I thank the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Mr Farid Zarif, for his briefing today. I am delighted to welcome also to the Council His Excellency Mr Enver Hoxhaj, the Foreign Minister of Kosovo, and His Excellency Mr Ivan Mrkic, the Foreign Minister of Serbia.
Kosovo continues to make progress both internally and on the international stage, and is now recognised by over half of the United Nations’ member states.
The United Kingdom welcomes the European Council’s decision of 28 June to open negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between Kosovo and the European Union. The United Kingdom fully supports the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo, which is the first milestone on the path to eventual EU membership. It also supports the decision to open accession negotiations with Serbia. These decisions highlight the way in which improved cooperation and progress in the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina creates opportunities and helps yield progress in the EU accession process. Negotiations on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement mark a new stage in Kosovo’s relationship with the European Union, NATO and the United Nations. To that end, we encourage those countries that have not yet recognised Kosovo to do so.
It is important that Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations begin in the Autumn and are finalised in good time. The United Kingdom hopes that Kosovo will work effectively with the Commission to ensure that the areas for reform, identified in the 2012 Feasibility Study, are addressed. Kosovo must now make even greater strides in improving electoral reform, minority rights and the rule of law.
As we have said before, the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is integral to both countries’ European Union accession paths. Full implementation of the Dialogue agreement will be crucial to unlocking progress for both Kosovo and Serbia. SRSG Zarif has set out in detail some of the important steps that have been taken and I welcome those. Those steps need to be consolidated and built on, I encourage continued efforts by both the Serbian and the Kosovo governments in taking these difficult steps and urge them to reach early agreement on energy and telecommunications. Prime Minister Dačić and Prime Minister Thaçi have shown great courage and political leadership thus far. It is vital that the two governments sustain progress, continue to find compromise and work together to overcome obstacles to implementation. Belgrade must continue to communicate the benefits of this agreement effectively to the local communities in northern Kosovo. And Pristina must continue to make every effort to encourage the integration of Kosovo Serbs in the north, by demonstrating that it supports the rights and culture of all its minority citizens.
The continued assistance of EULEX in the implementation of Dialogue agreements will be indispensable. We support the important role of EULEX, which will help integrate institutions in the north under Kosovo’s jurisdiction. To this end, the United Kingdom urges the authorities in Pristina and Belgrade to cooperate fully with EULEX, particularly by ensuring freedom of movement for all EULEX personnel in the north.
I welcome Kosovo’s commitment to providing free, fair and democratic municipal elections on 3 November. We urge all those who have influence to encourage wide participation in these elections. The Kosovo Government should work constructively with international organisations, such as the OSCE, who will play a crucial role in facilitating the elections. The United Kingdom is also keen to see wider electoral reform in Kosovo before the end of the year.
Kosovo wide elections will be a significant step towards integration of all minority communities across Kosovo. Another important part of this process is inter-ethnic reconciliation. In this respect making progress on the issue of missing persons is crucial. The United Kingdom welcomes the formation of a joint Kosovo government and civil society working group on dealing with the past. We hope UNMIK and other international organisations will continue to contribute to this process.
Thank you, Madam President.