18 February 2008 – Following is the statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council on 18 February:
Thank you for this opportunity to bring to the Security Council’s attention recent developments in Kosovo.
I would like to start by joining you in extending a welcome to His Excellency Boris Tadic, President of the Republic of Serbia.
Yesterday, my Special Representative in Kosovo informed me that the Assembly of Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government held a session during which it adopted a ‘declaration of independence’, which declares Kosovo an independent and sovereign State. All of the 109 deputies present voted in favour of this declaration. The 10 Kosovo Serb deputies of the Kosovo Assembly did not attend the session. The declaration states that Kosovo fully accepts the obligations contained in the Comprehensive Proposal for a Kosovo Status Settlement prepared by my Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari. In his address to the Assembly, Prime Minister Thaci stated that there would be equal opportunities for all of Kosovo’s inhabitants and that any discriminatory practices against members of any of Kosovo’s communities would be eliminated. The declaration pledges continued adherence to resolution 1244 (1999), commits Kosovo to continue to work constructively with the United Nations, and expresses gratitude to the United Nations for what it has done for Kosovo.
In much of Kosovo there have been peaceful celebrations by tens of thousands welcoming the declaration. Today in northern Mitrovica, up to 9,000 people peacefully protested against the declaration of independence. The Kosovo Police Service, including Kosovo Serb members, provided security.
The situation has remained calm throughout Kosovo. Two incidents of note have occurred in northern Kosovo. In north Mitrovica yesterday, a hand grenade exploded near a United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Court building causing damage to UNMIK and Kosovo Police Service vehicles. Later in the day, two UNMIK police vehicles were damaged by grenades in the town of Zubin Potok in northern Kosovo. No injuries were reported in either incident. Visits by Serbian Government officials, including the Serbian Minister for Kosovo, Mr. Samardzic, took place throughout the day in a number of locations throughout Kosovo without incident and were facilitated by UNMIK.
Yesterday, I received a letter from the President of the Republic of Serbia informing me that the Republic of Serbia has adopted a decision stating that the declaration of independence by Kosovo represents a forceful and unilateral secession of a part of the territory of the Republic of Serbia, and does not produce any legal effect either in the Republic of Serbia or in the international legal order.
Today, I have received a letter from Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, informing me of the decision by the European Union to deploy a rule of law mission within the framework provided by resolution 1244 (1999), and to appoint a European Union Special Representative for Kosovo who will, among other functions, coordinate the work of the European Union in Kosovo. In his letter, Mr. Solana indicates that he will continue to keep me regularly informed of the implementation of these decisions, so that I can discharge my responsibilities under resolution 1244 (1999), and with the goal of ensuring a close cooperation with UNMIK.
It is my view that these recent developments are likely to have significant operational implications for UNMIK. Pending guidance from the Security Council, UNMIK will continue to consider Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) as the legal framework for its mandate and will continue to implement its mandate in light of the evolving circumstances.
I have instructed my Special Representative to continue to report to me on the situation on the ground, so that the Security Council can be fully apprised of any further developments accordingly.
It is my intention to act in an effective, realistic and concrete manner. In doing so, pending Security Council guidance, I might have to adjust to developments and changes on the ground. My efforts — and those of my Special Representative in Kosovo — are aimed at ensuring that the political and security situation in Kosovo and in the wider region remains stable, and that the population of Kosovo and, in particular, the minority communities are protected.
In this connection, I urge all to reaffirm and act upon their commitments to refrain from any actions or statements that could endanger peace, incite violence or jeopardize security in Kosovo and the region.
During the early emergency phase in 1999, the United Nations facilitated the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons back to Kosovo, coordinated a massive reconstruction effort of damaged and destroyed housing and infrastructure and provided basic services to the population.
The United Nations has been instrumental in moving Kosovo away from the humanitarian and emergency phase to peace consolidation, and the establishment of functional local self-government and administration.
Since 1999, the United Nations has overseen the creation and consolidation of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government at the central and municipal level, with minority representation. The United Nations has created a functional justice system and a multi-ethnic police force, and has successfully organized and overseen five elections. Kosovo now has a vibrant and diversified political party scene. Freedom of movement has improved and inter-ethnic crimes have been reduced. Kosovo has made considerable progress through the years on the implementation of standards, and the standards implementation process is now fully integrated into the European approximation process.
My overriding objectives in addressing the situation in Kosovo are to uphold international peace and security, while ensuring Kosovo’s overall stability and the safety and security of its population. In doing so, my efforts will continue to be aimed at safeguarding and consolidating the significant achievements and the legacy of the United Nations in Kosovo and the Balkans.