Agreement on Normalizing Relations between Serbia, Kosovo ‘Historic Milestone’, Delegate Tells Security Council
Despite Positive Development, Speakers Express Concern Regarding Missing Persons
Despite heightened tensions, the “Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia”, reached in Ohrid, North Macedonia, in March, marks a historic milestone, the Security Council heard today, as senior representatives from Pristina and Belgrade offered countering perspectives on the drivers of regional insecurity.
Caroline Ziadeh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), voiced concern over the preceding cycles of tension and provocations that occurred in 2022, noting that those actions and reactions brought Pristina and Belgrade further away from the course previously agreed to in the framework of the European Union-facilitated dialogue, and “worryingly close to the edge of physical confrontation”. Without increased commitment to the mechanism of renewed negotiations, failures of confidence could worsen within Kosovo, with direct consequences for regional stability, she cautioned.
Despite such challenges, leaders from the region have expressed their support for the process now being undertaken by both sides to advance on the path to normalization, she said, underscoring the role of UNMIK in this regard. She detailed the Mission’s focus on supporting language rights and learning, with its online platform to learn Albanian and Serbian reaching more than 70,000 users. Additionally, UNMIK is assisting families of missing persons via the Missing Persons Resource Centre, as well as helping to ensure equal access to justice through improved courtroom infrastructure, free legal aid and legal interpretation services.
Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, rejected the double standards which lead to varying interpretation of territorial integrity and sovereignty, calling for the undiminished presence of UNMIK in its unchanged mandate. The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is at a decisive moment, he said, noting that there is still an atmosphere of fear and pressure towards Serbs and other non-Albanian communities. The harsh truth is that Kosovo and Metohija has, in the past 20 years, turned from a multi-ethnic environment into an almost ethnically pure territory. He stressed the need to urgently form the Association of Serbian Municipalities — the only possible mechanism for protecting the rights and security of the Serbian community in Kosovo and Metohija.
Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz of Kosovo emphasized that UNMIK has become a destabilizing factor that does not serve stability and peace in the region. She said that without the presence of troops from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in “Kosova”, there could already be war. However, she continued, Kosova will never again be a defenceless victim of aggression and genocide. Meanwhile, Serbia is no longer even recognized as a democratic country — looking to the east and the relics of past Powers. Those responsible for genocide are still in power in the Serbian Government, she said, noting that the Serbia President Aleksandar Vučić was the propaganda minister for former President Slobodan Milošević.
In the ensuing debate, Council members cited the 2023 agreement between Belgrade and Pristina as a positive development, as it reinforces both sides’ commitment to a mutually acceptable solution to the question of Kosovo. However, numerous delegates voiced concern over the persistence of tensions between the communities, particularly in north Kosovo, reflected in the boycott of local elections on 23 April. Some also stressed the need for a substantial revision of UNMIK activity, noting that the Mission has long fulfilled its mandate.
Among them was the representative of Albania, who described the 2023 Ohrid agreement as a historic milestone by which “Kosova” and Serbia have agreed to develop normal, good-neighbourly relations with each other on the basis of equal rights. The text clearly stipulates that Serbia will not object to Kosova’s membership in international organizations, he said. “So, I was very surprised” to hear Mr. Dačić say the opposite today, he added. He further expressed regret about the lack of Serbian participation in the recent elections organized by Kosova, noting that boycott is a right in democracy, but not a good choice in this case.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates described the 2023 Ohrid agreement as the most significant breakthrough in over a decade, offering the possibility of a path forward by outlining specific measures to support stability and strengthen civil participation. She also stressed that an endorsed declaration on missing persons can help provide closure to families while honouring those who have passed. “We cannot change the past, but we can shape the future,” she said, urging Belgrade and Pristina to maintain their commitment.
Echoing her concerns, the representative of Ecuador expressed concern by the limited progress made on missing persons — an important humanitarian aspect of the reconciliation process. Drawing attention to the reports of sexual and gender-based violence, he underlined the need for the authorities to adopt policies, intensify protection efforts and ensure both access to justice and support services. He also called on all parties to demonstrate the utmost restraint before reiterating the request of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to reject the possible presence of “Kosovo Security Forces” in South America which would constitute an unjustified provocation.
For her part, the representative of Ghana emphasized that the new agreement on the path to the normalization of relations can only be realized through an unprecedented level of commitment by all sides. Voicing concern over heightened tensions in northern Kosovo, she reiterated the call for de-escalation and restraint. The unresolved issue of 1,600 missing persons must be addressed from a humanitarian standpoint and not politicized, she asserted, encouraging mutual cooperation to unearth the facts about those missing persons to help dispel unsubstantiated narratives which perpetuate distrust among the ethnic groups.
Offering a contrasting perspective, the representative of the Russian Federation, said Pristina — with the support of Western capitals — continues to try to take control of Serb-populated areas. Despite the fixation of the international community on human rights, he said that, “when it comes to the Serbs, almost no one seems to care about those rights”. He expressed concern about the continued systematic policy of physically expelling Serbs and turning the province into an “ethnically pure Albanian space”. He also highlighted the Kosovo Police Force’s incursions in the north of the province and the building of security force strongholds on land that had been confiscated by force from non-Albanian locals.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 1:08 p.m.
CAROLINE ZIADEH, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), briefed the Security Council on developments in Kosovo, which have included serious challenges, as well as an important collective effort to bring Belgrade-Pristina relations nearer to stability. Efforts from both sides will be to realize the potential for a positive change in relations, particularly given the preceding cycles of tension and provocations that occurred during much of 2022, and have continued even during the most recent days. Without increased commitment to the mechanism of renewed negotiations, failures of confidence could worsen within Kosovo, with direct consequences for regional stability, she cautioned. Therefore, a sustained focus of attention on the principles and declarations jointly affirmed on 27 February in Brussels, and further elaborated on 18 March in Ohrid, North Macedonia, should be matched by courageous leadership action, from the parties and from the supporters of the negotiations. Specific commitments have been made by both sides to the new “Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia”. Alongside these, there are immediate steps that can be taken to demonstrate goodwill on the ground. Also, she continued, steps should be taken to demonstrate that police and judicial bodies are fully insulated from political agendas and political interference.
Turning to the 23 April extraordinary elections, she said that elected leaders, police forces and all civic services at the municipal level should genuinely reflect the interests of their local constituents. She also noted that the expected endorsement by both parties of the joint declaration on missing persons has the potential to resume full cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade on missing persons within the existing working group. “This would provide families on both sides the chance for answers regarding their loved ones,” she added. In 2022, actions and reactions brought Pristina and Belgrade further away from the course previously agreed to in the framework of the European Union-facilitated dialogue, and even “worryingly close to the edge of physical confrontation”. These are the trends that responsible leaders must now work to change, she asserted.
She noted that leaders from the region have expressed their support for the process now being undertaken by both sides to advance on the path to normalization. In support of this process, UNMIK will continue to dedicate all efforts to help both leaders and their constituencies implement solutions. Moreover, UNMIK is supporting language rights and language learning, with its online platform to learn Albanian and Serbian reaching more than 70,000 users. The Mission is assisting families of missing persons via the Missing Persons Resource Centre, as well as promoting the empowerment of youth and women leaders by providing substantial platforms for their engagement in decision-making. UNMIK is also helping to ensure equal access to justice through improved courtroom infrastructure, free legal aid and legal interpretation services, she noted.
IVICA DAČIĆ, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, rejected the double standards which lead to varying interpretation of territorial integrity and sovereignty. Calling for the consistent implementation of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), which means the undiminished presence and action of UNMIK in its unchanged capacity, full scope and mandate, he said: “Either you cancel it or respect it.” Noting that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is at a very complex and perhaps decisive moment, he said there is still an atmosphere of fear and pressure towards Serbs and other non-Albanian communities. It is necessary to form the Association of Serbian Municipalities as soon as possible, because this is the only possible mechanism for protecting the rights and security of the Serbian community in Kosovo and Metohija. Recalling the signing of the Brussels agreement in 2013, he said that document reaffirmed municipal self-governance for ethnic Serbs in the north. However, Pristina is deliberately avoiding this obligation, he said.
The harsh truth, he continued, is that Kosovo and Metohija has, in the past 20 years, turned from a multi-ethnic environment into an almost ethnically pure territory, he said. More than 40,000 Serbs lived in Pristina, while today there are fewer than 100 of them. Recalling the 200,000 people displaced from Kosovo and Metohija, he said the return is at such a low level that, at this rate, “we need centuries for all exiles to return to their houses and homes”. During the last year, the basic democratic right of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija was violated twice, when they were prevented from voting in the referendum and when, for the first time, voting was not carried out in the elections on 3 April. The current Pristina leadership insisted on the recent holding of special elections in four municipalities with a Serbian-majority population. Noting that only 13 persons of Serbian nationality and 1,566 Albanians voted in those elections, out of a total of 45,095 people, he asked: “Does it seem normal and legal to you that barely 2 per cent of the population decides the fate of 98 per cent of people?”
Underscoring Serbia’s strategic commitment to full membership in the European Union, he said his country shares and promotes European values. Finding a sustainable solution in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is of strategic interest for the entire region. Anticipating that the representative of Pristina will make a series of accusations against Serbia, he said that they will not utter a single word about their responsibility for the current security situation. Noting the use of the term sui generis as an alibi for violations of international law, he said that Kosovo is where Serbia was born, and where the essence of Serbian history and Orthodoxy lies. “For Serbia, Kosovo is sui generis. As Jerusalem is sui generis for the Jews. As Mecca is sui generis for Muslims. As the Vatican is sui generis for Catholics.” Fifteen years after the declaration of its so-called independence, he noted, 28 countries revoked their recognition of Kosovo. Out of 193 members of the United Nations, only 84 recognize Kosovo, he said, expressing gratitude to the majority of the Member States of the United Nations, who did not recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo.
DONIKA GËRVALLA-SCHWARZ of Kosovo, denouncing a tirade of slander, complaint, and propaganda, stated she had not been permitted to speak Albanian by the presidency of the Security Council. She noted that the current UNMIK report contains small, large or severe errors, and UNMIK itself has become a destabilizing factor that does not serve stability and peace in the region. The Berlin Process only appears as a footnote, despite being the most important European Union-oriented process for the entire region. Citing agreements signed on mutual recognition of identity cards, professional and university degrees, she recalled that “Kosova”, Albania and North Macedonia have ratified them — and that Kosova has not backed out of one signed agreement. “This is not the case for Vučić, Dačić and company,” she stated, and if promises and signatures are not honoured, negotiations become a farce. Noting that more and more voices in Europe are calling for sanctions against Serbia, she said that European Union integration will eventually move forward without that country.
She stressed that the international community cannot neglect the real threat posed to the region by the Russian Federation and Serbia, which makes itself available as a hub and actively supports the war and genocide against Ukraine. Mr. Vučić and Mr. Dačić were enthusiastic supporters and accomplices of the first racial extermination war since the Nazis, the Yugoslav-Serbian wars of the 1990s. She cited a Belgrade programme that is “version 2.0 of Greater Serbia”, documenting the pathology of a nationalist ideology that still seeks revenge for a defeat over 500 years ago instead of looking towards the future. Without the presence of troops from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Kosova, she said there could already be war. Recalling that, on 17 February, Kosova celebrated its fifteenth anniversary of independence — not mentioned in the UNMIK report — she affirmed that Kosova will never again be a defenceless victim of aggression and genocide. In the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, it has moved up 20 places in the last two years and is the most democratic in the Balkans based on every metric used to measure a democratic country, while based on the very same metrics, Serbia is no longer even recognized as a democratic country — looking to the East and the relics of past Powers.
While Serbia’s Government wants the European Union’s billions, it does not want to accept its values, choosing a European order led by Moscow; “however, such an order cannot and will not exist”, she stated. Emphasizing that those responsible for genocide are still in power in the Serbian Government, she noted that the Serbia President Aleksandar Vučić, was the propaganda minister for war criminal Slobodan Milošević, while the right-hand man of the so-called Butcher of the Balkans “is the man who just spoke before me” — responsible for mass murder, rape as a weapon of war and war crimes, and should be brought before a war crimes tribunal. However, she said Kosova will negotiate with him because it wants to achieve a lasting solution to the conflict. Recalling that 27 April is the Day of the Missing in Kosovo — the annual remembrance of over 1,600 people who were presumably killed, abducted and buried by Serbian military and militias, she noted that Belgrade does not even provide the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with locations of the victims, denying families the chance to mourn and find closure. The rule of law will hold those responsible for the war, genocide, and all committed crimes accountable.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for April, then rejected Ms. Gërvalla-Schwarz’s assertion that she had been prevented from speaking Albanian, and had been informed that she chose to speak English. If she had insisted on speaking Albanian — and there is such precedent — she would have been permitted.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) then attempted to respond to that statement, and was asked by the representative of the Russian Federation if it was on a point of order — who then responded that he would speak when he had the floor.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) urged Pristina and Belgrade to continue mitigating tensions and refrain from adopting any unilateral actions that could hamper the achievement of lasting peace. The process of normalizing relations must not only include civil society, but should also ensure that their needs and expectations are considered. Voicing his hope that parties will continue to work constructively and honour their commitments, he said there is no doubt that this new framework for negotiations offers the hope of achieving lasting solutions and ensuring peace and stability. Nevertheless, Quito remains concerned by the limited progress made on missing persons, especially since this is an important humanitarian aspect of the reconciliation process. Expressing his further concern over the reports of gender- and sexual-based violence, he underlined the need for the authorities to adopt policies, intensify protection efforts and ensure both access to justice and support services. He then called on all parties to demonstrate the utmost restraint and tolerance before reiterating the request of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to reject the possible presence of “Kosovo Security Forces” in South America which would constitute an unjustified provocation.
FRANCESCA MARIA GATT (Malta), stressing that recent developments prove that solutions are possible through constructive engagement, voiced her hope that the agreement will serve as a basis for further progress and improved relations. Both sides must build on this moment and fully implement their obligations, especially since the agreement’s success will depend on political will. Her country however is concerned by the reports of assaults on civilians, intimidation and the excessive use of force by special operations units. Both sides must de-escalate tensions and refrain from any unilateral action or divisive rhetoric that could undo progress, she urged, underlining the need for positive steps to create an atmosphere conducive to reconciliation, good-neighbourly relations and further dialogue. As such dialogue is key for resolving outstanding issues, collaboration is the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region. She then reaffirmed her Government’s continued support for Kosovo’s efforts in its path towards European Union membership, encouraged reforms to address the needs of all members of society and called for wide consultations with stakeholders, including vulnerable and marginalized communities. She also voiced her concern over the reported incidents of sexual and gender-based violence before reiterating her support to UNMIK.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) expressed concern that tensions between Kosovo and Serbia escalated in late 2022. However, as a result of the efforts of the parties, both sides agreed on the “Agreement on the path to normalization between Kosovo and Serbia" proposed by the European Union on 27 February, followed by the “Implementation Annex of the Agreement” on 18 March. He stressed the need to review UNMIK's functions and mandate, including the possibility of eliminating overlaps with the activities of the Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia through the European Union-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue will contribute to peace and stability in the Western Balkans. He also supported Kosovo’s efforts towards European Union membership.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), welcoming recent progress, said Paris expects Belgrade and Pristina to commit fully in good faith and with the same spirit of compromise to immediately implement their commitments. As the establishment of an Association of Serbian Municipalities is essential, next week’s meeting in Brussels between both countries’ leadership should make possible substantive discussions on a potential status. She then underscored the importance of avoiding a new crisis on the ground in the coming weeks so as to not disrupt the positive dynamics at work. Parties must exercise restraint and refrain from any unilateral measures that could escalate tensions. Moreover, Kosovo and Serbia should find solutions on common issues, such as the conversion of license plates and the supply of electricity to northern Kosovo. Turning to the elections in that region on 23 April, she welcomed the absence of incidents, but also voiced her regret over low voter turnout and the lack of participation by some political parties. In this context, these elections cannot be a long-term political solution for these municipalities, she pointed out, stressing that priority must be given to the return of Serbs to Kosovo’s institutions and the implementation of an Association of Serbian Municipalities.
FERGUS JOHN ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom) said that Kosovo’s democracy and institutions have continued to show their maturity, as reflected in its climb up international rankings compiled by Freedom House on political and civil liberties, its commitment to tackling domestic and gender-based violence, and the Government’s efforts to address corruption while strengthening the rule of law. Pointing out that conditions on the ground are unrecognizable from those in 1999, he underlined the need to review UNMIK’s responsibilities. On normalizing relations, he stressed that now is the moment for both parties to engage in dialogue, honour their commitments and avoid actions or rhetoric that could reduce the prospects for a comprehensive and sustainable agreement. With Pristina and Belgrade having already committed to the establishment of an Association of Serbian Municipalities, parties must agree on its form and timing. Both must demonstrate the political will and courage to deliver, especially since this is in the longer-term interests of their citizens. Regarding the immediate challenge of the continuing security vacuum in the north of Kosovo, he emphasized that the role played by Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), while welcome, cannot be the long-term solution. The Council must support functioning institutions working to serve the interests of those they were elected to represent.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) recalled that, more than 20 years ago, her country welcomed thousands of refugees from the Western Balkans. Also, Switzerland was among the first countries to recognize Kosovo as an independent State. She welcomed Kosovo's progress — particularly in the fight against corruption and organized crime — and supported its European perspective and its integration into international structures and institutions. For the United Nations to be effective, its presence must be commensurate with the realities, she observed, noting that her Government is ready to discuss constructively a possible strategic review of UNMIK. It is essential to foster trust between Kosovo and Serbia, she asserted, pointing to the agreement on the path to normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, facilitated by the European Union. The effective normalization of relations remains essential to build common ground, preserve stability and prevent a resurgence of the conflict. Turning to the security situation, she deplored the new tensions in northern Kosovo in particular and called on the parties to avoid any action or rhetoric that could hinder the prospects for reconciliation and lasting peace. She also condemned the increase in intercommunal incidents, which heighten the sense of insecurity and mistrust between the communities and thus undermine their rapprochement. In this context, KFOR continues to play an essential role as a guarantor of stability and security in that country. Regarding the recent local elections, she voiced regret that the Serbian community in Kosovo did not participate and encouraged Kosovo’s leaders to seek dialogue with the representatives of the Serb minority.
CAROLYN OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) said that, while the war drums of the 1998 Kosovo crisis have long stopped beating, its legacy of political and interethnic tensions continue to reverberate with the risk of renewed violent conflict. She therefore reaffirmed the centrality of resolution 1244 (1999). Despite heightened tensions, she welcomed the new agreement on the path to the normalization of relations reached on 27 February. However, the promise of the new deal can only be realized through an unprecedented level of commitment by all sides, she said, urging them to act in good faith and guard against the agreement falling into abeyance. Voicing concern over heightened tensions in northern Kosovo, she reiterated the call for de-escalation and restraint. Low turnout in 23 March local elections, highlight serious divisions in the fibre of the society, but, more importantly, the need for continuing dialogue for a credible process for the return of Kosovo Serbs to administrative institutions. Citing the unresolved issue of some 1,600 missing persons remains a sticking point — which must be addressed from a humanitarian standpoint and not politicized — she encouraged mutual cooperation to unearth the facts about those missing persons to help dispel unsubstantiated narratives which perpetuate distrust among the ethnic groups.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), noting that peace is not a simple story of “before” and “after”, but rather one with many chapters, described the recent agreement as the most significant breakthrough in over a decade. While the resolve of each party has led them from the ashes of war to an agreement, taking it from the drawing board to reality is the next chapter — one which necessitates considerable work ahead. Last week’s events provided a glimpse of the challenges that remain, with Sunday’s local elections in particular underlining the situation’s complexity. That being said, the Brussels and Ohrid agreements notably offer the possibility of a path forward by outlining specific measures to support stability and strengthen civil participation. An endorsed declaration on missing persons can also help to provide closure to families while honouring those who have passed, she added. She then emphasized the importance of intercommunal dialogue for securing prosperity and voiced her deep concern over the continued reports of vandalism and theft. Though not widespread, these acts can sow division as those who commit them seek to pull the region back to darker times in history. “We cannot change the past, but we can shape the future,” she said, urging Belgrade and Pristina to maintain their commitment.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) cited the agreement on the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina in February and its implementation annex in March as a positive development, particularly as it reinforces both sides’ commitment to a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution to the question of Kosovo. He welcomed the constructive role played by the European Union in mediating the negotiations. It is, however, concerning that progress on other fronts, such as the road map for the implementation of the 2013 and 2015 energy agreements, remains limited. In this context, he voiced concern over the persistence of tensions between communities, particularly in north Kosovo, reflected in the boycott of local elections on 23 April. He called on parties to adopt confidence-building measures and avoid unilateral actions that could trigger violence. Supporting the establishment of the Association Community of Serbian-Majority Municipalities in Kosovo, in accordance with the Brussels agreements, he noted that the withdrawal of UNMIK would be premature. Further, he expressed concern over the presence of troops from Kosovo in the Malvinas Islands*, reiterating his support for Argentine sovereignty over that territory and urging Member States to refrain from unilateral actions.
Mr. HOXHA (Albania), noting that rule 44 provides for interpretation being made available when a representative makes a speech in a language other than the languages of the Security Council, noted that “Kosova” made this request to the appropriate services, in writing, but was denied. “We were not happy, of course,” but complied in order to not put the Council into a difficult position, he said, expressing scepticism about the impartiality of the decision and rejecting the representative of the Russian Federation’s statement that “we should have insisted” as ridiculous.
Noting several important recent developments, he said that, on 15 December 2022, Kosova delivered its application for membership in the European Union. Congratulating the people of Kosova for their continued strategic commitment to the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective, he also highlighted the European Parliament granting visa-free travel to Kosova citizens. Such historic steps are stones on Kosova’s “irreversible path”, he said, highlighting its efforts to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The European Union-facilitated dialogue between Kosova and Serbia has delivered an agreement on the path to normalization between them, he added, describing the Ohrid agreement of 18 March as a historic milestone. By its terms, Kosova and Serbia have agreed to develop normal, good-neighbourly relations with each other on the basis of equal rights, he said. Further, they will recognize each other’s documents and national symbols, including passports and license plates. The text clearly stipulates that neither can represent the other in the international sphere and that Serbia will not object to Kosova’s membership in international organizations. “So, I was very surprised” to hear Mr. Dačić say the opposite just now, he said.
Regarding the recent elections, he said that they were organized by Kosova, in accordance with its constitutional requirements, and expressed regret about the lack of Serbian participation. Boycott is a right in democracy, but not a good choice in this case, he added. Kosova is a fast-developing country rapidly finding itself on the European and international stage, he said, adding that the UNMIK mandate, defined a quarter of century ago, based on a post-conflict situation, reflects a bygone reality. Kosova, just like the entire region, has changed, and the Council must allow UNMIK’s mandate to reflect that, he said. Stressing the need for a substantial revision of UNMIK activity, a gradual drawdown of its budget and staff, leading to its closure, he encouraged both Kosova and Serbia to pursue the European path.
GENG SHUANG (China) welcomed the two rounds of high-level meetings between Serbia and Kosovo, facilitated by the European Union, which led to comprehensive discussions on a political solution, and supported a mutually acceptable solution within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999). In that process, Serbian sovereignty and territorial integrity should be fully respected. Establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities is an important component of the 2013 Brussels Agreement, to which Kosovo authorities have made a clear commitment and should be the focus of the next dialogues. While recognizing European Union efforts towards dialogue, he voiced hope that it will remain neutral and impartial in the mediation process, without acting hastily or exerting excessive pressure. He cited the volatile situation in northern Kosovo where — despite strong opposition from local Serbs — Kosovo authorities once again unilaterally held elections and announced the results, despite voter turnout of less than 4 per cent. As unilateral actions only aggravate fears and tensions and delay final settlement of the issue, he called on Kosovo authorities to return to dialogue and refrain from creating conflicts and confrontations. With ethnic relations remaining tense, he called on Kosovo authorities to protect the interests of all, including Serbs. With the Kosovo issue remaining a concern, the role of UNMIK remains indispensable.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) pointed out that the thorny issue of license plates remains a source of tension between Belgrade and Pristina. Arbitrary arrests, roadblocks, attacks on journalists communities and the pillaging of shops, to name a few, are notably also creating an endemic climate of insecurity. Against this backdrop, he underscored the need for a long-term political solution; pointed out that the normalization of relations will inevitably require the implementation of the 2013 Brussels Agreements; and urged all to not lose sight of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. For their part, parties must remain engaged in the process by avoiding any unilateral approach, defuse community tensions and make progress in negotiations, especially on the technical fields that are so vital to people’s daily lives. He then voiced his concern over the increase in community incidents concerning areas of worship and minority communities and stressed that special operations units’ disproportionate use of force and repeated intimation are unacceptable. Pristina’s authorities must guarantee the security of all communities and prevent police violence. “Peace can only achieve lasting form if it arises from the peaceful coexistence of communities,” he underscored, also highlighting the need to ensure the return of expatriates.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique), underscoring the need for stability in Kosovo given the wider security implications on Europe, said that the diplomatic efforts which led to an accord between Belgrade and Pristina is an example of regional organizations’ pivotal role. To preserve the advances which have been made towards peace and reconciliation in Kosovo, national, regional and international parties must carefully consider the impact of their decisions going forward. All must remain committed and consistent in the implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999), he stressed, voicing his concern over the continued animosity and tensions between those two parties. As disagreements over the freedom of movement, the recent voting process and the ensuing boycott by Kosovo Serbs of their participation in Kosovo institutions will undermine the implementation of the European Union’s proposal, both Belgrade and Pristina must proactively promote reconciliation and refrain from acts instigating vandalism and violence. Hate speech, inflammatory rhetoric, misinformation, disinformation, hateful narratives and sexual and gender-based violence in particular must be unequivocally condemned, with those responsible brought to justice. Citing his country’s experience, he also emphasized the importance of ensuring inclusion to achieve lasting peace.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States), voicing support for the European Union-facilitated dialogue, commended Kosovo and Serbia for taking a crucial step forward with a legally binding agreement reached in Brussels and Ohrid. He encouraged both parties to act quickly to implement their respective commitments and avoid crises that would hamper progress. The positive momentum over the last few months supports the view that it is time for the United Nations to find a more relevant role in Kosovo that does require a Chapter VII mandate. He expressed great appreciation for UNMIK’s contributions towards peace and security, acknowledging that the Mission has long fulfilled its original mandate.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) stressed that a lasting, mutually acceptable solution based on Council resolution 1244 (1999) must be in the interests of Belgrade and the Serbian people and endorsed by the Security Council. The situation in Kosovo is increasingly alarming, he said, noting that the province has repeatedly been pushed to the brink of renewed outright conflict. Pristina, with the support of Western capitals, continues to try to take control of Serb-populated areas, he said, adding that, despite the fixation of the international community on human rights, “when it comes to the Serbs, almost no one seems to care about those rights”. Expressing concern about the continued systematic policy of physically expelling Serbs and turning the province into an “ethnically pure Albanian space”. He also highlighted the Kosovo Police Force’s incursions in the north of the province and the building of security force strongholds on land that has been confiscated by force from non-Albanian locals.
Underscoring the importance of implementing the Brussels Agreement’s terms on creating an Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, he said that Kosovo’s authorities have not fulfilled this obligation. Pristina is not interested in normalizing relations or honouring its commitments, while Belgrade has agreed to continue dialogue, but only if their red lines are respected. UNMIK is under pressure and must be allowed to carry out its functions in full, he said, also calling for investigation into the arrest of an UNMIK officer by the Kosovo police. Regarding the Albanian delegate’s implication that the Russian Federation abused its prerogative as President, he said that rule 44 does not apply in this case because Ms. Gërvalla-Schwarz is not the representative of a Member State. She was speaking as a briefer under rule 39, he added.
Mr. DELAURENTIS (United States), speaking again, said his understanding is that the explanation of the language issue coincides 100 per cent with the explanation provided by the representative of Albania.
Mr. DAČIĆ (Serbia) asked why there is a language problem, given other representatives had previously spoken in Albanian. On the other hand, comments by “citizen Gërvalla” reveal what dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina looks like — with extremism and racism towards Serbian DNA. Affirming that he was born in Kosovo while she was born in North Macedonia, he stated: “so please don’t preach to me on the history of Kosovo”. In 1982, her father was a separatist, and she is showing that the policy for centuries was for an independent Kosovo, if not through United States intervention, then through war, “so your hands are bloody”, he stressed.
Turning to genocide, he noted that, in the 1990s, there were 40,000 Serbs in Pristina, asking: “Where are they?” Each metre of Kosovo land for centuries was covered with Serbian blood, he stated. Ukraine does not recognize Kosovo, he noted, and Kosovans have boycotted elections in Serbia for many years. He does not approve of any crimes, neither against Albanians or Serbs, and each war criminal must be brought to justice, without selectivity or double standards. George Orwell would envy her statements, he said, scoffing that Kosovo is the most democratic country in the Balkans. Refuting further points by Ms. Gërvalla-Schwarz, he cited Albanians who work at the United Nations under Serbian passports and affirmed that he does not consider Kosovo a State. Belgrade considers Kosovo part of Serbia, and given the disagreement, he asked if there should be a war. While preferring dialogue, he said he does not want it with those who do not uphold their responsibilities.
Ms. GËRVALLA-SCHWARZ said that Serbia’s delegate today has shown why people in that country call him “small Slobodan Milošević”. Stressing that she understands he is angry, she said he needs to explain to his people how he lost “Kosova” forever, instead of using old rhetoric from the 1980s and 1990s. “I know that the truth hurts,” she continued, adding: “I am so sorry because you are our neighbour and we need to deal with you.” His references to her father make it even clearer how he personally thinks — that the assassination of a journalist for wanting peace is acceptable, that he is old Serbia and not new Serbia. “With you, Serbia knows there is no way to Europe, no way to a better future for your citizens,” she asserted.
She then acknowledged the heroic efforts of Kosova’s people in saving tens of thousands from the merciless Serbian war machine. The terrorists were the ones who burned down villages, slaughtered thousands of people, including babies and the elderly, brutally raped women and girls, denied everything and even celebrated genocide, she pointed out. The people of Kosova on the other hand defended their families, villages and fellow citizens. They were not the terrorists; it was Serbia’s forces who were the terrorists, she underscored, voicing her full confidence that her country’s former leader Hashim Thaçi will demonstrate innocence before The Hague. Turning to the current dialogue on the normalization of relations, she underlined that this is not one about Kosova’s status, an otherwise “done deal” recognized by more than 115 Member States. In light of Serbia’s recent remarks, including those of today, she asked if there was still an agreement. For its part, Prishtina understands that there is one and remains committed to implementing its promises, despite its doubts from hearing Serbia’s declarations before the Council. “We cannot choose our neighbours,” she noted, stressing: “We will continue the discussions and I am very sure that, with this Serbian political elite or with others, we will normalize our relationships because there is no other alternative.”
Mr. HOXHA (Albania), expressing regret that the spirt that was present in Brussels is missing in the Council, reiterated the importance of that meeting. All the parties met and made a milestone agreement there, he said, adding that what happened between them is not only extremely important for Kosova and Serbia, but also for other countries in the region. Therefore, it’s crucial that the agreement succeeds, he said, adding that the difference between the Brussels meeting and the Council meeting illustrates why the 15-member organ does not need to do more meetings on this topic: “just one a year is probably enough”, he said.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).