Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia H.E. Nikola Selaković at the meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the report on the work of UNMIK:
Distinguished Mister President of the Security Council,
Esteemed members of the Security Council,
Distinguished Special Representative,
I have the great honour to address this august body once again, on the occasion of the latest report of the Secretary-General on the work of the United Nations Mission in the territory of our southern province, Kosovo and Metohija.
I would like to emphasize once again that the Republic of Serbia sees the engagement of UNMIK as one of the key factors for maintaining peace and security in Kosovo and Metohija.
The situation in Kosovo and Metohija is far from normal and stable. In this part of our country, citizens of Serbian nationality, as well as other non-Albanians, are still distressed and are facing each new day with great apprehension, because they are uncertain if their fundamental human rights could be violated or denied. Such feelings are a reaction to the instability generated by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Pristina. The goal of Pristina, based on everything we have been witnessing on the ground, is to have even more Serbs and other non-Albanians leave Kosovo and Metohija and to terminate any form of cultural and national diversity.
The report on the work of UNMIK that we are considering today provides an overview of the situation with a description of the events that marked the reporting period. We would like the report to be more elaborate and explicit when it comes to the assessment of events and their causes, so that we can examine the developments in Kosovo and Metohija more comprehensively and in the true light.
There are evident problems in Kosovo and Metohija, and it is necessary to precisely identify the causes in order to solve them. Creating an artificial balance and putting a sign of equality between the two sides when looking at crisis situations does not contribute in any way whatsoever to reaching a substantial solution to the problem. Unless we clearly define what causes the problems, they will recur and become more complex.
For all persons living in Kosovo and Metohija, it is extremely important to send a message from this meeting to those who have the authority in their hands and who have the capacity to change the situation for the better. And that message should point to the need to establish interethnic trust by having the provisional institutions in Pristina respect the agreements reached, implement what was agreed and harmonize their actions with international standards regarding the rule of law and human rights.
Esteemed members of the Security Council,
On 16 January this year, the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Pristina, contrary to UNSC Resolution 1244, but also to all democratic principles, banned the organization of a referendum in Kosovo and Metohija on amending the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia in the field of the judiciary. Despite the great efforts of international factors, including the countries of the Quint and the European Union, to ensure that this does not happen, Pristina repeated this illegal act and made it impossible to organize the presidential and parliamentary elections of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija on 3 April this year. We note that this was the first time since 1999 that citizens in Kosovo and Metohija were prevented from participating in the elections of the Republic of Serbia, which was a violation, among other things, of the clearly defined mandate of the OSCE Mission regarding the organization of elections. By doing so, the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Pristina once again demonstrated their discriminatory character and sent a message that unilateralism is the principle on which they act.
In the same way, that is - unilaterally, on 20 September, the Provisional Institutions deployed special police units, with armoured vehicles, at two administrative crossings to central Serbia, which confiscated license plates of vehicles from the north of Kosovo and Metohija and central Serbia. The manner in which this was done showed that their goal was clearly to intimidate Serbs from the north of the province, and what came as a consequence was a justified revolt of the local population.
The Serbs who are victims of such actions do not find the wounds to be as painful as the terror that is carried out daily by Pristina against the Serbian people, both south and north of the river Ibar. I have just quoted the words of Srecko Sofronijevic from the town of Zvecan in Kosovo and Metohija, uttered while he was lying in a hospital bed. On October 13, members of the special police shot him in the back with a firearm, when they made an incursion into the north of the province for the ninth time, contrary to the Brussels Agreement, that is - illegally. We would prefer it if his name was included in the Report we are discussing today.
Fear of uncertainty among Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija is also caused by the work done by the judiciary, which acts on secret indictments, contrary to all international standards. The sad reality is that today in Kosovo and Metohija, if you are a Serb, you can be sentenced to many years in prison on the basis of unverified or contradictory witness statements, without irrefutable and unambiguous material evidence. This indicates the practice of passing judgments according to one’s ethnicity, not according to law and justice.
The malignant nationalism of the authorities in Pristina is manifested through ignoring the political representatives of Serbs in institutions thus making decisions without their participation and readiness to permanently remove the leaders of the Serb community through politically mounted investigations and judicial proceedings. This creates an atmosphere of complete insecurity and leads to the exodus of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija. To illustrate this, let me remind you of the events in the municipality of Strpce on December 21, 2021, in which 11 Serbs were arrested, including former mayor and vice president of the Serbian List, Bratislav Nikolic, who is still in custody under the alleged fight against corruption. On that same occasion, the employees in the municipality were informed that they were no longer coming to work, which brought into question the existence of dozens of Serbian families.
Esteemed members of the Security Council,
Pristina has been openly saying for a long time that the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities, envisaged by the Brussels Agreement, will not be allowed. This not only undermines the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, but also directly humiliates international factors, primarily the European Union. With such statements, Pristina sends a message to the Serbian people in the province that they should not count on the exercise of collective rights, and such disenfranchisement should ultimately lead to Serbs disappearing entirely from Kosovo and Metohija.
Unfortunately, there are still many ethnically motivated incidents, hate speech, intimidation, violations of the right to a fair trial, threatening the rights to the freedom of movement and religious rights, desecration of churches and cemeteries, and instead of spending good part of your precious time listing them, a non-paper was distributed to you detailing the recorded incidents against Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija during the reporting period.
The number and nature of incidents, and only in the reporting period there were 63 according to our records, unequivocally speaks of the high degree of threat and exposure to continuous discrimination against the Serb and other non-Albanian population. The cause-and-effect relationship between the issue of the return of displaced persons and the number of incidents on ethnic grounds is obvious. In such conditions, the reasons why there are still more than 200,000 internally displaced Serbs and other non-Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija in the Republic of Serbia are easy to understand. We are convinced that it is in this context in particular that UNMIK could and should play an important role.
We welcome the UN Secretary General’s call for enabling the return of internally displaced persons. To this end, concrete measures are needed to ensure, inter alia, the safety of returnees and full respect for the property rights of displaced persons. We did not get the impression that the institutions in Pristina have the political will to change the situation for the better. We are witnessing the opposite. Serbs are intimidated in various ways, encouraged to leave their homes, and displaced persons are discouraged from returning to their places of birth. Such a practice is not in line with the values and principles publicly proclaimed by Pristina.
We would like to see a clear political will and measures to prove that discrimination on national grounds is not a desirable social value in Kosovo and Metohija, and that coexistence is possible and necessary. The fastest and most efficient way to do that is to respect valid international legal documents and concluded agreements.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the Republic of Serbia will continue to constantly draw the attention of the international community to the problems in Kosovo and Metohija. Serbia is committed to the respect of international law and full implementation of UNSCR 1244, which includes further UNMIK engagement and the presence of KFOR, as a guarantor of peace and security. It is equally important that these international missions continue to operate in undiminished capacity, taking into account what has been said in today's debate.
Thank you for your attention!