I thank the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Mr Farid Zarif, for his briefing today. I am also delighted to welcome to the Council His Excellency Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of Kosovo, and His Excellency Prime Minister Ivica Dacic of Serbia.
The United Kingdom is grateful for the Secretary General’s comprehensive report. As the report notes, 2013 was indeed a year of significant political progress in Kosovo.
The United Kingdom notes in particular the largely successful local elections held at the end of the year and we, once again, welcome the efforts of both Serbia and Kosovo to encourage a large turnout to those polls. The EU Observation Mission, supported by 34 local observer teams from diplomatic representations in Pristina, assessed the election process to have been – by and large – free and fair and orderly. This demonstrates that political will and determination can translate into a cleaner and fair process.
The United Kingdom welcomes the participation for the first time of citizens from the four northern municipalities. We congratulate the OSCE for successfully fulfilling its facilitation role in the North and commend the robust security arrangements that were put in place by the Kosovo Police, EULEX and NATO following unrest in Mitrovica North during the first round of the elections.
We continue to support the important work of EULEX, including its assistance on the implementation of Dialogue agreements, the integration of institutions in the north under Kosovo’s jurisdiction and on strengthening the rule of law in Kosovo.
We encourage further cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia on the issue of missing persons, including through both national Commissions. This is an extremely sensitive process for the families involved and is crucial for reconciliation in the region. EULEX has made a valuable contribution to this work and we stress the importance of retaining its Department for Forensic medicine as part of the current Strategic Review.
The Secretary-General’s report also makes clear that progress in 2013 must now be consolidated and serve as a basis for further achievements in the coming months.
Both Belgrade and Pristina must continue with implementation of the 19 April Agreement in the EU-facilitated dialogue. Steps have been taken, such as the beginning of integration of former MUP officers into the Kosovo Police and it is crucial that the progress continues, including after the upcoming municipal electoral processes. The Association of Serbian Majority Municipalities in Kosovo should be established as quickly as possible after the municipal election re-run on 23 February, in accordance with the April Agreement.
The normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is integral to both countries’ European Union accession paths and full implementation of the Dialogue agreement is necessary to unlock progress. We are right to recognise that both Prime Ministers have demonstrated courage and political leadership in their commitment to this process, but it is important now that both sides implement the day-to-day detail of the Dialogue agreements, so that the process develops a momentum of its own. More ownership is needed at working level to turn these compromises into realities on the ground and to explain the process to the people it will affect, particularly the inhabitants of northern Kosovo.
The United Kingdom welcomes the opening of Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) negotiations between Kosovo and the EU in October 2013. And following the December 2013 European Council’s unanimous agreement to open accession negotiations with Serbia, and to the condition that before joining the EU Serbia must normalise its relations with Kosovo, we look forward to Kosovo being formally bound into a corresponding programme of reform and dialogue, by completing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement as soon as possible.
The United Kingdom welcomes the continuing international trend towards further recognitions of Kosovo and it encourages those countries that have not yet done so, to recognise Kosovo and accordingly to contribute to regional stability.
Finally, Madam President, it is heartening that once again we are reviewing a Secretary-General’s report that underlines significant progress in Kosovo and, of course, long may that continue, but given this encouraging trend, the United Kingdom reiterates the proposal that the Council consider reducing the frequency with which we meet for these debates.
Thank you, Madame President.