Regional stability still at risk without ‘increased commitment’ to negotiations: UN Kosovo mission chief
© Unsplash/Rexhep Ibrahimi Pristina, Kosovo's capital
UN Special Representative and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission, Caroline Ziadeh, told ambassadors that the most recent Secretary-General’s report on developments in Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 but is not recognized by Serbia, “included serious challenges as well as an important collective effort to bring Belgrade-Pristina relations nearer to stability and normalisation.”
She acknowledged recent tensions, “even during the most recent days”, between the Serb minority – where in the four municipalities bordering Serbia, Belgrade is seen as the capital, not Pristina – and Kosovar authorities.
“Without increased commitment to the mechanism of renewed negotiations, failures of confidence could worsen within Kosovo, with direct consequences for regional stability”, said Ms. Ziadeh.
Pristina and Belgrade have been involved in European Union-led talks for nearly a decade, and in February, Kosovo’s Prime Minister and the Serbian President, held talks in Ohrid, North Macedonia, stopping short of signing a landmark EU-backed deal, according to news reports.
Nonetheless, agreement on some principles were reached, noted the UNMIK chief, which should now be “matched by courageous leadership action, from the parties and from the stewards and supporters of the negotiations.”
“Specific commitments” were made despite the lack of final agreement, she said, but “achieving actual progress demands that confidence be rebuilt among those who have grown suspicious of the intentions of each side.”
She said public confidence had drained away in recent months, with ethnic Serbs boycotting local elections last weekend, following a withdrawal of Serbs from Kosovo institutions last November.
“Reassurance is necessary in order to replace the feelings of mistrust and uncertainty felt by ordinary inhabitants” all round, she added, calling for the rhetoric to be tamped down.
She said UNMIK was supporting progress towards normalised relations and economic development, and implementing solutions where it could.
“Our focus is on the empowerment of communities to flourish in spaces where ethnically divisive prejudice and political rhetoric is being transcended”, she told the Council.
By “empowering trust-building champions”, the mission is seeking to mark a “genuine path toward a more sustainable, peaceful and ultimately prosperous future.”
Some of the Mission’s bridge-building projects, include supporting language rights and learning, through sponsoring a language learning platform in Albanian and Serbian, and support for the Missing Persons Resource Center.
“We are promoting – and will continue to promote – the empowerment of youth and women leaders by providing substantial platforms for their engagement in all levels of decision-making” said Ms. Ziadeh.