Thank you Mr President,
I thank the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Mr Farid Zarif, for his briefing today.
I am delighted to welcome to the Council Her Excellency President Atifete Jahjaga and His Excellency President Tomislav Nikolic.
We recognise that your visit comes at a very difficult time for Serbia following the catastrophic flooding and tragic loss of life that your country has experienced in recent weeks.
It has been devastating for the hundreds of thousands affected in Serbia and across the region.
My government is providing support in response to the floods through the European Union’s coordinated approach. A team from London has travelled to Belgrade to look at how we can assist in a needs assessment to make the best possible use of the international support now and in future reconstruction efforts. The United Kingdom expresses solidarity with the Serbian people, and indeed all those in the region, who are suffering as a result of this natural disaster.
Turning to the subject of the debate, the United Kingdom welcomes Kosovo’s continued progress both internally and on the international stage. We welcome the fact that Kosovo is recognised by over half of the UN Member States and we encourage those countries that have not yet recognised Kosovo to do so.
In respect of internal progress, the United Kingdom notes in particular the conclusion of local elections in Mitrovica North, and looks forward to similarly successful parliamentary elections next month.
Before its dissolution, the Kosovo parliament undertook two significant steps towards strengthening Kosovo’s relationship with the European Union.
The United Kingdom welcomes the parliament’s ratification of the Exchange of Letters to extend the mandate of EULEX for two years and the signing of the agreement on the content of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the European Union and Kosovo.
We continue to support the important work of EULEX, including its assistance in the implementation of the EU-facilitated Dialogue agreements.
In particular, we urge continued cooperation with EULEX operations from communities and elected leaders in the north of Kosovo. We strongly condemn the attack on the EULEX convoy last month. We call on those with information about this incident and the murder of the Lithuanian Customs Officer last September to help the police in their enquiries.
We are pleased to note the Kosovo parliament’s decision to establish the framework for a Special Court to hear any cases which may arise from the report of the EULEX Special Investigative Task Force, led by Clint Williamson. This has been a major achievement and demonstrates Kosovo’s willingness to confront difficult rule of law issues. We urge all parties to continue to support this important judicial process.
The United Kingdom congratulates both Serbia and Kosovo on their efforts so far to normalise relations through the EU-facilitated dialogue. The Secretary-General’s report rightly refers to the remarkable progress achieved since the start of the dialogue at the Prime Minister’s level in October 2012. It is vital now to sustain and build on this progress. It is perhaps inevitable that the combination of Serbian elections and forthcoming elections in Kosovo have resulted in a slowing down in the pace of the dialogue. Nevertheless, we hope that the next meeting will take place soon and we urge both sides to redouble their efforts to avoid losing the impressive earlier momentum.
We urge both Belgrade and Pristina to continue with implementation of the 19 April Agreement. We recognise that steps have been taken, but full implementation of the Dialogue agreement is not yet in sight. It is essential the establishment of the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities and its statute is agreed soon and that other commitments, such as on the judiciary, in telecommunications and energy are concluded without further delay. We also call on both sides to ensure the maximum participation of all communities in Kosovo’s upcoming national elections.
Let me pick up on concerns that have been expressed by some about the proposed transition of the Kosovo Security Forces into the Kosovo Armed Forces.
Neither the Kosovo Security Forces nor the Kosovo Armed Forces are mentioned or prohibited by resolution 1244. Resolution 1244 does specifically make reference to ‘armed Kosovo Albanian groups’. The Kosovo Security Forces cannot be classed as such, given that it is multi-ethnic and controlled by the civil state.
References have been made in interventions so far Kosovo Albanians participating in foreign conflicts. We welcome the fact that there has been strong condemnation of such participation in foreign conflicts by numerous local and international actors, including the Islamic community for Kosovo. We note also, the stated intention of the Kosovo authorities to establish clear legislation prohibiting such participation.
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the launch in Kosovo by President Jahjaga on 7 March, of the National Council for Survivors of Sexual Violence. I also note subsequent legislative amendments adopted by the Kosovo Assembly and protects survivors of sexual violence.
This Council is rightly very focused on the Prevention of Sexual Violence. The United Kingdom supports efforts to deal effectively and sensitively with the consequences of sexual violence on those tragic occasions where it has happened. The United Kingdome welcomes the fact that this challenge is being addressed in Kosovo.
Finally, the United Kingdom reiterates its proposal that the Council consider reducing the frequency with which we meet for these debates. The overall positive backdrop makes this, in our view, an appropriate step.