Thank you Mr President and thank you Special Representative Tanin for your briefing just now.
I also welcome Ambassador Citaku and Deputy Prime Minister Dacic back to the Council again.
I want to begin by congratulating the representatives from Serbia and Kosovo on their success in the recent Olympic Games in Rio. Your athletes did incredibly well, securing gold medals, and no doubt making your countries, and your region, very proud in the process.
As the Ambassador has said, Rio was particularly special for Kosovo. For the first time, athletes competed under the Kosovo flag at an Olympic Games. And thanks to Majlinda Kelmendi, Kosovo brought home their first ever medal – and a gold one at that.
This shows that Kosovo is not only a real contender on the international sporting stage, but is also increasingly, and irreversibly, integrating into the international community. Kosovo’s membership of UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) and FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) only serves to reinforce this point. We should all welcome this progress.
I begin with this point, Mr President, because I want to contrast this positive, hopeful vision of Kosovo with the negative assessment that is so often shared in this Council every three months.
We often hear in this Chamber about the numbers of people protesting in the streets of Pristina, but we must also hear about the thousands who came out to celebrate Majlinda’s return; the thousands who filled the streets in hope for a better future for their country.
Steps have been taken in this reporting cycle to help seize that future. We welcome the progress made on the Special Court. Coming to the terms with the past is a vital part of building a future for all in Kosovo. So we’re pleased that a registrar for the Court has been appointed and a chief prosecutor will be appointed soon.
We also welcome the return of the opposition to the Assembly. This is an important step; one that must be met with a sustained commitment to dialogue, rather than a return to tear-gas and protests.
And thirdly, we welcome the downsizing of EULEX (European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo), and the increasing transfer of responsibility to Kosovo for its own rule of law. It will be important to get this transitional period right and to continue to build the capacity of the Kosovo authorities through focused monitoring, mentoring and advice.
Challenges of course remain. We are concerned that the Dialogue has stalled. It needs new energy so that the benefits of normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia can be realised for all. I hope both sides can draw some hope from the literal bridge building that is ongoing in Mitrovica.
But for all the challenges, we also need to get some perspective. This week this Council has discussed the horrifying situation in Aleppo, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and yet another missile launch by the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). And yet we find ourselves again in this Chamber debating an issue that has no need to be on the Council’s agenda.
Ambassador Citaku has already given the example of the fight that took place over a car parking space. That clearly isn’t a threat to international peace and security. And it isn’t the only odd inclusion. Is a peaceful protest by taxi drivers or stone throwing really worth reporting to this Council?
While the United Kingdom has the utmost respect for UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) and for the Special Representative, including these low level incidents detracts from the important reporting that UNMIK is carrying out.
So the United Kingdom calls again for a reduction in the number of these sessions and a reduction in the number of these reports. Not only will it allow for better, substantive reporting from UNMIK, but it will also allow more time for the Council to focus on other more pressing issues.
As I have said on previous occasions, we have to accept that discussions in this Chamber exist in a by-gone era where Kosovo’s independence, its sovereignty, its very existence is still questioned. We need only look to the Olympics to see that era is over. Instead, ordinary Kosovans now look to Maljinda Kelmendi to begin a new golden era. So let us all help Kosovo seize that future, rather than drag it back to the past here in New York.