August 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 July 2010
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action
In early August the Special Representative and head of UNMIK, Lamberto Zannier, is expected to brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Kosovo. This seems likely to trigger a discussion on the implications of the ICJ advisory opinion, announced on 22 July, which concluded that the declaration of independence by Kosovo did not violate international law.

Key Recent Developments
On 22 July the International Court of Justice (ICJ) released its advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence. By ten votes to four the Court concluded that the declaration of independence of Kosovo adopted on 17 February 2008 did not violate international law, Security Council resolution 1244 or the constitutional framework.

On 28 July Serbia submitted a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly calling for new negotiations on Kosovo. In the draft Serbia insisted on talks on “all outstanding issues” but, apparently conceding to international pressure, did not explicitly request negotiations on Kosovo’s status. It requested that the General Assembly take into account that “unilateral secession cannot be an acceptable way to solve territorial issues”.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Serbian Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremic, met on 29 July at UN Headquarters to. The Secretary-General said that he planned to closely coordinate next steps with the EU.

Serbia’s parliament held an emergency session on 26 July and passed a resolution the following day which vowed that, despite the ICJ opinion, Serbia would never recognise Kosovo as an independent state. The parliament resolution called for renewed “peaceful negotiations” on the status of Kosovo. President Boris Tadić had told parliament that Serbia would seek new talks on Kosovo’s status at the UN General Assembly in September. Kosovo has ruled out any new status talks.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on 22 July ordered ex-Kosovo premier and former Kosovo Liberation Army commander, Ramush Haradinaj, to be retried. He was acquitted on 3 April 2008 of serious war crimes. Serbia and Russia had raised strong objections to the acquittal. The appeals chamber reinstated six of the original 37 charges made against Haradinaj. The charges include murder, torture, cruel treatment and the unlawful detention of civilians.

On 6 July the Council held consultations following the request of Serbia’s permanent representative for an “urgent meeting” to discuss the “serious deterioration of the security situation in the northern part of Kosovo.” The request was made following a 2 July explosion in Mitrovica that left one dead and 12 injured. An explosive device had been detonated close to a demonstration where over 1,500 Serbs had gathered to protest the opening of a civil services centre in Bosniak Mahalla, an ethnically mixed area of Mitrovica. The demonstrators were protesting the level of consultation with the local Kosovo Serb community in establishing the administrative office.

Another violent incident occurred in Mitrovica on 5 July when an ethnic Serb member of the Kosovo parliament was shot and wounded. The victim, Petar Miletic, is one of ten Serb deputies in the 120-seat parliament. Some Serbian elements regard Serbs who work with such Pristina-run institutions as traitors.

On 30 May Belgrade-organised local elections in Mitrovica were held, leading to clashes between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanian protesters, who insisted that Serbia should not be allowed to organise elections in Kosovo. The groups threw stones at each other and local media reported that Serb protesters attacked some journalists. NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) soldiers and Kosovo and EU police officers were deployed to prevent the conflict from escalating.

In late May, NATO announced that it will reduce KFOR troop levels by two-thirds this year. During a visit to Kosovo, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said KFOR had reduced its contingent to 10,000 in January from a previous 15,000 and would eventually reduce levels to 2,000 troops when the security situation allowed.

At press time the total number of recognitions of Kosovo was 69.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether a Council debate reflecting on the ICJ decision will help move the parties forward in terms of cooperation.

A connected issue is how the ICJ decision (and any Council debate) is being seen on the ground and whether this will affect the security situation in northern Kosovo.

For some Council members their position on the ICJ advisory opinion may be influenced by concerns about the possible impact on secessionist movements. Many seem to be encouraged that the ICJ decision was in fact very carefully nuanced saying in effect that while in the Kosovo case the declaration of independence was lawful, it stopped well short of affirming a general right of self determination applicable in all cases.

For the Council a longer term issue is the impact of the ICJ decision on resolution 1244 which mandates UNMIK with a key role in Kosovo. For some (and for Kosovo) the ICJ decision will be seen as evidence that resolution 1244 should be terminated. For others (especially Serbia) the prolongation of resolution 1244 would be a symbol that there was still some hope of reopening the Kosovo status issue. A related issue is the fact that resolution 1244, unusually, has no automatic expiry date. Amendment or repeal is therefore subject to veto and at least in the short-term it seems likely that Serbia can rely on Russia’s support for keeping resolution 1244.

With respect to the UNMIK report some Council members may want to highlight the security situation and whether the violent events that transpired in early July in Mitrovica were isolated criminal incidents or may be repeated.

A continuing practical issue for the Council is the need for quarterly UNMIK reports and briefings by the Secretary-General’s special representative. Reducing the frequency or changing the format of the meetings may become an issue.

Options
One option is for the Council to simply receive the briefing.

An alternate option, following recent practice, would be a Council debate and invitations to Kosovo and Serbia to participate.

A third option would be to begin negotiations on a possible statement reflecting agreed positions, if any, on security issues, the future role of UNMIK and the application of resolution 1244.

Another (less likely) option would be for the Council to agree that future discussions on Kosovo’s status are not ruled out depending on the consent of the parties.

Council Dynamics
The Council is still divided between those who recognise and those who oppose. Six Council members—Austria, France, Japan, Turkey, the UK and the US—have formally recognised Kosovo’s independence. Russia and China oppose. It remains to be seen whether or not the Council’s remaining non-permanent members who have not taken firm positions will continue to prefer more neutral positions.

Russia continues to support renewed status negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina and that it believes it is important for the Council to remain seized of the issue so as to facilitate this process. China prefers that any settlement between the parties be attained through negotiations. The US opposes any move to renew status negotiations.

Russia, which has the Council presidency in August, seems likely to stress the security dimension as a justification for ongoing active Council oversight and a continued UNMIK role. This was highlighted by Russia’s active support for the convening of the 6 July meeting, based on what in its assessment was a “deteriorating security situation.” The US, UK and France all expressed the sentiment that there was no risk of a general deterioration in security, and the US strongly asserted that the violent incidents in Mitrovica were isolated in nature and did not warrant a Council meeting.

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.

Secretary-General’s Report

Security Council Letter

  • S/2010/355 (2 July 2010) was from the permanent representative of Serbia requesting an urgent meeting on the “serious deterioration” of the security situation in northern Kosovo.

Security Council Meeting Record

  • S/PV.6353 (6 July 2010) was the meeting held at Serbia’s request on the security situation in northern Kosovo.

Other

  • SC/9972 (6 July 2010) was the press statement following the 6 July meeting.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Lamberto Zannier (Italy)

UNMIK

  • Size of mission: 510
  • Cost: $47.87 million (1 July 2010- 30 June 2011 budget)

KFOR (NATO force)

  • Force commander: Lt. Gen. Markus J. Bentler (Germany)
  • Size of mission: 9,923 Troops (as of 26 February 2010)

Useful Additional Sources

Accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo, Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, 22 July 2010.

The Rule of Law in Independent Kosovo, Europe Report No. 204, International Crisis Group, 19 May 2010.

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