Contact Group Statement
Released by Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
December 16, 2004
On December 16, 2004, the Contact Group (CG) met with UNMIK, KFOR, the PISG, opposition leaders, and leaders of the Kosovo Serb community.
The Contact Group referred to the Statement of the CG meeting at the Political Directors’s level, New York September 22, 2004, and in accordance with its conclusions, called upon Kosovo’s new provisional leaders and UNMIK to continue their work to implement the standards, while accelerating efforts to achieve the goals that UNMIK and the Contact Group have identified as immediate priorities. These include reforming local government, increased dialogue between all communities, security for minority communities, return of those displaced from their homes and completion of the reconstruction of the March 2004 events. Immediate priorities also are the successful transfer of competencies, including increased accountability and capacity building of the PISG. The Contact Group noted that obstruction by third parties would not be held against the PISG.
Implementation of these standards will ensure that Kosovo is able to fulfil its basic responsibilities and contribute to the stability of the region.
The Contact Group stressed the absolute necessity of full cooperation with the ICTY by all individuals and institutions in Kosovo.
The Contact Group also called on authorities in Belgrade to re-engage in constructive cooperation in all relevant fields.
The Contact Group expressed full support to the SRSG’s action at the head of UNMIK since his appointment last August and associated to this tribute Commander of KFOR.
Elections and post-elections follow-up
This was the first meeting of Contact Group with the new PISG formed following the October 23 elections. The Contact Group paid tribute to the work done by the former Prime Minister Rexhepi and noted the fact that these elections were conducted in a calm and peaceful atmosphere and were free and fair in accordance with the OSCE and Council of Europe assessments.
Nevertheless, the very low turnout of Kosovo Serbs was disappointing. The Contact Group stressed that the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the political process is the best way for them to promote their legitimate concerns. It urged Kosovo Serbs to take an active role in Kosovo’s institutions and the PISG to do their utmost to reinforce right conditions for such participation.
The Contact Group met with the new PISG and looked forward to working with it to achieve progress on Standards.
The Contact Group stressed that the Assembly will play a key role in passing legislation that is vital to the fulfilment of the KSIP. Passing resolutions outside of the Assembly’s competence is a distraction from fulfilling standards. It is important that the legislative process should be carried out in full conformity with the Constitutional Framework. The Contact Group stressed also its expectation that the opposition will play a constructive role in the Assembly and in the implementation of the Standards. The Contact Group calls on the Presidency of the Assembly to ensure adequate participation and speaking time for the opposition and representatives of all communities in the work of the Assembly in accordance with the Constitutional Framework.
Transfer of competences
The Contact Group welcomed the decision by UNMIK to transfer additional competences to the PISG, leading to the formation of three new ministries (Energy and Mining, Communities and Returns, Local government administration). The Contact Group welcomed UNMIK intention to transfer responsibilities in the field of economy, to be followed later in the areas of justice and police, within the framework of UNSCR 1244 (1999).
The Contact Group stressed that in all of Kosovo’s institutions, there must be full responsibility and accountability. Where there is not, there must be swift action to rectify cases when officials and civil servants have not upheld their duties. The Contact Group welcomed the announced readiness of the SRSG to make robust use of his powers to sanction and remove those who fail to perform.
As the ‘’Standards for Kosovo’’ document states, the future for Kosovo must be one in which all people, "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’’. The standards process remains the core of the International Community’s policy in Kosovo and places the primary responsibility for progress in the hands of the people of Kosovo and will help Kosovo to move towards European integration.
As time is running, the Contact Group stressed the importance of an effective UNMIK-PISG partnership to advance this goal. The Standards Implementation Working Groups provide a valuable opportunity to monitor progress on the standards on a regular basis and the Contact Group call on the PISG to make more active use of this tool. The Contact Group expressed its continued interest and commitment to contribute to UNMIK’s quarterly technical assessment of standards, the first report of which last month confirmed that progress has been made in some areas but is still lacking in others. For a positive outcome to the comprehensive review, the first opportunity of which would occur around mid-2005, the process must be speeded up substantially.
The Contact Group reiterated the importance of the ongoing local government reform, under the responsibility of the SRSG, as an indispensable part of the Standards process to provide better services at local level for all, taking into account the special needs of the non-majority communities. The Contact Group welcomed the resumption of the Working Group on Local Government Reform and called for the immediate implementation of pilot projects. The Contact Group also called for rapid passage and implementation of the necessary legislative amendments. The implementation of the first pilot projects should start by February 2005.
The Contact Group stressed the importance of the participation by Kosovo Serb representatives in the process as the best way to address their interests and concerns. Only by actively participating they will be able to fully make their contribution. The Contact Group noted that the Working Group had reiterated its invitation, passed by the SRSG to the Government of Serbia, for Belgrade representatives to get constructively engaged in the work of the Group under the responsibility of the SRSG, thereby enriching the process, and encouraged Belgrade to accept that invitation.
The Contact Group reiterated its concern about the economic situation and the necessity to accelerate work on setting up a coherent development strategy for Kosovo. It looks forward to the appointment of a new head of Pillar IV and will encourage him to develop both short and long term agendas for economic development. Quick impact projects at the local level are of especially high importance.
The Contact Group appreciated the European Union continuing assistance in support of the capacity building of the PISG and welcomed the European Commission’s decision to increase funding for Kosovo with a package of 23.9 million Euros of additional assistance which will contribute to the economic development and sustainability of all communities in Kosovo.