I wish to thank Special Representative Lamberto Zannier for his comprehensive briefing to this Council, and both His Excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Mr. Vuk Jeremic, and Mr. Enver Hoxhaj, Foreign Minister of Kosovo, for their remarks.
The Secretary General’s report offers a factual and comprehensive analysis of the situation prevailing in Kosovo, of the progress made during the period under review, but also of the significant challenges that still lie ahead in terms of ensuring security, stability, institution building, economic development and the respect for human rights. It clearly makes a case for the continued commitment of the international community in order to support the people and the authorities of Kosovo in their efforts to overcome those challenges and build a modern, democratic, State.
In this sense, Portugal reiterates its appreciation and support for the work being done, and wishes to thank and commend UNMIK, KFOR, EULEX as well as the OSCE for the accomplishments achieved in some of the areas which I have mentioned. We also wish to highlight the active engagement of UNMIK with the communities and authorities in Kosovo and with the Governments of Serbia and Albania in order to fulfil its mandate. This commitment and cooperation is essential for furthering our common aims in Kosovo, but it also presents a very important element in guaranteeing peace and stability in all the region and promoting cooperation in the Balkans.
Since our last meeting on UNMIK, the nomination of a new President and Government have taken place in Kosovo. It is encouraging that the crisis around the Presidential election and the appointment of Ms. Jahjaga took place within the applicable institutional framework and without disturbance.
Another important development has been the beginning of the meetings of the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue, facilitated by the European Union. A number of significant issues have been identified and discussed. I would, as an example, mention those pertaining to civil registry and cadastral information, as well as regional economic cooperation and movement of goods and freedom of movement as particularly important ones. It is important that this dialogue proceeds on all outstanding issues with the aim of producing results in the near future, and we encourage the parties to engage actively in this sense.
Portugal believes that strong unfettered political participation and effective delivery of public services are an important way of promoting unity, stability and social cohesion in a country such as Kosovo. In this context, it is important, even decisive, for Kosovo institutions and international players to continue working together, consolidating democratic institutions and promoting stronger integration of all constituent communities of Kosovo in local and national institutions.
Albeit the fact that the overall security situation has remained relatively calm since the beginning of the year, it is obvious that more efforts must be made in order to fight and prevent organized crime, put an end to traffic in drugs and human beings, and to stall criminal incidents that target both kosovars and members of the international community. We take good note that the Kosovo police conducted a number of successful operations aimed at putting a stop to some of these criminal activities, and encourage them to double their efforts in this domain.
On the other hand, inter-community criminal acts as well as vandalism and theft affecting cultural and religious sites are still occurring. The situation in the North remains tense. Other elements that may trigger renewed tensions abound. We commend UNMIK’s efforts and dedication to ensure peace and security. But these efforts will be of no avail without the full commitment of the people of Kosovo themselves to engage fully and in good faith in a process leading to the settlement of their differences.
Let me also stress the importance of the ongoing cooperation between Kosovo authorities and EULEX regarding the rule of law, namely access to justice, policing and investigation, criminal prosecution as well as compliance with international human rights standards in civil and criminal proceedings. Again, the task facing Kosovo’s administration is one of institution and capacity building, and we commend and support the efforts taken by the EU Special Representative in this context.
Concerning the report of Senator Dick Marty to the Council of Europe, I took note of the Secretary General’s references in his report about the initiatives that UNMIK and EULEX have undertaken in this regard, and am encouraged by the declared intention of the Kosovar and Albanian authorities to cooperate fully in the investigations. In this context, I also call upon all other countries which are in a measure of elucidating these very serious accusations to come forward and help.
I also paid careful attention to what Minister Jeremic expressed to the Council, as well as to the contents of the Serbian concept paper that was previously circulated defending an international investigation, and to the letter of the Secretary General of the 4th of May.
I wish to make two comments on this matter.
The first one has to do with the nature of organ trafficking, a complex criminal activity that requires a sophisticated network and the complicity of a variety of different actors, and not only doctors and recipients. It has become a horrendous international traffic that has often to rely on the complicity of authorities in different countries.
Nearly a year ago, the General Assembly adopted a Global Action Plan against trafficking in persons which naturally includes trafficking for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in organs.
Dick Marty’s report further underlines the importance and reach of this Action Plan, that promotes the universal ratification of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Trafficking Protocol, whilst reinforcing States’ national and regional commitments to prevent and combat such trafficking, as well as strengthening the cooperation among States, international organizations and other stakeholders.
All of these elements can be particularly relevant when addressing not only Senator Marty’s allegations, but also the cases referred to in Annex I of the Secteray General’s report concerning the indictment of defendants of the so-called Medicus case, charged with illegal kidney transplants, the kidneys having been, and I quote, “ allegedly removed from impoverished individuals, recruited on false promises of payment that they never received, then transplanted to wealthy foreign patients”, end of the quote from the EULEX report.
In all its horror, this sentence encapsulates the particular heinous nature of this type of crime.
My second comment concerns the investigation of the alleged facts presented in the Council of Europe’s report.
Time and again, this Council has rightly denounced impunity and defended that the perpetrators of serious crimes and violations of human rights must be brought to justice. Impunity is not only intolerable in itself but can also be an obstacle to peace and to a healthy and cooperative political environment, as so many cases illustrate.
The allegations made by Senator Marty, if proven, will weigh lastingly on our collective memories and consciences. Their seriousness warrants a thorough, complete and independent investigation.
Portugal fully supports EULEX’s role in this context. We are happy to learn that the investigations have started and we hope that they will allow for a full clarification of the allegations. Portugal also stands ready to work, within the institutional framework of the European Union, to better equip EULEX with the necessary capabilities to allow it to address the situation adequately and efficiently.
But, as I stated here last February, the seriousness and relevance of this issue demands that we follow it closely and keep an open mind on any future action that the full pursuit of the investigations may require.
This is why we view the letter of the Secretary General, offering the United Nation’s assistance to an independent investigation, as an important element in this context, to which due consideration should be given if the evolution of the investigations presently being carried out so warrants.
Albeit all the difficulties, the situation in Kosovo has evolved positively during the past three months. We hope and trust to register new progress when we again meet to discuss UNMIK’s next report.
To conclude, allow me to once again underline the importance of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. High hopes and much room for progress and tangible results lie in these conversations. It is Portugal’s strong belief that peace and security in the region require a continued and sustained commitment from all sides to democratic institutions, rule of law, justice and human rights.
These, Mr. President, will prove to be, in the future, the enduring mark of the cooperation of the international community in the Balkans.
I thank you.