UN chief: Community of Municipalities deal's cornerstone

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stresses in his latest report on Kosovo the importance of establishing the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO).

Source: Tanjug

In his latest regular report on the work of the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, covering the period from July 16 to October 15, Ban also emphasized the importance of drafting the future community's statute within the agreed framework, noting that the ZSO is "one of the cornerstones of the Brussels agreement."

The part of the EU-brokered agreement reached in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue relating to the Community of Serb Municipalities has been suspended by Pristina earlier this week.

In his report, Ban welcomes "the continuous progress" in the Brussels dialogue and the agreements reached on August 25, and especially that related to the ZSO.

"The establishment of the association/community is an essential step towards achieving the full implementation of this historic agreement and further improvement in the daily lives of Kosovo’s population," the UN chief stated, and added:

"I congratulate Prime Minister Vucic and Prime Minister Mustafa on their exceptional leadership in carrying this process forward. I encourage all leaders in Pristina and Belgrade to sustain this momentum, including by finalizing the statute of the association/community in the time frame agreed, as well as ensuring swift implementation of all agreements included in the August 25 package."

Ban also "strongly welcomed the much awaited endorsement of the constitutional amendment and other laws to establish the Specialist Court by the Assembly of Kosovo."

"The progress made in this regard has been crucial to demonstrate Kosovo’s commitment to the fundamental principles of justice and accountability. I call upon all stakeholders to expeditiously complete the remaining arrangements for the full and prompt establishment of the court," the report said.

The UN secretary-general then " condemned the use of violence and intimidation by the opposition parties to impede the normal proceedings of the Assembly of Kosovo, as well as the unacceptable physical attacks by opposition activists directed at the prime minister and members of his government."

"I call upon all political actors to refrain from rhetoric and actions that are incompatible with the principles and norms of a civilized and democratic society," Ban said.

The report commended "the progressive steps towards strengthening regional cooperation, as exemplified by the Western Balkans summit in 2015, which focused, among other issues, on cooperation with European financial institutions. Proposed development projects designed to benefit the population of the region, collectively and cooperatively, represent crucial contributions towards the goals of peace and stability."

Ban called for "the swift appointment of the chair of the Pristina Delegation for the Working Group on Missing Persons, so as to facilitate progress without delay on this matter."

When it comes to the security situation, he said it was "generally stable" but that attacks occurred against "non-majority communities' cultural and religious heritage":

"A total of 26 incidents affecting cultural and religious heritage sites have been recorded, 17 of which occurred at Serbian Orthodox sites, 3 at Roman Catholic sites and 1 at an Islamic religious site; an additional case was recorded at the Jewish Community Center in Kosovo and the remaining four targeted other cultural heritage sites."

"The incidents included a number of cases of theft of property from Serbian Orthodox Churches, mainly in eastern Kosovo, and subsequently led to arrests of three suspects by the Kosovo police. On 1 August, four Kosovo Serb members of the Assembly of Kosovo, one of them the deputy president of the Assembly, received telephone threats related to their voting positions in the Assembly. These threats are being investigated by the Kosovo police," said the report.

The report notes that "following the withdrawal of a highly controversial draft law on cultural heritage from discussion at the Assembly of Kosovo in May 2015, Kosovo Prime Minister Mustafa, in dialogue with representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church, initiated the establishment of a working group to fully revise the draft law. The initial draft law, which had aimed at identifying the means to strengthen the preservation and protection of cultural heritage sites, while facilitating their public access, led to expressions of serious concern by the Serbian Orthodox Church, particularly as these sites were defined in the draft law as property of the government of Kosovo."

When it comes to returns, Ban said that "the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registered 213 voluntary returnees to Kosovo between July and September 2015 (123 Kosovo Serbs, 37 Kosovo Egyptians, 23 Kosovo Ashkali, 22 Kosovo Roma, 6 Kosovo Bosniaks, 1 Kosovo Albanian and 1 Kosovo Montenegrin)."


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