Thank you Mr. President,
I would like to welcome Foreign Ministers Vuk Jeremic, from Serbia, and Enver Hoxhaj, from Kosovo, and thank them for their statements. I also thank Special Representative Farid Zarif for his comprehensive briefing.
The situation in Kosovo over the last few months has already been addressed in detail by the Foreign Ministers’ statements and by the Special Representative’s briefing. I will focus my statement on three specific aspects.
First: the will for compromise showed by Serbian and Kosovo authorities in arranging for Serbs in Kosovo to vote in Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections with OSCE facilitation, a process which has taken some months to be finalised and agreed upon. Their cooperative attitude must be noted and commended, as the event could have had – and still can have negative implications in terms of security and stability in parts of Kosovo. We therefore call on Belgrade and Pristina to continue fully cooperating with OSCE and other international actors, as well as on all parties to avoid any actions or statements that could increase tensions. The OSCE’s involvement in this process must be sincerely applauded. We also welcome KFOR and EULEX´s role in this context. As to Serbian local elections, in spite of Belgrade´s decision not to hold them in Kosovo, two municipalities in Northern Kosovo have nevertheless held them. We note very positively the Serbian authorities’ statements that the results would not be recognized, as well as Kosovo authorities’ restraint.
Second: there is a need for clearer and more effective application of the agreements reached on different issues through the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. As Portugal – and others – have recurrently defended, this dialogue is paramount for the achievement of progress between Serbia and Kosovo, in areas essentially pertaining to everyday life for thousands of people. Not only the international community and the European Union, but also – and first and foremost – the two parties themselves must not allow the momentum to be lost and we therefore call upon the parties to renew their efforts to achieve an understanding on the practical aspects of implementation of the several agreements. Progress in this regard can further both relations between Serbia and Kosovo and the European perspectives of each one of them. We expect the Dialogue to be resumed in full after the Serbian elections.
Third: Portugal deeply regrets and condemns reported attempts to damage Serbian religious, historical and cultural heritage in Kosovo. This is not, as some might be led to believe, a minor issue; it looms large on the overall situation in Kosovo and can turn underlying tensions into open clashes. It is incumbent on Kosovo authorities to protect such heritage, and all efforts must be undertaken –supported by international forces if necessary – for its safeguarding, as the responsibility for their security is transferred to the Kosovo police.
Finally, Mr. President, allow me to briefly address the report on the activities of EULEX, particularly in what regards the activity of the Special Investigative Task Force.
As a matter of principle, we have always defended that opacity and impunity are obstacles to lasting peace.
In this sense, Portugal commends the efforts already undertaken by EULEX, and welcomes the recent activity of the Lead Prosecutor and head of the Special Investigative Task Force, Ambassador Clint Williamson. Portugal takes note of the reported level of willingness to cooperate from all quarters contacted so far by the Chief Prosecutor, notably from the Albanian Government, which has taken positive steps in offering to cooperate with the SITF, the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor and the Lead Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. Portugal supports the work carried out by SITF and considers that it is through thorough and comprehensive investigations that the truth behind those horrifying allegations can be fully uncovered, as we all wish for.
Serbia has been granted candidate status to European Union accession in early March. Portugal is proud to have been at the forefront of the promotion of this step which we believe is not only deserved by Serbia, but also necessary for the regional stability and prosperity which we associate with European integration. This is, we hope, a decisive step towards the progressive complete integration of the Western Balkans in the EU. As regards Kosovo, we note positively the recent launch by the European Commission of a feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Kosovo, thus opening an important phase in their relations.