Dáil Éireann - Volume 657 - 18 June, 2008

Written Answers. - Diplomatic Representation.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reasoning and the circumstances which led to the speedy recognition of Kosovo by the Irish Government. [23523/08]

Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the situation in Kosovo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23658/08]

  Deputy Micheál Martin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 102 together.

The declaration of independence by the Kosovo Assembly on 17 February last marked the culmination of a lengthy final status process for Kosovo led by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Status Envoy, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. In April 2007, after more than a year of talks involving Belgrade and Pristina, he produced his final status proposal, which recommended internationally supervised independence for Kosovo with strong guarantees for minorities in Kosovo. While Ahtisaari’s proposal was strongly supported by Ireland and the great majority of our EU partners, intensive efforts within the UN Security Council to agree on a new Resolution to give effect to his proposal ended in failure in June 2007, due in large part to Russian opposition. When a further four months of direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina also ended in failure, the Kosovo Assembly made its decision on 17 February to declare independence, and committed itself to full implementation of the Ahtisaari proposal.

At the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 18 February, EU Foreign Ministers agreed a common response to Kosovo’s declaration of independence, noting the uniqueness of Kosovo’s situation, arising from the conflict of the 1990s and the eight years of UN administration which followed under the continuing UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and reaffirming the EU’s willingness to play a leading role in strengthening stability in the region [142] including through deployment of an ESDP rule of law mission. The Council also agreed that Member States will decide, in accordance with national practice and international law, on their relations with Kosovo. Since then, 20 EU Member States, including Ireland, have recognised Kosovo’s independence.

It is regrettable that lengthy negotiations failed to produce an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. A new UN Security Council resolution clarifying the position would have been greatly preferable to the current situation. But the clear reality is that Serbia effectively lost Kosovo through its own actions in the 1990s. The legacy of the killings of thousands of civilians in Kosovo and the ethnic cleansing of over a million made the restoration of Serbian dominion in Kosovo unthinkable. As the European Council agreed in December 2007, the status quo in Kosovo was inherently unstable. More than 90% of the population wants independence, and this is supported by our major partners in the EU and beyond, many of whom moved quickly to recognise Kosovo. Taking all of the circumstances into account, the Government decided on 28 February that Ireland would recognise the Republic of Kosovo.

The Government has made it clear that our decision to recognise Kosovo is based on a careful assessment of the political and legal circumstances of this particular case. It is in no way intended as an act of hostility towards Serbia. We know that Kosovo’s independence is painful for Serbia and difficult to accept. We believe that the future for Serbia and Kosovo lies with Europe and urge all sides to refrain from taking any action at this sensitive time which will impede and delay the realisation of this European perspective.

The situation on the ground in Kosovo remains relatively calm, if tense. With the coming into force of the new Kosovo constitution on 15 June, the challenge now facing the international community is to ensure a smooth transition from the current UN mission (UNMIK) to the EU’s EULEX rule of law mission, and to ensure that the international presence can operate effectively throughout Kosovo, including Serb majority areas in the North. In this context, we welcome the decision of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to proceed with reconfiguration of the UNMIK mission. While we wait to see the final details of the planned reconfiguration, it is important that this takes place in a way which allows for the progressive deployment throughout Kosovo of an autonomous EULEX mission, as envisaged under the Ahtisaari proposal.

Ireland shares the determination of the international community, through the international presences in Kosovo, to support stability in Kosovo and the wider Balkan region, with guarantees for the promotion and protection of the rights of all communities and their members. We are positively engaged in this effort through our enhanced troop presence in the UN mandated KFOR mission, and our membership of the International Steering Group for Kosovo. We intend also to contribute 9 personnel, including 8 members of the Garda, to the EU’s ESDP rule of law mission. We will continue to support the future economic development of Kosovo, and to participate in the forthcoming international donor conference for Kosovo.

Question No. 79 answered with Question No. 73.