May 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 April 2010
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action
In May the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNMIK, Lamberto Zannier, is scheduled to brief the Council. (This was expected in April when the Secretary-General’s latest report was issued but it was postponed.) The format of the meeting is likely to be the same as for Zannier’s most recent briefings, with statements by Serbia (most likely President Boris Tadić) and Kosovo, as well as Council members. No Council decision is expected.

Key Recent Developments
In his 6 April report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the Secretary-General reported that the overall security situation in Kosovo remained “relatively calm but fragile.” While there had not been much progress on practical issues relating to the functioning of courts and full customs control in northern Kosovo, the report noted as a positive development the EU appointment of the head of the Greek liaison office in Pristina, Dimitris Moschopoulos, as facilitator for the protection of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s religious and cultural heritage in Kosovo.

Another positive development was the number of returns of displaced persons, with 1,153 individuals returning to their homes from inside and outside Kosovo in 2009, compared with 679 in 2008. But the overall number of returns still remained “disappointingly low.”

The report also raised questions about the strategy for integration of northern Kosovo, drafted by EU Special Representative Pieter Feith in consultation with Kosovo authorities and announced in January. The Secretary-General noted that UNMIK “was neither consulted in the drafting of the strategy nor included in its planned implementation.” He also expressed concern about possible increased tensions in northern Kosovo if the strategy was not implemented “in conditions of transparency and dialogue with local communities and all relevant stakeholders.”

On 27 April, in the Serbian enclave of Gracanica, thousands of Kosovo Serbs protested against the dismantling by Kosovo authorities of two Serbian mobile phone networks deemed to be operating illegally in central Kosovo. Belgrade expressed support for the protesters and promised to do everything possible to restore the networks’ service.

On 8 April, US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg visited Kosovo and met with the president and the prime minister. He said the most important issues for Kosovo and all of the western Balkans were the fight against corruption and organised crime and creating economic opportunities. He also stressed that Kosovo and Serbia should make progress on discussing practical issues despite political differences.

On 19 April, NATO announced that it would transfer responsibility for controlling the border with Albania to the Kosovo police. It also said that transfer of control of the other border areas would follow, but without a fixed timeline.

On 20 April the foreign ministers of Serbia, Spain and Turkey—Vuk Jeremić, Miguel Angel Moratinos and Ahmet Davutoglu—met in Belgrade to discuss the EU/Balkan summit planned for June in Sarajevo under the Spanish EU presidency, including the modalities for Kosovo’s participation at the summit. Kosovo has said it will only participate as a state. Serbia maintains that Kosovo can only be represented under the UNMIK banner.

In April, Swaziland was reported to have recognised Kosovo’s independence, bringing the total number of recognitions to 66.

Human Rights-Related Developments
The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, reported to the Human Rights Council (HRC) in March on her mission to Serbia and Kosovo, from 30 April to 8 May 2009. Jahangir concluded that the reconstruction of cultural and religious heritage sites damaged or destroyed during the violence of March 2004 remained of utmost importance. She recommended that UNMIK continue efforts to ensure safe conditions for the sustainable return of displaced persons in Kosovo, especially those belonging to religious minorities.

In a statement to HRC on 2 March, Jeremić said the human rights situation in Kosovo stood in “stark contrast to the rest of Serbia” and that Kosovo was in that respect “without a doubt the darkest corner of Europe.”

Key Issues

A key issue is whether Council members wish to adopt a passive approach or try more actively to encourage progress on the underlying issues.

A related issue is the approach outlined by the Secretary-General in 2008 based on the six-point dialogue and whether this needs to be updated.

Another key issue is the proposed strategy for northern Kosovo and whether this may have a destabilising impact. (Belgrade-organised elections are expected to take place in northern Mitrovica on 30 May.)

The external representation of Kosovo is increasingly becoming an issue complicating cooperation in regional and international forums. A related question is the possible impact of the proceedings in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. (It seems that the Court’s advisory opinion in this case is now expected to be issued later than previously expected, possibly towards the end of the year instead of this summer.)

A longer-term issue is the future of UNMIK. While there are currently no discussions to further downsize the mission, its presence remains an issue that will have to be addressed at some point. A related question is the risk of Kosovo becoming a “frozen conflict” if there is no progress towards resolving its status.

A practical issue for the Council is whether to continue with quarterly UNMIK reports and briefings by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative followed by a debate or whether to reduce the frequency or change the format of the meetings.

Issues also include the continuing high number of internally displaced persons and the pervasiveness of corruption and organised crime.

Options
One option, following recent practice, is for the Council to simply receive the briefing and for members to express their national positions on the issues. An alternative option would be to seek to develop a collective statement on some of the key issues. 

Council and Wider Dynamics

Serbia hopes that the ICJ advisory opinion will be in its favour and pave the way for new negotiations on the status of Kosovo. (Another resolution in the General Assembly in the fall could be a possibility depending on the Court’s decision.)

Kosovo, on the other hand, is also hoping the ICJ will vindicate its status and seems to be actively pursuing a strategy on actions to be taken following the Court’s ruling.

Council dynamics remain unchanged. The Council is still divided between those who support Kosovo’s independence and those who see it as a violation of international law. Six Council members (Austria, France, Japan, Turkey, the UK and the US) have formally recognised Kosovo’s independence. It appears that some of these members were unhappy with the Secretary-General’s latest report and saw it as unhelpful to Pristina, in particular in the way it highlighted certain recent developments.

Russia continues to prefer the status quo under resolution 1244 and emphasises the importance of a leading UNMIK role in Kosovo, although it accepts that the EU Rule of Law Mission has taken the lead on several issues. It believes that it is still necessary for the Council to monitor the situation closely and opposes the new strategy for northern Kosovo.

The US and the Europeans are also focused on the future Euro-Atlantic integration of both Serbia and Kosovo. Although the EU is divided over Kosovo’s status, there is consensus on the inclusion of both Serbia and Kosovo in EU integration plans. (Serbia applied for EU membership in December 2009.)

Many Council members would seem to prefer less frequent meetings on Kosovo and a different format. However, there is little appetite for pushing this issue given that Russia is opposed to any 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) welcomed 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/2010/197 (20 April 2010) transmitted the report on the operations of KFOR from 1 October to 31 December 2009.
  • S/2007/168 and add. 1 (26 March 2007) transmitted UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s report on Kosovo’s future status and the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2010/169 (6 April 2010) was the latest report.
  • S/2008/692 (24 November 2008) provided details on the six-point dialogue.

Other

  • S/PV.6264 (22 January 2010) was the last briefing by the Special Representative.

Other Relevant Facts 

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Lamberto Zannier (Italy)

UNMIK

  • Size of mission: 510
  • Cost: $47 million (2009-2010 budget)

KFOR (NATO FORCE)

  • Force Commander: Lieutenant General Markus J. Bentler (Germany)
  • Size of mission: 9,923 troops (as of 26 February 2010)

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