June 2009 Monthly Forecast

EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action
In June the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the UN Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will be available. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNMIK, Lamberto Zannier, is expected to brief the Council. The six-point plan for Kosovo covering the areas of police, judiciary, boundary management, protection of religious facilities, transport and customs and the operation of EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) are expected to be featured.

The format is likely to follow the discussion in March with representatives from both Serbia and Kosovo participating (Serbia participates under the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council rule 37 which provides for a member to participate where its interests are affected. A Kosovo representative participates under rule 39 where the Council can invite a person to provide it with information.) A lively discussion is likely but no formal outcome is expected. 

Key Recent Developments
Regular power cuts in Serbian villages led to demonstrations in central and eastern Kosovo in March and eventually to a violent clash with police in a Serbian village near Gjilan/Gnjilane. By early April electricity was restored to villages that signed a collective agreement with the Kosovo power company, KEK. However, power was not restored to 14 villages that preferred to deal with the Serbian power company, EPS instead of KEK. Clashes on 10 May led to 26 people being injured.

On 27 April, Serbs in northern Kosovo protested against the rebuilding of homes for ethnic Albanians in northern Mitrovica. Protestors threw hand grenades and fired shots at EU police officers. The EU expressed deep concern over the protests and reemphasised its support for EULEX and the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) in establishing rule of law in Kosovo. It said that the rioters should be brought to justice.

In May US Vice President Joe Biden visited Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Pristina, he told Kosovo’s parliament that its independence is irreversible and the only viable option for regional stability. In Belgrade he said that the US does not expect Serbia to recognise Kosovo’s independence and that this was not a precondition for its relationship with Serbia or its support for Serbia becoming a part of the EU.

On 8 May the IMF agreed to offer membership to Kosovo, giving Kosovo access to international aid. Serbia and Russia tried to block Kosovo’s membership, but the organisation’s majority voting allowed it to be accepted.

On 15 April Serbia wrote to the president of the Council expressing concern at the extensive cuts in UNMIK funds and personnel for the next financial year. It said that the cuts would jeopardise UNMIK’s mandate under resolution 1244, which established the mission in 1999. Another area of budgetary concern cited was the lack of funds to implement the six-point agreement between the Secretary-General and Serbia.

The Council met in a closed session on 16 April at Russia’s request to discuss the Government of Kosovo’s relations with UNMIK.

By 17 April, 34 states (including Kosovo and Serbia) had submitted their arguments on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence with the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The countries now have until 17 July to comment on each other’s submissions. (On 8 October 2008 the UN General Assembly voted in favour of a Serbian-sponsored resolution asking the ICJ for an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.) A decision is not expected until 2010 at the earliest.

During a meeting with Zannier on 23 April, Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu asked UNMIK to leave, stating that its presence was no longer needed. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has said that UNMIK is unnecessary with EULEX and the International Civilian Office in Kosovo.

When Kosovo declared independence in February 2008, more than 300 Serbian police officers left the Kosovo Police Service (KPS), responding to Serbian pressure to boycott Kosovo institutions. Many of these officers were from eastern and central Kosovo and were suspended on full pay by the Kosovo government. By mid-May about 45 officers had returned to the KPS.

The UN Development Programme’s quarterly Early Warning Report on Kosovo published on 15 May revealed that the majority of Kosovars saw socioeconomic issues such as unemployment, poverty, lack of electricity and corruption as the main problems threatening Kosovo’s stability. The report also highlighted a shift in attitudes towards UNMIK which is no longer seen as the main actor responsible for the political situation with this role being attributed to the Kosovo government and political parties.

At the opening of its headquarters in Pristina on 6 April, EULEX announced that it had reached full operational capacity with most of its staff now deployed. (At the time of writing, EULEX had 1,713 international and 910 local staff.) Since beginning operations on 9 December, EULEX police have been deployed at police headquarters in Pristina, at all local and regional police stations and border checkpoints. It has established a 24 hour presence at the two customs gates in northern Kosovo, which had been set on fire following Kosovo’s declaration of independence. 

Options
Since no outcome is required, the most likely option is for the Council to receive the briefing and listen to statements from interested parties.

Key Issues
A key issue is how serious the Kosovo government is about wanting UNMIK to leave. (Closing down UNMIK has in the past been a very contentious issue and under resolution 1244, adopted for an indefinite period under Chapter VII, any such decision requires nine votes and no vetoes.)

Also an issue is how much more UNMIK can realistically be downsized. A proposal to reduce staff from 1,000 to 500 by 1 June was included in the draft budget for this year which is currently being discussed by the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly. It remains to be seen whether Russia and Serbia will use Fifth Committee consensus rules to block downsizing.

A further issue is whether Serbia will seek to intensify its control over institutions north of the Ibar River. The Kosovo government appears to be increasingly impatient with the slow pace of Serb integration. But it runs the risk of provoking de facto partition if it becomes inflexible.

Rising discontent among Kosovo Serbs who feel that they are being unfairly treated is also an issue. This is beginning to be translated into action as shown in the protests over power cuts. The potential for violence is of concern to the Council.

The future role of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which is a central element of the reconfigured UNMIK is also an issue. Currently it is responsible for comprehensive monitoring of compliance with the protection of minorities throughout Kosovo. The OSCE’s extensive field presence has led some observers to suggest that it could take on an implementation role in areas such as human rights, minority rights and democratisation. But this could be sensitive as Russia and Serbia are concerned that OSCE remains status-neutral and refrains from strengthening Kosovo institutions.

Council Dynamics
Most members seem comfortable with the compromise which allowed EULEX’s role in Kosovo under a UN umbrella. There appears to be no change in their fundamental positions. The Council is still divided between members who support Kosovo’s independence and those who believe that Kosovo’s declaration of independence violates international law and resolution 1244.

Most of the European members are now focused on making EULEX’s role in Kosovo a positive one. They are open to UNMIK downsizing further. Russia continues to hold strongly to the view that UNMIK needs to keep a substantial presence in Kosovo and that it should retain its coordination and political, as well as administrative functions. It also believes that the Council should continue to play a leading role on this issue.

The US appears to be reenergising its focus on the Balkans. Vice President Joe Biden’s Balkans tour in May covered Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo. One of the stated aims was to “reset” in a positive way relations with Serbia. An improvement in US-Serbia relations might lead to a more flexible and constructive atmosphere.

Many of the elected Council members are concerned over the ongoing incidents of interethnic violence in Kosovo and have highlighted the need for continued dialogue between the parties on areas of mutual concern.

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 (2 October 2008) was the letter that transmitted the report 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/2009/149 (17 March 2009) was the last report of the Secretary-General.
  • S/2008/354 (12 June 2008) was the Secretary-General’s report on how he plans to reconfigure UNMIK.

Other

  • S/PV.6097 (23 March 2009) was the discussion on the Secretary-General’s 17 March report.

Additional Useful Resources

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