Statement delivered by H.E. Carolyn Schwalger, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 19 November 2015.

I thank Special Representative Tanin for your briefing, and join others in wishing you well for your role.  I also welcome Deputy Prime Ministers Dačić and Ambassador Çitaku to this discussion.

Mr President

As mentioned, the leadership of Serbia and Kosovo have concluded several agreements since the Council last considered this agenda item.  Of particular note is the agreement relating to Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo. 

New Zealand welcomes this significant progress.  It demonstrates the ongoing importance of the EU-facilitated Dialogue in normalising relations between Belgrade and Pristina. 

We hope that both sides will renew their commitment and energy to this process of normalising relations through dialogue, and will implement that which has been agreed. Their people need to see their leaders living up to their commitments.  Gains need to be banked.

Mr President

Disagreement and vigorous debate is part of a healthy democracy. However, we note with concern efforts by some political actors to physically disrupt the workings of the Kosovo Assembly.  Such actions are irresponsible and risk undermining confidence in a critical democratic institution. We urge all political actors in Kosovo to refrain from such actions and fully respect democratic principles.

The last time the Council discussed the situation in Kosovo New Zealand welcomed Kosovo’s progress towards establishing a specialised court to address serious allegations arising from the EU Special Investigative Task Force. We also said that while important first steps had been taken, there remained much to do in order to fully establish the court.  That is still the case today. We echo the Secretary-General in calling on all stakeholders to move expeditiously in order to complete this process.

Mr President

Engagement in the Working Group on Missing Persons stalled during the reporting period.  We believe this is deeply regrettable.  Addressing the issue of missing persons is an essential component of reconciliation, and is of fundamental concern to affected families.  We urge all necessary steps be taken to enable the Working Group to continue its important work.  Progress on returnees to Kosovo, and careful curation of cultural and religious sites will also be important towards reconciliation.

We welcome the adoption by the Government of Kosovo of a five-year strategy for the prevention of violent extremism and radicalisation.  The terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Turkey and most recently France underline the critical importance of addressing violent extremism before it takes hold. We urge the Government of Kosovo to implement its agreed action plan.

The progress underway in Kosovo should be taken into account when considering a more flexible approach to how and when the Council should dedicate its limited time and attention to this agenda item.