March 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 February 2009
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Expected Council Action
In March the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will be on the table. This will be the first report that will give Council members a sense of how the delicate compromise, which was successfully brokered by the UN in November 2008 and which permitted the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to be deployed in Kosovo, is working out in practice. The Council will be interested in the Secretary-General’s assessment now that EULEX has deployed throughout Kosovo under the UN umbrella. It is also awaiting further details of progress in implementing the Secretary-General’s six-point proposal for administering northern Kosovo, covering the areas of police, judiciary, boundary management, protection of religious facilities, transport and customs.

At press time, the format for the Council meeting had not been decided, but it is possible that it will be similar to that of the 26 November open debate where the foreign ministers of Serbia and Kosovo participated (under Rules 37 and 39 of the Security Council’s provisional rules of procedure).

The UNMIK report and briefing are not expected to result in any Council action.

Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s report of 24 November covered UNMIK’s activities from June to October 2008. It described how UNMIK has begun to adapt its structure and profile within the framework of resolution 1244 (which established the mission in 1999) as outlined in the Secretary-General’s June 2008 special report on Kosovo as well as UNMIK’s evolving relationship with EULEX.

In a presidential statement on 26 November following its discussion of the report, the Council welcomed Belgrade’s and Pristina’s “intentions to cooperate with the international community”, while taking into account their positions. It also welcomed the cooperation between the UN and other international actors within the framework of resolution 1244.

The 26 November presidential statement therefore provided the basis for EULEX to take over police, justice and customs from UNMIK. On 9 December EULEX officially began its mandate in Kosovo and EULEX staff members were deployed throughout Kosovo. EULEX submitted its first report through Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, to the Secretary-General on 13 February.

On 12 December, in a letter to the Secretary-General, Serbia made it clear that while it supported the strictly status-neutral deployment of EULEX, it did not believe that EULEX’s mandate included any portion of the Secretary-General’s former Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari’s, “Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement”.

On 21 January the Kosovo Security Force (KFS) was formed. It replaced the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), a quasi military body made up largely of former ethnic Albanian veterans. The day after the KFS was formed, a grenade was thrown at its barracks, damaging the building but causing no injuries. There were also protests by former KPC members who had not been accepted into the KFS. Serbia sent a letter on 21 January to NATO and the UN protesting the formation of the KFS. In the letter, Serbia says it considers the KFS as a paramilitary organisation and a threat to Serbia’s national security. It also points out that the KFS was not created in accordance with resolution 1244 and asks for it to be disbanded.

On 17 February Kosovo marked the first anniversary of its unilateral declaration of independence. Fifty-four UN members have formally recognised Kosovo’s independence. The day before the anniversary, Serbia said that it would never recognise Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and called for a new round of negotiations on Kosovo’s future status once the International Court of Justice (ICJ) reaches a decision on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence. (The ICJ is not expected to provide its advisory opinion before 2010.)

In mid-February the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, accepted an invitation to meet Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić and Minister for Kosovo-Metohija Goran Bogdanović. The visit took place on 19 February.

One option is for the Council to receive a briefing and hear statements from interested parties and Council members but take no action.

A possible option is a presidential statement encouraging progress in the implementation of the six-point proposal.

Other options in any statement include:

  • requesting the Secretary-General to report on UNMIK’s downsizing over the year (in order to assess if resources from Kosovo could be used in other peacekeeping missions); and
  • deciding on a six-month reporting cycle, rather than quarterly.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether Council members will address Serbia’s complaints over the establishment of the KFS. Serbia is expected to raise this issue again at the March meeting.

A related issue is the recruitment procedure of KFS personnel. This process was not handled by the UN but by NATO and Kosovo’s government. However, Council members will not have forgotten the problems faced in recent years over the police recertification process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (The International Police Task Force was involved in certifying and decertifying Bosnian police officers. A total of 150 cases of decertified officers were referred to the Bosnian courts as it was felt that the process had not been impartial and lacked a good review mechanism. The Council eventually had to become involved in sorting out the issue.) (Please see our Update Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina of 14 May 2007.)

Another key issue is encouragement for implementation of the six-point plan. There has been little movement since last November. Dissenting views over the format of the six-point proposal talks are slowing down the process. Kosovo’s government continues to be concerned about Serbs in Kosovo being given too much autonomy in the areas of justice, police and customs. Given the fragility of the situation in northern Kosovo, the possibility of a collapse of the six-point proposal discussions is a significant risk. Loss of momentum could create incentives for the underlying tensions between Serbs and Albanians to be manipulated by spoilers.

Also an issue (although not one currently for the Council) is the effect of the present level of recognition for Kosovo. For instance, will Kosovo’s applications for membership to the World Bank and IMF be blocked?

A related future issue for the Council is the consequence of Kosovo becoming a frozen conflict situation in the absence of progress towards resolving its status by the international community. A soft partition between the rest of Kosovo and the north may lead to a Cyprus-like scenario, with a solution becoming more difficult as the years go by.

A future issue is how to deal with revenue from customs posts. Serbia is likely to argue that revenue collected in the north should go to northern Kosovo (thus benefiting the Serbian population there) and this is likely to be challenged by the Kosovars.

A longer-term issue is the future of UNMIK. While UNMIK is likely to be reduced to between 100 and 200 personnel, its presence in Kosovo remains an issue that will need to be taken up at some point.

Council and Wider Dynamics
For two years the Council expended a great deal of energy on this issue. From February 2007 when it was presented with the Ahtisaari plan to the end of 2008 when it adopted a presidential statement that ultimately allowed EULEX to take over many UNMIK functions, it was deeply divided. The November presidential statement was the first substantive decision by the Council on Kosovo since 2005. (A draft resolution put on the table in July 2007 was finally aborted after it was clear that it would be vetoed.)

It is clear that the differences over this issue have not disappeared. However, there is a sense that western members are happy to see it move down the list of Council priorities for now. They appear to have little inclination to see a return to divisive discussions on Kosovo’s status and on the role of resolution 1244.

The Russian position has remained consistent. Russia favours a strict implementation of resolution 1244 and supports the Serbian position that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was contrary to international law. The successful adoption of the November 2008 presidential statement and a move towards a more cordial US-Russia relationship may result in smoother dynamics over this issue in 2009. Russia’s interests in the similar set of issues in Georgia may also influence its approach, particularly if western countries are taking a less belligerent position on Kosovo.

Serbia continues to take a firm position and has lobbied Council members and the larger UN. It remains to be seen how the Secretary-General and the Council will handle Serbia’s demands, such as the disbanding of the KFS. New Council members are approaching this issue cautiously given its history in the Council. Most members do not yet have strong positions on it and are waiting for the Secretary-General’s report to help shape their thinking on the steps ahead. There are now nine countries in the Council that have recognised Kosovo’s independence and six that have not. (Last year it was eight versus seven.)

Underlying Problems
Unemployment, poverty and a crumbling infrastructure are among the immediate problems facing Kosovo today. Lawlessness and corruption are also likely to grow. This is likely to present challenges for both Kosovo’s government and the international community.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

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

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2008/44 (26 November 2008) was the presidential statement welcoming the Secretary-General’s 24 November report and the cooperation between the UN and other international actors within the framework of resolution 1244.

Selected Letters

  • S/2008/638 (10 October 2008) was the letter on the operations of KFOR from 1-31 July 2008.
  • S/2007/168/a> 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/2008/692 (24 November 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.


  • S/PV.6025 (26 November 2008) was the discussion on the Secretary-General’s 24 November report.

Full forecast


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