Situation in Kosovo
Recommendation 1660 (2004)

Doc. 10288
21 September 2004

Reply from the Committee of Ministers
adopted at the 895th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (15 September 2004)

1.         The Committee of Ministers has carefully studied Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1660 (2004) and Resolution 1375 (2004) on the situation in Kosovo.

2.         As the Assembly points out, since United Nations Resolution 1244 (1999) was adopted, the Council of Europe's action in Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro) has focused on the establishment of democratic institutions, decentralisation and development of local authorities,the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law, in accordance with European rules and standards.  Maintaining peace and mutual understanding among the various ethnic communities is a prerequisite for any democratic progress in the region.

3.         The acts of ethnically motivated violencethat took place in Kosovo in March have clearly shown that the international community needs to intervene more actively to preserve peace and stability in a multi-ethnic Kosovo.  Accordingly, on 24 March 2004, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on recent events in Kosovo, concluding, "The Council of Europe will continue to monitor the situation closely with a view to seeing how best it can be of assistance".

4.         Applying the Council's human rights standards in Kosovo and ensuring that the various arrangements for monitoring compliance with them can operate there appears to be one way of responding to the tragic events that have taken place in Kosovo and to the Declaration of 24 March 2004.

5.         It is in this spirit that, on 30 June 2004, at the 890th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies, the Committee of Ministers authorised the Secretary General:

i.          to conclude an agreement with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), in order to guarantee compliance in Kosovo with the standards of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and facilitate monitoring arrangements in accordance with the Convention;

ii.         to conclude an agreement with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and actively seek an agreement of a similar binding nature with NATO, in order to authorise the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to visit all places where persons might be detained by a public authority in Kosovo.

6.         The Committee of Ministers welcomes the fact that, with the conclusion of these agreements, the supervisory machinery set up under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment will, in practice, be able to operate throughout the territory of Serbia and Montenegro, including in Kosovo, which has been placed under an interim international administration and where an international security presence has been deployed, in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

7.         The Committee of Ministers also decided, on 5 May 2004, to accede to UNMIK's request that the Council of Europe be involved in the international observation mission on the occasion of the forthcoming elections to the Kosovo Assembly. Administrative and logistic arrangements have been made in the meantime, in particular with the appointment of the Head of the observation mission and of a team of long-term observers. The Committee of Ministers considers that these elections are vital to Kosovo and the region as a whole and therefore believes that it is of the utmost importance that the Serbian community and all the minorities should genuinely take part in them.

8.         The Committee of Ministers wishes to inform the Assembly that Council of Europe experts continue to be actively involved in the work of the working group on local government reform (decentralisation) in Kosovo, which will serve the needs of the entire population of Kosovo. The creative contribution of the Council of Europe experts is widely acknowledged as is the overall action of the Council of Europe Office in Pristina.

9.         The Committee of Ministers also welcomes the fact that, within the network of Schools of Politics in South-East Europe, set up at the Council of Europe's instigation, the Pristina School has successfully embarked on its second year with a new group of young leaders representing the main communities living in Kosovo. Young people from the different communities of Kosovo also took part in the debates on democratic governance, human rights, peace and reconciliation organised in Strasbourg in May 2004 by the Council of Europe, in the framework of the youth event “Europe, Youth and Globalisation”.

10.       Finally, the Committee of Ministers informs the Assembly that an “Emergency Action Plan for Kosovo in the field of cultural heritage” has been put in place following the March 2004 events.  These concrete actions, conducted jointly with the European Commission and UNMIK at the initiative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, concern mainly the establishment of an “Independent International Commission for cultural heritage in Kosovo” which will assume a medium and long-term advisory role and an “Implementation Committee for the reconstruction of religious sites” which will be responsible for the execution of immediate actions financed by the Assembly of Kosovo.