I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey and Croatia*, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
Let me begin by thanking the Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of UNMIK, Mr. Søren Jessen-Petersen for his briefing and by reiterating the European Unions full support for his work.
Since the Secretary General and the Special Representative last reported to the Council on the situation in Kosovo in February, some important progress has been achieved. We note foremost that the Provisional Institutions of Self-government (PISG) have shown an encouraging and demonstrable level of commitment to move forward in the implementation of the standards.
The security situation during the period under review was generally calm. We commend the political leaders for their behaviour and demonstration of maturity in handling the announcement by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of the indictment of the former Prime Minister and the rather smooth process leading to the appointment of a new Prime Minister. Cooperation with the ICTY has of course been and remains for the European Union a key issue in Kosovo and throughout the region, as it impacts directly on its progress towards its European ambitions.
The European Union attaches great importance to the establishment of a direct and sustained high-level dialogue between all Kosovo communities, as well as between Belgrade and Pristina and notes with interest that meetings between the respective Presidents and Prime Ministers might take place soon. It furthermore calls upon all the communities to actively participate in the PISG as well as in all the ongoing processes. In that context, the EU welcomes the participation for the first time this week of Kosovo Serb representatives at the meeting of the decentralization working group and calls upon Belgrade to encourage further Kosovo Serb participation in the political life of Kosovo.
The European Union shares the Secretary Generals assessment that, given the PISGs commitment and the progress being achieved on the previously identified priority areas, and assuming that such progress will continue uninterrupted, the comprehensive review foreseen in the Presidential statement of the Security Council of 12 December 2003 should go ahead this summer. We therefore support the Secretary Generals intention to designate a special envoy to conduct this review in the near future and welcome the envisaged inclusive nature and broad scope of the review process.
Despite this assessment that sufficient progress has been made to justify starting an exhaustive evaluation at this point in time, the European Union nevertheless recognizes that none of the eight standards have been entirely fulfilled and that deficiencies remain in key priority areas.
The PISG and Kosovos political leaders should therefore be aware that the outcome of the review process and the initiation of any further steps thereafter are not a foregone conclusion. Implementation of the standards is a long-term endeavour and is expected to continue throughout the evaluation process and beyond.
When I had the opportunity to address the Council on this issue in February, I mentioned the protection of minority communities, the return of refugees and displaced persons, freedom of movement and decentralization as those areas that needed particular attention given their direct link to our common goal of a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. In his report, the Secretary General notes some measure of improvement in most of these areas (although much remains to be done), except as concerns the central issue of local government reform and in particular decentralization, where progress has been lacking in comparison. As the Secretary General points out, achieving concrete results in the local government reform process will influence prospects for the political process to determine Kosovos future status. It is therefore essential to move forward rapidly in the implementation of pilot projects, including those located in majority Kosovo Serb areas.
Despite the many justified caveats, the Secretary Generals recommendation to initiate a critical and comprehensive review of standards implementation this summer is a momentous event for the people of Kosovo. It should be interpreted as both a recognition by the international community of progress already achieved and a powerful incentive to maintain and increase the momentum of ongoing reforms. The European Union will assist a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo, characterized by the protection it provides to its minorities, in its efforts to realize its European perspective, regardless of its future status.
* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilization and Association Process.