I thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for his statement, and I welcome President Jahjaga and President Nikolić.
At the outset, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to President Nikolić following the disaster of exceptional magnitude that has affected his country and neighbouring States bordering the Sava. The international community stands side by side with them in that ordeal. The European Union (EU) and its member States have already mobilized and will continue to bring them the assistance they need.
A year has passed since the historic First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations of 19 April 2013. It is crucial that the spirit of harmony and cooperation that has prevailed continue to reign between the parties in terms of its implementation and that the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade remain regular and of high quality. The parties must remain committed and engaged and retain a constructive spirit in the search for compromise.
We will pay attention, as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General invites us to do, to the pursuit of the effective implementation of the Agreement of 19 April 2013, including the complete dismantling of Serb parallel structures in northern Kosovo; the early conclusion of a legal agreement; and finally the development, in a spirit of openness, of a community of Serb municipalities in Kosovo, with real responsibilities.
We would also like to welcome the decision by the Kosovo Parliament, on 24 April, to ratify an exchange of letters between EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and the President of Kosovo, whom I commend for adopting a responsible attitude. That exchange of letters and its approval by a large majority in Parliament shows Kosovar parties’ and leaders’ vision and thus their political maturity. Thanks to that exchange of letters, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), the strategic review of which was conducted with close cooperation between Pristina and Brussels, has been extended for two additional years.
Moreover, the exchange of letters establishes a Kosovar court of law, the mechanisms of which will enable follow-up, under the best possible conditions, of the work carried out by Lead Prosecutor Williamson of the Special Investigative Task Force. That decision shows the desire of Kosovars to engage in a legal process that will allow for a credible and impartial response to serious allegations. By agreeing to shed light on acts allegedly committed by individuals, Kosovo thus demonstrates that it is ready to close the painful chapter of war, contribute to regional reconciliation and demonstrate its commitment to European values.
We condemn last month’s incident involving a EULEX vehicle, which took place only a few months after the death of a Lithuanian officer in the Mission in the performance of his functions. It is unacceptable that those personnel are endangered, and we recall that all parties must respect the freedom of movement of troops and personnel deployed as part of the Kosovo Force and EULEX. However — and fortunately — Kosovo continues to enjoy a generally calm and stable situation.
France supports the development of a sovereign, peaceful, democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo, living in peace with its neighbours. The parliamentary elections are planned to take place on 8 June. We invite Kosovars from all communities to go to the polls and thus participate in the construction of their common destiny. We call for the holding of transparent and democratic elections, for which the European Union has already deployed a new election observation mission.
It is important to protect the rights of the various communities throughout the territory of Kosovo, in particular regarding their cultural and religious heritage. We strongly condemn any desecration of Serbian monasteries and cemeteries and, more generally, any attack against religious or cultural sites. Such actions should not go unpunished. They must be unanimously condemned for what they are: an obstacle to the emergence of a multi-ethnic State respectful of the rights of its minorities. We encourage fruitful dialogue launched between the authorities in Pristina and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo. In addition, it is also important to facilitate the return of refugees and internally displaced persons in conditions of safety and socioeconomic reintegration.
The positive developments seen in Kosovo over recent years must also be accompanied by concrete measures to strengthen the rule of law and transparency, and to enable the development of a climate favourable to business and economic development. Interference in judicial proceedings is not acceptable.
I conclude by commending the joint progress of Kosovo and Serbia towards Europe following the normalization of their relations. An important step in the negotiations between the European Commission and Pristina with a view towards the finalization of the Stabilization and Association Agreement was begun on 6 May. We hope it will soon be concluded.
Serbia, for its part, has made significant efforts in terms of internal reforms and relations with its neighbours. These culminated in the launch on 21 January of negotiations on accession to the European Union. It is now up to the two countries to uphold their commitments in the context of these negotiations with a view to continuing their respective European integration.
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