Statement on Report of the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jean-Claude Schlumberger

As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly to the Permanent Council,

Vienna, February 7, 2013

The United States joins in welcoming Ambassador Schlumberger to the Permanent Council and we thank him for his comprehensive report.  The OSCE plays an important role in the progress Kosovo is making, and it does so in conjunction with other key players.

We applaud Prime Ministers Dacic and Thaci for their commitment to the EU-facilitated dialogue in Brussels, and the willingness of both the Government of Kosovo and the Government of Serbia to make progress toward normalizing relations.  We welcome the efforts of the two governments to implement the Integrated Border Management agreement, and to appoint liaison officers who will work to improve communication between Kosovo and Serbia.  Both sides must now work constructively to formulate a plan for northern Kosovo, including the dismantling of parallel institutions.

We strongly condemn the acts of vandalism targeting the Kosovo Serb community in response to the Serbian government’s decision to remove a monument on January 20th in the Presevo Valley of Serbia. The response by the Government of Kosovo was prompt and appropriate, and demonstrated the seriousness with which it viewed these incidents.  We urge the Government of Kosovo and the Kosovo Police to continue efforts to ensure that calm prevails, and to fully investigate these incidents and to bring the perpetrators of these incidents to justice.  We urge the Government of Serbia to investigate reports of retaliatory acts of vandalism against ethnic Albanian communities in the Presevo Valley.

We also note our serious concern about incidents of violence that marred the launch by local magazine Kosovo 2.0 of its issue on sex and sexuality, including the human rights of LGBT individuals, and a subsequent attack on an LGBT rights NGO.  We appreciate that a large number of Government of Kosovo officials, including the Prime Minister, several Ministers, and the Ombudsperson — as well as the OSCE Mission in Kosovo and other international presences in Kosovo — quickly issued statements condemning the attacks.  We are encouraged that the Kosovo Police established a Task Force to respond to these events and to prevent similar incidents in future.

Turning back to the specific work of your Mission, we thank you for detailing for us the wide-ranging and extensive work of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo.  We call particular attention to the focus the Mission has placed on human rights and rule of law through police training, work on regulatory measures, and support for the human rights committee of the Assembly of Kosovo.

We appreciate the Mission’s attention to the involvement of the public in local decision-making, through work with civil society organizations and municipal governments.  We believe that good governance at the local level will in turn lead to greater cooperation between the government and the people, across all ethnic groups.

Lastly, we commend the Mission for its work with and reporting on Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities.  We look forward to additional reporting on this during the coming year from the Mission.  We commend the Government of Kosovo and international partners on officially closing the Osterode camp and relocating the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian families to new housing in Mitrovica.  We urge similar efforts to ensure that the lead-contaminated camp in Leposavic can also be closed soon.

Much work remains in Kosovo, and indeed across the region.  While we see important progress on some levels, constructive talks between the Kosovo and Serbian Governments, and positive steps by the Kosovo government itself, we sense from this report and other observers that what remains lacking is a commitment by many of the citizens themselves to move beyond the ethnic tensions that brought about so much death and destruction in the recent past.  We urge the Mission in Kosovo, and other involved actors, to explore new approaches to develop and foster forward-looking attitudes and actions among all the people of Kosovo.

The United States stands ready to work with all participating States to pursue and make progress on all these issues, for the benefit of all the people of Kosovo and the surrounding region.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.