Many of the political expectations with which Kosovo began the year yielded fewer results than hoped, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there said today, expressing hope that next year will see clear progress on political dialogue accompanied by necessary progress at community level.
“Ultimately, political and societal reconciliation processes must reinforce each other,” Zahir Tanin, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the Security Council. “I hope what awaits Kosovo in 2017 is political dialogue accompanied by necessary progress at community level. In these efforts, the European Union (EU) and UN roles continue to converge.”
Established by Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), UNMIK continues to implement its mandate in a status neutral manner.
Mr. Tanin said difficulty building a broad political consensus has meant that the territorial demarcation agreement with Montenegro, agreed in 2015, remains unratified, with attendant consequences for Europe’s visa liberalization plans for Kosovo.
Political divisions have also made it more difficult to reap the benefits of normalising relations with Serbia within the EU-facilitated dialogue, while Kosovo’s EU Stabilisation and Association process, a major development with far-reaching potential, has been given little focussed attention by officials or the public, he added.
Despite the political polarization, some of Kosovo’s leaders are forging ahead with a farther-sighted view of reconciliation, and the re-building of mutually beneficial relations, he said, citing President Thaÿi’s recent engagement jointly with the family associations of both Albanian and Serb missing persons, and his emphasis on treating this issue on humanitarian, not political, grounds.
In contrast, Mr. Tanin said, the accelerated passage through parliamentary procedure of a new law on the Trepca industrial complex emerged as another obstacle to constructive dialogue. Assembly members were given less than 48 hours to review the draft, with almost no opportunity given for analysis and argument. The international member of the Special Chamber of the Kosovo Supreme Court has requested that the Constitutional Court review the constitutionality of the law.
The results of recent surveys, including one commissioned by UNMIK, indicate that there is little ethnic division in priorities at community level: unemployment, corruption and lack of economic development are the biggest concerns. Among other recent notable findings:
- The normalization of relations with Serbia is considered to be an important priority in roughly equal proportion in both Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities, over 50 per cent in both cases; and
- Both Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians, in substantial majority, believe that the Association-Community of Serb-majority Municipalities will increase the security of Kosovo Serbs.
“Regardless of these familiar dichotomies between political issues and ground level concerns, the European perspective remains a force for stabilisation throughout the Balkans region,” Mr. Tanin stressed. In their annual reports, the EU and the World Bank continue to highlight low levels of employment generation, and the exceptionally high rate of youth unemployment, he said. Youth unable to find opportunities within accepted parameters are vulnerable to the temptations of alternative narratives, including extremism.
Violent extremism and terrorism are evolving threats in Kosovo and the region. Countering this threat requires a holistic approach, in which law enforcement is one essential component, he said. Last week, the authorities in Kosovo arrested a number of individuals who have allegedly been recruited by extremist militants in Syria to plan and conduct attacks in Kosovo and the region.
UNMIK is steadily adapting itself to more effectively address the contemporary challenges of Kosovo, he said, stressing the importance of improving the Mission’s relationship with the Kosovo institutions and urging the Council to help advance the cause of reconciliation.