August 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 August 2013
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action

In August, 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 of 26 July (S/2013/444) and other recent developments. No outcome is expected by the Council.

(Recently, the reporting and briefing cycles for Kosovo have diverged, with the last two quarterly debates each occurring six weeks after the release of the Secretary-General’s report. This may have been due in part to the difficulty of arranging a mutually workable date for the high-level participation of both Serbia and Kosovo.)

Key Recent Developments

The Council last considered Kosovo at the quarterly debate on 14 June (S/PV.6979). Zarif briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s 30 April report (S/2013/254). Prime Minister Ivica Dačić of Serbia and Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo also addressed the Council. Zarif emphasised the progress made in political dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, particularly the “First Agreement on Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations”, reached on 19 April. Both Zarif and Dačić noted the recurring challenges posed by insecurity in northern Kosovo. Thaçi suggested the UN should consider withdrawal of UNMIK:

… it is our firm conviction that it is time for the Council to consider closing the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in the near future, which will contribute to the process under way in Kosovo, create space for local ownership, preserve the credibility of the United Nations and its role in the past in Kosovo, and ultimately reduce unnecessary financial costs, which could be used by United Nations agencies in Kosovo for more important socioeconomic development projects or in other crisis situations.

On 27 June, Kosovo’s parliament approved the EU-mediated agreement with Serbia that had been initialled by Dačić and Thaçi on 19 April. The 120-seat assembly passed the measure with 84 votes in favour, despite opposition by the hard-line Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party, which argued that the pact granted ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo too much autonomy. Vetevendosje parliamentarians, who attempted to prevent the vote by force, were removed from the building by security. Meanwhile, hundreds of ethnic Albanians protesting ratification of the agreement outside the parliament building were forcibly dispersed by police in full riot gear using pepper spray. The police also arrested dozens of protesters.

On 28 June, the EU formally approved the initiation of membership talks with Serbia by January 2014 at the latest. The EU also approved the launching of negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo, which is the first step toward EU membership. Croatia became the second country from the former Yugoslavia (after Slovenia) to gain EU membership on 1 July. “We are at a historic moment for the Balkans and for Europe as a whole”, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy stated. “Not only are we welcoming Croatia as a new member state. We have also agreed to open accession negotiations with Serbia and taken a key step in our relations with Kosovo. These last two decisions are an immediate result of the courageous agreement Belgrade and Pristina reached last April.”

On 11 July, Kosovo’s parliament adopted a law granting amnesty for ethnic Serbs who had rebelled against Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008.  The measure was approved with 90 votes in favour (a two-thirds majority of 80 votes was required for passage). The previous week, a draft amnesty law had failed to pass, with only 70 votes in favour. The principal revision that had been made to gain the needed level of support was the insertion of a clause stating that criminal offences resulting in bodily harm and murder would not be given amnesty. Passage of the amnesty law, which was backed by the EU, has been seen as an important element in implementing the 19 April agreement with Serbia.

The most recent report of the Secretary-General on UNMIKcovers developments from 23 April to 15 July (S/2013/444). Highlights include: improving relations between Kosovo and Serbia, progress implementing the 19 April agreement, improved freedom of movement in northern Kosovo and a decline in incidents involving explosive devices affecting minority communities. Annex 1 of the Secretary-General’s report summarises the work of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). On 23 May, EULEX Police in coordination with Kosovo Police arrested seven persons, including the Kosovo Ambassador to Albania, on charges of war crimes committed at a Kosovo Liberation Army detention centre in the Drenica region during the 1999 conflict. On 24 May, a EULEX judge ordered house detention of the so-called “Drenica Group”. Three days later, war veterans associations held a protest with approximately 5,000 people.  Meanwhile, a number of politicians, including the President of the Assembly, have accused EULEX of lacking impartiality and have called for an end to its mandate.       

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 19-20 June, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay visited Kosovo. At the end of her visit, Pillay underlined the need for further cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade to find comprehensive solutions for those forcibly displaced in the 1990s. Pillay expressed concern regarding the proposed amnesty law and urged a stronger focus on human rights issues in future dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. Pillay said that she had impressed upon the authorities the importance of remedying discriminatory practices. She expressed concern about one-sided justice and the lack of a strong protection system for victims and witnesses. She also underlined the need for authorities to investigate conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence and the importance of inclusive education for children.

Key Issues

The main concern of the Council continues to be the maintenance of stability in Kosovo. Recent protests by ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians suggest that this will likely be a recurring issue in the near future for Kosovo.  

The Council will also likely be focused on how UNMIK can most usefully assist with implementation of the EU-mediated agreement, particularly the elections to be administered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 3 November.

Options

Given the importance of implementing the “First Agreement on Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations”, the Council could consider issuing either a press statement or a presidential statement expressing its support.

The Council may also wish to explore the suggestion made by Thaçi that the Council should consider the withdrawal of UNMIK from Kosovo.

If the Council determines that improving relations between Serbia and Kosovo indicate a trend of increasing stability, one option could be lengthening the reporting cycle from quarterly to semi-annually.

Alternatively, the Council could choose to take no action, as with several other previous quarterly briefings on UNMIK.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Kosovo continues to be relatively low-profile for the Council, partly because of a long-standing stalemate between members (the US, the UK and France versus Russia), which has generally precluded action, and partly because other organisations (NATO, the EU and OSCE) have more prominent roles than the UN.  The conspicuous silence of the Council in response to the “First Agreement on Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations” of 19 April may be a further indication of this chronic divide, as a press statement or presidential statement would have required consensus.    

However, if the Council were to consider the request made by Thaçi to withdraw UNMIK, that could hypothetically alter the dynamics in a way conducive toward breaking the policymaking inertia. There have not yet been formal discussions on the subject, but extrapolating from Council members’ established positions regarding Kosovo and other related issues such as UN budgetary constraints suggests that this may be a proposal that members could coalesce around.   

The lead country for Kosovo (and Bosnia and Herzegovina) rotates on a monthly basis among the Coordinating and Drafting Group, which currently includes core members France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK and the US plus Luxembourg.  There seems to be ambiguity regarding whether Australia (Western European and Others Group) and Azerbaijan (Eastern European Group) are members, which also has implications for which country will take the lead for Kosovo in August and then Bosnia and Herzegovina in November.

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 Reports  
26 July 2013 S/2013/444 This Secretary-General’s report was the UNMIK report for the period from 23 April to 15 July.
30 April 2013 S/2013/254 This report was on UNMIK.
Security Council Meeting Record  
14 June 2013 S/PV.6979 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 May 2013: 16 uniformed, 131 international civilian, 209 local, 28 UN volunteers.

Commander KFOR
Major General Volker R. Halbauer (Germany)

KFOR Size and Composition
As of 12 June 2013: 4,985 troops from 31 countries.

Head of EULEX
Bernd Borchardt (Germany)

EULEX Size and Composition
Approximately 2,250 international and local staff.