the need for flexibility and pragmatism from both sides.


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