Thank you Madam President.
I would first like to thank Special Representative Zarif for this, his final briefing. I’m sure others will join me in paying tribute to all your hard work on Kosovo, and your determination to improve the lives of all Kosovo’s citizens. And we wish you every success in your new role.
I also want to welcome Deputy Prime Ministers Dacic and Thaci back to the Council again.
Let me start by reiterating our well known position on the frequency of these meetings. We strongly believe the frequency should be reduced. Though many challenges remain, Kosovo’s progress and its trajectory are undeniable. The reality, as described clearly in the Secretary-General’s report, does not justify this level of Council attention.
We also believe strongly that this meeting should not provide a platform to revisit nationalist positions that are unhelpful and not in keeping with the spirit of the dialogue.
The report, though it shows that Kosovo faces significant challenges, also presents clear evidence of continuing, steady progress. This is a welcome trend.
The security situation remains generally stable; illegal migration is falling; and we continue to see good, practical co-operation at the local level - most notably in northern Kosovo.
The most important development since this Council last met to discuss Kosovo took place after the release of the Secretary-General’s latest report – the positive vote on the Special Court. Though the delay on this issue was disappointing, we welcome this important step forward. Dealing with the past, no matter how difficult, controversial or painful, is vital if Kosovo is to tackle impunity and build respect for the rule of law.
The Special Court vote was also an important demonstration of Kosovo’s leaders’ commitment to implement international agreements. This was a difficult decision, requiring political courage. We recognise the positive actions taken by Deputy Prime Minister Thaci, as well as the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament, to ensure that this passed.
But more hard work is needed before the Court is established and operational. Sustained effort will be required to ensure accountability following the allegations in the Marty Report. Comprehensive, robust witness protection programmes must be a key part of this process if the Court is to be effective. We hope Kosovo’s leaders will take the necessary steps as a matter of urgency; and work with all partners to ensure the Court is established as soon as possible.
The Secretary-General’s report also highlights some wider concerns on the rule of law. The Government of Kosovo must address in particular the weaknesses of the Kosovo judiciary, and improve its ability to handle sensitive cases.
The report also makes clear the valuable role of the Kosovo Police in maintaining order and protecting all communities from violence. This is welcome, and we hope that the co-operation shown by the police and the Kosovo Serb community in Kline can be replicated elsewhere. The arrest of five people in connection with suspicious activity at Badovac reservoir highlights the need for continued vigilance, particularly over the threat from terrorism and returning foreign fighters.
Turning to the EU facilitated dialogue, we welcome the continued engagement of both sides. The dialogue process remains the most effective means of normalising relations in the Western Balkans. It is vital to the future stability and prosperity of the region, and the surest way to prevent any return to the violence of the past.
Both sides need to demonstrate, and deliver, the benefits of the Dialogue for all their citizens. The pace of implementation of dialogue agreements needs to be increased. And it is vital that new agreements are reached, including on the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities, at the next meeting later this month.
Finally, Madam President, I would like to take this opportunity to remark on the very clear and welcome leadership shown by the President of Kosovo in addressing the legacy of sexual violence in conflict. It is important to bring perpetrators of these despicable crimes to justice, whoever they are and wherever they live. My Prime Minister’s Special Representative on this issue, Baroness Anelay, saw this first hand during her visit to Kosovo in July, where she pledged further UK support for rehabilitation programmes for survivors.
Taking action on sexual violence is another example of Kosovo’s leaders’ willingness to confront the difficult issues of the past, and to secure a better future for all their citizens. I hope they will continue this approach in the coming months, and in doing so, take the necessary steps to ensure progress on the Special Court and the Dialogue.