Contact Group Plus Meeting Press Statement
Released by Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
July 20, 2004
On 20 July 2004, the Contact Group, UNMIK, KFOR, the PISG and the leaders of the K-Albanian and K-Serb communities met together to review progress towards the objectives identified at their last meeting on 8 June.
The Contact Group welcomed the appointment as SRSG of Soren Jessen-Petersen who has the full support of the Contact Group, the PISG, K-Albanian and K-Serb leaders.
The participants re-stated their commitment to the joint Conclusions of 8 June. The Contact Group assessed that a lot still remains to be done concerning the overall implementation of the standards, security, and the rights of all communities, which remain matters of concern.
The Contact Group welcomed the positive achievements since, particularly with regard to inter-ethnic dialogue, reconstruction/returns and local government. It particularly greeted the co-operation between K-Albanian and K-Serb leaders resulting in a Joint Declaration establishing a Ministry for Community Matters, Human Rights and Returns, committing to complete reconstruction within the agreed timelines and to continue to cooperate on the reform of local government and within the Kosovo Security Advisory Group.
The Contact Group re-emphasised that the standards process places Kosovo’s progress in the hands of the Kosovars and the importance of an effective UNMIK-PISG partnership to accelerate efforts to this end, including at municipal level.
The Contact Group noted that, in accordance with the conclusions of 8 June, a number of working groups began their work with the aim to steer and monitor standards implementation. It expects that all proposed working groups should meet as quickly as possible, and called upon PISG and UNMIK to establish these groups as a regular and rigorous mechanism to ensure maximum progress on the KSIP.
Reconstruction, Returns, Rule of Law
The Contact Group notes progress made in the reconstruction of houses (UN-MIK estimates that 35% of the destroyed houses have been rebuilt), the beginning of rehabilitation of schools and the tendering of reconstruction contracts for health centres, and acknowledged progress in the involvement of the concerned communities and the constructive attitude of the PISG. The Contact Group positively viewed the agreement of 25 June between the Orthodox Church and the PISG to establish an independent Commission under the auspices of the Council of Europe that will manage the cultural sites reconstruction process and urged all parties concerned to push this process forward.
However, the Contact Group also noted continuing security concerns, including damages to newly rebuilt houses, and once more urged political leaders at central and local levels to increase efforts to provide a safe and sustainable returns environment and freedom of movement with the aim of accelerating the returns of refugees, including those of March.
The Contact Group welcomed the proposal to establish a Ministry responsible for community matters, human rights and returns as well as joint visits to potential return areas in view of a rapid launching of initiatives for sustainable returns. To this end immediate steps should be taken to strengthen the PISG capability relating to communities and returns in order to provide a firm foundation for the new structure and to help ensure that the proposed Ministry is able to assume its responsibilities quickly and effectively. Further progress on returns in the coming months will be essential. The Contact Group notes the instrumental role that the UNMIK Office of Returns and Communities plays at this stage, and urges all parties to work cooperatively with ORC, and in close cooperation with KFOR and local law enforcement. Kosovo's municipalities must also actively support returns efforts, and should develop and implement on an urgent basis Municipal Returns Strategies, as set forth in the standards implementation plan.
The Contact Group recalled the commitment of 8 June to support cooperation between UNMIK/KFOR and PISG in their efforts to bring the perpetrators and instigators of the March violence to justice.
Decentralization and Reform of Local Government, Further Empowerment of the PISG, Direct Dialogue
The Contact Group welcomed the intermediate results by the Working Group on Reform of Local Government as a contribution to devolving local authority and improving local services for all communities. It urges all concerned to continue cooperation on this matter, including with regard to identifying suitable areas for the initiation of a first implementing phase (including pilot projects).
The Contact Group stated its support for a further empowerment of the PISG – without prejudice to UNMIK’s overall authority and within the Constitutional Framework and UNSCR 1244 (1999) – in the areas of, inter alia, economic development, energy and rule of law.
The Contact Group urged the parties concerned to re-start Belgrade-Pristina technical dialogue working groups and took note of the readiness reiterated by PISG and UNMIK to this end.
The Contact Group welcomed K-Serb participation in the Kosovo Security Advisory Group and in the working group on local government reform. It urged the K-Serbs to rejoin the institutions, to participate in the standards process and in the upcoming elections. Participation to these processes is the best way of addressing substantive concerns.
The participants re-emphasised the importance of economic development and job creation. In this context they welcomed the re-launch of the privatisation process. The Contact Group called on UNMIK Pillar IV, the KTA and the PISG to work together to ensure there are no further delays.
The Contact Group urged UNMIK to promulgate the mining and minerals regulations so that relevant licences can be approved and to explore ways in which the accumulated fiscal surplus can be used to stimulate the economy.
The Contact Group welcomed the efforts of the PISG and UNMIK to develop an economic development strategy for Kosovo.