Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Nikola Selaković at the meeting of the UN Security Council on the report on the work of UNMIK
It gives me honor to address this distinguished body once again and to discuss the latest report of the Secretary-General on the work of the UNMIK.
I would like to thank the Secretary-General and the Special Representative for submitting the report. We take note of the efforts that Ms. Ziadeh makes in performing this very responsible duty, especially bearing in mind the necessity of a comprehensive overview and the complexity of the situation on the ground.
I also take this opportunity to underline that the Republic of Serbia highly values the activities of UNMIK in Kosovo and Metohija, established under UN Security Council Resolution 1244. We advocate for its continued operation in an unchanged and undiminished scope and capacity, especially bearing in mind that the Mission has not yet achieved the main goal of its mandate - a peaceful and normal life for all citizens of our southern province.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Unfortunately, the last few months have not brought more stability in Kosovo and Metohija and the situation in the Province is not exactly as presented in the report. Unilateral moves of Pristina continue to consciously and systematically deepen ethnic differences, causing discrimination against the non-Albanian population. To our knowledge, 105 ethnically motivated attacks have been recorded since the beginning of this year. In addition, Pristina is actively working on administrative and bureaucratic obstacles, by taking measures that were not agreed upon in the dialogue as the basic mechanism for negotiations and reaching solutions between Belgrade and Pristina. Pristina’s approach is problematic in many ways. This irresponsible conduct of Pristina is consciously sabotaging the efforts not only of Belgrade, but also of the EU and other involved parties of the international community, with the clear intention of achieving two goals - the first being to avoid the implementation of assumed commitments. The second, the ultimate and far more alarming goal is the intimidation, marginalization and persecution of Serbs.
In all previous statements before this this distinguished body, Pristina focused on what happened in the past while failing to mention, which is painful to witness, how non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija live today. Serbs are still intimidated in different ways, forced to leave their homes, villages and cities. Those displaced are discouraged from returning to where they were born and lived their lives.
The provisional institutions work systematically to remove and erase as much as possible of the cultural and national diversity that is left. At the same time, Pristina is consciously fueling inter-ethnic tensions using all available methods.
Nikola was sentenced to eight months in prison without any material evidence. On the other hand, let me remind you that even to this day there is not a single perpetrator held legally accountable for the more than 1,000 Serbs killed since 1999. Due to planned intimidation, almost all towns and villages in Kosovo and Metohija are ethnically cleansed. Representatives of Pristina are ignoring the suffering, insulting the open wounds of the Serbs who had to leave their ancestral homes, and I underline, there are more than 200,000 of them. Such conduct has not change for last 23 years and is in complete opposite to the democratic values and principles that the provisional institutions of self-government often promote in their statements.
Therefore, I consider it necessary to emphasize that the true political will of the involved international actors and Pristina is necessary in order to create the conditions for the beginning of the end of discrimination on a national basis and common life in the Province.
Esteemed members of the Security Council, I would like to draw your attention to the rigid, problematic and extremely irresponsible conduct of the other negotiating party within the dialogue. In achieving the above-mentioned goals, Pristina applies the so-called policy of reciprocity, a well-thought-out, malicious strategy that, unfortunately, was not constructed independently. By continuously insisting on mutual recognition as a central part of the dialogue, the so-called policy of reciprocity demonstrates the essential unwillingness of the current political leadership of Pristina to find any compromise solution. Let me remind you that the talks between Belgrade and Pristina did not start with last elections in Pristina, but have been in progress for 11 years since the technical dialogue started (8 March 2011). Therefore, we assess as inadmissible attempts to disregard the current format of the dialogue, and annul the agreements only because they are not to the liking of the current political factors. It is unacceptable that the current geopolitical circumstances are being used to simply erase what has been painstakingly worked on for years. Belgrade, I underline, was institutionally involved in the dialogue from the very beginning, while the commitment of the other side has varied and continues to vary depending on the political option that is in power.
The harsher political rhetoric and narrative of the current leadership of the provisional institutions of self-government in Pristina are accompanied by concrete destabilizing steps. In the reporting period, measures on license plates were imposed, disguised as attempts at alleged integration into society.
Let me remind you again, there was no agreement on such measures in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that even today we will hear from the representative of Pristina that their side has fulfilled all obligations, but the decision on re-registration of license plates shows that Pristina is not only failing to fulfill what has been agreed upon, but it nullifies the results of the dialogue, creating a new crisis all over again. The effect of such forcibly imposed measures is best illustrated by the fact that since the decision was made a single-digit number of re-registered vehicles with Serbian license plates has been recorded, of which only two are Serbs from the north of Kosovo and Metohija. This is another indicator that Pristina does not enjoy full support, but that, on the other hand, it continuously provokes the natural reaction of the Serbian population, which cannot endlessly be subject to the arbitrariness of temporary institutions.
I believe that even today we will hear already known narrative of representatives from Pristina who try to present every reaction of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija as an activity organized by Belgrade in alleged attempts at destabilization. Such claims are simply not true. Serbia, for its part, cannot in any way contain the revolt present among the non-Albanian population of Kosovo and Metohija. It is an undeniable fact that citizens' protests represent a voice against many years of institutional violence and the deprivation of rights of the non-Albanian population, which, in this case, is denied the right to peaceful enjoyment of private property acquired in a legal manner.
Pristina does not cease in its attempts to confiscate property, and, as is well-known, one of the targets is the Serbian Orthodox Church. By calling into question the return of property to the Dečani Monaster Pristina paradoxically does not execute the decisions of its own so-called Constitutional Court.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thought for a long time how to best illustrate the true picture of everyday life of the non-Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija. I will mention only some of the facts. Numerous ethnically motivated incidents, hate speech, intimidation, violations of the right to a fair trial, threats to the right to freedom of movement and religious rights, desecration of churches and graves were recorded in the last reporting period as well. The frequent attacks on the sites of the Serbian Orthodox Church are also unacceptable, and especially the humiliating attitude towards the Serbian cultural and spiritual heritage, including the 4 monuments that have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Numerous administrative and technical barriers are imposed on priests and monastic communities, making it difficult and even impossible for them to survive on church properties.
When it comes to civil rights, try to imagine that the basic political and civil right to vote has been taken away from you.
In December last year Bratislav Nikolić the president of municipality of Štrpce has been detained, as suspected of the organized crime and corruption - still not charged, kept in detention unit in Podujevo, only for the reason to make additional and final pressure on the Serbian community living in the enclave of Štrpce. How can this be justified as the fight against crime when special forces are used to raid village festivals, schools and kidnap drivers of ambulance transporting infusion containers and medicines? What are the motives behind and how can one rationalize these actions? Just try to imagine and put yourself in the shoes of Ms. Dragica Gašić, the only Serbian returnee in Djakovica. Imagine that you are still not allowed to buy bread because of your origin and nationality, because you live in a municipality that the local Albanians proudly consider forbidden to non-Albanians. Imagine that as many as eleven Albanian civil society organizations demand your expulsion, as well as a ban on any non-Albanian ever returning to that town. Then you will realize the level of intimidation that Serb returnees are facing. It will be clear to you why the percentage of returnees is below 2% and why it is still one of the lowest in the world. Let me pose a question - are these the characteristics of a society that presents itself to the world as a fully fledged democracy and a factor of stability in the region?
We are aware that the dialogue has a wider dimension and that it can affect the situation in the entire region. This is reflected in every statement given by Serbian officials, including the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić. "It is better to negotiate for a hundred years than to fight for a day" are the words of our President that best describe the policy of peace, reconciliation, and regional cooperation pursued by the Serbian leadership, which is guided by the vision of building a common and prosperous future of the Balkans.
I believe that it is a duty of today's leaders to create a clear common vision for the future generations. Such a vision was shown by the leaders of Belgrade, Skoplje and Tirana by creating Open Balkan, an initiative from the region for the region, which is already producing concrete results. Serbia has on several occasions reached out to Pristina inviting it to join this initiative. We counted on an awareness of the importance of economic connectivity and progress for the benefit of the citizens of the entire Balkans. However, our invitation was not met with understating from the other side.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We categorically reject Pristina's argumentation regarding the alleged unconstitutionality of the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities. It is clear that Pristina's attitude towards this obligation reflects its attitude towards the Serbian people in the Province. It also indicates that Pristina is against Serbian people being organized as an ethnic community and thus exercising their collective rights.
The aim of their approach, as a preferred model, is a community without Serbs, such as those in Pristina, Djakovica or Pec, or some similar localities in the Province. For our side, it is unacceptable that Pristina has refused to fulfil its obligations and discuss the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities for as much as 3,470 days but I assure you that, regardless of this fact, Serbia will not give up on its efforts to find a compromise solution for the current situation.
During the last session in April this year, we could hear the calls of some members of the UN Security Council to reduce and even terminate UNMIK, with the explanation that Pristina has its own functional institutions. However, the circumstances I have presented to you and the situation on the ground remind us again that international presence in our southern province is still necessary. In this regard, we support the efforts made by UNMIK, KFOR, EULEX and OMIK within their mandates. The Serbian and other non-Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija has the highest confidence in the international presence and considers it a guarantor of security, which additionally confirms that international missions need to remain engaged in an undiminished scope and capacity in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
I would like to point out that lately in all international forums we keep hearing calls for respect of the principles of the UN. We support the territorial integrity of all UN member states. But, what about Serbia? I would like to ask the esteemed members of this distinguished body whether the need to implement the principles of the UN Charter applies only to some or all of its members? As a country that consistently respects international law and still suffers the consequences of it being violated, we believe that the UN Charter and international law, including the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states, should be respected by all and apply indiscriminately to all UN member states.
Ladies and gentleman,
It was this body that more than two decades ago adopted Resolution 1244, which confirmed the territorial integrity of Serbia. This fact did not prevent certain countries from recognizing the so-called “Kosovo” and thus violating the UN principles, but also the resolution that they adopted, by adjusting international law to their interests and goals. Precisely because of this, the more and more frequent mentioning of the case of "Kosovo" is an indication that the precedent made opened a Pandora's box, because the strength of each principle rests on its full and universal application and unconditional adherence.
You will notice that I posed a lot of questions in my statement and I express hope that today we will hear answers to at least some of them from you, esteemed members of the UN Security Council and representatives of Pristina, because the inhabitants of Kosovo and Metohija, of any nationality, whether they are Serbs or Albanians deserve it.