Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)

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Ambassador David Pressman
Alternate Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 19, 2015

 

Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to welcome Special Representative Tanin back to New York and to the Security Council in your new role as the Special Representative of UNMIK. Congratulations, again, on your appointment and thank you for your briefing.

I would also like to welcome First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dacic and the representative of the Government of Kosovo, Ambassador Çitaku, back to the Council. The United States commends both of your governments for your ongoing efforts to normalize relations through the EU-led dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.

During this reporting period, we were encouraged to see the Government of Kosovo reach a number of milestones in the continued strengthening of its institutions and establishing constructive working relationships with its neighbors. I’d like to note a few of them.

First, Kosovo took the very important step of signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union on October 27 in Strasbourg. This is progress and it is a very important step for Kosovo on its path toward European integration.

Second, earlier this month, the Kosovo Police adeptly facilitated the visits of hundreds of displaced Kosovo Serbs to pay their respect to family in cemeteries across Kosovo. The professionalism demonstrated by the Kosovo Police during these events is further evidence of Kosovo’s progress as a welcoming, tolerant, and multicultural society. As KFOR noted in its quarterly report, Kosovo Police were fully in charge of security – and required no EULEX or KFOR intervention – during the annual Serbian festival of Vidovdan and the accompanying religious services at the Gracanice and Gracanica Monastery.

In addition, the governments of Serbia and Kosovo should be praised for the important agreements reached in August on the principles for establishing the Association of Serb Municipalities, Energy, Telecommunications, and freedom of movement on the Mitrovica bridge. It is important that both Serbia and Kosovo reinforce their commitment to the dialogue by implementing those hard-won agreements from August even as they begin to tackle new areas for future progress that were discussed in Brussels this week.

These achievements were of course significant, but we are also encouraged by lesser publicized initiatives, like the November 13-14 conference between Kosovo and Serbia’s Chambers of Commerce in Pristina. Business leaders met for two days to discuss opportunities in the construction sector; Kosovo’s Chamber invited its Serbian counterpart and more than 30 Serbian business representatives to exchange knowledge, establish contacts, and explore potential joint production with Kosovo businesses. Initiatives like this were unimaginable a few years ago and are the important outcomes of a steady progress towards normalization.

There is of course work that remains to be done.

Speedy and comprehensive implementation of Kosovo’s national countering violent extremism strategy is critical. At the same time, Kosovo needs to continue to pursue anti-corruption measures, including an e-procurement law, better information-sharing about indicted civil servants to facilitate suspensions, and amendments to the law to ensure the suspension of criminal political appointees. All of this will contribute to strengthening a democratic Kosovo, free from corruption.

Mr. President, the ongoing situation in the Kosovo Parliament is concerning. To say that violence – including the use of tear gas inside the Assembly chamber – is incompatible with a modern democratic state is a gross understatement. It must stop. We request that the government of Kosovo address the situation and not tolerate any criminal activity within its democratic institutions. The people of Kosovo expect their elected representatives to return to work immediately and resolve the important political, economic, and social issues facing their country. And they deserve no less.

The Kosovo Assembly’s approval of legislation to set up a Special Court outside of Kosovo was a critically important step. Kosovo has adopted the right legislation; now it needs to finalize, without delay, a Host-State agreement with the Netherlands. This step will ensure justice for crimes that may have been committed, and will build confidence in Kosovo’s commitment to the rule of law. The United States has been a steadfast supporter of accountability throughout the former Yugoslavia, including through assistance to the Special Investigative Task Force, and through our support to develop Kosovo’s judicial and rule of law capacity. We will continue to support justice for all victims during and following the Balkans wars.

Finally, Mr. President, let me commend Kosovo for conducting a dignified UNESCO membership campaign and applaud the high level of support from so many United Nations Member States. The United States will continue to strongly support Kosovo’s international integration and recognition. We know and we believe that the only future for Kosovo is one securely within the community of nations, including as a constructive member of multilateral organizations.

In closing, Mr. President, I would like to once again emphasize that while the United States believes that the situation in Kosovo remains an important issue, these meetings are unnecessarily happening too frequently. We repeat our request that the Security Council extend the reporting period on UNMIK for the Secretary-General to every six months.

Thank you very much.

Source: U.S Department of State

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