Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on UNMIK

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
May 16, 2017



Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Tanin, for today’s update on UNMIK’s activities. We appreciate the UN’s efforts over 18 years to help Kosovo build multiethnic, democratic institutions that uphold the rule of law and respect human rights. We are pleased that these efforts have largely been accomplished.

The situation in Kosovo today is very different from when it was first created and also different from 2008 when the Secretariat last restructured it. Given how Kosovo has progressed and has developed over the years, the United States and a growing number of members have urged the Secretariat to continue the work of winding down the mission, recognizing that it has fulfilled its mandate.

While UNMIK should go down in history as a model of the value of the UN, it increasingly risks being memorialized as an example of a program lingering beyond its relevance, and a bureaucracy not sure how to deal with closure. Seemingly without regard to the realities on the ground, UNMIK continues to be over-resourced and overstaffed in comparison with its limited responsibilities.

Even more puzzling, the mission is requesting new funding for programming that is largely redundant – $2 million dollars in additional resources primarily for human rights and rule of law programming, despite the leading role of the EU Rule of Law –”EULEX” mission – in this area, and despite a demonstrated ability of the government of Kosovo to effectively govern and administer these and other functions with complete independence.

In response to these realities, the United States supports considering the phasing out of UNMIK to better reflect significant progress and development made in Kosovo. Any proposed alternative would need to reflect the reality on the ground and reduce the UN’s footprint in Kosovo.

The United States repeats our call for the Council to adjust the reporting and briefing period for UNMIK from three months to six months – or even longer – which would reduce the burden on the Secretariat and the Council, both of which face competing priorities of far greater urgency.

Mr. President, the United States greatly appreciates and supports the EU’s vital role as facilitator of the Brussels Dialogue, in particular EU High Representative Mogherini’s personal leadership of the process. We call on leaders in both Belgrade and Pristina to continue taking the needed steps to revitalize these talks and to exercise restraint as provocations arise. We also call on both Serbia and Kosovo to fully implement Dialogue agreements without further delay, and to work more actively toward normalization of relations.

Mr. President, in relation to the comments about the events at Racak by Serbia this morning, I would just say that the bodies at Racak are testimony to the atrocities and violence that took place there. The forensic work produced by international observers at the time was clear and unambiguous on this. All the countries in the Balkans must undertake a full, honest accounting of the events that transpired during the breakup of Yugoslavia and the conflicts of the 1990s and refrain from this type of historical revisionism that sows distrust and fear. Rather than attempting to re-litigate the past with falsehoods, leaders need to focus on the hard work necessary to promote dialogue and reconciliation and pursue a more stable, prosperous, and secure Balkan region on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration.

We call on all leaders in the region to avoid careless, inflammatory rhetoric that incites backlash, and instead to focus on addressing the fundamental political and economic reforms necessary to advance their further integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. The borders of the Balkan countries are defined and firm.

The United States reaffirms our support for Kosovo’s efforts to develop into a prosperous and peaceful multiethnic democracy. We continue to strongly support full international recognition of Kosovo and Kosovo’s membership in all relevant international organizations, including the UN. We encourage UN Member States who have not yet done so to join the more than 110 UN members who have already recognized Kosovo as an independent state.

Thank you, Mr. President.