Speakers in Security Council Urge Restraint, Constructive Talks as Top Representatives From Serbia, Kosovo Argue over Cause of Regional Instability, Political Deadlock
As senior representatives from Serbia and Kosovo traded divergent opinions about the cause of regional insecurity and the reasons for the lack of progress in discussions between both parties, the United Nations top official in Pristina called for restraint and constructive dialogue through all available channels, as some delegates continued to question the need to maintain the Organization’s transitional administration mission in Kosovo.
Caroline Ziadeh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the Security Council that, since last spring, several escalations in rhetoric between Pristina and Belgrade had led to tensions on the ground, threatening to impede many of the gains previously achieved through the European Union-facilitated dialogue. Although diplomatic interventions led to temporary relief in the form of extended deadlines and promises to continue discussions, the parties’ willingness to risk dangerous confrontations on the ground, at best, set the process back. “At worst, it may lead to much more serious consequences, even if unintended,” she stressed.
Despite such challenges, there have been positive examples of leadership and cooperation, she said, pointing out that the government of Kosovo remains focused on addressing critical issues in relation to the rule of law. While highlighting the importance of regional government-level cooperation initiatives to ease political tensions, she said sustainable peace requires much more, including direct engagement with communities, which UNMIK can support through bolstering trust-building actors and promoting communication efforts across ethnic and political lines at all levels of society.
Nikola Selaković, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, countered the picture put forth in the report of stability prevailing in Kosovo and Metohija over the past few months, stating that Pristina’s unilateral moves continue to systematically deepen ethnic differences, causing discrimination against the non-Albanian population. On the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he said that by continuously insisting on mutual recognition as a central part, Pristina’s so-called policy of reciprocity demonstrates the essential unwillingness of its current political leadership to find any compromise solution. Further, he pointed out that Pristina’s destabilizing actions during the reporting period, including imposing measures on license plates, demonstrate that it is nullifying the results of negotiations and creating a new crisis all over again. Recalling that some Council members called for reducing or terminating UNMIK during the previous meeting on Kosovo in April, he asserted that current circumstances show that international presence in the southern province is still necessary.
Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz, of Kosovo, noted that her country will apply for European Union membership this year and aspires to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) soon. However, there are serious threats to regional stability and peace, she said, pointing to “the escalation that Serbian President Vučić is threatening for the end of October against our Republic.” Recalling that President Vučić had been Propaganda Minister to former Serbian President and war criminal Slobodan Milošević during the Serb genocide in Kosovo, she pointed out that he continues to celebrate war criminals as heroes. The United Nations once did not pay attention to Mr. Milošević’s propaganda, and it led to a catastrophic war, she warned, adding that President Vučić continues to build up Serbia’s military with support from the Russian Federation.
In the ensuing debate, Council members voiced concern about the flare-up of tensions in northern Kosovo over the issue of license plates in July, with many calling for restraint and pragmatism from both parties and underlining the need for continued, constructive dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, facilitated by the European Union. Some stressed the need for more to be done to tackle reconciliation efforts, pointing to the stalled activities of the Working Group on disappeared persons in Kosovo in this regard, while others questioned the need for UNMIK, saying it has long fulfilled its mandate.
Among them was the delegate of Albania, who commended Kosovo for its sustained efforts to fight corruption and enforce the rule of law, despite which, for 23 years now, a peacekeeping mission remains stuck there “by a frozen Council resolution, a relic of bygone times and realities.” Joining the delegations of the United Kingdom and the United States in the call for a thorough review of UNMIK’s work and role, he said it would be better to invest some of the $42 million spent yearly for the Mission in areas where Kosovo has real and more acute needs.
Offering a contrasting perspective, the representative of Ghana said that UNMIK’s mandate to promote security, stability and the respect for human rights remains relevant. Highlighting unresolved issues regarding freedom of movement, energy supply challenges in northern Kosovo and the agitations to in-Kosovo voting during Serbia’s general elections held in April this year, he called for dialogue at the highest levels, backed by genuine commitment.
Mexico’s delegate was among several who voiced regret about the lack of progress made by the Belgrade-Pristina Working Group on disappeared persons in connection with the events of 1998-1999, pointing out that it has not met for a year and a half. He urged the parties to resume work on this issue, to facilitate progress in reconciliation between communities.
For his part, the representative of Ireland welcomed the 27 August 2022 agreement on free movement between Kosovo and Serbia after high-level talks in Brussels, noting that it demonstrated that acceptable, pragmatic solutions are possible when leaders engage openly and constructively. This European Union-facilitated dialogue, mandated by the United Nations, is the channel through which issues and tensions between Kosovo and Serbia can and should be resolved, he stressed, and encouraged both sides to continue their engagement to resolve all outstanding issues, including the issue of license plates.
On that point, the representative of the Russian Federation recalled that the issue almost resulted in bloodshed in July, and could potentially do so again on 31 October 2022, when the period to replace the license plates expires. Characterizing Kosovo as a hotbed of tension in the Balkans, where, since 1999, the rights of Serbians have been systematically violated and a “creeping ethnic cleansing has been taking place”, he added that although some continue to live in northern Kosovo, authorities create impossible conditions for them to live. He went on to state that many Western countries pretend as if Council resolution 1244 (1999) did not exist, as demonstrated by a recent Franco-German project geared towards forcing Belgrade to accept Kosovo’s statehood.
Also speaking were representatives of Norway, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, United States, Kenya, Brazil, India, China, France and Gabon.
The representatives of Serbia and Kosovo took the floor a second time.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 5:28 p.m.
CAROLINE ZIADEH, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2022/739) said the previous six months included many instances of political posturing over matters which remain a part of the agenda of the European Union-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina: the energy roadmap; people’s freedom of movement, the validity of identity documents, and the association/community of Serb majority municipalities, among others. She noted that since last spring, several escalations in rhetoric between Pristina and Belgrade and moments of tension on the ground threatened to set back many of the gains previously achieved through the European Union-facilitated dialogue, with both sides investing in mutual accusation, rather than in making use of formal and informal channels for engaging in constructive dialogue.
While diplomatic interventions, along with a top-level dialogue meeting on 18 August, led to temporary relief in the form of extended deadlines and promises to continue discussions, the parties’ willingness to risk dangerous confrontations on the ground, at best, set the process back. “At worst, it may lead to much more serious consequences, even if unintended,” she stressed. Against the backdrop of such instances, “when the line between political provocation and over belligerence blurs,” she underscored the importance of the Mission’s mandated international partner, Kosovo Force (KFOR), whose presence continuously ensures a safe and secure environment in Kosovo.
Turning to the effort of the government of Kosovo’s ambitious agenda to strengthen the rule of law and justice, which can only succeed through full compliance with all applicable legal frameworks, and by ensuring due process, she highlighted the importance of the full implementation of all high court decisions, such as those of the Constitutional Court, full respect for human rights, and full respect for all obligations previously undertaken and ratified within the framework of the European Union-facilitated dialogue. She said, nonetheless, that despite all challenges, there have been positive examples of leadership and cooperation. The government of Kosovo remains focused on addressing critical issues in relation to the rule of law, she said, adding: “efforts we expect are noted by European member states weighing their positions on the visa and travel regime for the people of Kosovo.”
Pointing out that while regional government-level cooperation initiatives — regardless of their labels, authorship, and participation — can also contribute to the resolution of political tensions and problems, she said sustainable peace requires much more, including the direct engagement of communities, which the Mission can help support. She went on to outline the Mission’s goals and planned priorities, including participating in and promoting effective communication across ethnic and political lines at all levels of society; redoubling its support for trust-building actors from across all parts of Kosovo society; and promoting broad awareness about the interdependence, the shared problems and interests of people across Kosovo.
NIKOLA SELAKOVIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that the last few months have not brought greater stability in Kosovo and Metohija and the situation in the province is not exactly as presented in the report. Pristina’s unilateral moves continue to systematically deepen ethnic differences, causing discrimination against the non-Albanian population, he said, adding that to his knowledge, 105 ethnically motivated attacks have been recorded since the beginning of the year. “This irresponsible conduct is consciously sabotaging the efforts of Belgrade, the European Union and other involved parties of the international community,” he said. The clear intention is two goals: to avoid the implementation of assumed commitments, and more alarming, to intimidate, marginalize and persecute Serbs. Serbs are still intimidated in different ways and forced to leave their homes, villages and cities; those displaced are discouraged from returning to where they were born and lived their lives. The provisional institutions work systematically to remove and erase as much as possible of the cultural and national diversity that is left. Even to this day there is not a single perpetrator held legally accountable for the more than 1,000 Serbs killed since 1999, he said.
Turning to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he said that by continuously insisting on mutual recognition as a central part, Pristina’s so-called policy of reciprocity demonstrates the essential unwillingness of its current political leadership to find any compromise solution. “We assess as inadmissible attempts to disregard the current format of the dialogue and annul the agreements only because they are not to the liking of the current political factors. It is unacceptable that the current geopolitical circumstances are being used to simply erase what has been painstakingly worked on for years,” he said. Pristina’s harsher political rhetoric and narrative is accompanied by concrete destabilizing steps. In the reporting period, measures on license plates were imposed, disguised as attempts at alleged integration into society, despite there being no agreement on such measures in the dialogue. This shows that Pristina is not only failing to fulfil previous agreements, but is nullifying the results of the dialogue, creating a new crisis all over again, he stressed. The effect of such forcibly imposed measures has shown that since the decision was made, a single-digit number of re-registered vehicles with Serbian license plates has been recorded; only two are Serbs from the north of Kosovo and Metohija. This indicates that Pristina continuously provokes the natural reaction of the Serbian population, he said, adding that Pristina’s claims that Belgrade is behind every reaction of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, in alleged attempts at destabilization, are not true.
He categorically rejected Pristina's argumentation regarding the alleged unconstitutionality of the formation of the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities. Pristina's attitude indicates it is against Serbian people being organized as an ethnic community and thus exercising their collective rights. The aim of its approach, as a preferred model, is a community without Serbs, such as those in Pristina, Djakovica or Pec, or similar localities in the province. Although Pristina often repeats its case that the so-called Kosovo is a fait accompli, it continues not to be recognized by most Member States. “If the so-called Kosovo's independence is a reality, how come that we have the dialogue?” he asked. During the Council’s meeting in April, some members called for reducing or even terminating UNMIK, saying Pristina has its own functional institutions. Yet the circumstances presented today show that international presence in the southern province is still necessary, he said supporting efforts made by UNMIK, KFOR, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Kosovo within their mandates. Noting that the Serbian and other non-Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija consider the international presence a guarantor of security, he said the missions must remain engaged in an undiminished scope and capacity, in accordance resolution 1244 (1999).
He said the United Nations Charter and international law, including the territorial integrity and sovereignty of States, should be respected by all and applied indiscriminately to all Member States. More than two decades ago, the Council adopted resolution 1244 (1999), which confirmed the territorial integrity of Serbia. Yet certain countries recognized the so-called “Kosovo” and violated United Nations principles and the resolution. He expressed hope for answers to the many questions in his statement. “All the inhabitants of Kosovo and Metohija have every right to expect an improvement in the atmosphere and the reduction of tensions on the ethnic level, which are a prerequisite for a normal life,” he said. Constructiveness, which is not missing on the Serbian side, along with the genuine support of international actors is needed.
DONIKA GËRVALLA-SCHWARZ of Kosovo noted that her country is the youngest democracy in Europe as well as the country with the youngest population. Last year, Kosovo registered more than 10 per cent economic growth and a record increase in tax revenue, she pointed out, adding that this year’s growth was significant until the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine affected food and energy prices. Paying tribute to the optimistic and resilient people of Kosovo, she said it has signed more than 1,000 important agreements with neighbouring and other countries. Kosovo will apply for European Union membership this year and aspires to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) soon. However, there are serious threats to stability and peace in the region, she said, pointing to “the escalation that Serbian President Vučić is threatening for the end of October against our Republic.”
Turning to the issue of license plates, she said that while 90 per cent of people have transitioned their license plates, there is a minority of about 10 per cent who still have two weeks left to register. Extremist Serbs are brutally chasing and intimidating law-abiding fellow citizens, she said, adding that it is a mistake for UNMIK to suppress these facts. Expressing gratitude to KFOR, NATO, the United States and other allies, she said that in 2011, “Serbia agreed in Brussels on freedom of movement” but breached its commitments. This forced Kosovo to enact reciprocity on the question of license plates, she said, also recalling that when Kosovo announced that it would implement reciprocity with ID cards as well, President Aleksandar Vučić threatened violence again, necessitating intervention by NATO and the European Union. As a result, she said, after more than 10 years, “the citizens of Kosova can finally travel with their ID cards through Serbia.”
Turning to the background of these current developments, she recalled that President Vučić had been Propaganda Minister to former Serbian President and war criminal Slobodan Milošević during the Serb genocide in Kosovo. He continues to celebrate war criminals as heroes, she said, adding that in 1995, when thousands of civilians in Srebrenica came under fire and shelling by Serb military and the United Nations considered sending military defence for the innocent civilians, Mr. Vučić said in the Serbian parliament that “for every Serb killed we will kill 100 Muslims.” Denouncing “the greater Serbia ideology,” she said the United Nations did not pay attention to Mr. Milošević’s propaganda, and it led to a catastrophic war. President Vučić has kept up this rhetoric and continues to build up Serbia’s military with support from the Russian Federation, she said.
She added that no major foreign policy decision is taken in Belgrade without asking big brother in Moscow for permission. Noting the deployment of additional United States troops to Kosovo, she said that Kosovo and its neighbours are relieved by this. Reaffirming commitment to dialogue, she said that mutual recognition is at the centre of such a dialogue. Kosovo’s independence is a done deal, she said calling on Serbia to recognize that. “We are talking from a position of modesty and strength,” she said, noting that Kosovo literally emerged from genocide. When brutal Serb forces burned down its villages and raped its women and tortured its men, Kosovo did not give up. Recalling how Kosovo’s people restarted their lives after surviving the genocide, she said that Kosovo is an example for the world.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway), recalling that her country supports Kosovo and the other Western Balkan countries in their Euro-Atlantic ambitions, voiced concern that the report describes heightened rhetoric between Belgrade and Pristina, and the escalation of tensions on the ground, impacting progress towards normalization of relations. She encouraged parties to strengthen their dialogue, and engage constructively based on the Brussels Agreements, welcoming in this regard encouraging steps such as the agreement on identification cards reached in August under the European Union-facilitated dialogue. She expressed hope that similar progress will be made to find a permanent solution to the license plate issue. On the issue of missing persons during events in Kosovo from 1998-2000, she expressed disappointment on the continued lack of cooperation within the Belgrade-Pristina working group in this regard. Also stressing the need for those responsible for conflict-related sexual violence to be held to account, she pointed out that greater accountability is needed for reconciliation and peacebuilding in Kosovo. Underscoring that full integration in the Euro-Atlantic structures will not be possible for either Kosovo or Serbia without a comprehensive agreement on full normalization of relations, she called on both parties to intensify their efforts to improve relations, be more pragmatic, and refrain from actions and rhetoric that may set back dialogue. “The current status quo cannot be an option,” she said, urging all actors to “fully engage”.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (Ireland), welcoming the 27 August 2022 agreement on free movement between Kosovo and Serbia after high-level talks in Brussels, said it shows that acceptable, pragmatic solutions are possible when leaders engage openly and constructively in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. This European Union-facilitated dialogue, mandated by the United Nations, is the channel through which issues and tensions between Kosovo and Serbia can and should be resolved, he stressed, and encouraged both sides to continue their engagement to resolve all outstanding issues. This includes the issue of license plates and preserving the dialogue’s integrity by respecting and implementing past agreements. Both sides have a responsibility to refrain from divisive rhetoric or actions. The events of 31 July 2022 in northern Kosovo, and the heightened tensions between Belgrade and Pristina throughout the reporting period, are a reminder that hard-won gains can be quickly undone.
FERGUS JOHN ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom), encouraged the government of Kosovo to continue its increased engagement with minority communities, underscoring that dialogue between communities is vital for the stability of Kosovo as a multi-ethnic State. He also encouraged greater outreach to Kosovo Serb political leaders and representatives to resolve outstanding issues, noting that the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia remains vital for regional stability. Voicing support for the European Union-facilitated dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, he said both parties must now engage in the dialogue in good faith, honour their dialogue commitments and avoid actions or rhetoric that could reduce prospects for reaching a comprehensive and sustainable normalization agreement. Noting the rise in tensions on 31 July 2022 over the implementation of government decisions on car number plates and identification cards, he stressed that such decisions should not be used as an excuse for blockades or violence. Noting that conditions on the ground have changed since the adoption of resolution 1244 (1999), he said now is the right time to undertake a thorough review of UNMIK’s shape and role.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to encourage dialogue and prevent the exacerbation of quarrels among the communities in Kosovo as well as between Kosovo and Serbia, especially considering the current turbulent situation in Europe. Noting positive improvements in the relations between Kosovo and Serbia, he encouraged both parties to continue their European Union-facilitated dialogue and avoid any unilateral measures that might lead to further tension. On developments within Kosovo, he stressed the need to continue working to reduce tensions in the northern region of the country to avoid any escalation. Efforts to consolidate the values of tolerance and peaceful coexistence among all segments of society in Kosovo are particularly important considering the recent alarming incidents, such as the desecration of religious sites and cemeteries and the spread of extremism and hate speech on social media. Voicing support for efforts made by UNMIK in that regard, he said youth programmes that are inclusive of all of society in Kosovo will, in turn, contribute to strengthening social cohesion.
ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico), pointing out that Kosovar Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians continue to face major social and economic challenges, called for a response to the inequalities affecting their communities, including through contributions to the United Nations fund supporting those communities. In the area of sexual and gender-based violence, provincial authorities must strengthen measures to stamp out that scourge. Voicing grave concern about the alleged rape of a minor in Pristina last month, he called on the authorities to carry out investigations so that those responsible are brought to justice, and to ensure the protection of and support for victims. The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo observed that although incidents of sexual violence, particularly those involving minors, are often reported, there are few cases of reparations, he said, urging the implementation of that mission’s recommendations on the handling of cases of sexual violence in line with the Istanbul Convention. Regarding cultural heritage, he called on Pristina authorities to mobilize the necessary resources for the preservation of the Visoki Dečani monastery, which has been designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an endangered heritage site. Concerning the disappeared persons in connection with the events of 1998-1999 in the Kosovo region, he voiced regret that the Belgrade-Pristina Working Group has not met for a year and a half, urging the parties to resume work on this issue, to facilitate progress in reconciliation between communities.
VASSILY NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), addressing Ms. Gërvalla-Schwarz, asked her to “refrain from philosophizing”, adding that she would have been better off concentrating on the situation in Kosovo than distracting the Council with her musings about actions being undertaken at Moscow’s behest, adding: “Thank you for being this flattering.” Stating that he would provide “a real assessment” of the situation in Kosovo, he said it is a hotbed of tension in Balkans, where the rights of Serbians have been systematically violated since 1999, from which point “creeping ethnic cleansing has been taking place”, as borne out by the dwindling number of Serbs living in Pristina from 40,000 before the conflict to barely 100 today. While some continue to live in northern Kosovo, authorities headed by Mr. Kurti create impossible conditions for Serbian populations, through the lowering of the threshold for the use of force, among other factors, he added. Further, since the start of 2022, Kosovo has recorded more than 200 cases of attacks on Serbs, their property, cemeteries and religious shrines — almost twice as many as a year earlier. Turning to the license plate issue, which almost resulted in bloodshed in July, he warned of potential bloodshed on 31 October 2022, when the period to replace the license plates expires. Stating that Pristina’s substantial military budget implies that its intentions are far from peaceful, he stated that many Western countries pretend as if Council resolution 1244 (1999) did not exist, as demonstrated by a recent Franco-German project geared towards forcing Belgrade to accept Kosovo’s statehood. While expressing full support to UNMIK, he called for the Mission to be “realistic rather than neutral or rosy in its assessment”, and expressed concern about Pristina’s actions against it, including a declaration of persona non grata.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) reaffirmed his delegation’s commitment to safeguard stability in the Western Balkans. Doing so is especially important considering the greater tensions in Europe with the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The United States is working closely with its European partners to foster peace and multi-ethnic societies and strengthen democracy and the rule of law, he said. He reaffirmed support for Kosovo’s path towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Serious and urgent engagement between the sides in the European Union-facilitated dialogue is needed to achieve a comprehensive normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Noting the adoption of the energy roadmap, he expressed hope for a similar consensus regarding the issuance of license plates. Stability is needed in the Western Balkans, he said, and encouraged both sides to keep tensions low and avoid inflammatory rhetoric. The role of UNMIK has become increasingly redundant as it has long fulfilled its mandate, he said, adding that Kosovo has developed its institutions. Briefings on Kosovo in the council should be reduced to annual meetings. He expressed disappointment that the Council has not moved to sunset or close the Mission.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) said the need for sustained stability in Kosovo has gained more urgency as Europe deals with significant security challenges. Expressing concern about the persistent rhetoric between Belgrade and Pristina and the resultant escalation of tensions, he added that genuine reconciliation and enduring peace stand a better chance when there is strong rule of law and responsive institutions. Commending UNMIK for its support for the integration of the judiciary and the administration of justice in the north of Kosovo, he called for enhanced support for confidence-building measures, particularly those that strengthen the participation of women, young people and civil society in decision-making processes. Sustained dialogue is essential for the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, he said.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), stressing that the risks of escalation are real as illustrated by the 31 July 2022 incidents, he said all actors must act with necessary restraint and avoid unilateral measures that could jeopardize advances made over years of efforts for peace and reconciliation. The impasse over vehicle license plates and the lack of progress since June in implementing the electric power agreements are particularly worrying. He encouraged decision-makers to demonstrate flexibility and seek solutions that account for local sensitivities and contribute to trust-building efforts. Frequent high-level meetings should be encouraged to foster dialogue and ensure lasting peace and harmonious co-existence. He emphasized the need for progress in implementing the Brussels Agreements, especially regarding the establishment of the Association/Community of Serbian-Majority Municipalities in Kosovo. He noted the organization of the ninth United Nations Global Open Day on Women, Peace and Security in Kosovo in June. His delegation strongly supports the recommendations resulting from the event, which will help ensure women’s greater participation in decision-making processes and to combat harassment, he said.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) expressed concern that continuing political tensions between the Kosovo region and Serbia have stalled the further implementation of the agreements reached so far. Highlighting unresolved issues regarding freedom of movement, energy supply challenges in northern Kosovo and the agitations to in-Kosovo voting during Serbia’s general elections held in April this year, he called for dialogue at the highest levels, backed by genuine commitment. Both sides must recommit to the full implementation of their respective obligations under previous and future agreements to be reached in the context of the European Union-facilitated dialogue. The impasse on vehicle license plates must be addressed, he said adding that UNMIK’s mandate to promote security, stability and the respect for human rights remains relevant.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said it is important that meetings are held without any preconditions and in good faith. The implementation of signed agreements, including on the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, remains fundamental. He urged all sides to proceed with full implementation of the energy roadmap that was signed in June. Both sides need to find common ground to overcome mutual concerns, including political and ethnic issues, and avoid rhetoric which may heighten tensions. Turning to the issue of missing persons, he said the matter must be resolved as a priority. He hoped that with UNMIK’s support, the authorities will be able to determine the fate of persons who are still missing. The voluntary and safe return of internally displaced persons from other countries in the region is also essential to build confidence. UNMIK should continue, together with the presence of other international entities, to encourage the Pristina authorities to address the problems of all communities.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) noted that while the Secretary-General’s report reflects important developments in an ever-strengthening democratic country, it is surprising that the war in Ukraine and Kosovo’s unequivocal condemnation of the aggression are not mentioned. Applauding Kosovo for its sustained efforts to fight corruption and enforce the rule of law, he said that despite all this, for 23 years now, a peacekeeping Mission remains stuck there “by a frozen Council resolution, a relic of bygone times and realities.” Stressing that the situation in Kosovo is no longer a matter of peace and security, he said the region has moved ahead. Joining the delegations of the United Kingdom and the United States in the call for a thorough review in order to make sure that UNMIK’s work and role do not evolve in inertia, he said it would be better to invest some of the $42 million spent yearly for the Mission in areas where Kosovo has real and more acute needs. Pointing to positive signs in the European Union-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, he said it is time to reduce Council meetings to only one per year as a recognition of the progress. “Parties would achieve more — as they have done — by sitting, talking and agreeing in Brussels rather than disagreeing in New York,” he said.
GENG SHUANG (China) noting that Serbia and Kosovo have finally reached agreement on the issue of identification documents, commended Serbia’s constructive attitude. However, the issue of license plates is still pending resolution, he said, warning that Pristina's demand to completely replace license plates by the end of the month may once again result in protests and even clashes, and thus aggravate tensions between the two sides. Such a situation must be avoided, he stressed, calling on both sides, particularly the Kosovo authorities, to exercise restraint, actively cooperate with the good offices of the European Union and refrain from taking unilateral actions. Dialogue and consultation are the right way to address the cause of the issue, he underscored, encouraging continued engagement between both parties for the implementation of the outcome of the previous negotiations. Noting that for many years now the unity and mutual trust of all communities in the Kosovo region have been in a fragile state, he hoped that Kosovo authorities will take effective measures to prevent recurrence of incidents against ethnic minorities.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) expressed concern about the events which took place on 31 June 2022 and said the only pathway to peace is through a mutually agreed binding agreement to resolve issues. Welcoming the agreement facilitated by the European Union, she called on both parties to fully normalize relations, adding that the high-level dialogue led by the United Arab Emirates demonstrated commitment to a global agreement. Kosovo and Serbia have a mutual interest in reaching an agreement, she said, calling for the full implementation of agreements already reached, and for parties to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to tension. Further, restraint must be shown in case of issues such as the supply of electricity or license plates. Moreover, progress must be made by the Working Group on disappeared persons, the conditions for return of displaced persons, and on the fight against impunity for perpetrators of grave crimes. Calling for the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, she said “the future of the European Union depends on it.”
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, called for an urgent solution on issues creating tensions, including the freedom of movement, particularly regarding the issue of license plates, warning that these tensions could become a permanent source of antagonism. The tensions should be settled through dialogue, which goes after the root causes of conflict, he said, adding that these objectives can be helped with the implementation of the Brussels Agreement. The increasing sources of tensions between communities and police and the reduction of the freedom of movement are undermining peace. Also, the pace of the return of displaced people must be expedited and he encouraged the efforts of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNMIK to help people in this regard. The full implementation of resolution 1244 (1999) is key, as is respect by all parties for international law. He encouraged all initiatives that promote people living together in integrated communities. Young people and women should play an enhanced role in achieving peace, he said, welcoming the efforts by UNMIK and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) to fight harassment against women. He called for all parties to work together and abstain from any unilateral policies.
Mr. SELAKOVIĆ (Serbia), taking the floor again, rejected the “brutal lies in the speech of Ms. Schwarz”. Noting that she described Kosovo as the youngest democracy, he asked what kind of democracy prohibits voting in elections. Also rejecting her statement that 90 per cent of license plates were registered, he said that there are more than 9,000 vehicle-owners in the northern part of Kosovo and Metohija, and only two are registered. “Madame Schwarz is very obsessed with President Vučić,” he said, adding that while she said he is preparing for an aggression, she didn't say what Pristina is doing. Rejecting her statements that Belgrade is preparing for aggression and that Serbia is behaving like someone's proxy or puppet, he said that at the same time Pristina is constructing new special police troops bases in the Serb-majority municipalities, in a possible attempt to push out what’s left of the Serbian community in Kosovo and Metohija. Further, Kosovo has been cheating the European Union, in getting its support for the renovation of a Nazi collaborator’s house, he said, adding that President Vučić could teach Ms. Gërvalla-Schwarz a lot about politics and diplomacy. As to Serbia breaching agreements, he said that 3,470 days since the first Brussels Agreement was signed, Pristina has not formed a community of Serbian municipalities, as was agreed upon.
Ms. GËRVALLA-SCHWARZ of Kosovo, taking the floor a second time, said Mr. Selaković called her by her husband’s name and not her own because hers represented “a big hole in the collective conscience of Serbia” as it came from her father, a journalist, writer and musician who was chased by Belgrade security services to Germany and killed behind the family home. She said those who are unconvinced by what they heard in the meeting ought to read the progress report of the European Union for a sense of conditions on the ground. “Do not allow others to fool you,” she said, adding that everyone should read honest, trust-worthy sources on what happened in the past, what happens now, and what the future can be. She went on to stress that in Kosovo, the right to vote is a respected one and guaranteed by its constitution for all citizens.