UNMIK has no crucial role in any of the key issues where Kosova needs assistance

Massacres against the civilian population be they in Bucha, Ukraine or in Racak, Kosova or in Srebrenica, Bosnia, all have one thing in common: they are despicable, unacceptable, intolerable crimes.

STATEMENT BY E. Mr. FERIT HOXHA, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of ALBANIA to the UN

Security Council Briefing – Kosova – UNMIK – New York, 20 April 2022

Mr. President,

I thank the SRSG and Head of UNMIK, Ms. Caroline Ziadeh, for her briefing and I wish her success in her new position.

I welcome the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora of the Republic of Kosova, Ms. Donika Gervalla-Schwarz, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, Mr. Nikola Selaković, to this meeting.

Mr. President,

Let me start by commending the Republic of Kosova and its authorities for their achievements, despite the largely unfavorable environment due to covid-19 pandemic.

Local elections held last October brought yet another confirmation of how much Kosova has advanced in building a state for the citizens by the citizens.

Kosova is a full-fledged democracy and an important actor of stability in the region. Its democratic internal development and its foreign and security policy has contributed to stabilize the Western Balkans.

Kosova’s advancement on WPS & YPS and the increase of elected women, including to the highest positions, is remarkable.

We applaud the clear positioning of Kosova on Ukraine and its alignment with sanctions, and commend the Kosova Government and people for the generosity in receiving Afghans refugees, and lately also Ukrainian displaced persons, including, journalists.

Mr. President,

Since 1999 and for 23 years, UNMIK has accompanied Kosova and its citizens in rebuilding their future. We thank all those who have offered their contribution to help Kosova and its citizens move ahead.

Following the declaration of Independence in 2008 and its international legitimacy through the Opinion of the International Court of Justice in 2011, UNMIK’s competencies and responsibilities have been gradually transferred to the Kosova authorities. It was the right thing to do. Also, in response to the considerably improved reality, the reduced frequency of the meetings of the Council. Indeed, when there is not much to say, there is no reason to meet.

We have therefore come to a moment which calls for a reality check. With the overall progress and consolidation of Kosova institutions, with the strengthening of its international profile and the prospects of agreement through the ongoing dialogue, there was no doubt that the role of UNMIK would further diminish and erode. There is nothing wrong there. It is in the nature of things. UN Mission are not to perpetuate. They are there to perform their task and roll back as soon as possible.

UNMIK is not part of the walls of Kosova. It was mandated to do a job and, in our view, that job, in its core mandate, is done. We ask ourselves what is still there to make UNMIK, in its current configuration, relevant and further needed in Kosova.

We have read carefully the report. UNMIK has no crucial role in any of the key issues where Kosova needs assistance:

  • the Dialogue between Kosova and Serbia is facilitated by the EU;
  • public order and security are the focus of the Kosova Police, Kosova Security Forces, EULEX and KFOR;
  • national minorities rights are enshrined in the country’s Constitution and carried out through the country’s institutions;
  • The Kosova Justice system is consolidated and improving

There is a key element here we need to have in mind: Kosova situation is no longer a matter of peace and security; Kosova is no longer an issue under Chapter WII. Speaking of peacekeeping now in Kosova is meaningless. We therefore wonder about UNMIK’s “raison d’être”. 

Its budget of roughly 42 million dollars per year and a staff of 374 people call for an overall review of the role and effectiveness of UNMIK, to avoid duplication with other agencies operating there or spinning in the void, with a view for the Council to terminate UNMIK’s mandate and help move to a more effective UN presence fully fit for purpose.

 In saying so, we commend the work of the UN Team in the country, in response to Kosova needs and priorities.

For as long as UNMIK will be in Kosova, we will expect it to do its best and in full impartiality help Kosova and its citizens. We listened very carefully to the commitment of SRSG on this aspect. 

In this respect, despite legal aspects involved and how the communication was handled, we expect UNMIK to fully and properly investigate the allegations on its personnel PNGed by the authorities. Who the persons are and what they did, is of public knowledge.

We expect UNMIK to properly vet their hires and have them behave in strict conformity with their mandate, in full impartiality and not for any obscure agenda and in respect of the national security in Kosova and the rules of the host country.

Mr. President,

We fully support the EU-facilitated Dialogue between Kosova and Serbia and call on all those involved to accelerate it. There is no alternative to the dialogue but what is needed is an active and productive and not a frozen process. A never-ending dialogue without results simply erodes public trust.

Mme, President, 

The image of the Balkans as a place of turmoil and political instability is bygone. Wounds of the past have not completely disappeared, how could they knowing what Kosova and the region have been through.

We must not forget the missing persons. There should never be impunity for sexual violence in conflict. We hear the silent scream of some 20 000 Kosova women and girls who were used as a weapon of war by Serbs who are still at large.

Yet, the attention should be devoted to improve the present and better the future. While the Balkans are nowhere near perfection, they live nowadays a completely different reality.  

I would gladly challenge anyone, in this council and outside, to argue and prove that the Balkans are not nowadays much better off with the Kosova as an independent country.

The Independence of Kosova is a reality, an issue settled 14 years ago, and it is not for discussion, in this Council or outside. It has been a question for the Kosovars to decide and they have.

Since 2008, the entire region advances in peace and development, with a concrete reality and an ever-increasing prospect of close regional cooperation, moving individually and collectively towards the European Union. Western Balkans 6 have created common institutions, where Serb and Kosovar nationals serve together, such as the Wester Balkans Fund and the Regional Youth Cooperation Office, both seated in Tirana. 

Our leaders meet all the time, everywhere, in Albania and Serbia, in North Macedonia and Kosova and they do not talk conflicts, tensions or war. We talk reconciliation and cooperation, we talk about free movement of people and capitals. We talk Europe! This is, in our view, the best investment for the future.

In our part of the world, we do not need more weapons, we need brains; we do not need killing drones; we need ideas, innovation and investments.

M.r President,

Let me finally address one key issue for our region, for both Kosova and Serbia: reconciliation. The war of aggression in Ukraine brought in our mind the dreadful memories of the war during the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

Massacres against the civilian population be they in Bucha, Ukraine or in Racak, Kosova or in Srebrenica, Bosnia, all have one thing in common: they are despicable, unacceptable, intolerable crimes. And accountability always ends by knocking on the door. Milosevic died behind bars; Karadzic is convicted of genocide and is paying for its deeds. A Bon Entendeur Salut! – A word to the Wise!

Therefore, instrumentalization of national minorities, in Kosova or elsewhere, is playing with fire with terrible consequences as we have seen so many times. Our region has seen the worst of it, in the past.

We have argued several times that Russian aggression affects directly or indirectly the entire world, including the Western Balkans and we should not lose sight and focus in properly mitigating such threats. Russian proxies in the region should not be allowed any space to undermine or roll back achievements.

In this respect, we condemn in the strongest terms the recent attacks against the Police in Kosova, as rightly done also by the SRSG.

Such criminal attacks only create artificial tensions to favor illegal activity. They should be condemned by all, including Serbia, and perpetrators be held accountable. No part of the territory of Kosova should be left into the hands of lawlessness and we strongly encourage Kosova authorities to do whatever needed to make law prevail. Rule of law should never be for discussion. 

There is extensive legislation and good practices in Europe and the Balkans on national minorities. Kosova has one of the best and strong legislative frameworks with an exemplary implementation record. Even though the minority population of Kosova counts for less than 5%, Kosova has established itself as a multiethnic state.

We disagree with the dark picture depicted here by Serbia in this respect, since, it is, simply, not the case.

Creation of artificial entities that can lead to dysfunctional states is not an option and should not be supported, and Albania will never condone.

The only viable solutions are those that guarantee rights by law and exercise them through institutions and this must be the case in Kosova as well. 

Mr. President,

Let me end by encouraging Serbia and Kosova to engage seriously in the EU facilitated dialogue and, by closing the dark chapters of the past, design their future through mutual recognition, through good neighborliness, through increased economic and trade relations, through exchanges in science, education, and culture, through people to people, in particular, youth contacts.

There is nothing there to invent since everything has been done before. There is only need for more political courage, wisdom and vision.

Let me add one additional word what I had not foreseen to say. 

I listened to the Russian colleague. I regret to be obliged to react myself as I have the floor simply because, coming from the region, what we heard, is untrue.

We are used to false narratives by Russia in the latest weeks on Ukraine.  Now they are extending it to Kosova too. We regret that Russia cannot see the changed reality of the Western Balkans, that its visibility is so blurred that they cannot see it as it is, but as how they would like it to be. 

Thank you.