I wish to thank Special Representative Lamberto Zannier for his very clear and comprehensive briefing to this Council, and both His Excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Mr. Vuk Jeremic, and Ms. Vlora Çitaku, acting Foreign Minister of Kosovo for their statements and for the elements they have brought to our attention.
The latest report of UNMIK presents us with a picture of a country which faces serious challenges on its way, as we all hope, to peace and prosperity. It also draws attention to the work UNMIK has been doing, together with KFOR, EULEX and several other players on the ground in Kosovo. Portugal would like to convey – as a contributor to EULEX and KFOR, but also as a country with a long involvement in the stabilization of the Balkans – our sincere appreciation for the work accomplished so far: our joint efforts continue to be vital to consolidate peace and to bring that region closer to integration in the European institutional framework, an ambition which we share.
As regards political life in Kosovo, the December general elections are the main event on which to base an analysis of this period. Unfortunately, the elections suffered from “some serious shortcomings” and “a high number of irregularities”, as stated in the SG report; the overall climate was peaceful, however, and the reaction by the Central Elections Commission and the Election Complaints and Appeals Panel was swift and managed to overcome some of those irregularities.
We believe it is important for Kosovo institutions and international players to continue working together in order to consolidate democratic institutions and to foster a solid commitment to democratic values and practice. It is also noteworthy that participation of the Kosovo Serb community was higher than in 2007, despite scant turnout north of the Ibar river.
I took good note of the Special Representative’s comments on the pressing economic and fiscal problems Kosovo is facing and the need to address this issue, lest they become an additional element of instability
Political uncertainty in Kosovo has also delayed the much needed Pristina-Belgrade dialogue. Portugal urges both parties to start comprehensive negotiations under the auspices of the EU with a view to settle all their differences, in the spirit of UN General Assembly Resolution 64/298, and to do so at the earliest possible occasion. This would undoubtedly be in the interest of both Pristina and Belgrade, the region, and of Europe as a whole.
Beyond the elections other facts remain, more enduring and far-reaching in their consequences. Incidents between communities still occur, with victims on both sides, and other elements that may trigger renewed tensions abound. UNMIK’s efforts and dedication to ensure peace and security must be duly noted and appreciated. Thus, we urge all actors on the ground to work with UNMIK fully and in good faith and to engage seriously in a process leading to the settlement of their differences.
These incidents notwithstanding, it must be said that several indicators are encouraging, especially in what regards the development of municipal power. We hope that further investment and allocation of human and financial resources may allow for the strengthening of institutions and capabilities, and we expect that national and local authorities may find balanced solutions to the issues that inevitably arise between the communities.
I would also like to stress the importance of the ongoing cooperation between Kosovo authorities and EULEX regarding of rule of law. Again, the task facing Kosovo’s administration is one of institution and capacity building; we commend and support the efforts taken by the EU Special Representative in this context.
Concerning the report of Mr. Dick Marty to the Council of Europe, I took note of the Special Representative’s reference to the seriousness of these allegations and I paid careful attention to what Minister Jeremic had to say to the Council on this subject. I took special note of his comments concerning the possibly wider regional dimension of this issue and the need to extend effective protection to witnesses. The allegations are indeed extremely disturbing and, if proved, amount to particularly despicable crimes. They deserve a very thorough investigation and we welcome the readiness expressed by Kosovo and Albania to cooperate in them. We fully support EULEX’s investigations that are already being carried out on this matter and we hope that they will allow for a full clarification of the allegations. But we also believe that we must follow this issue closely and keep an open mind on any future action that the investigations may require.
In line with what we have always defended concerning other serious crimes, be it in the region or elsewhere, impunity is not only in itself intolerable, but also an obstacle to peace and to a healthy and cooperative political environment.
The work done by UNMIK in securing religious and cultural sites in Kosovo stands out as a particularly successful aspect of this Mission’s mandate. It can be a very important contribution to inter-faith contact and dialogue. Portugal expresses its optimism towards the continued good results of UNMIK’s work on this issue. We also praise the role played by the Council of Europe’s Reconstruction Implementation Commission, UNESCO, KFOR and EULEX, so that Kosovo’s rich heritage, which shines well beyond its borders, is safeguarded from turmoil and endures for centuries to come.
To conclude, the report we are discussing today reminds us once more how important it is for Kosovo and Serbia to start the European Union-facilitated dialogue. It will eventually close this chapter of their history, reinforce peace and stability in the Balkans – and help the whole region in fulfilling its European integration objectives.
I thank you.