May 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 May 2013
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action

In May, Farid Zarif, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), is scheduled to brief the Council during a quarterly debate. Zarif will update the Council on the Secretary-General’s report due 29 April and on other recent developments, particularly the outcome of EU-mediated talks in Brussels between Serbia and Kosovo.

Key Recent Developments

When he last briefed the Council on 22 March, Zarif characterised ongoing EU-mediated talks between Serbia and Kosovo as an “historic” opportunity and urged the Council to support the negotiations. He also cautioned that obstacles remained, particularly in northern Kosovo where insecurity and ethnic tensions have been a problem.

On 2 April, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton hosted the eighth round of “Belgrade-Pristina” talks between Prime Minister Ivica Dačić of Serbia and Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo. In exchange for recognition of Pristina’s authority over northern Kosovo, Belgrade sought institutional autonomy for Serbs in the north, which Pristina resisted. When the parties failed to reach agreement, Ashton then established 9 April as a deadline for Serbia and Kosovo to accept the EU-mediated proposal.

On 8 April, Serbia rejected the EU plan, which was not made publicly available. Dačić stated the principles proposed by the EU “do not guarantee the full security, survival and protection of human rights to Serbs in Kosovo”. Critical points of disagreement concerned control over the police and the courts in the north. Although Ashton had previously declared that the EU would no longer mediate, Serbia and Kosovo called for further talks, which Ashton eventually agreed to broker. 

After renewed bilateral and trilateral negotiations on 17 April, the parties once again failed to reach agreement. Progress had apparently been made on the interrelated issues of autonomy for Serbs in northern Kosovo and Serbia’s recognition of Pristina’s authority in the region. However, the talks ultimately broke down over point 14 of the EU proposal, which required Serbia not to obstruct Kosovo’s accession to “international organisations”, implicitly meaning the UN.

Negotiations resumed on 19 April, when Dačić and Thaçi initialled a “First agreement on principles governing the normalisation of relations”, in what may become an historic act of reconciliation. Ashton congratulated the parties for their “determination” and “courage” and suggested this represents a “step away from the past and, for both of them, a step closer to Europe”. On 21 and 22 April, the parliament of Kosovo and cabinet of Serbia respectively approved the agreement.

The key elements of the 15-point agreement include:

  • the establishment of an association of Serb municipalities with representation at the central government;
  • a national police and judiciary but with provisions for a regional police commander in northern Kosovo and an appellate court for Serb-majority municipalities;
  • municipal elections to be held in northern Kosovo in 2013 with the assistance of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe; and
  • a commitment that neither Serbia nor Kosovo will block each other’s respective “EU paths” (this represents a compromise with respect to earlier language that had referenced “international organisations”). 

On 22 April, the European Commission recommended that the European Council approve negotiations on membership for Serbia and talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement for Kosovo (a preliminary step toward EU membership candidacy). A joint report submitted by Ashton and the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Štefan Füle, concluded that since October 2012 Kosovo had made progress in the four critical areas of public administration, rule of law, trade and protection of minorities.

Key Issues

The principal concern for the Council continues to be the maintenance of stability in Kosovo. Opposition to the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo—by either minority ethnic Serbs or majority ethnic Albanians—could result in public protest.

More generally, the Council will likely be focused on how UNMIK could most usefully assist with implementation of the EU-mediated agreement.

Options

Given the significance of the pact, the Council could consider issuing either a press statement or a presidential statement expressing support for implementation of the “First agreement on principles governing the normalisation of relations”.

If the Council determines that recent progress in negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo also signals a reduction in threats to stability, then the Council could consider lengthening UNMIK’s reporting cycle from quarterly to semi-annually. 

Alternatively, the Council may choose to take no action, as with other recent quarterly briefings on UNMIK. 

Council and Wider Dynamics

Kosovo has been relatively low profile for the Council, in part because of a clear division among members. Historically, the critical split has been between France, the UK and the US (the three permanent members that have recognised Kosovo) and Russia (which has consistently backed Serbia in the Council). 

While Serbia stopped short in the EU-mediated text of even implicitly recognising Kosovo in a UN context, the agreement does signal its acceptance of Pristina’s authority in the north. Whether or not this development will alter dynamics within the Council, perhaps even breaking a stalemate among members, remains to be seen.

The penholder for Kosovo rotates on a monthly basis among the Contact and Drafting Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, UK and US). 

UN Documents on Kosovo
Security Council Resolution  
10 June 1999 S/RES/1244 This resolution authorised NATO to secure and enforce the withdrawal of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) forces from Kosovo, and established UNMIK.
Secretary-General’s Report  
4 February 2013 S/2013/72 This was a report of the Secretary-General on UNMIK.
Security Council Meeting Record  
22 March 2013 S/PV.6939 This was a quarterly debate on Kosovo.
OTHER RELEVANT FACTS

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK
Farid Zarif (Afghanistan)

UNMIK Size and Composition
As of 31 December 2012: 16 uniformed, 132 international civilian, 208 local, 27 UN Volunteers.

Commander KFOR
Major General Volker R. Halbauer (Germany) 

KFOR Size and Composition
As of 12 January 2013: 5,134 troops from 31 countries.

Head of EULEX
Bernd Borchardt (Germany) 

EULEX Size and Composition
Approximately 2250 international and local staff.