At the outset, I thank Mr. Farid Zarif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, for his briefing and Mr. Ivica Dačić, Prime Minister of Serbia, and Mr, Hashim Thaçi, Prime Minsiter of Kosovo, for their statements.
The report of the Secretary-General (S/2014/68) takes stock of the historic year of 2013. The 19 April 2013 Agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, concluded under the auspices of the European Union and the High Representative, is an unprecedented step in the normalization of relations between those two countries. I also congratulate the parties on their tireless pursuit of dialogue since that time. The hopes kindled in the spring have been borne out by reality.
Another landmark event in recent months was the holding of the municipal elections throughout Kosovo. For the first time, all voters in Kosovo went to the polls in a unique constitutional context. The relatively high turnout through the territory, while slightly lower north of the Ibar River, shows the progressive ownership by the Serb population of the Kosovo institutional system. Such events reflect the launching of a momentum both at the bottom and at the highest level of Kosovar society.
In his report, the Secretary-General of course calls on us to look towards the year ahead. In a context marked by elections, the positive trend must continue. It is incumbent upon us to remain mindful of continued dialogue and the political developments of the two States.
In that regard, we will continue to focus on the milestones of the implementation of the 19 April 2013 Agreement between Pristina and Belgrade. Two aspects are rightly underscored in the report of the Secretary-General, that is, the ongoing dismantling of the Serb parallel structures in northern Kosovo and their integration into Kosovar institutions, as well as the establishment of an association/community of Serb municipalities with genuine powers. Those two processes are inseparable.
As stated in the Secretary-General’s report, an increasing number of former Serb police officers from northern Kosovo are signing up to the Kosovo police. That is a sign of the success of the dialogue between the two parties on that issue.
In addition, we call on both parties to continue discussing the establishment of the judicial structures, which will also help to promote trust among the local population in that new institutional framework.
Finally, we encourage the parties to promote the protection of minorities on the ground. The low number of refugees returning to Kosovo remains a cause for concern. Restoring mutual trust between the communities remains the only way for Kosovo and Serbia to open together a new chapter in their history, firmly focused on peace and regional cooperation.
The decision to open European Union accession negotiations with Serbia, on the one hand, and to authorize the European Commission to negotiate a stabilization and association agreement with Kosovo, on the other hand, should also start to be implemented in 2014. Normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo was set by the European Union as a common criterion for their respective European integration. We must now ensure that both parties remain constructively committed in the long term to improving their relations.
The year 2014 will also be the year of the strategic review of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo. That review should take into account developments in the regional context on the one hand and, on the other, the desire of the Kosovo authorities to take on more responsibility in the context of the rule of law. It will therefore be in a context of greater partnership that the Union will seek to help Kosovo in to European integration.
All of those positive developments should be noted by the international community. It is time for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo to adapt its presence to the situation on the ground, in agreement with the Kosovar authorities and based on their effective needs.
Finally, like others have said during this meeting, we believe that the Security Council’s follow-up on this issue should reflect to a greater extent the reality of the relations between the parties and that we should look into reducing the frequency of debates on this issue.
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