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Kosovo: UNMIK Briefing On 'Use Of Languages' Law

Kosovo: Press Briefing Transcript for briefing of 09 Jul 2008

Source: United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)

UNMIK Spokesperson Russell Geekie

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I turn over to Elli for our only statement today.

OSCE Spokesperson Elli Flen

Today the OSCE Mission publishes the report on how the municipalities in Kosovo have implemented the law on use of languages. The report recommends among other things that the authorities should inform the people in Kosovo about their language rights. People are not always aware of their rights to use their own language which is of course a basic human right. The report is available in English, Albanian, Serbian, Turkish and Romani on the OSCE webpage. A press release will be issued this morning, and you will find copies of the press release at the door. Thank you.

UNMIK Spokesperson Russell Geekie

Any questions?

Express: Russell, is Mr. Zannier going today to Belgrade and what is his agenda?

Russell: His agenda today is not to go to Belgrade, actually. As he has made very clear in his recent statements, he is perfectly willing and available to travel to Belgrade, to meet with the new Government. However, let us keep in mind that the Government was only formed, by vote of Parliament, on Monday afternoon if I am not mistaken, so he does expect to go, he expects to have a very positive interaction with the new Government of Belgrade. I cannot tell you when. At this point I am sure the Government will extend an invitation. In terms of the agenda, it is the practical, technical issues, the type of issues that were outlined by the Secretary-General in his letters to Presidents Tadic and Sejdiu.

Express: It was originally planned that he would go today. Did they send any confirmation that they don't want to meet him or what happened?

Russell: Again, he is available to go, there was no definite plan that he would go today. He is available. He looks forward to meeting the new Government, but I just cannot give you the date now. Nothing has happened as far as I know, but again you can ask the Government in Belgrade.

RTK: What exactly means available? Is he expecting an invitation from Belgrade so he can go? Because I think yesterday Mr. Zannier was expecting an invitation to go to Belgrade, other than that he will not go there. Now let us talk about north again as many, many times. Before Sunday when Mr. Zannier was going to visit the north we thought he was going to deal with the problems that are going on there for months. But he didn't visit the courts, he only met with political parties, Serb representatives and Albanians, et cetera. When will UNMIK start dealing with the real problems which are totally your responsibility? I mean let us talk about the courts which are for almost four months now absolutely not functional.

Russell: I will take the easy question first, if you don't mind: look, again on the trip to Belgrade, the Government was just formed. He signaled his intention to meet with the new Government, as far as I know the new Government would appreciate meeting with him as well. It is really, as far as I am concerned, a matter of when. It is a timing issue, it is a schedule issue, et cetera. So I am sure he will travel to Belgrade.

Regarding Mr. Zannier's trip to north Mitrovica, he has made it very clear that he wants to facilitate dialogue and cast his net as wide as possible with different groups. He had meetings with people, for instance, members or representatives of all Kosovo Serb political parties, with Kosovo Albanian community representatives from northern Mitrovica as well, and he discussed issues of mutual concern including the courts. We can assure you that the courts issue remains a priority issue for the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and he will continue to work to resolve that.

Glas Juga: Does the fact that Mr. Zannier is meeting with some municipal leaders in northern Kosovo mean their recognition as legal parties?

Russell: You know our position. UNMIK has not recognized these mayors as the mayors, but yesterday he met with these leaders as representatives or members of political parties. I think that he said this in his press point, just to be clear about that.

Kosova Press: Zannier has suspended construction works of water supply in Suhodoll village and their demand was to obtain prior permission from parallel Serbian structures. Why did he do this and what is the main authority, the highest in Kosovo for the time being? Is it you, UNMIK, or someone else?

Russell: Just to be clear: as far as I know, and I know it may not have been reported this way, the Special Representative did not order anyone to stop construction. What he did was to have a very constructive meeting with Mayor Rexhepi on, I believe Tuesday evening, where this issue came up, and possible solutions came up and one of them was to actually suspend construction to provide time for everyone to cool down. And the SRSG supports that; he thinks that at this time it is very important for him to facilitate dialogue, for all sides to dialogue and to find a way forward and it was quite useful to have a cool-down period. I think that this is something that benefits all communities; it benefits Kosovo-Albanian community, Kosovo-Serb community up there, so we really want to find a way forward and maybe by suspending construction it provided a breathing space.

Kosova Press: Can you please tell us what is the main authority in Kosovo, is it UNMIK or Kosovo institutions?

Russell: I am not a lawyer. What I can tell you is that Security Council resolution 1244 remains in place. That is from where UNMIK derives its mandate and that is also where the SRSG derives his authority. I would just have to leave it there.

KTV: Russell, can you clarify who is for the time being administrating the municipality of Strpce? We know that the mandate was extended by the Government of Kosova but we know that there is another head of the municipality that has derived from the parallel structures of 11 May elections. Can you clarify who is, for the time being, administrating because there is a kind of confusion on sharing of power?

Russell: As we all know, this is not an easy situation. It is a difficult situation. What the SRSG is doing right now, you know, he is working and he is trying to create a problem-solving environment where we can work on issues like this. He is talking to different prospective leaders, et cetera, to really find the way forward. At this time, the main thing is that there is no security lapse or anything like that and I think that that is very important to underline and we will continue to work on this issue because I think it is in all sides interest to have really adequate representation for all minorities. I think Pristina wants this, Kosovo Serbs want this, et cetera.

KTV: You are saying that you are going to work on this issue. Are you going to discuss this issue with the parallel structures?

Russell: Look, again, just to be clear, UNMIK has not recognized the mayor of Strpce who was derived from May 11 elections. However, the SRSG is, as I said, casting his net wide to discus with as many representatives, leaders, call them what you will, as possible to really find the way forward.

Blic: A question for Russell and for Veton: how do you interpret the statement or information from the Hague Tribunal that the Hague Tribunal gave full support to the public prosecutor for war crimes in Serbia to investigate crimes regarding human body parts trafficking? And a question for Veton: how far has the investigation gone regarding the involvement into drug smuggling by people of the Assembly of Kosovo and if you have in mind data from yesterday, 20 kilos of drugs have been found on the border in Merdare? Is at this moment Kosovo exposed to more and more receiving of drugs? How do you manage to prevent further import of drugs into Kosovo?

Russell: On the ICTY question, to be clear let us look at the history of this: in 2002, when UNMIK first heard about these allegations, UNMIK referred this matter to the ICTY prosecutor, who was really best suited to investigate these allegations. The prosecutor at that time did look into the matter and did not find sufficient evidence to pursue an investigation further. As we all know, this issue came up again this year and when it did, UNMIK again contacted ICTY and shared all information that UNMIK had, which wasn't much more from intervening years. But today the ICTY has not indicated that any additional material would merit a reopening of the case. That is where we are now. For further questions I would have to refer you to ICTY.

Veton: Nedeljko, in regards to your question, investigators have not come up with any conclusion in regards to these two persons, two suspects, brothers Hamiti, whether they are involved in some kind of network or smuggling or not. It is true that 20 kilos of heroin were seized at border crossing point of Merdare, on the Serbian side - based on information that we received from media, not official notification. We can consider that Kosovo is successfully combating smuggling narcotics but that there is a lot to be done of course. If we see such an amount as 20 kilograms of heroin and we only understand this from media. If the information was provided directly from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia, things would have been different. We also had successful cooperation with the international authorities and we had several successful operations when we seized large amounts of narcotics in Gjilan region and elsewhere. Nevertheless, we can achieve more in this respect.

Express: Is there any chance that the delay of the visit of Mr. Zannier to Belgrade is linked with his statement yesterday that status negotiations are over?

Russell: No - short answer. The long answer is I think that that comment was somewhat pulled out of context. He was responding to a question of whether, when he travels to Belgrade, would he be traveling to Belgrade to discus the status issue, and of course as SRSG, he certainly would not. He would travel to Belgrade to discus these practical and technical matters.

RTK: Since there is so much confusion about executive power and et cetera and et cetera, when you say that UNMIK considers illegal 11 May elections, does this mean, I mean could you clarify whether this means that you will not be dealing with these people at all, or you will be talking to them but you would not consider them mayors or whatever they call them?

Russell: Look, we all know the history here. UNMIK did not approve these elections. However, the SRSG has met some of these individual in their capacity as members of Kosovo Serb political parties. Essentially what we are trying to do is create a problem-solving environment so that we can move forward.

Blic: Is, in your opinion, the vice-president of the municipality elected on May 11, a member of a political party or a vice-president of the municipality? When you say that Mr. Zannier met with Serbian political parties, but he met with vice-presidents of the municipalities, in that context, does the SRSG plan to visit Strpce and with whom will he meet if not with your representative of political parties? Who is called president of the municipality, who carries that function and was elected as president of the municipality? Than I would ask you: if you work on two railways, Yves de Kermabon and Peter Feith on one side and Zannier on the other side, and while Zannier had several meetings with the political parties while Yves De Kermabon and Peter Feith say that no we will not accept this, we will only meet with people who participate in the work of the Government or of the Assembly of Kosovo, the MPs of the List of the Independent Liberal Party of Kosovo. In what degree are the roads that Mr. Zannier and Mr. Feith and Kermabon are using different? How different are those roads?

Russell: I see you have your pre-reconfiguration fire back. Number one, I am here to speak on behalf of UNMIK, not on behalf of EULEX or ICO, so really I am going to leave that alone whatever their criteria is. Just to review once again, UNMIK has not recognized these mayors, but again, the SRSG is casting his net as wide as possible, he is trying to create an environment where we can really discuss these issues and move forward. If he meets a member of a political party who happens to have been appointed mayor by some other authority, you know, so be it. The main thing is to get as many views as possible and to move forward.

KTV: Russell, you said that the SRSG hasn't recognized the results of the 11 May elections. It is a fact that the municipality and the assembly of Serbs is created. It is something that cannot be changed for the moment, but in order to organize the power in the areas where Serbs are, are you going to prevent them to administer that territory and if so, will you seek from KPS to undertake any action to prevent them?

Russell: I will say it one more time, we are trying to create a problem-solving environment, not a confrontational one. We are not going to talk about bringing in the police right now. Let us move forward and see where we are. I mean in terms of the assembly of municipalities in Mitrovica, as far as I know, from everything that we have learned, it is not a true parliament that is making law, for instance. So once again, let us hold discussions, let us get leaders that people believe in and that we can work with, let us move forward and not talk right now about what we are going to do and not do, on confrontation, et cetera. I think everyone here wants to move forward. This the way to go.

KTV: How to move forward? To ignore them? To let them do their job and just not say anything and just ignore them as did the SRSG yesterday when he did not meet them?

Russell: Look, the SRSG made it very clear that he met these individuals in their capacity as political party leaders, now this is something that we recognize. He is at the beginning of this process, you know to really find the way forward, so let us be a little patient. Let us give him some credit. He is listening and he will work with all parties to find solutions, that is where he is right now, okay?

Kosova Press: A question for Veton: at the time being, are you under command of Kosovo Government and if Kosovo Government demands from you such a thing, would you undertake anything, any action against Serbian parallel structures?

Veton: KPS will execute all decisions coming from Kosovo Government. Of course we do not interfere into political affairs and we are pragmatic in this respect. It might happen that in a given situation we would tolerate an action by a politician. Nevertheless, Mitrovica is more a political issue and we will act accordingly and it is not my responsibility to whom the Kosovo Government should be consulting with.

Glas Juga: You said that the statement on final status was taken out of the context, if I understood you well, can you clarify that issue, what is the position of Mr. Zannier toward the status issue? Is he neutral or does he consider the status talks finished?

Russell: We all know that UNMIK's position can only be status-neutral. I think that any other questions would go to New York, it is not Mr. Zannier's role to even discuss that since he is here to work on, again, practical, flexible solutions to some of these issues that we are having and that concern all the communities here.

Thank you.

ENDS

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