Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Joachim Rucker, is expected to present the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in informal consultations.
This is the first UNMIK report since the aborted resolution in July. The issue of Kosovo’s status, while not on the agenda, is likely to appear as an element in discussions on UNMIK’s future. The issue of witness protection in the case of former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has come up in recent expert level discussions on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and may be raised during the briefing. These two issues are expected to influence the tone of discussions on the UNMIK report and whether any agreed action emerges from the discussions.
Recent Key Developments
At the end of July, the issue of Kosovo’s status moved from the Council to the Contact Group. Following a suggestion from Germany, a troika made up of the EU (represented by Germany), Russia and the US was formed and given four months to conduct further talks with Kosovo and Serbia in an attempt to seek a negotiated solution. The Contact Group is expected to report its progress to the Secretary-General by 10 December.
Talks between the troika and the two parties began in mid-August and continued in London in September. At the time of writing the first direct talks between representatives from Kosovo and Serbia were scheduled for 28 September following a ministerial-level Contact Group meeting on 27 September. So far there has been no hint of compromise from either side. Serbia is offering full autonomy but retaining control over foreign policy, borders and monetary policy. Kosovo continues to maintain that nothing short of independence is acceptable. Alternatives ranging from partition to the Hong Kong model of an autonomous administrative region have been floated but no common ground has yet emerged.
On 31 August, Rucker announced that municipal, assembly and mayoral elections would be held on 17 November. He reserved the right to postpone elections if there is conflict or if they are used as an excuse to delay status.
The EU foreign ministers discussed Kosovo in early September in Portugal and admitted that there were differences on Kosovo among the 27 members. However, since the Council failed to come to a decision on Kosovo’s final status the EU has been forced to seriously consider alternative scenarios. Some see this as a test of the credibility of a common EU foreign policy.
UNMIK said on 5 September that the leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, can participate in the 17 November elections in Kosovo even though he is currently on trial at The Hague. UNMIK has said that as Haradinaj voluntarily surrendered and cooperated with the ICTY there is nothing to prohibit him from running.
In early July, ICTY Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, told the European parliament that the ICTY faced obstructions from the intimidation of witnesses in the trial of Haradinaj. She said there were 15 witnesses who were refusing to testify because they were afraid for their safety. It seems a major problem is that the Kosovo Police Service does not want to protect witnesses whom they regard as traitors.
choose to take no action at this point;
issue a statement encouraging the work of the troika and encouraging the parties to work at finding a solution;
resolve the differences on the witness protection issue; and
request a briefing by the Secretary-General in December after he receives the report on the troika’s negotiations.
An immediate key issue is whether the elections can be held in November. The short lead time for the elections is expected to make it difficult to meet voter registration deadlines. Another is the prospect of increased tension in the lead-up to the elections, especially if campaigning stirs nationalist sentiments. Related is the risk of retaliation against the government if elections are postponed because the status issue remains unresolved.
A pressing issue is whether UNMIK, which was drawn-down earlier this year in anticipation of a Council decision giving Kosovo independence by the middle of 2007, will be able to effectively carry out its mandate, particularly during the lead-up to the elections. A future issue is what to do with UNMIK if Kosovo declares independence or alternatively if the status quo continues indefinitely.
Another issue is witness safety in trials involving Albanian indictees at the ICTY. With Haradinaj running in the November election, prosecutors fear an increase in witness intimidation. The perception that UNMIK has facilitated his candidacy may impact potential witnesses. The unresolved issue of Kosovo’s status has slowed down previous hopes for progress in the area of witness relocation from Kosovo.
The big issue on most minds, however, will be what to do if the current talks fail to bring about a negotiated solution by 10 December and the related issue of a possible unilateral declaration of independence.
Related issues include possible secession moves by Serbs in the north and the possible impact on break-away entities in other regions.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Kosovo was a high-priority agenda item from March to July. By then, intense activity and pressure to make a decision had begun to wear down some members. Some members were relieved, therefore, when the issue moved away in July.
The mood is now more pessimistic. Many acknowledge that consensus on a status resolution (either pro-Kosovo independence or pro-the status quo) is now unlikely.
The US and Russia are participating constructively in the troika. However, fundamental differences remain. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer has voiced opposition to an extended process while Russia has made it clear it wants negotiations to be open-ended.
Members also differ over how to deal with a unilateral declaration of independence. The US has made it clear that it will recognise such a declaration. Most of the EU members also seem likely to recognise unilateral independence. Russia, recognising that its veto only carries weight within the Council, is advocating the return of the issue to the Council.
|Security Council Resolution|
|Selected Presidential Statement|
|Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Future Status Process|
|Martti Ahtisaari (Finland)|
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General|
|Joachim Rucker (Germany)|
|$217.9 million for fiscal year 2006-2007 (not including OSCE, EU and NATO expenditures)|
|KFOR (NATO FORCE)|
|General Roland Kather (Germany)|
|Size and Composition of Mission|
International Crisis Group, Breaking the Kosovo Stalemate: Europe’s Responsibility, 21 August 2007