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Kosovo/General Affairs and External Relations Council

Published on March 5, 2008
Preliminary statement made by M. Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, during his press conference, (excerpts)

Brussels, February 18, 2008

It took a long time but this was normal. We’d talked about Kosovo so often and, if we hadn’t ironed them out we’d at least reduced the difficulties during previous meetings. This isn’t an easy decision and I’d above all like to say to you that it isn’t a victory of one over the other. It isn’t a victory of the Kosovars over the Serbs, it’s a victory for peace, it’s a victory for common sense, and it’s certainly a victory for both peoples because they’re undoubtedly going to move – separately perhaps initially, but together in the very near future – closer to the European Union and towards a more peaceful Balkans.

What appears extremely symbolic to me is that it’s Slovenia – i.e. the first country to break away from the Yugoslav federation, after so many years, and now holding the European Union presidency – (…) who is making it possible for the last region of that Yugoslav federation, to be independent.

As you know, independence was announced yesterday and the first statement by the 27, and if you don’t mind I’d like to stress "by the 27” – this is a victory for the European Union – was discussed word by word and agreed by everyone. It imposes nothing on anyone. I don’t know how many countries will recognize Kosovo’s independence, some say 16, others 19. Some will certainly do so at a later date.

As far as France is concerned, we intend to recognize Kosovo’s independence – President Sarkozy has written to this effect to the President of Kosovo. [With this letter] French recognition of Kosovo’s independence becomes official.

May I, who was responsible for two years for that region of Serbia, add a very personal word. I’d like to send this message of hope to the Serbs: this isn’t a defeat for them. On the contrary, it’s the possibility for them – and I believe they expressed this by voting for Mr Tadic – to move closer to the European Union, to come to us when they wish to, having, of course, met the requisite conditions, but to come when they wish.

I have no doubt: one day, I don’t know the date, I don’t know the year, Kosovars and Serbs will be together again in the European Union. And perhaps other Balkan alliances will be forged.

At any event, for me, it’s a victory for common sense, for peace, for the peoples, and it’s the end of the sufferings. Once again, I’m thinking of the Serbs, of the difficulty they’ve had, will very probably have in recognizing that it’s now, despite being the cradle of their religion and of part of their civilization, an independent country.

Of course, we have to stress the necessary respect for the basic document, the United Nations, Martti Ahtisaari’s document. This will have to be implemented: access to all the religious sites, I’m talking about the monasteries which are so important for the orthodox religion, about respect for the minorities, about protection of the minorities. These provisions, which come from Mr Ahtisaari’s report, were reproduced in the constitutional document which the Prime Minister, Mr Hashim Thaçi, put before the Kosovan Parliament yesterday.

It’s the end of a very long crisis, of a period of great tension in a place in the world which has experienced others – even its name, the Balkans, conjures up images of turmoil: "Balkan situation". I hope this is the end of it and that the reconciliation starts right now even though I know it will take a long time. Even though I know it will need several generations. The first generation already knows this. Not only the young today, but also those (…) who have lived under the United Nations administration, UNMIK, UNSCR 1244, etc. (…)

Once again, it’s no one’s victory. On the other hand it’s to an extent a victory for the international community, for what’s called multilateralism and an enormous victory for the United Nations. It’s the first time in the world’s history that such a conflict sees not only the arrival of peace at the end of some years, but of the solution: this independence, which is an exception. (…) It’s an exception which mustn’t serve as an example. This independence comes at the end of nine years. For those who don’t believe in the United Nations, it’s nevertheless a fine example to give them.

For me personally, who was involved every hour and almost every minute, night and day, for a very long time in dealing with the scars, crimes, revenge attacks in Kosovo, I’m very happy for all the people, all the communities and, once again, it’s the Serbs I turn to first. (…)./.

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