By Radwan Jakeem
NEW YORK (IDN) – The Security Council has been told that the snap elections held on October 6 in Kosovo had the highest voter turnout since 2010 and represent “the most significant change in the political landscape” there in a dozen years.
These were called during a difficult time of internal political division, disunity in the governing coalition and “most importantly, the public’s perception of inability to deliver on promises to the people of Kosovo”.
Zahir Tanin, the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told Council members on October 31 that preliminary results pointed to an opposition victory, with coalition talks underway. Most voters had decided to “rally behind unconventional political candidates”, signifying a break with the past.
Kosovo, which has an ethnic-Albanian majority, broke away from Serbia in a bloody conflict which began in 1998, with the Security Council authorizing temporary administrative powers to the UN, in 1999.
Backed by the United States and United Kingdom, among others, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence a decade later. But Serbia, supported diplomatically by Russia, has never accepted the split. Subsequently, Kosovo has not achieved full member status at the United Nations.
The election was called in July, when outgoing Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned in the face of new war crimes proceedings, according to news reports. He was a former commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which fought for independence from Serbia and was twice acquitted under former proceedings in The Hague.
With his governing coalition split, Prime Minister Haradinaj sparked a trade war with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzogovina a year ago, by introducing a 100 per cent tariff on goods, stalling any political progress.
Mr. Tanin said that the elections had been “assessed positively” by international observers, although there had been cases of voter intimidation and campaign finance violations in the Serb-majority areas.
He told Security Council members he was “hopeful that the new leadership can use the momentum of this election to deliver on promises to the people, by advancing the rule of law, fighting corruption and organized crime, and tackling unemployment”.
Also, the international community expects new political leaders to “affirm their commitment to the negotiations with Belgrade and ensure that obstacles to dialogue are removed”, added the UNMIK chief.
He called for particular efforts to tone down political rhetoric and actions in order to kickstart talks between Belgrade and Pristina, “after a year of stalled negotiations”.
The UNMIK chief welcomed the international community’s “continuous efforts” to push talks forward. “While I am convinced that an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina can be sustainable only if it is based on responsible action and local ownership of the process, it is also imperative that during this transition in Kosovo, the international community stands united and firm in its support toward a viable agreement.”
Mr. Tanin also updated the Security Council on the results of a months-long investigation by UN experts from outside UNMIK that encompassed interviews with more than 50 witnesses and review of extensive photographic and video evidence during a comprehensive review of the events of May 28, when two UNMIK staff members were arrested by Kosovo police during a Kosovo-wide police operation.
He shared key findings of the investigation, including that it yielded no evidence of any wrongdoing by the UNMIK staff who were on official duty at the time of their arrests and had clearly identified themselves as UN staff.
The investigators determined there was “substantial evidence of the use of excessive force by Kosovo Police” that resulted in numerous injuries, including fractures, hearing loss and post-traumatic stress, and that police drove and retained an UNMIK vehicle.
“The use of excessive force, interference with Mission property, and the continuation of criminal proceedings against both staff members are in clear breach of the applicable legal framework… These actions are unacceptable and should not be condoned,” Mr. Tanin stated.
While calling for all criminal proceedings against the staff to be “terminated immediately”, SRSG Tanin also praised the cooperative spirit with which Kosovo authorities received the report findings during recent engagements.
“As long as this Council maintains the mandate for the international presences in Kosovo, I look forward to the institutions of Kosovo and UNMIK operating in full respect of one another. We are proud that UNMIK played a central role in the formation of the Kosovo police and judiciary, and we are hopeful that their intention is to address any failings and to operate in accordance with international norms and standards.”
Mr. Tanin also mentioned several achievements of the mission during the previous reporting period, including an UNMIK-funded legal aid centre to provide assistance to vulnerable groups; support with the first-ever regional shelter for survivors of gender-based violence; and the launch of the first Serbian-Albanian/Albanian-Serbian dictionary since 1984, as part of a broader and ongoing UNMIK-supported language rights programme.
He commemorated the 19-year anniversary since the adoption of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. He highlighted the value of gender-inclusive and responsive political processes, in alignment with this resolution.
“Our Mission continues to support such efforts with women leaders and international partners, including UN Women and the European Union, through concrete projects,” he said.
The UNMIK chief concluded by acknowledging the vision of the United Nations’ founders.
“As we approach the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, we are reminded of the central importance of ‘We the Peoples’. These first three words of our Charter remind us that the vital work of governments in the maintenance of international peace and security can only endure if anchored in strong societal foundations.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 October 2019]
Photo: UNMIK chief Zahir Tanin addressing the Secuirty Council on October 31. Source: unmik.unmissions.org
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