Saturday, June 04, 2005

SRSG address to the Bertelsmann Foundation Forum in Zagreb

PRISTINA_ SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen this morning addressed the Bertelsmann Foundation Forum in Zagreb. Following is the text of his address:

Let me first thank the Bertelsmann Foundation for the opportunity to be here today. I am glad that my partners in Kosovo, Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi and the political party leaders Hashim Thaci, Veton Surroi, and Oliver Ivanovic, are here with us today.

2005 is a decisive year for Kosovo. This has been strongly confirmed by the UN Security Council on 27 May. There is now broad-based agreement, backed by the Contact Group, on the way forward, and there is a clear timetable that could lead us to the beginning of negotiations on final status of Kosovo in the second half of this year. It is essential, not only for Kosovo but also for Serbia and Montenegro and the wider region, that we seize this opportunity to contribute to the normalisation and stabilisation of the region. The EU evidently has a key responsibility in bringing this process to a successful conclusion.

Let me make five brief observations:

First: Last Friday, the Security Council gave strong backing to the Secretary General’s recommendation to move ahead this month with a comprehensive review of progress in implementing standards. The standards that Kosovo is implementing are those needed to build a rule of law based, multi-ethnic, and democratic society. The Secretary General’s recommendation to move ahead with a comprehensive review was based on tangible progress in standards implementation over the last many months. At the same time, we acknowledge that there is room for significant further improvement in some areas, notably in the field of freedom of movement and returns of internally displaced persons.

Second: Yesterday, the Secretary General appointed Kai Eide, currently Norwegian Ambassador to NATO and very familiar with the region, to undertake the comprehensive review; Ambassador Eide is expected to start later this month.

Third: Kai Eide will carry out this comprehensive review in accordance with Resolution 1244 and the relevant Presidential Statements of the Security Council. He will consult the parties concerned, especially Pristina and Belgrade, as well as with representatives of the international community and will have a broad scope, thus looking not only at the fulfilment of standards at a technical level, but also at actual political realities on the ground.

Fourth: The Comprehensive Review is expected to be completed by late summer. It was noted, however, by the President of the Security Council and by members of the Security Council that a positive assessment is not a foregone conclusion. The message from New York is crystal clear: It is up to the PISG to demonstrate continuous progress in Standards implementation. What is encouraging, I believe, is that the future of the process lies almost exclusively in the hands of the citizens and institutions of Kosovo. They all will share the credit for a successful outcome, and they will all share the blame for any delay on the way forward.

Fifth: The Secretary General will share his recommendations on the comprehensive review with the Security Council during September. If the review justifies it, status talks would then start later in autumn, most probably beginning of October. The exact shape of such a process remains undefined and it is certainly not for me to make recommendations here or set the agenda. I welcome, however, that informal and more formal discussions on principles that would guide status talks have begun and conceptual thinking is developing. In this connection, I welcome the three principles that the Contact Group laid out in early April: no return to the situation before March 1999, no union of Kosovo with any country or part of any country after status resolution, and no partition of Kosovo. The Kosovo society we are trying to build must have space, and a safe and dignified future, for all communities as a stable, tolerant, multi-ethnic democracy at peace at home and at peace with all its neighbours.

So, in sum, elements are in place now for tackling the Kosovo quandary. Deferring status resolution for much longer, as some speakers here pointed out, is simply not viable. Status, certainly, hinges on demonstrable progress in building this multi-ethnic, democratic society that respects the rule of law and safeguards minority rights. But building such a society in many ways also depends on certainty of status and the absence of any fear that the ghosts of the past may re-appear.

Status resolution must be firmly embedded in a regional and European context. It will only be sustainable if it contributes to further stabilising the region, thus allowing the region to move ahead towards the Euro-Atlantic structures. But it is true the other way round, too: The unresolved Kosovo issue remains the single largest impediment for the region to further progress towards Europe. It is a political and economic burden weighing down, not only the Kosovars themselves, who continue to live in a very fragile society despite all progress made, but also Serbia and the rest of the region. The region can only profit from a resolution of Kosovo’s status.

Dialogue with Belgrade is crucial, for obvious reasons. I welcome a recent, more constructive approach in Belgrade which has led to a resumption of direct talks between Pristina and Belgrade on a number of important humanitarian and technical issues, such as energy, missing persons and returns of displaced persons. I also encourage direct talks between leaders from Belgrade and Pristina. I am confident that direct talks between President Rugova and President Tadić, on the one hand, and between Prime Ministers Kosumi and Koštunica on the other hand, will be held before long. At the same time, I regret that despite some welcome returns of Kosovo Serb deputies to the Kosovo Assembly committees, there is still no clear signal from Belgrade to the Kosovo Serbs to engage in the institutions. The direct involvement of the Kosovo Serbs remains crucial. We are working hard to improve the living conditions of the minorities, notably the Kosovo Serbs. But as long as those most interested and most affected by this policy are not encouraged to take part in the Assembly and the Government, progress will always be limited and most importantly the K Serbs will not have the chance to shape their future.

In a similar vein, a regular dialogue with each of Kosovo’s immediate neighbours is essential. I welcome the fact that contacts have considerably intensified in recent months and both UNMIK and the PISG have been an active part of that regional dialogue.

A few days ago, US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns delivered a statement to the US Congress pledging the full engagement of the US Government in seeking an early settlement of the issue of Kosovo.

In just a few days, the EU Foreign Ministers will meet to discuss the EU’s present and future role in Kosovo. I trust that the Foreign Ministers of the EU will likewise confirm the full engagement of the European Union. I am aware that the EU will need to deal with internal debates in the coming months. However, on Kosovo and South-Eastern Europe in general, the EU must remain focused, engaged, and in step with its international partners, including the US. Only in this way can we together move Kosovo from what is still a holding operation toward a durable solution. Only in this way can we ensure normalisation and stabilisation of South-Eastern Europe, and as such the entire and larger Europe.

Thank you.

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