November 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2008
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action
In early November the Council is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The report was originally scheduled for release on 9 October, with a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Lamberto Zannier planned for mid-October. However, Serbia requested (through Russia) that the briefing be delayed to November to allow time for parallel talks with UNMIK and the EU. The report is expected to be circulated at the end of October, and Zannier’s briefing is now expected in the first week of November.

The UNMIK report and briefing do not require any action. However if there are positive developments from the Serbia/UNMIK/EU discussions, Council action to encourage or welcome progress is a possible option.

Key Recent Developments
On 8 October the UN General Assembly voted 77- 6 (with 74 abstentions and 35 not voting) for a Serbian sponsored resolution asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. Voting against were the US, Albania, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. Most EU countries abstained although Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Spain voted in support. The ICJ could take up to two years to issue its opinion, which will not be binding on the parties.

On 9 October two of Kosovo’s neighbouring states, Montenegro and Macedonia, extended recognition. The United Arab Emirates on 14 October became the first Arab nation to do so, bringing the number of countries formally recognising Kosovo’s independence to 51.

On 16 October Serbian president, Boris Tadic, said a compromise allowing the EU Police and Justice Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to be deployed was possible. However, he said three conditions needed to be met: authorisation from the Council, EULEX to be a status-neutral mission, and a stop to referring to the plan developed by former UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari as the framework for governance of Kosovo.

In mid-October the head of EULEX, Yves de Kermabon, expressed hope that it would be fully operational by the beginning of December. (So far only 500 of 2,200 international staff are in place, and operations have been delayed by Serbia’s opposition to EULEX’s presence in northern Kosovo.) On 22 October the US and the EU signed an agreement allowing US personnel to join EULEX.

Options
If there is no progress in discussions with Belgrade, one option is to proceed with the briefing on the UNMIK report. But if there are concrete results or prospects for an outcome under which Serbia might accept EULEX, the Council would have the option of a presidential statement:

  • highlighting progress made on the six points in administering northern Kosovo (police, judiciary, boundary management, protection of religious facilities, transport and customs);
  • formally approving deployment of EULEX; and
  • reiterating the oversight mandate of resolution 1244

Another option—perhaps better tailored to finding common ground that does not prejudice either side’s position—might be an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the president of the Council. In his letter, the Secretary-General could outline understandings reached between the EU, UNMIK and Serbia and convey his intention in light of that to accept EULEX’s request for Kosovo-wide deployment under the UN umbrella, and he could clarify reporting lines to UNMIK from EULEX, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and NATO. The letter would be circulated to all members for approval.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is how it can help stem the growing divide between the Kosovo government and Serbian-controlled areas. With EULEX only partially deployed and UNMIK no longer at full capacity, there is increasing evidence of deteriorating security as well as corruption and cronyism in northern Kosovo. Smuggling has become a problem along with the wide availability of illegal arms.

Connected issues include how soon EULEX can be up and running and the wider political question of whether it will be able to fully deploy across Kosovo, particularly in the north. The risk of a soft partition becoming entrenched in the north is a related issue, with Serbs running the main institutions north of the Ibar River.

In this regard, another issue is whether such an outcome can be avoided, perhaps by agreeing that some special status would be given to institutions in the north. Some observers expect that Serbia will want such concessions on all six points before approving EULEX’s deployment in the north.

How the various international missions in Kosovo will work together is also an issue. EULEX has yet to sign a political agreement with UNMIK or the OSCE.

Council Dynamics
Some members think there is an opportunity for productive negotiations with Belgrade. Serbia’s success in getting the issue of Kosovo’s independence referred to the ICJ and a more pro-EU government in Belgrade may have created a more opportune moment for a pragmatic agreement on EULEX. However, some European members and the US are more skeptical and suspect that Serbia might seek more by way of a special status in the north than is tolerable in Pristina. There is also unhappiness among some European members that Serbia continues to use Russia as an intermediary rather than approaching them directly.

Russia remains firm in its position that in the absence of consent from Serbia the EULEX mission is illegal. It continues to actively support Serbia and voiced unhappiness with the recognition by Montenegro and Macedonia of Kosovo. But in practice it has shown in the past that it does not seek to be “more Serbian than the Serbs”.

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 Letters

  • S/2008/638 (10 October 2008) was the letter on the operations of KFOR from 1-31 July 2008.
  • S/2007/168 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/2008/458 (15 July 2008) was the Secretary-General’s latest report.
  • S/2008/354 (12 June 2008) was the Secretary-General’s report on how he plans to reconfigure UNMIK.

Other

  • S/PV.5944 (25 July 2008) was the discussion on the Secretary-General’s July report.
  • A/RES/63/3 (8 October 2008) was the General Assembly’s resolution referring Kosovo’s declaration of independence to the ICJ for an advisory opinion.

Full forecast