Security Council Welcomes ‘Free and Fair’ Kosovo Polls as Special Representative Urges Immediate Formation of New Government

Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister Stresses Mission’s Continuing Importance, as Pristina Joins Key Members in Calling for Its End

Welcoming Kosovo’s recent free and fair elections, the head of the United Nations mission there stressed today the need to form a new government without delay, resume dialogue with Serbia, and quell the rise in inflammatory nationalist rhetoric.

Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was briefing the Security Council while presenting the Secretary-General’s latest quarterly report on UNMIK (document S/2017/640).  He said June’s parliamentary elections had resulted in a significant shift in the configuration of Kosovo’s political landscape.  While the elections had themselves been deemed inclusive and impartial by international monitors, the ensuing political transition had proven challenging.

Women’s participation, in voting and on the ballot, had remained low to non-existent, he said.  The greatest concern, however, was that the election process itself consumed institutional energy and that major social and economic opportunities had been missed.  Recalling President Aleksandar Vučić’s internal dialogue initiative, he emphasized the Serbian leader’s warning that the historical conflict between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians remained unresolved.  However, the long-standing opposition had gained significantly in the elections, he said, pointing out that voter turnout had been highest in Kosovo Serb areas, signifying that group’s shift from boycotting Kosovo elections to active participation.

He went on to highlight the role of UNMIK in strengthening the participation of missing persons’ family representatives in determining the fate of the 1,658 people for whom there was still no accounting.  The Mission had hosted and participated in several initiatives and events, including a youth assembly that demonstrated the vibrancy of Kosovo civil society.  Last month, the Mission had facilitated a meeting with local leaders in south-eastern Kosovo, he said, adding that such meetings helped to build trust and address the concerns of local communities.

Ivica Dačić, Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, said UNMIK’s recent strengthening sent a powerful message that the United Nations provided the “roof” of the international presence in Kosovo and Metohija.  It would have a positive influence in resolving a range of problems facing ethnic Serb and other non-Albanian Kosovo communities.  However, pressure had been exerted to break the unity of the ethnic-Serb voting bloc, a practice that the Secretary-General’s report covered only inadequately, he noted.

He said the stalled formation of Kosovo’s institutions was of concern for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as was the statement by a candidate for Prime Minister, who had mentioned an “enemy Serbia”.  Judicial institutions in Kosovo and Metohija must not remain silent in the face of hate speech, he emphasized, pointing out that Kosovo had refused to implement the agreement on the Association/Community of Serbian Municipalities.  Its unilateral ban on Serbian passports was further evidence that it lacked the political will to normalize relations, he added.

Noting that the United States, United Kingdom and France had all aligned themselves with Kosovo on the question of terminating UNMIK, he asked the representatives of those countries whether they believed it was enough merely to assert that the Council no longer needed to discuss Kosovo.  He reminded them of the 200,000 Serbs executed and the mere 1.9 per cent who had returned, recalling that he had presented data from 1981, when protests and Kosovo’s quest for independence had begun.  That had been the time of Communist Yugoslavia, he said, asking where the 43,000 Serbs living in Kosovo at that time had gone.  Why had the United States, in particular, not granted visas to 41 per cent of those people?  “You forgot the history and everything you did in the Balkans over the last 100 years,” he said, expressing hope that what France and the United Kingdom had done in Serbia would not befall them in turn.

Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo emphasized that the Council was not the venue in which to discuss how national, ethnic or civic identities intertwined, who had arrived in the Balkans first and from where.  Historians could discuss such issues in a seminar, she said, adding that, as an ethnic Albanian and proud citizen, she understood that her identity, and others, coexisted well in Kosovo.  Independence had not been the result of a secessionist movement, but rather, a consensual dissolution of Yugoslavia, from which Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had emerged.  Furthermore, there had been no secessionist movement, she said, recalling that [former Special Envoy for Kosovo] Martti Ahtisaari had proposed that Kosovo declare independence.  The International Court of Justice ruling, requested by Serbia, had verified that declaration, she said, reaffirming that Kosovo had been within its rights to declare independence.

Pristina would do everything in its power to convince its Kosovo Serb citizens that the local army would be theirs too, adding that “there is absolutely nothing to fear”.  Already there were Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Montenegrins in the security forces, she said.  The cause of greatest concern, however, was Serbia’s “duality” in pretending to implement agreements while simultaneously continuing to support parallel structures in Kosovo, including illegal municipalities.  Normalization could not be achieved at the expense of truth and justice, she emphasized, adding that acknowledging the truth about war crime in Kosovo was the only way in which both societies could move forward.  “We are free, we are independent and that will never change,” she said.  Serbia must deal with its own past for the sake of its children.  “Let’s keep it real and let’s bring UNMIK to an end,” she said, adding that the Mission no longer had role nor function, and that more than $400 million had been spent on maintaining it since 2009.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the United States said that UNMIK, while a success story, had outlived its reason for existing, reiterating calls for the Mission’s termination, as well as for expanding the reporting period from the current three to six months.

The Russian Federation’s representative said there was no reason to reduce the United Nations presence in Kosovo because UNMIK remained essential to normalizing relations.  It was unacceptable for the Council to be guided exclusively by financial reasons, he emphasized, warning members against putting “positive spin” on a deteriorating situation.  The reality was that the Kosovo project continued to fail, he said, noting the dysfunction of the Pristina authorities and the sense of total impunity in which Kosovo politicians operated as they rejected the slightest progress on the Brussels agreements.  Attacks against Kosovo Serbs continued, as did the appropriation of property belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church, he added.  He described Pristina’s pronouncement that the Russian Federation intended to redraw Kosovo’s borders as a blatant lie.  It seemed to have become trendy to accuse the Russian Federation without evidence, he added, while stressing: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is called defamation.”

Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden, Uruguay, Ethiopia, Italy, Senegal, China, Ukraine, Bolivia, Japan, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom, France and Egypt.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:59 p.m.

Briefing

ZAHIR TANIN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said the present reporting quarter had been dominated by the early general election and lengthy negotiations to form a new government.  The decision to call an early election had been a deliberate one but the transition phase had proven very challenging, he said, noting that the main coalition had been unable to win an outright majority.  Some parties had improved their share marginally, while the long-standing opposition had gained significantly.  As a result, there had been a significant shift in the configuration of Kosovo’s political landscape, he said, attributing it to young voters — for whom jobs, access to education and reducing corruption were prominent concerns — as the ones responsible for the “tidal wave” of change. Meanwhile, ethno-nationalist rhetoric appeared less effective than it had been in the past, he added.

The election had been generally free, fair and competitive, he continued, recognizing the important contribution of the European Union observer team, among others.  Noting that the voter turnout had been highest in Kosovo Serb areas, he said that group had evolved from a position of boycotting Kosovo elections to active participation.  However, women’s participation and leadership remained limited, with no female candidates for Prime Minister and low representation of women in electoral bodies, he noted.  The greatest concern was that the election process itself consumed institutional energy and that major social and economic opportunities were missed.  Recalling President Aleksandar Vučić’s initiative for internal dialogue, he emphasized the Serbian leader’s warning that the historical conflict between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians remained unresolved.

Leadership would be required to address related challenges and concerns, he said, calling for the resumption of European Union-facilitated dialogue as soon as possible.  However, political reconciliation would not overcome all divisions, and there would be need to accompany that process with societal reconciliation, particularly by rebuilding trust.  UNMIK had managed to strengthen the participation of the missing persons’ family representatives in determining the fate of the 1,658 people for whom there was still no accounting.  The Mission had also hosted and participated in several initiatives and events, including a youth assembly that demonstrated the vibrancy of Kosovo civil society.  In July, the Mission had facilitated a meeting with local leaders in south-eastern Kosovo, during which participants had debated economic cooperation and the region’s exposure to radicalization, he said, adding that such meetings helped build trust and address the concerns of local communities.  The establishment in July of the Specialist Chambers in The Hague would help to tackle painful post-war concerns.

IVICA DAČIĆ, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, called attention to the recent adoption of UNMIK’s budget, as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Secretary-General’s initial proposal to increase it.  “This adoption reflects the realistically assessed need for ensuring adequate staff and financial capacities to the Mission,” he emphasized, saying UNMIK’s strengthening in July sent a powerful message that the United Nations provided the “roof” of the international presence in Kosovo and Metohija, and would have a positive influence in resolving a range of problems facing ethnic Serb and other non-Albanian Kosovo communities.  He stressed the importance of the Council’s discussions every three months.  The reporting period had been marked by electoral activities, he said, noting that pressure had been exerted to break the unity of the ethnic-Serb voting bloc, a practice that the report covered only inadequately.

The stalled formation of Kosovo’s institutions was a development of concern for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as was the statement by a candidate for Prime Minister who had mentioned an “enemy” Serbia, he continued.  Judicial institutions in Kosovo and Metohija must not remain silent in the face of hate speech, he emphasized.  Belgrade, for its part, continued to participate in the dialogue with the aim of resolving issues in a status-neutral framework.  The report noted limited progress on the technical aspect of the dialogue, he said, in which Serbia had demonstrated its readiness to fulfil its obligations.  Yet, the other side had refused to implement the agreement on the Community of Serbian Municipalities, and its unilateral ban on Serbian passports issued by the Coordination Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior for Kosovo and Metohija was further evidence that it lacked the political will to normalize relations.  Its action also signalled that the Council and the European Union must press Pristina to fulfill its obligations, he said, adding that its suspension of dialogue, the electoral process in Kosovo and Metohija, and intensified nationalist rhetoric by Kosovar Albanian political leaders accounted for the lack of progress in the dialogue. 

There could be no reconciliation unless all crimes were tried and responsibility taken for war crimes, he said, stressing that no legally valid sentence had been issued for the killing of 1,000 ethnic Serbs since the end of the conflict.  That was proof that judiciaries in Kosovo and Metohija were unable to carry out that task, as was the “shocking” acquittal of those indicted for war crimes in the Kleka case, and the decision by the “Constitutional Court of Kosovo” to acquit Sami Lustaku of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).  Ethnically motivated attacks against ethnic Serbs continued unabated, arising from hate speech and a lack of systemic response by Kosovo institutions.  The report should have paid greater attention to widespread threats to the human rights of non-Albanian communities, he said, calling for intensified efforts to build confidence and accelerate progress on human rights, the rule of law and reconciliation.  The positive results achieved in the dialogue signalled there was no alternative.  He advocated stronger mediation to ensure the implementation of agreements, emphasizing that a new phase of dialogue at the highest level would require both sides to work towards compromise and “different thinking”.  Serbia was committed to the dialogue and to promoting regional stability, he stressed.

VLORA ÇITAKU of Kosovo urged Council members to read the text of resolution 1244 (1999).  “You will be lost as we talk about a country that no longer exists — former Yugoslavia,” she said.  Meanwhile, UNMIK had been established for an initial 12 months, and yet it had continued to operate for 12 years.  “Let’s keep it real and let’s bring UNMIK to an end,” she said, emphasizing that there was absolutely no need for the Mission since it had no role and no function.  More than $400 million had been spent on maintaining it since 2009, but instead of shrinking its budget and returning its unspent funds to other much-needed peacekeeping missions, UNMIK had invested in permanent solar panels for a rented building, she noted, calling upon Member States to take action and bring the Mission to an end.

With the world facing serious crises, she continued, “I find it not only unnecessary but also irresponsible to come here and bother you with useless debates at a time when your attention is needed to address real challenges”.  Meanwhile, Kosovo had recently held democratic elections for the third time since its independence and the turnout had been particularly high among the ethnic Serb community, she said, adding that international observers had described the parliamentary elections as having met the highest international standards, with the exception of northern Kosovo, where local ethnic Serb leaders faced pressure and threats, often from the Serbian State.

Despite obvious differences, all political parties in Kosovo shared one objective, she said: Euro-Atlantic integration.  It was time for Kosovo to establish its own armed forces and contribute to regional and international security infrastructures.  “We want to be an active participant,” she emphasized, pledging that Pristina would do everything in its power to convince its Kosovo Serb citizens that Kosovo’s army would be their army too, and that “there is absolutely nothing to fear”.  There were already Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Montenegrins in Kosovo’s security forces, she said, expressing concern that Pristina had endured a “very aggressive” attitude from its northern neighbor over the last several months, with several agreements violated and even blocked, including accords relating to energy, justice and the recognition of diplomas.

Other accords, such as the agreement on cadaster and the revitalization of infrastructure, had been disrupted in different phases of implementation, she continued.  The cause of greatest concern, however, was Serbia’s “duality” in pretending to implement agreements while simultaneously continuing to support parallel structures in Kosovo, including illegal municipalities.  “We always talk about normalization, but normalization cannot be unilateral.”  Normalization could not be achieved at the expense of truth and justice, she said, emphasizing that acknowledging the truth about war crime in Kosovo was the only way in which both societies could move forward.  Emphasizing that the Kosovo Liberation Army was not a terrorist organization, she said:  “We are free; we are independent and that will never change.”  Serbia must deal with its own past for the sake of its children.  “Kosovo is a state that belongs to all its citizens and no one will ever tell me again that just because I am an Albanian I don’t deserve to live there.”

IRINA SCHOULGIN-NYONI (Sweden), noting that clear and undeniable progress had been achieved in Kosovo since the end of the conflict nearly two decades ago, said that “consistent vigilance and unwavering commitment by all political leaders” — as well as support from the international community — was nevertheless required to build a peaceful and prosperous society.  Following the largely peaceful elections in June, the new government must swiftly begin implementing the necessary reforms to benefit the people of Kosovo, he said.  Pristina and Belgrade must re-engage, revitalize the European Union-facilitated dialogue and implement their respective parts of the Brussels agreement, most notably with respect to dismantling parallel structures in Serb-majority areas and establishing the Association of Serb Municipalities.  On the normalization of women’s participation, he said Sweden would welcome inclusion of that important issue — as well as gender-aggregated data — in the Secretary-General’s next report.  Finally, he reiterated Sweden’s interest in hearing Special Representative Tanin’s view on possible prospects for the further downsizing of UNMIK’s structure, size, tasks and reporting arrangements.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) said his country had always advocated respect for territorial integrity, as well as compliance with resolution 1244 (1999) as the legal basis for resolving the situation.  Underscoring the importance of normalized relations between Kosovo and Serbia of living up to international commitments, he rejected incitement to hatred and extreme nationalism.  He described the dialogue as “encouraging”.  He expressed concern over restrictions on the free movement of Kosovo Serb citizens and the difficulties they faced in obtaining documents.  Ukraine urged both parties to foster the return of internally displaced persons and to respect cultural and historic heritage sites.  He also expressed concern over the lead poisoning of internally displaced persons and welcomed the proposal to create a trust fund for community assistance projects, especially in North Mitrovica, to help the Romani, Askali and Egyptian communities.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said the recent free, fair and peaceful elections were a clear sign of Kosovo’s democratic maturation, as was the significant turnout among Serb municipalities.  She welcomed United Nations efforts to help Kosovo build democratic institutions upholding the rule of law and human rights, as well as the European Union’s dialogue-facilitation role, calling on Pristina and Belgrade to continue taking steps to revitalize those talks and normalize relations.  Kosovo’s leaders must form a Government without delay, she said, adding that the United States was ready to work with them in advancing Euro-Atlantic relations — and resolving border issues with Montenegro so as to unlock visa-free travel — and promoting a multiethnic and stable Kosovo, she said.  UNMIK, while a success story, had outlived its reason for existing, she said, reiterating calls for the Council to terminate the Mission and expand the reporting period to six months.  The Secretary-General should provide an assessment of where budget and staff reductions could be made, she urged, while expressing strong support for international recognition of Kosovo and support for its membership in the United Nations and INTERPOL.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the recent elections, carried out with passion, demonstrated that “issues are not simple”, which justified the continuing need for UNMIK.  Reaffirming support for the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues, in accordance with the Brussels Agreement, he welcomed the European Union’s facilitation of dialogue, while noting that there had been limited progress in that dialogue on the key provisions of European Union-facilitated agreements, especially on the establishment of an Association of Serb Municipalities.  Calling upon both sides to re-engage in dialogue, he expressed hope that the new leaders in Belgrade and Pristina would do so with a view to addressing disagreements.  Both sides must also refrain from statements and actions that could cause problems, he said, advocating mutual respect for heritage.  Failure would be fatal, as would disagreement on demographic issues, he warned, urging UNMIK to strengthen reconciliation and ensure security in Kosovo and the region.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said that, whereas his delegation’s commitment to supporting countries on the path to joining the European Union remained unwavering, Western Balkan nations must deliver on their own agenda for European integration.  Italy took note of the internal dialogue initiated by the President of Serbia, and urged both Belgrade and Pristina to revitalize discussion, he said.  Emphasizing the need to implement policy relating to economic stability, social inclusion and rule the of law, he urged all parties to come together and establish a constructive dynamic amongst themselves while also fighting corruption.  Protecting vulnerable groups and minorities while ensuring respect for human rights was essential to moving forward, he stressed.  Italy’s long-standing support for UNMIK would stand, he pledged, noting that the road and effort ahead would require political will and coordination among various actors on the ground.  However, it was time to assess UNMIK in order to make appropriate adjustments on the ground and meet the current reality, he said, calling upon all sides to refrain from the inflammatory rhetoric of the past.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) expressed concern over the low representation of women in the recent elections and the limited progress of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  He also stressed the need to prioritize the question of missing and disappeared persons, while welcoming regional efforts to counter violent extremism.  Senegal commended the work of UNMIK in the areas of promoting human rights and transitional justice, he said.  All stakeholders must move towards peace and development by implementing agreements already reached.

WU HAITAO (China) expressed hope that the two sides would remain committed to political reconciliation, implement already-reached agreements, and build mutual trust.  Noting the challenges faced by ethnic communities in Kosovo, he called on all parties to take effective measures to protect all peoples while avoiding rhetoric that could escalate tensions.  Meanwhile, the Security Council must remain committed to facilitating a proper solution for the region, he said, expressing support for UNMIK and the European Union.  All stakeholders must work together in playing a positive role for the early settlement of the Kosovo question, he emphasized.

VOLODYMYR MIALKOVSKYI (Ukraine) called on the leaders of Kosovo to demonstrate unity and readiness to meet immediate and long-term challenges, including those relating to economic development, energy issues, strengthening the rule of law and relations with Serbia.  Ukraine encouraged the leadership in Belgrade and Pristina to display responsibility by re-engaging in constructive dialogue to realize progress towards normalizing bilateral relations, which was essential for both sides, but for residents of Kosovo first and foremost.  Welcoming the resumption of the high-level European Union-facilitated dialogue, he expressed hope that the agreement on a new phase of Belgrade-Pristina dialogue for reconciliation and the normalization of relations would be implemented at once.  Furthermore, Ukraine was concerned about violence and desecration in various parts of Kosovo, he said, adding that such crimes underlined the importance of intensified efforts to improve the rule of law and the execution of justice.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) reiterated the call for full implementation of resolution 1244 (1999), including its provisions on respect for Serbia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.  Pressing for the parties’ compliance with commitments under the European Union-facilitated dialogue and the Brussels agreement on the Association of Serb Municipalities, he expressed support for the High Representative’s high-level meeting of 3 July, when the parties had agreed to start a new phase of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  That dialogue must focus on confidence-building measures, he said.  underscoring the importance of UNMIK’s work with municipal authorities and its advocacy of peaceful measures to reach consensus-based solutions, he said Bolivia supported the trust fund for community-based projects for the Romani, Egyptian and Askali victims of lead poisoning, and called on the parties to pool their efforts to ensure the return of internally displaced persons.  The creation of the Special Chambers was a positive step for the cause of justice and reconciliation, he said, adding that perpetrators of war crimes must be held accountable.

YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) commended the largely peaceful legislative assembly elections held on 11 June in Kosovo.  Japan was paying close attention to the ongoing difficulty in forming a new government, which hopefully would soon be resolved in compliance with due process.  However, such issues did not warrant the Security Council taking them up every three months, particularly since it had addressed at length the need to adapt mandates to situations on the ground.  The Secretary-General’s most recent report demonstrated that the risk of violence in Kosovo was far smaller than in other regions, such as the Middle East and Africa, he noted.  The Council must address the possible duplication of UNMIK’s activities with those of the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and consider reducing the Mission’s personnel numbers.  In that context, Japan hoped strongly that the normalization of relations would soon be realized through sustained and serious dialogue between the two sides, he said.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) encouraged the strengthening of confidence-building measures, saying they were more needed now than ever before.  Commending the High Representative on his hosting of the 3 July high-level meeting, he said that his country viewed its outcome as advantageous.  Both sides must discuss any new initiative towards mutually beneficial solutions, while avoiding provocations, promoting the rule of law and human rights, implementing the law on the use of languages, and protecting vulnerable groups and cultural heritage.  Social stability would only be realized through full engagement by the United Nations country team as well as regional and subregional organizations, youth and civil society groups.  Improved conditions were required for the return of internally displaced persons, including better health services and economic development.

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said it had been relative quiet period in Kosovo, with the holding of free and fair elections in which the vast majority of Kosovars had participated.  He called on the Pristina authorities swiftly to form a government, which would mean returning to the European Union-facilitated dialogue, the only path for normalizing relations.  While the lines on the map would not be changed, the Council should not be distracted by angry, overly lengthy exchanges between the representatives of Belgrade and Pristina, he said, noting that progress on dialogue commitments would be vital to improving Kosovo’s standing in international organizations.  The United Kingdom would support its efforts to do so, notably as a member of INTERPOL.  Describing as “extraordinary” the fact that UNMIK’s budget should increase despite $600 million in savings on the peacekeeping budget, he asked what message was sent when the Mission received funds for solar panels when other operations, notably in Darfur, had endured reductions.  The United Kingdom was concerned that the budget should increase despite calls to downscale the UNMIK, he said, pressing for fewer meetings on Kosovo.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said there was no justification for quarterly meetings on Kosovo, particularly because the Council was dealing with an ever-increasing workload.  While the current deadlock was unsatisfactory and concerning, the recent parliamentary elections were “another success story” in building a democratic culture, demonstrating Kosovo’s progress.  There was, however, a need to improve the electoral process, she said, deploring intimidation and threats against voters.  It was crucial that political forces work together constructively, and that all stakeholders, including those voted out of government, demonstrate responsibility and constraint.  The resurgence of nationalism and extremism would not be constructive to realizing normalization, upon which European integration depended, she warned, emphasizing that all already-agreed accords must be implemented.  The Kosovo and Serbian authorities must play their part by adopting a constructive attitude and refraining from “useless” and even dangerous provocations, she said, stressing that the rule of law remained a priority and a strong European demand that would entail combating radicalization.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that a real and accurate assessment of the situation on the ground revealed deep problems in the Western Balkans requiring monitoring by the international community.  However, many delegations had painted a pretty picture of developments there whereas the reality was that the Kosovo project continued to fail.  Noting the dysfunction of the Pristina authorities and the sense of total impunity in which its politicians operated, he pointed out that they continued their refusal to make the slightest progress on the Brussels agreements.  He called upon mediators to step up their efforts to resolve that matter and to ensure respect for Kosovo Serbs and other minorities, as well as the protection of historical Serbian sites.  However, attacks against Kosovo Serbs continued, as did the appropriation of property belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church.  Corruption remained rampant and the judiciary was still in a sorry state.  Albanian authorities in Pristina were failing to respect agreements on the free movement of document holders, he said.  Countering the spread of radicalism and terrorism remained critical because many in Kosovo been recruited to fight in the Middle East and to carry out attacks, he added.

Noting Pristina’s aggressive stance against his country, he described its pronouncement that the Russian Federation intended to redraw Kosovo’s borders as a blatant lie, while recalling that nobody had taken responsibility for the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) having conducted a “real live war” against Serbia in 1999.  It seemed to have become trendy to accuse the Russian Federation without evidence, he added, while stressing: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is called defamation.”  Urging interested parties to stop defaming his country and its foreign policy, he said the “gross imposition” of NATO in the region continued to generate further destabilization.  Attempts to undermine the long and historic friendship links between the Russia Federation and the Western Balkans would be unsuccessful, he emphasized.  There was no reason to reduce the United Nations presence in Kosovo because UNMIK remained essential to normalizing relations.  It was unacceptable for the Security Council to be guided exclusively by financial reasons, he said, warning members against putting a “positive spin” on a deteriorating situation.

AMR ABDELATTIF ABOULATTA, (Egypt), Council President for August, spoke in his national capacity, welcoming the success of recent elections and the efforts of political parties to form a new government that would take on the many challenges while pushing ahead on reform.  He expressed concern over the serious challenges confronting the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, urging both sides to resume high-level dialogue.  An increase in hatred and nationalism was very concerning, he continued, calling on both sides to refrain from measures that would fuel tensions.  It was critical that the international community help to find a solution and improve the situation in the region, he said.

Mr. DAČIĆ, Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, took the floor a second time, noting that the speaker from Kosovo had devoted most of her time to accusations of ethnic cleansing of Albanians.  Emphasizing that he had espoused precise data rather than “narratives”, he pointed out that United States, the United Kingdom and France had all aligned themselves with Kosovo on the need to terminate UNMIK.  Yet, they wanted to partner with Serbia, he said, asking the representatives of those countries whether they believed it was enough merely to assert that the Council no longer needed to discuss Kosovo.  He reminded them of the 200,000 Serbs executed and the mere 1.9 per cent that had returned, recalling that he had presented data from 1981, when protests and Kosovo’s quest for independence had begun.  That had been in the time of Communist Yugoslavia, he said, asking where the 43,000 Serbs living in Kosovo at that time had gone.  Why had the United States, in particular, not granted visas to 41 per cent of those people?  “You forgot the history and everything you did in the Balkans over the last 100 years,” he said, expressing hope that what France and the United Kingdom had done in Serbia would not befall them in turn.

Ms. ÇITAKU said she was proud that Kosovo had leaders who had fought [former President of Serbia] Slobodan Milosevic, one of the worst criminals in Europe after the Second World War.  “We are proud of the background of our leadership, unlike some others.”  The Council was not the venue in which to discuss how national, ethnic or civic identities intertwined, who had arrived in the Balkans first or from where, she said, adding that historians could discuss such issues in a seminar.  As an ethnic Albanian and proud citizen of Kosovo, she said, she understood that her identity, and others, coexisted well in Kosovo.  Independence was not the product of a secessionist movement, but rather, a consensual dissolution of Yugoslavia, from which Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had emerged.  Furthermore, there had been no secessionist movement, she said, recalling that [former Special Envoy for Kosovo] Martti Ahtisaari had proposed that Kosovo declare independence.  The International Court of Justice ruling, requested by Serbia, had verified that declaration, she said, adding that Kosovo had been within its rights to declare independence.  While it had much more to do about the rule of law, organized crime and corruption, and creating better opportunities for all citizens, such problems existed in most Western Balkan countries, she pointed out, stating that while Serbia was ahead of Kosovo in terms of asylum seekers in Europe, that did not make it a failed State.  Regarding Serbs living in Kosovo, she provided various municipal data from the Central Election Committee, saying it showed more than 100,000 votes counted altogether.

[related_post themes="flat" id="170919"]