April 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 March 2008
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action
In April the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Joachim Rücker, will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), expected at the end of March. This is the first UNMIK report since Kosovo declared independence on 17 February and there is a high level of interest in what the Secretary-General may say about UNMIK and whether it will reveal a trend towards:

  • leaving UNMIK more or less as is for the meantime;
  • drawing down UNMIK staff consistent with a reduced level of operations; or
  • withdrawing UNMIK altogether.

Consultations are also possible, if the situation in northern Kosovo deteriorates. At the time of writing, a presidential statement proposed by Russia was still being discussed. Further initiatives from Russia are conceivable. The Russian draft reaffirms resolution 1244 (which established UNMIK in 1999) and the composition of the international presences authorised by 1244; reiterates the importance of resolving problems in the region by peaceful means; expresses concern about “unilateral actions that exacerbated the situation in Kosovo;” and calls for a roadmap for Kosovo settlement and a resumption of dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.

Key Recent Developments
On 17 March, a tense situation in northern Kosovo erupted into violence. Three days earlier a UN court building in Mitrovica had been taken over by Serbs. The UN police, backed by French NATO peacekeepers, retook the court building. Rioters attacked three UN vehicles, a Ukrainian UN police officer was killed, and more than 100 UN police, NATO peacekeepers and Serb civilians were injured. The unsafe situation prompted the UN police to move out of Mitrovica for two days. On 19 March, UNMIK launched an investigation into the clashes. In a letter to the Council president on 18 March, Serbia asked the Council to consider the deteriorating situation. It also indicated that it had asked the Secretary-General for talks to clarify the relationship between Serbia and UNMIK.

The Secretary-General deplored the violent attacks against UN personnel and urged all communities “to exercise calm and restraint.” He also pledged that the UN would take all measures required to implement its mandate. NATO condemned the violence and said it would respond firmly under its UN mandate to any acts of violence following its UN mandate. Russia expressed misgivings about the wisdom of resisting the Serb occupation and made accusations of lack of restraint. The US condemned the violence against the UN police and NATO troops.

In mid-March, Serbia submitted a plan for the functional division of Serb and Albanian populations in Kosovo. The proposal acknowledges UNMIK’s authority in Kosovo but claims that the police, judiciary and customs should be controlled by Serbs in parts of Kosovo where Serbs are a majority. (The proposal, rejected by the Kosovo government, is a first step from the current “soft” partition to a more definitive but still de facto new status for northern Kosovo.)

Since the declaration of independence on 17 February, 33 countries (18 from the EU) have formally recognised Kosovo. Some observers see the recognition by near neighbours—Croatia and Hungary on 19 March, and Bulgaria on 20 March—as giving new momentum to the process. The three countries issued a joint statement saying their decision was based on “thorough consideration” and underlining the importance of protecting the Serb minority. Serbia has declared that countries that recognise Kosovo are in breach of international law. It has recalled its ambassadors from countries that have extended recognition.

(Please see our Update Report on 10 March for other developments regarding Kosovo’s declaration of independence.)

Key Issues
A key issue is the potential for further violence, particularly in the north. A related issue is how to respond to Serbian involvement in parallel institutions in northern Kosovo and the consequential possibility of this “soft partition” becoming entrenched, and a frozen conflict situation developing.

A second key issue is how the UN should handle direct challenges to UNMIK’s authority. The takeover of the court building was seen by UNMIK as a clear red line that justified immediate action. Some Council members feel the action was hasty and could have been resolved without violence. A connected issue for the future is whether and when UNMIK and NATO forces will use force in trying to maintain stability in northern Kosovo.

A third key issue is the differences in the Council over the interpretation of resolution 1244 and specifically the implications for UNMIK’s presence. Related to this is the dilemma the Council may face in supporting the Secretary-General. So far he has continued to use 1244 as the legal framework for UNMIK’s presence and scope of activities.

If the Secretary-General indicates that he is going to restructure UNMIK in the light of developments, the question becomes what is needed to give effect to such a decision. Some feel that no new resolution is needed. Others are likely to insist that UNMIK cannot be adjusted without amending resolution 1244.

A continuing issue is whether other territories with independence aspirations are being stimulated by Kosovo’s action. Related to this is whether some governments might now react more strongly against autonomy movements lest they show signs of wanting independence.

Options
The Council’s options will depend largely on the evolving security situation and on what the Secretary-General may suggest in his report. Given the deadlock over this issue it is likely that the majority in the Council will prefer to simply have the briefing but take no action.

One option if the Council wants to be kept better informed of the situation on the ground is to request the Secretary-General to provide monthly briefings.

Although unlikely given the current dynamics in the Council, other options still remain, including:

  • beginning work on a resolution to replace 1244, refocusing UNMIK and authorising the EU mission;
  • agreeing to a new framework for negotiationsbetween Pristina and Belgrade; and
  • requesting UNMIK to work with Serbia on the key concerns such as the status of the Kosovo Serb population, the Serbian Orthodox Church, customs, judges and police.

Council Dynamics
While Council members agree that 1244 and UNMIK should continue and on the need for the Secretary-General to report regularly to the Council, members are continuing to apply differing interpretations of 1244. Some (the US and Europeans) see 1244 as consistent with the EU mission. Others (like Russia) feel that this is contrary to 1244. Positions appear to be rigidifying. China, at the time of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, said that it was “gravely concerned.” It may now take a stronger position against the independence declaration.

In discussing Russia’s proposed presidential statement members were unable to agree on even basic common elements. While a lot of energy has been put into this issue, with numerous meetings over the past 12 months, the Council has only managed to issue one press statement (condemning the mob attacks on embassies in Belgrade on 20 February). Instead, public statements have been made by different groups or member states conveying their particular positions, thus providing a clear picture of the divisions within the Council.

Many of the non-permanent members are increasingly ready to see Kosovo become a less active issue on the Council’s agenda.

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 Statements

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

Selected Letters

  • A/62/703-S/2008/111 ((17 February 2008) was the letter from Serbia on its position on Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
  • A/62/700-S/2008/108 (17 February 2008) was the letter from Russia transmitting its Foreign Ministry’s statement on Kosovo following the declaration of independence and calling for an immediate emergency meeting of the Council.
  • S/2008/104 (17 February 2008) was the letter from Russia supporting Serbia’s request for a meeting.
  • S/2008/103 (17 February 2008) was the letter from Serbia asking for an emergency public meeting after Kosovo declared independence.
  • S/2008/93 (12 February 2008) was the letter from Russia supporting Serbia’s request for meeting of the Council. S/S
  • S/2008/92 (12 February 2008) was the letter from Serbia requesting an urgent meeting of the Council to consider the situation in Kosovo.
  • S/2008/7 (4 January 2008) was the letter from Serbia commenting on the Secretary-General’s December UNMIK report.
  • S/2007/768 and Add. 1 (26 March 2007) was the letter transmitting UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s report on Kosovo’s future status and the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement.

Selected Reports

  • S/2007/768 (3 January 2008) was the last report of the Secretary-General on UNMIK.
  • S/2007/723 (10 December 2007) was the report of the Troika.

Other

  • S/PV.5839 (18 February 2008) was the open meeting following Kosovo’s independence declaration.
  • Statement issued on 17 February 2008 by the UK, France, Croatia, Belgium, Italy, Germany and the US.
  • Statement issued on 20 July 2007 by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, UK and the US, co-sponsors of the draft resolution on Kosovo presented to the Council on 17 July.
  • Draft resolution on Kosovo (formally circulated on 17 July 2007 but withdrawn on 20 July 2007).

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