The Situation in Kosovo
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
We thank Special Representative Zarif for his briefing and for his leadership of UNMIK. We also thank Prime Minister Dačić and Prime Minister Thaçi for providing their valuable perspectives on developments in Kosovo over the past three months.
Australia applauds the substantial progress achieved at a political level by the two Prime Ministers at their recent meetings on the implementation of the 19 April agreement on normalising relations. We also recognise and commend the on-going mediation efforts of EU High Representative Ashton.
We commend the efforts of both Serbia and Kosovo in implementing key aspects of the 19 April agreement, including the significant progress made in the integration of Serbian Interior Ministry personnel into the Kosovo Police. This is a delicate task, which–when completed–will strengthen security and stability in Kosovo.
We also welcome the holding, during November and December 2013, of mayoral and municipal assembly elections. In accordance with the 19 April agreement, these elections were the first under a single legislative framework and included–crucially–the four northern Kosovo municipalities. While marred by some security incidents, these elections are a testament to the resolve of the Kosovar authorities to build a democratic and multi-ethnic future for their nation.
We urge the peaceful, fair, conduct of elections for the mayor of North Mitrovica scheduled to take place later this month.
The efforts made to normalise relations have allowed Serbia and Kosovo to move forward on their respective paths towards closer European integration. For Serbia, the inaugural round of accession talks with the European Union in January and in parallel, the European Commision signalling its intention to conclude negotiations for a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo during 2014, are both historic decisions which recognise the efforts made by Prime Minister Dačić and Prime Minister Thaçi towards reconciliation between Serbia and Kosovo, and stability and prosperity within Kosovo itself.
While commending the progress made to date, we note that further work remains to implement several key aspects of the 19 April agreement. It will be important, for example, to reach agreement on the statute and establishment of the Community/Association of Serb municipalities.
More work also remains to be done in northern Kosovo to establish a functional system of courts. We hope both Prime Ministers will be able to make progress on this issue when they meet later this week in Brussels.
Australia is encouraged by the fact that the overall security situation remained generally calm in Kosovo over the reporting period, particularly the fact that the number of reported incidents affecting minority communities decreased when compared with the previous reporting period.
We condemn the shooting of Dimitrije Janicijevic on 16 January. We welcome the Kosovar authorities' pledge to investigate his murder and create a safe environment in northern Mitrovica.
We do remain concerned that the rate of voluntary returns continues to be relatively low, and we encourage Kosovo's authorities to continue to address discrimination and work towards better education and employment opportunities, especially for minority groups and returnees. In this context, we also urge Kosovo to take concrete steps to protect the cultural and religious heritage sites recently listed by the Kosovo's Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport.
2013 was undoubtedly a positive year for relations between Serbia and Kosovo. We encourage both Prime Ministers to continue to engage constructively in the year ahead in the EU-mediated dialogue, and with UNMIK, to tackle any further challenges to achieve full normalisation of relations. With 2014 an election year in both Serbia and Kosovo, we hope both parties will maintain the same pace of political dialogue, and continue to strengthen the stability and prosperity of Kosovo.