Strasbourg, 7th September 2005
MG-S-ROM (2005) 14
SUMMARY OF THE CURRENT SITUATION IN KOSOVO,
1) PACE RECOMMENDATION 1708 (2005)
2) REPLY TO PACE RECOMMENDATION 1708 (2005) FROM THE COORDINATOR ON ROMA ACTIVITIES OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
1) PACE RECOMMENDATION 1708 (2005)
Current situation in Kosovo
Recommendation 1708 (2005)
1. The Council of Europe has played a major role in improving good governance, strengthening democracy and the rule of law and raising human rights standards in “new democracies”, in this way contributing to laying down solid foundations for closer European political integration.
2. Referring to its Resolution 1453 (2005) on the current situation in Kosovo, the Parliamentary Assembly believes that the Council of Europe should endeavour to play a similar role in the search for a durable stabilisation of Kosovo, regardless of its future status, in co-operation and co-ordination with other international actors.
3. Its action should aim, on the one hand, at facilitating the establishment of a fruitful dialogue between the parties concerned by the status issue and; on the other hand, at ensuring that in Kosovo Council of Europe standards in the fields of democracy, rule of law, protection of national minorities and human rights are achieved and irreversibly secured.
4. Besides, the Council of Europe should contribute to the promotion of better socio-economic conditions on behalf of ethnic minorities, in particular internally displaced persons and returnees.
5. The Assembly, therefore, asks the Committee of Ministers to:
i. support the role of the Council of Europe as a facilitator of political dialogue between the parties concerned, in preparation of status talks;
ii. take appropriate financial and administrative measures to increase the visibility and the impact of the Council of Europe in Kosovo, in the fields pertaining to its mandate and expertise;
iii. promote the organisation of a donors’ conference to increase the sustainability of returns to Kosovo;
iv. ask the Co-ordinator on Roma activities, if necessary with the assistance of the Group of Specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (MGS–ROM), to conduct a fact-finding mission to Kosovo to collect first-hand information on the socio-economic conditions of the Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian internally displaced population as well as of Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian returnees, with a view to reporting back to the Committee of Ministers.
 Assembly debate on 21 June (19th Sitting) (see Doc. 10572, report of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mrs Tritz). Text adopted by the Assembly on 21 June 2005 (19th Sitting).
TO PACE RECOMMENDATION 1708 (2005) FROM THE COORDINATOR ON ROMA ACTIVITIES OF
THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Comments on PACE Recommendation 1708 (2005) on the current situation in Kosovo from the Coordinator on Roma Activities of the Council of Europe
Recommendation 1708 on the current situation in Kosovo requests the Council of Europe, inter alia, to “contribute to the promotion of better socio-economic conditions on behalf of ethnic minorities, in particular internally displaced persons and returnees” and asks “ the Coordinator on Roma activities, if necessary with the assistance of the Group of specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM) to conduct a fact-finding mission to Kosovo to collect first hand information on the socio-economic conditions of the Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian returnees with a view to reporting back to the Committee of Ministers.”
Recommendation 1708 is the last in a series of Parliamentary Assembly recommendations on forced returns , which, together with the Guidelines on Forced Return adopted by the Ministers’ Deputies at their 925th meeting, constitute a clear and coherent position on the protection of the human rights of displaced persons and refugees and the respect of their dignity.
The situation of returnees to and internally displaced persons in Kosovo has to be examined in the light of the principles set out in the above-mentioned texts and of the concerns expressed therein with regard to the specific situation in Kosovo.
In practical terms, the questions at issue are the following:
Is Kosovo a safe place for Ashkalia, Egyptian and Roma returnees?
UNHCR maintains that “the security environment in Kosovo remains highly fragile and volatile” , and that certain ethnic minorities, including Roma, “should continue to benefit from international protection in countries of asylum”. The UNHCR has, however, relaxed its position with regard to other communities, including Ashkalia and Egyptians, and concludes “that these groups may have individual valid claims for continued international protection which would need to be assessed in a comprehensive procedure.”
The Ashkalia and Egyptians are, however, frightened to return.
A press communique of 29 June, 2005, on the visit of Dr Walter Kalin, Representative of the UN Secretary General of the United Nations on the Human rights of Internally Displaced Persons to Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo reports that “many displaced persons within Kosovo, as well as returnees, told him (Mr Kalin) of their fears due to persistent low-level harassment which is targeted at them and further fed their fear for their safety.”
Does the necessary infrastructure exist to ensure accommodation and basic social services –health, education, employment?
When the Roma had their houses destroyed, several hundreds of them fled to another part of Kosovo. 505 of them still live in camps around Mitrovica, where 40 people, including children, have died of lead poisoning from nearby mines.
The abovementioned press communique on Dr Kalin’s visit to Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo, points out that “there is no clear responsibility assigned to UNMIK or the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo for those who remain in displacement inside Kosovo, and many are largely neglected”.
What is likely to happen to new returnees? Will they have proper accommodation, or will they be placed in a centre where they become displaced persons once again? Will they have identity papers entitling them to social benefits, and possibility of employment? What measures will be taken for children who grew up in the host country and know only the language of that country?
Will massive deportations increase ethnic tensions and destabilise a country which cannot financially integrate them?
A note on the return of minorities to Kosovo agreed to on 25-26 April, 2005 between Germany and UNMIK provides, inter alia, for the forced return of up to 500 members per month of the Ashkali and Egyptian communities as from July, 2005. This sudden influx of returnees will seriously compromise sustainability. If other host countries feel encouraged to do likewise, the situation can then become even more dramatic.
The abovementioned communique reports that Dr Kalin urged the governments of host countries to implement returns cautiously. “He further urged them to refrain from returning members of threatened communities and particularly vulnerable persons to situations where they would risk becoming internally displaced persons without the necessary assistance and protection of their rights.”
These are issues which could involve serious violations of fundamental human rights and need to be addressed urgently and practical solutions found.
In this respect, it would be useful to have an on-the-spot study of the situation concerning these issues and particularly:
• examine the living conditions of IDPs and returnees already living there, including access to social, health and educational services;
• gather information on the whereabouts and living conditions of the Ashkalia and Egyptians recently returned to Kosovo from Germany;
• make arrangements with UNMIK, the UNHCR and the Kosovo authorities for drawing up, together with representatives of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, an urgent strategy for ensuring the sustainability of returnees’ presence and integration in Kosovo;
• in this context promote the organisation of a donors’ conference as proposed in para.5 iii of the Recommendation, once a clear strategy with concrete measures, budget and deadlines has been drafted.
Mr. Scicluna, Council of Europe Coordinator on Roma Activities