May 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 April 2007
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Expected Council Action

In early May the Council is expected to consider the report from its April mission to Kosovo and move closer to deciding how to handle the report released in March by Martti Ahtisaari, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo. Ahtisaari recommended independence for Kosovo supervised by the international community.

There is still great uncertainty on how far Council discussions will progress in May on a new resolution to replace 1244, which in 1999 authorised NATO to enforce the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and established the legal framework for UN administration by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Key Recent Developments
Kosovo was considered in the Council in April during procedural discussions on the programme of work. It took hours to reconcile the various positions regarding the format for the presentation of Ahtisaari’s report and status package. Russia wanted an open debate, while the US and UK wanted closed informal consultations.  Eventually, the Council agreed to have a closed formal meeting, which allowed Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to participate. To allow Kosovo’s President, Fatmir Sejdiu, to speak, an Arria formula meeting was held immediately afterwards. The Council members then moved to closed informal consultations on Ahtisaari’s status package and Russia’s proposal for a Council mission to Kosovo and Serbia.

On 13 April the Council agreed to Russia’s proposal to send a mission to Kosovo and Serbia.  The mission, led by Ambassador Johan Verbeke of Belgium, took place from 25-29 April visiting Belgrade, Pristina and Mitrovica, with stops en route in Brussels and Vienna. The members met with EU and NATO representatives, senior officials in Serbia and Kosovo as well as with civil society and religious leaders. The objectives of the mission were to obtain first-hand information on progress in Kosovo and receive information directly from local actors in Belgrade and Kosovo.

Throughout April there was a flurry of diplomatic activity. The Chinese deputy premier and Russia’s foreign minister made separate visits to Serbia in mid-April.  Serbia began its own diplomatic offensive with visits to South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar to court the non-permanent members of the Council.  The EU and members of the Contact Group on Kosovo (the US, the UK, France, Italy, Russia and Germany) met in Moscow on 20 April and held several meetings at different levels at the end of April.

The Council has a range of options spanning a spectrum from deciding to begin to draft a resolution implementing the Ahtisaari recommendations, to deciding to re-start negotiations with a new mediator. At this stage, neither of these looks likely.  Other possibilities may include:

  • waiting while efforts are made in the Contact Group to reach agreement between the US, Europeans and Russians;
  • seeking to find an accomodation with Russia based on greater protection for the Serbian minority (in effect picking up Russia’s point about better implementation of resolution 1244);
  • a group of members preparing a draft resolution with a view to formally introducing it with co-sponsors and pressing for a vote;
  • deciding to request a briefing on alternative models other than independence, including the wider UN experience in this context; or
  • adopting an “interim” resolution that does not decide on final status and specifically reserves that for a later date but puts in place the bulk of the legislative and administrative machinery recommended by Ahtisaari.

Key Issues
A key issue will be whether the Council mission to the region changes members’ positions or reinforces their previous views.  While the discussions in April were essentially only procedural they revealed that not enough members were convinced that Ahtisaari’s option is the only solution leaving the Council without the necessary nine votes to adopt a resolution.

If there continues to be significant opposition, a related key issue will be how to minimise the risk of violence while the Council decides how to proceed.  If it appears that the issue is losing momentum in the Council, those eager to create instability in either Kosovo or Serbia could trigger acts of violence as time passes. In this context there is also the issue of a possible unilateral declaration of independence.

Another issue is public perceptions of Council unity.  There seem to be growing concerns about legitimacy if any Council decision on Kosovo’s status is taken by a narrow majority.

The key substantive issues, which are at the heart of the divisions in the Council, are getting little discussion.  The first is the question of the Council’s legal authority to impose a solution on Kosovo and the potential precedent in doing so.   The other is whether the negotiations are really exhausted and whether all alternatives have been sufficiently addressed.  Related to both these issues is the question of whether a little time spent on these aspects may make it easier, in the end, for a larger number of elected members to justify voting in support of a resolution.

A possible issue that could impact the Council is EU unity.  Initially EU members had a relatively firm common position. However, there are recent signs of possible differentiation.  It remains to be seen whether this will have any meaningful impact.

Council Dynamics
Council unity on this issue is under strain.  European members and the US advocate moving quickly towards a decision on Kosovo’s status.  The US and the UK are the principal champions for a speedy resolution. European members are arguing that this is a priority issue for Europe and that the issue is being driven by the facts on the ground. Russia is against an imposed solution and is advocating further negotiations with the parties.

There is a sense amongst the Europeans that Russia was accommodated over two important issues, procedural rights for Serbia to address the Council and the mission to the region, and that in return it should now begin negotiations on a resolution. Russia is hinting, however, that there remain unfulfilled elements of resolution 1244 which justify further delay.

Many of the non-permanent members feel a more thorough assessment of the substantive issues is required before a decision is made.  Russia’s proposal for a mission to Kosovo provided many with a convenient way out in the short-term.  But it remains to be seen whether the picture looks easier upon their return.  It seems many of the non-permanent members have still not decided if they would endorse Ahtisaari’s recommendation if it were put to a vote.  Although supporters of Ahtisaari’s recommendation argue that Kosovo is a unique case, many members find it hard to believe that it will not become a precedent.

For Indonesia, territorial integrity is a fundamental principle based in its own constitution.  South Africa feels that the Council would be overreaching if it were to implement Ahtisaari’s package. 

Latin American members Panama and Peru, who may be the swing votes necessary to secure a majority, will play an important role in May and their impressions after the visit to the region seem likely to be influential.

Council dynamics are also likely to be impacted by the fact that significant discussions will be going on, bilaterally, in capitals and no doubt at progressively higher levels.   

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1244 (10 June 1999) authorised NATO to secure and enforce the withdrawal of Yugoslav (FRY) forces from Kosovo and established UNMIK.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2005/51 (24 October 2005) declared it was time to begin the political process to determine the future status of Kosovo.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports/Letters

  • S/2007/168  and Add. 1  (26 March 2007) was the letter transmitting Ahtisaari’s report on Kosovo’s future status and the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement.
  • S/2007/134 (9 March 2007) was the latest report of the Secretary-General on UNMIK.
  • S/2007/130 (6 March 2007) was the letter reporting on the operations of the Kosovo Force from 1 to 31 December 2006.

Other Relevant Facts

Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Future Status Process
Martti Ahtisaari (Finland)
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Joachim Rücker (Germany)
  • Size of UNMIK mission: 36 military observers, 1,984 police, 506 international staff, 2,001 local staff, 143 UN volunteers  as of 30 September 2006
  • Size of OSCE mission: 1020 (Pillar 3) and 461 (Pillar 4), 252 international staff, 768 local staff
  • Size of EU mission: 125 international staff, 336 local staff
 US$2.218 billion for fiscal year 2006/2007 (not including OSCE, EU and NATO expenditures)
 General Roland Kather (Germany) 
Size and Composition of Mission
  • Size: 16,000 troops
  • NATO countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, UK, US
  • Non-NATO countries: Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Morocco, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine
Full forecast


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