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Statement by Martti Ahtisaari

Statement by Martti Ahtisaari, the UN Secretary-General' s Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo before the 2007 Ordinary Session of the CoE Parliamentary Assembly

Wednesday 24 January

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, Dear parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for your invitation to address your Parliamentary Assembly. Since 1999 the Council of Europe has played a key role in the international community's efforts in promoting human rights and good governance in Kosovo. The CoE expertise in these issues has been, and will continue to be, essential even after Kosovo's status has been resolved.

I would like to take this opportunity here today to provide you with an overview and assessment of where we stand in the status process. I will also brief you on the preparatory work being undertaken for transition from UNMIK to an eventual future international presence in Kosovo following the status resolution. Finally, I will highlight what the CoE's future role in Kosovo could be within the overall envisioned international engagement.

As Special Envoy of the UN SG for the status of Kosovo for the past year I have led the talks between the parties to determine the future status of a territory that has been administered by UNMIK for almost 8 years. Throughout the talks, I have continually assessed the dynamics and developments of the process itself while taking into account the reality of the situation on the ground in Kosovo.

During the future status process, our objective has been to build the foundations for a Kosovo where members of all communities - in particular the Kosovo Serb and other minority communities - can live a dignified, safe and economically sustainable life. Our objective should remain to build a multiethnic society, but we need to be realistic and should be under no illusions: this will require time and cannot happen without the cooperation of all of Kosovo's communities.

Together with my team I have brought the representatives of Serbia and Kosovo together for numerous direct and proximity talks on a range of issues, namely, decentralization, cultural and religious heritage, community rights, and economic issues. My staff has engaged in constant and intense expert-level discussions with both sides. These efforts have been part of a "bottom-up approach", geared towards finding areas of concrete agreement between the sides on issues of direct relevance to Kosovo's minority communities, in particular the Kosovo Serbs. Our fundamental objective has been to create the political, institutional, economic and societal foundations for a Kosovo in which all of its communities can coexist in peace.

As requested by the Foreign Ministers of the Contact Group countries in New York on 20 September, I am now finalising my comprehensive proposal for a status settlement. My proposal takes into account the results of the talks between the sides, and, where no agreement was reached, I have proposed solutions that I judge to be fair and balanced. My settlement proposal focuses strongly on the protection of minority rights, in particular of the Kosovo Serbs. It provides the foundations for a democratic and multiethnic Kosovo in which the rights and interests of all members of its communities are firmly guaranteed and protected by institutions based on the rule of law. It also foresees strong international civilian and military presences within a broader future international engagement in Kosovo. With the recent conclusion of Serbia's parliamentary elections, I am now preparing to present my proposal to the parties without delay in the near future.

One of our key challenges in our proposal has been to define the scope and scale of the international community's future engagement in Kosovo. In the past few months this process has moved forward considerably. A future International Civilian Representative, or "ICR", is envisaged, whose mandate will be to supervise implementation of the Settlement, and who would also be the EU Special Representative. Co-ordination mechanisms with other international organizations, including the CoE, will also be essential to ensure that these organizations work together effectively in Kosovo. Such mechanisms are envisaged in my proposal.

Preparing the ground early and properly for an effective transition to a future international civilian presence and start of implementation is central to our overall efforts. As part of the preparations for this transition, my Office has participated in a number of meetings involving the EU, the OSCE, NATO, the United States and UNMIK. An EU-led ICO transition team has been bringing forward technical preparations on the ground in Kosovo. I am pleased to see that this ICO preparation team, UNMIK and the Kosovo government have intensified their cooperation by establishing a joint transition planning structure.

Although the role of a future international engagement will be critical, we should bear in mind that the major responsibility for an effective implementation of the settlement will lie with the Kosovo authorities. It will be very important that Pristina fully and formally commits itself to implementing all elements of an eventual settlement. But it will not only be an issue of political will. Pristina also has to have the necessary means and institutional capacity to implement the provisions of a settlement.

Mr. President,

From the start of the future status process, my firm and consistent view has been that the CoE should continue to play an important role in the international community's future efforts in Kosovo, following the determination of its future status. In order to prepare for this role, it is of utmost importance that the liaison and coordination at all levels between the CoE and other partners, be as effective and results-oriented as possible. In particular, I would encourage the CoE in Kosovo and the ICO transition team to cooperate closely on the ground in Kosovo.

My Office has benefited immensely from the assistance given by experts of the CoE on decentralisation, and promotion and protection of religious and cultural heritage, and on constitutional matters where we have had very good co-operation with the Venice Commission in particular. I believe that the CoE's expertise and institutional knowledge in the areas of human rights and rule of law will continue to be of considerable value for the democratic development of Kosovo. Specifically, overseeing the application of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities through the existing monitoring mechanism is a strong tool to promote full and effective equality of national minorities (communities) in Kosovo. In addition, we are currently envisaging a role for the CoE in monitoring Kosovo's implementation of the settlement with regard to the protection of the cultural and religious heritage.

As we move forward in the future status process, we are increasingly faced with the need to prepare the ground for a transition of UNMIK's powers, responsibilities and functions from UNMIK to the institutions that will be established under the political settlement, as well as to the future International Civilian Representative and broader future international engagement. I envisage that the CoE will play an important role in such a future engagement, and I look to you for your continuing support of our common efforts.

Thank you.

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