Briefing by Caroline Ziadeh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, at the UN Security Council Meeting Called by Serbia on Kosovo

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February 8, 2024

Caroline Ziadeh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) recalled that two agreements were reached — in Brussels on 27 February 2023 and in Ohrid, North Macedonia, on 18 March 2023 — establishing a pathway for negotiations and mutual engagement.  However, disagreement over implementation stalled progress.

Subsequently, by-elections in northern Kosovo resulted in mayors being elected by barely 3.47 per cent of eligible voters, and ensuing clashes on 29 May 2023 resulted in significant injuries to civilians and Kosovo Force (KFOR) personnel.  These events — along with the serious security incident in Banjska/Banjskë on 24 September 2023 that led to fatalities — “were serious setbacks”, she reported.  There was some positive momentum that emerged at the end of 2023, however, such as progress achieved over license plates, an energy road map, customs documentation and the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the initiation of a referendum to recall the aforementioned mayors.

Despite that, she stressed that unilateral actions on issues that clearly fall within the political-dialogue process and its governing agreements are cause for great concern.  “Regardless of which side takes them and what justifications are provided, and in the absence of unambiguous public communications, such actions predictably exacerbate an environment of insecurity and mistrust,” she observed. She then recalled that the Central Bank of Kosovo adopted a regulation on 27 December 2023, announcing that the euro will be the only currency allowed for cash transactions in Kosovo as of 1 February 2024.  Limited public explanation was offered, even though the Serbian dinar has served as the primary currency for cash and commercial transactions in Kosovo-Serb majority areas since 1999.  Tens of thousands of individuals are affected — as is the economy, which depends on their purchasing power.  Further, such regulation interrupts payment to individuals employed by Serbian-funded institutions, certain agricultural and social-welfare subsidies and pension recipients, among others.

She went on to report that, in response to the “obvious concerns” this has raised, Kosovo authorities announced, on 6 February, a transitional period of one month for implementation.  However, a cash-transfer truck was prevented entry into Kosovo on 7 February, while some 4 million Serbian dinars confiscated by the Kosovo Police on 3 February still await judicial and administrative action. Against that backdrop, she underscored that those taking actions — regardless of their legality and justification — must consider their impact on affected populations.  “Otherwise, such actions not only increase tensions, but also weaken the potential for lasting peace and security across all communities in Kosovo,” she emphasized, adding that “more should be done to win the hearts and minds of non-majority communities”.  On that, she detailed Kosovo Police operations targeting facilities used by the Serbian non-majority community in four municipalities and Pristina on 26 January and 2 February, as well as a police operation in Pejë/Peć that reportedly targeted a team of journalists from the only Kosovo-Serb media outlet in the region on 2 January.

“As you know, UNMIK and our main partners place the highest importance on ensuring the freedoms of media and expression at all times,” she stressed, stating that neither the Central Bank’s new regulation nor these recent police operations have contributed to the de-escalation for which international interlocutors have repeatedly called.  Efforts towards negotiated, mutually accepted solutions must not falter, and continuous effort to build greater mutual trust and respect are the only viable path to stability, prosperity and security.  She added:  “History has repeatedly shown that just solutions do not emerge from unilateral actions, but rather from a sustained and painstaking commitment to open communication and dialogue.”

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