PRISTINA – SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen on Tuesday 19 July participated in a public forum on Kosovo in 2005 organized by Pristina Summer University. Following is the text of his speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank the organizers of the Pristina Summer University for getting us together for this event. I am pleased to be here with my friends the Prime Minister and the Commander of KFOR, General de Kermabon. I would also like to thank the Prime Minister for his comments – some of which I will try to pick up on in the course of my speech.
I have been asked today to have a look at the way forward for Kosovo. I think that this way forward can be broken down into three distinct phases: the short term of standards implementation; the medium term of the settlement of Kosovo’s status; and the long term of Europeanisation. I hope to show that these three phases are not only inter-related. They are inseparable.
In most of my speeches this year I believe that I have made the point that this is a “crucial year” for Kosovo. So it is. The comprehensive review of progress on standards, led by Ambassador Eide, which the Prime Minister referred to, is ongoing at the moment. On this basis, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, will consider, in September or October, whether to recommend beginning of the process of settling Kosovo’s future status. The issues don’t get much bigger than this.
The standards policy is one that will be familiar to everyone here. The progress in implementation of standards that we noted in our regular quarterly review of the policy, and reported to the United Nations Security Council in May was the basis for the Secretary General’s decision to launch the comprehensive review.
There is a common perception among Kosovo-skeptics that nothing has moved on here since the international intervention in 1999. Our regular reviews of standards implementation have proven this to be wrong, and have noted progress in all eight standards. The economic, social and political life of Kosovo has become clearly better over time including for minority communities. But progress must be continual. Our regular reviews of progress take place four times a year and a new one is ongoing at the moment. This needs to show improvement too – the standards process is not one that allows anyone to rest on their laurels.
Because our assessment also shows that none of the eight standards has been fully implemented, some familiar challenges remain. Top of this list are minority rights (especially freedom of movement), the return of displaced persons, and, although not actually a standard as such, decentralization.
What should by now be clear is that improvements in these areas will also improve the lives of all citizens of all communities in Kosovo. The returns process is closely linked to better enforcement of property rights. This is not something which concerns only ethnic Serbs, Roma or Ashkali – it is the foundation stone of a functioning market democracy, and the sooner property rights are fully and consistently enforced, the better for everyone.
The recognition and enforcement of minority rights is also something that benefits all – everybody – in Kosovo, though the gains that it provides are more intangible: diversity is a strength – and one that is witnessed both by the European Union itself, despite recent doubts, and by a great many member states of the Union. These member states have ensured that minorities are a fully-integrated, but fully distinct, part of the social mixture that makes up their polity – and they have found that this embracing of difference has brought with it social, political and economic vibrancy.
Finally, decentralization also brings benefits to all, by devolving power – and therefore responsibility and accountability – down to the lowest possible local level, which in turn allows voters to judge politicians and political parties on the basis of concrete actions, or the lack of actions, before their very eyes. It is regrettable that decentralization has come to be seen only as a minority rights issue – it is not, it is a democracy issue and one that brings government closer to all.
I have tried to outline the benefits that derive only from the three items highest on the political agenda at the moment. But this is not to downplay the importance of the remaining standards challenges, or to downplay the amount of work that remains to be done.
As I have said many times – and the Prime Minister has said the same – the standards framework provides above all the opportunity and responsibility of all the people of Kosovo – of all of you – to build a stable, multiethnic and democratic society. The kind of society that we all want to live in.
When Ambassador Eide completes his report on progress in implementing standards it will, as I mentioned, be presented to the Secretary General of the United Nations, whose recommendations will inform the Security Council’s decision about beginning the process of settling Kosovo’s status.
The outcome of the comprehensive review is not a foregone conclusion. At the same time, there is a growing recognition that an early launch of status talks, although difficult and at times tense, is in the interest of normalization and stabilization in Kosovo itself and in the region as a whole.
So while continuing to push standards implementation, we must also prepare now for the next step. Or rather, I should say, the PISG, the political parties, the people of Kosovo, must also prepare for the next step. On one level, of course, the process of standards implementation itself is preparation for the status process. But there will also need to be discussions – the exact format of which remains to be decided, of course, but discussions nonetheless. And these discussions on status will very likely be detailed. Whatever outcome is desired at the end of the process, it is not enough to state that at the beginning and wait for the process to deliver. Engagement will be necessary on a wide variety of complicated issues. For this preparation should already have started – and if it hasn’t, it needs to begin as soon as possible.
The issue of preparation for future status talks has been on the agenda of the Kosovo Forum from its first meeting in early June, and it is on the agenda again when the Forum meets this Thursday. I hope that at this meeting the participants will deal with concrete proposals for how the work of status preparations can and should be managed in the coming weeks. Preparation for the status process is a responsibility of all the political institutions in Kosovo. The Forum can help to provide impetus for these preparations, and help the political parties to reach consensus on the way forward. But clearly in the future the Assembly of Kosovo will need to assume its rightful responsibilities also on status preparations.
That this will involve intensive work is plain enough – but this is doubly true when taking into account my earlier point that standards implementation must remain on course and not be deflected by other political priorities.
Though I know that all political leaders in Kosovo see the urgency of the approaching status issue, I am not sure that all see its range and its complexity. I would advocate getting down to details – something that has worked, and is working, in the standards process. But when it comes to status preparations the political leadership in Kosovo must manage without UNMIK’s help. My mandate is to facilitate status preparations, but not to participate in them. Assistance in the preparations for future status is not something that my mission has the mandate to provide. Nor should it. This is the job of Kosovo’s leadership – your politicians. But this is also a process in which all the citizens of Kosovo must play a part. The Prime Minister rightly talked about the role of civil society and as Kosovo prepares for future status talks, civil society has a vital role to play.
On what Kosovo’s status will be I will offer no comment – which I am sure you will understand. But what happens after status? For me, the answer is Europe. Europe happens after status. Not straight away, of course, not immediately, but eventually. The EU Council of Ministers made clear on 17 June that the offer of a European perspective made to the Western Balkans at Thessaloniki in 2003, saying that all the countries of the Western Balkans had a future in the Union – this offer remains. This includes Kosovo, regardless of the outcome of the status process. But again, it is important to go back and look at what has to be achieved in order to move into Europe. If we do this, then it is clear that just as the standards process is essential to Kosovo now, and essential to Kosovo in terms of the status process – the standards process is also essential to Kosovo in terms of its long-term European future. All that is achieved by Kosovo in standards implementation today, is one fewer thing to be achieved by Kosovo in the Europeanisation process tomorrow.
So the way forward for Kosovo is, in my mind clear – a process of reform, within the standards framework, which delivers measurable benefits to everybody in Kosovo, and paves the way for talks on the settlement of Kosovo’s status – a status which itself will be decided within a European context, and with a European future built-in from the beginning.
I hope my message is clear – Kosovo’s future is better mapped than is often supposed. Status is a vital issue – and an emotional one for obvious reasons – but it is not the only one, no matter that it often appears to be so. The standards process provides that map for you and for your politicians to follow in order to achieve both a settlement of status and a European future – that is to say a future marked by peace, prosperity, democracy and multi-ethnicity. Throughout this process you will be able to count on the support of your friends in the international community, including UNMIK, and of course with the European Union taking an increasingly central role. Through this process, too, for as long as its presence is required I know you can rely on the stabilizing role of NATO in the form of KFOR. So I would like now to turn to my friend and colleague, Yves de Kermabon, not only to thank him for his contribution to stability here, but also, and this is really your job Mr. Chairman, for his contribution to this debate – and I look forward to your questions to all of us in due course.