The Situation in Kosovo
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by Mr Michael Bliss, Political Coordinator, Australian Mission to the United Nations
I would like to join others in thanking Special Representative Zarif for presenting his quarterly briefing on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. Australia acknowledges UNMIK’s continuing efforts, together with EULEX, KFOR and the OSCE, to promote security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo.
We extend a warm welcome to the Prime Minister of Serbia, Mr Dačić, and to the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Mr Thaçi, and thank them for their statements.
Australia welcomes the concrete progress made towards the implementation of the 19 April agreement on normalising relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The progress made in key areas such as the establishment of a Regional Police Command in northern Kosovo, are good first steps.
This progress is due – in no small part – to the leadership of both Prime Ministers. We commend them for their determination to overcome the many political, security and administrative challenges to the implementation of the agreement. We would also like to acknowledge the central role of the European Union, and High Representative Catherine Ashton in particular, in facilitating dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
The key political development in recent months has been – of course – the holding of municipal elections. Australia welcomes the holding of these elections, which are evidence of the Kosovar authorities’ commitment towards the realisation of a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. We also acknowledge the positive role played by the Serbian leadership in support of participation in the elections and by the OSCE in facilitating logistical and procedural arrangements under challenging circumstances.
Australia condemns the attacks on three polling centres in northern Mitrovica, and other disruptive actions, during the first round of the elections held on 3 November. We welcome the commitment by Serbian and Kosovar authorities to ensure those who triggered the violence are prosecuted.
Despite the intimidation of voters in northern Kosovo, we were encouraged by the turnout across the country, including by Serbian Kosovars – especially south of the Ibar – in the first round. And despite the temporary setback witnessed in northern Mitrovica on 3 November, we are very encouraged by reports of the smooth and peaceful conduct of the repeated elections there on 17 November. We hope the success of these re-run elections contributes towards permanent peace and stability in Kosovo for all its citizens.
This year’s municipal elections are critical to ensuring the legitimacy of Kosovo’s local governing institutions, particularly in northern Kosovo, thereby providing a basis for further implementation of the 19 April agreement. It is now imperative that no effort is spared to ensure broad participation by Kosovars of all ethnic backgrounds in the second round of the elections scheduled for 1 December where such elections are taking place.
Despite generally positive developments during the reporting period, there have been some incidents of serious concern. Australia unreservedly condemns the attack perpetrated against two EULEX vehicles in the vicinity of the municipality of Zvecan in northern Kosovo on 19 September. We were saddened by the death of a Lithuanian member of EULEX in the attack and we welcome the efforts made by all parties to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The good progress achieved over the reporting period has allowed Serbia and Kosovo to advance on their respective paths towards European integration. Serbia will soon commence accession negotiations with the European Union and, in October, Kosovo commenced negotiations of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. We commend both Prime Ministers for their continued active engagement in the EU-brokered dialogue to help achieve a peaceful and prosperous future for their countries.