PRISTINA – SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen today addressed a roundtable at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF). Following is the text of his address:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you.
It is a great pleasure to be back again at DCAF – an organisation with which I personally have had a long and fruitful co-operation over the years. Since taking on the role of Special Representative of the Secretary General in Kosovo that co-operation has intensified and continued to bear fruit, as I hope will be made clear in the course of my comments.
The title of my address is “Kosovo – where are we now?” and I will of course be saying something about that. But I may sometimes stray away from the present and address some questions related to the past, like “how did we get here?” and some related to the future, like “where are we going now?” and “where will we be in two years’ time?”
STATUS – WHY IT’S NECESSARY AND HOW WE GOT HERE
But returning to the question in hand – where are we now? We are at the point of beginning finally to resolve the root cause of the political problem of Kosovo – its status.
Following up on the international community’s military intervention in Kosovo, the Spring and Summer of 1999 was in retrospect the logical moment to have addressed this fundamental issue. But for a variety of reasons – understandable at the time and to some extent now – that opportunity was not grasped.
For five years thereafter we, in the international community, made the error of confusing quietude with contentment and sullen acceptance of the status quo with sustainability. This is not to underestimate the huge achievements of the international community in general, and UNMIK in particular, during this period; the building up from nothing of democratically-controlled institutions and, perhaps more significantly, of a democratic ethos – as witnessed by a string of successfully managed elections – is, for instance, an accomplishment of which we can be justifiably proud.
But it is nonetheless true, in my view, that for too long – because of the “holding” nature of UNMIK’s mandate under SCR 1244 – we failed to provide a sense, a perception, of momentum; of forward movement. Something that could give everyone a belief that the fundamental problems would, in the end, be addressed and solved.
As has been said so often as to become a cliché, March 2004 was for all of us a “wake up call”. I was, at the time, EU Special Representative in Macedonia, and I remember the shock of those events from our vantage point in Skopje. But the contrast set me thinking. Why was Macedonia so stable and peaceful in comparison to Kosovo? Was it only that the conflict there in the summer of 2001 had been so short and mild compared with the more bitter experiences to the North? I was, and am, convinced that this was not the only explanation. What struck me was the fact that the Ohrid Framework Agreement in Macedonia directly addressed the core reasons for the conflict there, without rewarding any side disproportionately. In Kosovo, UN Security Council Resolution 1244 did not.
What we did have, though, was the Standards policy. Formally rolled out in December 2003, this offered a forward looking developmental agenda which provided the framework that could move Kosovo forward. Unfortunately the Standards policy was not seen this way locally. Instead it was regarded as a series of insurmountable obstacles thrown up by the international community specifically in order to maintain its holding operation and avoid the issue of status. As such it was in need of two things: prioritisation and repackaging.
The first was necessary to make the implementation of standards feasible, and the second in order to send the message that they were a positive factor in Kosovo politics, aimed at improving the lives of all its citizens – and not a deliberate barrier imposed by the international community on the road to a status settlement.
THE STATUS PROCESS
Whatever the reason – and I think that the shock of international condemnation of the March events among the political leadership in Kosovo was one major factor, and the appointment of Ramush Haradinaj as Prime Minister in November 2004 another – the pace of political developments, and of standards implementation, picked up noticeably at the end of last year and the beginning of this one. This improvement in standards implementation was what lay behind our positive review and report to the Security Council in May of this year and the subsequent appointment by the Secretary General of the United Nations of Ambassador Eide to undertake his comprehensive review. His report, as you are all aware, led to the recommendation of the Secretary General of the opening of the status process. It was followed by the appointment of Martti Ahtisaari as Special Envoy only a couple of weeks ago.
And so to the present. The status process is now underway, having been kicked-off in earnest by the Special Envoy’s visit last week to Kosovo and to Belgrade, Podgorica, Tirana and Skopje thereafter. There is no fixed timeframe for the process. On the other hand, an indefinitely protracted process – or in my words a continuation of the status quo – is, as has also been made clear by the Contact Group in its guiding principles, intolerable. These principles have been repeatedly referred to by Martti Ahtisaari as forming the fundamental basis for the process which he now has the difficult task of leading, supported by his able deputy, the Austrian diplomat Albert Rohan.
LOOKING AHEAD ON STATUS
But what of the outcome? It is not in my mandate to comment on this. But it seems to me self-evident that the strong, almost unanimous, view of the majority of the people in Kosovo must form the basis for any sustainable status settlement. Their preference is clear.
What is equally clear is that Kosovo’s government and political class cannot treat the status process as the only political game in town. Its pace, progress and outcome are – as Kosovo’s leaders should not now be in any doubt – critically dependent on the way Kosovo is perceived by the outside world. This means that the implementation of standards must continue – and indeed be speeded up – if Kosovo is to be seen as deserving the settlement its people so clearly desire. What the majority wants for itself – peace, stability, and prosperity – it must also want for all other citizens – in other words, the minorities – in Kosovo.
Indeed it is clear that the substance of the settlement of Kosovo’s status must take into account the views of its people. The majority has a duty toward the minority that is not merely a matter of standards implementation for its own sake. It extends to the status process and beyond. The political leadership in Kosovo is now waking up to this reality. The recently-announced formation of a “Council of Communities” to advise the status negotiation team is a welcome first step – the next being to ensure that this Council has real influence and, ideally, that it takes into account the views of Kosovo’s largest minority group; the Kosovo Serbs.
BELGRADE AND THE KOSOVO SERBS
The position of the Kosovo Serbs in relation to the status process has been ambivalent. None of the main Kosovo Serb political figures has engaged with President Rugova’s negotiating team – an extension of their existing boycott, under Belgrade’s insistence, of Kosovo’s governmental and legislative institutions. At the same time there has been no coherent effort to form a purely Kosovo Serb team; one that would be in a position to influence the positions of both Belgrade and Pristina equally. Instead, two Kosovo Serb leaders, Marko Jaksic and Goran Bogdanovic, have been invited to join the Belgrade negotiating team.
Hitherto, the position of Belgrade in relation to Kosovo has been about territory and authority. Whose land is it and who rules it? It has been much less focused, in practical terms, on the position and interests of those Serbs who continue to live in Kosovo. To give an example, the boycott of Kosovo’s legislature and government by Kosovo’s Serbs may be seen in Belgrade as a success, because it underlines their claim that these institutions are illegitimate. But it has brought no benefit at all for Kosovo’s Serbs, who are excluded from the institutions which have the greatest impact on their lives and who receive nothing new to compensate for this exclusion.
The status process is, of course, ultimately about those big issues of sovereignty and authority. But beneath this it will be largely about the practical aspects of life in Kosovo – and in particular about the conditions of minority groups. A Belgrade negotiating strategy that is focused on the first issue may not achieve, or even seek, the best outcome for Kosovo’s Serbs in respect of the second issue. If they are to have the life that we all want for them in Kosovo, it is in my view essential that this process be seen as being one primarily about people, and not just about territory – let alone history.
TWO YEARS’ HENCE
But, putting aside the vexed issue of sovereignty, and assuming that the process goes in the direction I have outlined, what can we say about what will Kosovo look like in twelve months or two years’ time?
Our best guide is the Guiding Principles stated by the Contact Group which will serve as a framework for the status process. I, of course, take it for granted that these principles will be respected fully throughout the process by all parties and by the international community. The last ten to fifteen years in the Balkans have been a period of broken promises by the international community – carrying with them a loss of credibility. This we can no longer afford.
So, looking at the Contact Group’s stated principles, we can be sure that Kosovo’s frontiers will be as they are now and the territory will be undivided as a result of the status process. We can also be sure that Kosovo will not have formed any new union with a neighbouring state. And finally we can be sure that Kosovo will not be returning to the situation before March 1999.
So much, so obvious. Beyond this, we can say with some certainty that Kosovo’s institutions will closely resemble those that currently exist. That is to say there will be a government, an Assembly and a police and judicial system free of undue political control. The fact that these institutions are in one form or another likely to live on beyond the end of the status process is significant, because it highlights the continuing and urgent need for capacity building in those institutions now.
We can also say with confidence that Kosovo’s institutions will, in their staffing and mandates, have strong safeguards for minority communities within Kosovo. The exact nature of such safeguards will, as I have said already, be the subject of negotiation in the talks themselves, but they could include some kind of Badinter-style arrangements for minority groups in the Assembly; extensive language rights; and some form of positive discrimination in recruitment in order to ensure minority representation in public institutions.
We can also predict that Kosovo will have a significantly more decentralised form of government than it currently enjoys. This decentralisation must be of benefit to all communities in Kosovo, bringing the business of government closer to the electorate. But decentralisation is likely, as at the central level, to involve the development of significant safeguards for minority communities – and here I am talking not just of the Kosovo Serbs – without, of course, going beyond the guidelines set out by the Contact Group on the non-partition of Kosovo.
Another key area which is bound to be built into a final status resolution is the continued protection of cultural sites, in particular those of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The twin cultural legacies of Orthodox church architecture and decoration, and also of Ottoman Islamic and secular design, will continue to grace Kosovo in the years to come. Just as they are testaments to its past they may also be keys to its future. The Decani Monastery may be the first – deserved – UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kosovo, but I hope it will not be the last, and I do not find it fanciful to foresee tourism blossoming as a significant employer around such sites.
But preservation of church buildings themselves is not enough. It must be accompanied by preservation of the ecclesiastical and cultural life that the buildings represent. One way or another the Serbian Orthodox Church will be a custodian of this future, and this will need to be written into a status deal.
Keeping Kosovo’s churches alive means not only protecting the buildings and their custodians, but also ensuring that congregations remain. I have mentioned already the necessary guarantees on minority rights that will be required to ensure the quality of life of those Serbs now living in Kosovo. But integral to a final agreement will also need to be assurances and facilitation for Serbs and other minorities wishing to return to Kosovo having fled over the past six years. Efforts to promote return have so far been disappointing, due to a combination of factors, including, I am bound to say, a policy from Belgrade which often amounted to the active discouragement.
Putting this aside though, my own years of experience with refugee return issues convinces me that a large part of the reason for the low rate of returns in Kosovo is its unresolved status. This is not to say that I anticipate a flood of returnees as soon as the process is complete, but the return cannot but increase from its low level once the uncertainties inherent in Kosovo’s unresolved status are dealt with.
One final, predictable, outcome of the status process will be a role for the international community continuing well into the future. We have started discussions on the nature of this presence at the working level in Pristina, and at the policy level in Brussels and elsewhere as well – without in any way prejudging the status outcome.
Clearly a continuing international presence will in many ways mirror what we do today – especially in terms of monitoring down to the field level. But in addition to this, there has been a great deal of discussion about the potential need for the international community to retain some executive functions – and to have this built into a status settlement with the agreement of the parties.
The first question here is, what functions do we think need to be retained? Opinions differ on this issue from those who advocate the retention of significant powers – a Bosnian OHR-type model – to those who feel that the retained powers should be limited. My personal feeling on this matter, for what it’s worth, is that any powers retained by the international community should be relatively circumscribed and should also be challengeable and reviewable. In any case they should not, of course, reverse the significant transfers of authority which have already been made to local institutions.
Where there does seem to be general agreement is that a degree of international presence and authority should be retained in the fields of the policing and prosecution of serious and organised crime and war crimes– an area which today is under international authority and should remain so, of course with a capacity-building element built in.
The second question with regard to a continuing international presence is who should do it? What is clear is that it will not be in the form of the UN presence we have had through UNMIK. A status settlement will supersede Security Council Resolution 1244 and with it our interim administrative mandate.
But who will be the primary actors in this continued international presence, if it is decided that there will be one? In my view the answer to this must be the EU. Kosovo is in Europe – and in keeping with the rest of the Balkans was the subject of a promise at Thessaloniki in 2003 that it’s future would be in Europe – so it is the obvious institutional candidate to take a lead role in a post-status Kosovo. We are all clear that any EU mission would not be an “EUMIK” - a carbon copy of the current international structures. It also goes without saying that an EU-led mission would need to act in the closest possible co-operation with other key international actors; the Contact Group, of course, especially the US; the OSCE, with its strong field presence, and other international organisations such as the Council of Europe; and, of course, NATO, which has firmly committed to maintaining KFOR at around its current strength after a status settlement is reached – a commitment that is as welcome as it is essential.
But what of Kosovo’s own security architecture? This is currently the subject of intensive discussion across a wide variety of interest groups in Kosovo thanks to the Internal Security Sector Review – a process in which DCAF is heavily – and invaluably – involved, and for which I would like to thank you now.
Whatever the outcome of the status process, and of the ISSR, the future security architecture of Kosovo will need to underpin a status settlement that will, by its nature, not satisfy everyone. These institutions will need to be effective, impartial and multi-ethnic. Given Kosovo’s economic situation they will also need to be affordable. It is therefore essential that we start investing in capacity building now both in those structures that already exist, like the Kosovo Police Service, but also in the institutions that will oversee them, like the Prime Minister’s Office and the Assembly. DCAF is doing essential work here, for which I thank you again, but a great deal more needs to be done if we are to be able to rely on local institutions in Kosovo to deliver a sustainable status settlement in the medium term.
I have spent only a short time on security issues, as I know that these are to be the focus of discussions here tomorrow. I have also, I fear, spent very little time on where we are on a great deal of time on where we might be going. I hope you will forgive me for this. Managing a place with such formidable, difficult and complex problems – many of them linked to the lack of clarity on status – must of necessity be forward-looking, so that people know that the future will be better than the past. So we are dealing with today’s issues to move Kosovo toward tomorrow and never return to the past.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your attention – and I would like now to give way to our discussion.”