THE HAGUE, 19 February 2008 - The authorities in Pristina will need to address the anxiety of minority communities in Kosovo by rigorously applying its legal framework for minorities, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva, said after meeting with the Organization's High Commissioner on National Minorities, Ambassador Knut Vollebaek.
Chairman Kanerva and High Commissioner Vollebaek discussed the ramifications of Kosovo's declaration of independence for inter-ethnic relations in the region.
"Fear of the unknown is gripping national minorities in Kosovo. This means the authorities in Pristina have to rigorously implement the agreed legal framework for minorities. The OSCE and the High Commissioner will monitor the situation," the Minister said.
The Minister praised the valuable work of HCNM as an essential part of the Organization's profile.
Having both recently visited Kosovo, the Minister and the High Commissioner agreed that the OSCE presence in Kosovo has been instrumental in alleviating the concerns of minority groups, building trust and projecting a sense of confidence in the communities where they reside.
"If the OSCE presence were to be prematurely withdrawn, the international community could witness the large-scale departure of Kosovo's smaller communities and risk losing its credibility. Kosovo must remain multi-ethnic. The prospect of minority flight in the twenty-first century Europe would be a disgrace, and must be prevented," said Ambassador Vollebaek.
As part of his visit to the Netherlands, the Chairman-in-Office visited the office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and was briefed on the HCNM's conflict prevention activities.
Minister Kanerva was also to present a lecture at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, known as 'Clingendael.'