October 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2009
Download Complete Forecast: PDF
EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action
At press time the Council was expecting the report of the Secretary-General on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNMIK, Lamberto Zannier, is likely to brief the Council in mid-October.

The format is likely to follow that of recent Council discussions on Kosovo, with representatives from both Serbia and Kosovo participating. (Serbia participates under the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, rule 37, which provides for a member to participate when its interests are affected. Kosovo participates under rule 39, by which the Council can invite a person to provide it with information.) No Council decision is expected.

Key Recent Developments
The Council last discussed the situation in Kosovo on 17 June when it was briefed by the Special Representative on the Secretary-General’s 10 June report. The foreign ministers of Serbia, Vuk Jeremić, and Kosovo, Skënder Hyseni, also addressed the Council.

On 16 June Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu announced that local elections would be held on 15 November. He requested the Central Election Commission of Kosovo to undertake all necessary preparations. The Serbian government does not believe Kosovo Serbs should take part in the elections under the current conditions, which it deems are not in line with resolution 1244 (the 1999 resolution that authorised NATO to secure the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and established UNMIK). According to media reports 21 Kosovo Serb candidate lists have registered in the elections (out of a total of 76), but Kosovo Serb participation is expected to be very low.

On 30 June the General Assembly adopted the 2009-2010 budget for UNMIK, with approximately $47 million providing for the deployment of 507 personnel. This represents a significant reduction from the 2008-2009 budget of $198 million which authorised personnel strength of 4,911.

On 29 July the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that it would hold public hearings starting on 1 December on the question of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. (The General Assembly asked the ICJ for an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence in a Serbian-sponsored resolution adopted in October 2008.) Kosovo and 36 UN member states submitted written statements before the 17 April deadline established by the Court, and 14 states submitted written comments on these statements by the 17 July deadline. The deadline for indicating an interest in participating in the public hearings was 15 September. The advisory opinion is expected sometime in 2010.

On 25 August violent clashes between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians broke out in the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo after about 100 Serbs had rallied to protest the rebuilding of Kosovo Albanian houses. Seven people were wounded. EU police, part of the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), used tear gas to disperse the crowd and bring the situation under control. On the same day, in a separate incident in Pristina, 24 EULEX vehicles were damaged in a protest led by Self-Determination (Vetëvendosje), an ethnic Albanian nationalist group.

On 13 August NATO’s new Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visited Kosovo. In addition to meeting with the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), Rasmussen met Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu, Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi and the Minister for the Kosovo Security Force, Fehmi Mujota. On 3 August Rasmussen had said that his aim for Kosovo was to see KFOR reduced to a small reaction force or withdrawn altogether by the end of his four-year term. However, during his Kosovo visit Rasmussen underlined that withdrawal of troops would depend on the security situation. (There are still almost 14,000 NATO troops in Kosovo, but this is expected to be reduced to 10,000 at the beginning of 2010.)

Also in August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Belgrade, Zagreb, Sarajevo and Banja Luka. The High Commissioner has identified the Western Balkans as one of five priority regions around the world with a protracted refugee situation. In Belgrade on 28 August, Guterres said that the situation for refugees and internally displaced persons, including thousands displaced from Kosovo, remained unacceptable and that urgent solutions had to be found.

On 11 September, Serbia and EULEX signed a protocol on police cooperation. Pristina initially opposed the agreement, but later withdrew its objections after receiving assurances from the EU and the US that the protocol would not impact Kosovo’s status. There were, however, large protests in Pristina following the signing. It was also criticised by some Serbian parties which see the protocol as recognising a border between Serbia and Kosovo.

Options
The most likely option is for the Council to simply receive the briefing and for members to express their national positions on the issues.

Key Issues
A key issue is the continuing reconfiguration of the international presence in Kosovo. With the June decision on UNMIK’s budget, discussions on downsizing the UN mission seem to have been put to rest for now. However, questions remain as to the UN’s role on the ground and the extent to which it should lead on dialogue with the parties, in particular on issues where EULEX is now engaged. A related issue is the planned drawdown of KFOR.

Ethnic tensions resulting from the rebuilding of houses by returnees in the north also remain an issue. While an understanding was reached in principle between the Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian communities earlier this year to diffuse the situation, the recent August violence demonstrated that tensions remain.

A third issue is the slow progress on the six-point dialogue outlined in the Secretary-General’s 12 June 2008 report covering the areas of police, courts, customs, transportation and infrastructure, boundary management and protection of Serbian patrimony. While Belgrade is seen as open to discussions on these issues, Kosovo authorities have remained reluctant to engage. It seems that the forthcoming ICJ advisory opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence has led to less flexibility by the parties due to their concerns about particular issues either strengthening or weakening their legal case.

Council Dynamics
The Council is still divided between those who support Kosovo’s independence and those who believe that Kosovo’s declaration of independence violates international law. Nine members (the US, the UK, France, Austria, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Japan and Turkey) have recognised Kosovo’s independence.

Some Council members, most notably the US, seem to believe that a further downsizing of UNMIK is desirable, but acknowledge that discussions in the Council would be premature at this stage.

Russia maintains that resolution 1244 requests that UNMIK should have a credible presence in Kosovo and should retain coordination and political leadership roles as well as administrative functions.

Most Council members, however, prefer to see Kosovo as a low priority at the present stage.

Some Council members are interested in exploring the possibility of a change to the format of the meetings on Kosovo from an open briefing to a closed meeting or to informal consultations as they believe the open format stifles real discussions and incentivises the parties to use the Council as a stage to present their positions. Some Council members are also open to exploring less frequent reporting from the Secretary-General. Russia, however, is opposed to any such changes.

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/2009/300 (10 June 2009) was a 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.6144 (17 June 2009) was the discussion on the Secretary-General’s 10 June report.


Useful Additional Resources

 

Full forecast