Joint Statement of the Contact Group on Kosovo
Released by Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Meeting in Pristina for the first time, the Contact Group declares its intention to step up its engagement in Kosovo. The Contact Group will meet periodically in Pristina and actively support the work of UNMIK, KFOR and the PISG and intends to foster enhanced cooperation among them. During this first such Pristina visit, the Contact Group held discussions with UNMIK, the PISG, and leaders of Kosovo’s Albanian and Serbian communities.
We are meeting in the shadow of violent attacks on people and property in Kosovo that cost 19 lives and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes, churches, monasteries, hospitals and schools. We firmly condemn the violence that occurred against the people of Kosovo, as well as against KFOR and UNMIK.
This violence of last month was a severe setback to the vision we have for the future of Kosovo. That vision remains a multi-ethnic Kosovo where all its citizens live in peace and security. The Contact Group affirms its commitment to the "Standards Before Status" policy and the Standards Review process, including a comprehensive review date in mid 2005 as set out in the UNSC Presidential Statement of 12 December 2003. The recent violence has set Kosovo and the Standards process back. Several critical Standards were trampled upon. It is now up to Kosovo leaders and institutions to work in genuine partnership with UNMIK to create the conditions for a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo. We therefore welcome the release of the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan, and note the document’s reference that portions will require revision -- and strengthening in key areas -- in light of the March violence. The Contract Group accords particular priority to elements relating to multi-ethnicity in all standards, especially in the rule of law, freedom of movement, returns and reintegration and in development of initiatives for effective central and local government.
The Contact Group commends the "Letter from Institutional and Political Leaders to the People of Kosova of April 2." We commend the leadership shown by Prime Minister Rexhepi in responding to the violence and in reaching out to affected communities. In the short-term, reconstruction of the damage caused in the rioting to the same quality as before the violence is an imperative. Appropriate compensation should be paid. A comprehensive returns’ plan should be established. The Contact Group welcomes the PISG’s allocation of several million euros from the Kosovo Consolidated Budget for reconstruction. Arrangements should be made with the Serbian Orthodox church to begin the repair of churches and monasteries destroyed or damaged.
The Contact Group urges Kosovo political institutions to work with UNMIK and KFOR to ensure the security of all communities. We note with approval that nearly 200 persons, including some accused of organizing the violence, have been arrested. The people and institutions of Kosovo should cooperate to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of the many unsolved murders in Kosovo. The Kosovo Police Service needs more extensive training, particularly in riot control, and greater responsibility. The Kosovo Albanian side undertook to produce a report on actions taken for UNMIK and the contact Group.
The Contact Group heard in detail from the Kosovo Serb leaders. It urged Kosovo Serbs to re-join fully the political process and re-enter the central and municipal political institutions from which they have withdrawn. Their future lies in Kosovo. Whatever the final status of Kosovo will be, it is in everyone’s interest to participate in the institutions officially established by the international community in Kosovo. This will greatly facilitate progress on all the standards, which will enhance the lives of members of every community. The Contact Group also asked these Kosovo Serb leaders to produce a report for UNMIK and the Contact Group.
The Kosovo economy remains an area of great concern. Kosovo urgently needs job creation. Market economic reform is proceeding too slowly. The Contact Group urges UNMIK and the PISG to improve their cooperation in order to get privatization moving.
The Contact Group observes that Kosovo has taken important fundamental steps in establishing functioning democratic institutions -- a functioning Presidency, Government, and Assembly, all chosen in several elections judged free and fair. One area under this standard where the recent violence highlighted inadequate performance was the media, where sensationalist reporting by some newspapers and TV stations may have contributed to the violence. The Contact Group calls on UNMIK to clamp down on irresponsible print and broadcast journalism.
The Contact Group hopes that the institutions and people of Kosovo, with the participation of all communities who live here, will rise to this challenge, repair the damage caused by the violence of last month, and re-embark on the project of creating "A Kosovo where all -- regardless of ethnic background, race or religion -- are free to live, work and travel without fear, hostility or danger and where there is tolerance, justice and peace for everyone."