The Situation in Kosovo
- Rule of Law
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
I wish to thank Special Representative Zarif for his briefing to the Council on UNMIK's activities during the reporting period.
I also welcome to the Council the President of Serbia, Mr. Tomislav Nikolić, and the President of Kosovo, Ms. Atifete Jahjaga, and thank them for their statements. I would like to convey Australia's condolences to communities in Serbia which have suffered the loss of family members in the unprecedented flooding. These losses are being felt deeply within affected communities in Australia.
Serbia and Kosovo have achieved remarkable progress over the past two years in their high-level political dialogue to normalise their relations and in the implementation of the 19 April 2013 agreement. As the Secretary-General has said in his report, the parties have been steadily narrowing their differences. We welcome the effort of political leaders in both Belgrade and Pristina for this progress.
The progress on the police integration chapter of the 19 April agreement has been particularly important. The 284 former Serbian police officers now serving with the Kosovo Police Force (as of March 2014) enhances the trust Kosovo Serbs have in Kosovar institutions and therefore serves as an important confidence-building measure for the community.
As the Secretary-General has observed in his report, some challenges remain with regard to the establishment of the Association of Serb municipalities in Kosovo, yet this, too, remains important. We encourage both sides to work towards finding an appropriate role for the Associations.
Australia commends the decision by the Kosovo Assembly on 23 April to establish a specialist court within the Kosovo court system – with seats within and outside Kosovo – to adjudicate allegations arising from the Special Investigative Task Force. We acknowledge this was a difficult and sensitive decision. In establishing a credible judicial process which we hope can finally resolve the grave allegations of organ trafficking during the 1990s conflict, Kosovo has re-affirmed its commitment to the rule of law. We commend this decision.
The proposal to reform Kosovo's security forces has proven to be a sensitive issue – both domestically and regionally. Australia recognises Kosovo's right–as an independent nation–to develop its security forces, particularly in the framework of its continued cooperation with NATO. But all possible efforts should be made to ensure that Kosovo's armed forces are developed in full transparency and dialogue with key regional neighbours.
We would like to acknowledge the importance of the continued deployment of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). We acknowledge the report by European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on EULEX activities. EULEX's re-focused mandate–voted on by the Kosovo Assembly and supported by President Jahjaga in her April letter– will ensure that EULEX can continue to investigate and prosecute serious organised crime and war crimes, and help build the capacity of Kosovo's multi-ethnic justice and police institutions until 15 June 2016. We condemn the attack perpetrated against EULEX vehicles on 25 April and call for a swift and thorough investigation. We remain encouraged, however, that the overall security situation remains calm and that Kosovo remains on a positive trajectory. This lends credence to the argument that the Security Council could decrease the frequency of its debates on the situation in Kosovo.
The return of the significant numbers of people displaced during the Kosovo conflict is an essential component of the long-term reconciliation process in Kosovo. But this cannot happen without a holistic approach to returns policy, addressing housing, security, freedom of movement, access to public services and employment opportunities. Australia welcomes Kosovo's new Strategy for Communities and Returns for the period 2014-18 and encourages all relevant Kosovar authorities to give full implementation to the strategy.
To conclude, Mr President
The opening of accession talks with the European Union by Serbia in January and the conclusion of negotiations on a future Stabilisation and Association Agreement for Kosovo are historic steps on the respective paths of both countries towards European integration. Following the understandable short pause during the general elections in Serbia and the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Kosovo scheduled for 8 June, it is now important that the newly elected leaderships in Belgrade and Pristina re-engage with renewed purpose and vision in the political dialogue supported by the European Union. This will ensure the positive momentum is maintained, and full normalisation of relations is achieved, to the mutual benefit and prosperity of the people of Serbia and Kosovo.