February 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2012
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to hold a debate on the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in February. Farid Zarif, the Special Representative and head of mission, is expected to brief the Council on developments and the quarterly report that was due in late January. (The EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo [EULEX], which was deployed in 2008, operates under the overall authority of UNMIK. EULEX’s mandate expires on 14 June 2012.)

No Council action is expected in February on Kosovo.

Key Recent Developments
On 2 December 2011, the EU announced that Serbia and Kosovo had reached an Integrated Border Management (IBM) agreement to jointly manage their border crossings. The issue was one of the most contentious between the two sides, and the agreement was seen as removing a potential block to Serbia’s joining the EU. On 6 December, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resumption of the EU-brokered talks, which resulted in the adoption of the border agreement. He said that the agreement would “pave the way for the normalisation of the situation” at checkpoints along Kosovo’s northern border with Serbia.

On 28 November, several soldiers from the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) were injured as they sought to remove roadblocks erected by Kosovo Serbs who opposed the move by the government in Pristina to send more border guards to the crossing. Since July 2011, several violent clashes had occurred at two border security checkpoints, known as Gates 1 and 31. In his statement, the Secretary-General called on all parties to honour the IBM agreement, “to refrain from unilateral action and to actively support the de-escalation of tensions on the ground.”

On 9 December, the European Council—following a meeting in Brussels—issued a statement welcoming Serbia’s re-engagement in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and its moving forward with the IBM agreement. But it stopped short of granting Serbia EU candidate status, saying there should be more assessment of the progress being made by Belgrade with respect to “inclusive regional cooperation” and actively enabling EULEX and KFOR to execute their mandates. It said that the EU Council would take a decision on candidate status at its 27-28 February meeting, immediately prior to the EU summit on 1 March, at which the decision could be confirmed. Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister, in charge of EU integration, resigned in December following the decision to delay Serbia’s EU candidate status.

On 25 December, the mayor of Mitrovica announced that a referendum would be held in the predominantly Serb northern Kosovo areas on whether to acknowledge the government institutions in Pristina. The date of the referendum, which at press time was still planned for 15 February, is Statehood Day in Serbia and is less than two weeks before the EU Council meeting at which Serbia’s candidature is to be discussed. The Serbian government has not backed the referendum. Serbian President Boris Tadić said that a vote at this stage would not contribute to a solution on the Kosovo issue and might exacerbate the situation. Kosovo’s government called the proposed referendum “illegal”. On 19 January, Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo met in Belgrade with the mayors of the Kosovo Serbian municipalities to discuss postponement of the referendum.

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On 14 January, police in Kosovo arrested 146 people after clashes with protesters who were attempting to stop Serbian vehicles and products from entering Kosovo. About 50 people, mostly police officers, were reportedly injured. Five of those arrested were said to be members of the Kosovo parliament from the Self-Determination Party.

In December, Russia circulated a draft Council resolution concerning inhumane treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo. The draft document, which was circulated seemingly at the request of the Serbian government, called for an investigation into the illicit trafficking of human organs. The Council has so far not met formally to discuss the draft.

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 12 January, the government, in cooperation with the UN Development Programme, published a report on conditions of persons with disabilities in Kosovo. The purposes of the report were to facilitate data collection, to shed light on the most urgent needs and priorities of persons with disabilities as well as their caregivers and to increase knowledge and understanding of how difficulties experienced by disabled people were amplified because of neglect or outright discrimination. The report found that approximately 150,000 people with disabilities suffer from exclusion in one or more respects from access to health care, the right to equal education, equal employment opportunities, and participation in political and public life. The report also found insufficient mainstreaming of the rights of the disabled in public policies and weak coordination among monitoring bodies in reporting progress in this field.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is ensuring that tensions do not escalate in Kosovo. Political developments and the situation on the ground are likely to be the focus of the debate. The security situation at the border posts in particular is likely to be followed closely by Council members. Ensuring that the diplomatic dialogue continues between Belgrade and Pristina is likely to be a priority for the Council.

Another related issue that the Council might address is the freedom of movement of people and goods throughout Kosovo.

A further issue is the call for an investigation into the illicit trafficking of human organs in Kosovo.

Options
As with previous debates on Kosovo, the Council has the option of receiving the briefing from the Special Representative, hearing interventions from members and not taking further action. (In past debates, Serbian Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremić and Enver Hoxhaj, a representative from Kosovo, have also addressed the Council.)

Another option would be to adopt a statement on the situation in Kosovo if Council members consider that the security situation on the ground warrants it.

It is conceivable that action might be taken on the illicit trafficking in human organs draft. Russia has indicated that it will consult with Belgrade on the timing of any next steps.

Council Dynamics
There is broad agreement among Council members on the need for a return to calm in northern Kosovo and for the parties involved to refrain from actions that might further aggravate tensions. All members emphasise the need for continued dialogue. But there are stark divisions in the Council, including on Kosovo’s status. (Among the P5, the US, UK and France have recognised Kosovo’s independence but Russia and China have not. Nor have any of this year’s new Council members.)

Russia and China emphasise that both EULEX and KFOR operate as mandated by the Security Council and reiterate the Council’s primacy with respect to the situation. In his address during the last debate on Kosovo on 29 November 2011, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia cautioned against “selective implementation” of the mandates of KFOR and EULEX, which “openly played into the hands of the Kosovo authorities”.

European Council members, including Germany, have said that both forces act in full compliance with relevant Council resolutions and fulfil their mandates to ensure a safe environment. Furthermore, Germany said that attacks against KFOR personnel should be considered as “attacks against the integrity and authority of the Security Council [itself].” The US, UK, Germany and others express concern both at actions taken in northern Kosovo to restrict freedom of movement and at the violence that has resulted in the injury of KFOR soldiers while they have attempted to deal with these obstructions.

With respect to the proposed resolution on trafficking in human organs, several Council members have a number of concerns about the draft circulated in December. However, China says Serbia’s concern about the matter is justified and it supports the UN carrying out investigations. Others on the Council, including the US and Germany, have maintained that EULEX is the appropriate authority to undertake the investigations.

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.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report

Latest Council Meeting Record

Letter

  • S/2011/256 (19 April 2011) was from Serbia to the Secretary-General requesting the creation of an ad hoc mechanism to undertake a criminal investigation into allegations of trafficking of human organs in Kosovo.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Farid Zarif (Afghanistan)

UNMIK

Size as of 31 December 2011: 407 personnel (150 international staff, 9 military staff, 26 UN volunteers and 215 local staff)
Cost: $45 million (1 July 2011-30 June 2012 budget)

KFOR (NATO-Led Force)

Size as of 4 January 2012: 5,977 troops

EULEX (EU Rule of Law Mission)

Size: 1,700 internationals and 1,200 locals

Full Forecast