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 Hashim Thaci, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, and His Excellency Mr Ivica Dacic, the Prime Minister of Serbia.
The United Kingdom joins others in welcoming the largely successful local elections held in Kosovo on 3 November and the efforts of both Serbia and Kosovo to encourage a large turnout. I also commend the contribution of international organisations including the OSCE, EULEX, KFOR and the EU Election Observation Mission.
The United Kingdom condemns the violent actions of a minority of extremists on 3 November, including the storming of three polling stations in North Mitrovica. We call on the relevant authorities to ensure the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice.
It was important that all constituencies in Kosovo were able to participate in these elections. We welcome the commitment shown by Prime Ministers Thaci and Dacic to the municipal elections, particularly in their prompt meeting after 3 November to discuss next steps for the electoral process. This underlines the value of the dialogue they have established as a means of carefully managing potentially sensitive situations.We welcome the peaceful conduct of the re-run polling in North Mitrovica on 17 November. Co-operation between the OSCE, Kosovo Police, EULEX and KFOR was exemplary. These timely re-runs have proved that political will and coordination can translate into a broadly secure and successful outcome. Ahead of the parliamentary elections next year, Pristina should implement wider reform of its electoral process.
The United Kingdom is encouraged by renewed momentum in the EU-facilitated Kosovo / Serbia dialogue, including the progress made on energy and telecoms. We look forward to seeing both parties continue to implement the relevant agreements faithfully and to resolve any outstanding issues expeditiously. We welcome the commitment to this dialogue shown by the governments of Kosovo and Serbia and agree with the Secretary-General that both Belgrade and Pristina are displaying “vision and perseverance” through their commitment to the dialogue.
The normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is integral to both countries’ European Union accession paths. Both parties must continue to implement fully the Dialogue agreement in order to unlock progress. Kosovo and Serbia must also continue to communicate the benefits of this agreement and work together to improve the integration of Kosovo Serbs in the north.
The continued assistance of EULEX in the implementation of Dialogue agreements will be indispensable. Let me take this opportunity to condemn wholeheartedly the attack on EULEX on 19 September and to pay to tribute to Audrius Senavicius, EULEX’s first fatality by hostile action and to call for the perpetrators of this attack to be brought to justice. We fully and wholeheartedly support the important work of EULEX in Kosovo, including the integration of institutions in the north under Kosovo’s jurisdiction. We welcome the renewed engagement by both Belgrade and Pristina in the Dialogue and we look forward to further tangible results.
The United Kingdom welcomed the launch of negotiations on 28 October for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between Kosovo and the European Union, the first milestone on the path to eventual European Union membership. This step marks a new phase in Kosovo’s relationship with the European Union, NATO and the United Nations. Kosovo is now recognised by over half of the UN Member States and we encourage those countries that have not yet recognised Kosovo to do so.
Finally, Mr President, I would like to comment on the welcome way in which the climate of discussion in the last few debates on UNMIK in the Council has become markedly more positive as most Council members have been able to come together around welcoming progress in the Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and welcoming also the increased cooperation and stability that has resulted. Today’s meeting so far has sustained that trend. Against that backdrop, we wonder whether the Council should be considering reducing the frequency with which it meets to discuss this matter.
Thank you, Mr President.