August 2012 Monthly Forecast

EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action

The Council in August is scheduled to hold its third debate this year on the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Farid Zarif, the Special Representative and head of UNMIK, is expected to brief the Council on developments and the latest Secretary-General’s report, which was due by 27 July. 

No Council action is expected. Resolution 1244 (1999), which established UNMIK, stipulated that the mission would continue until the Council decided otherwise.

Key Recent Developments

On 17 July, Council members held consultations on UNMIK. Russia called the previously unscheduled meeting to discuss specific concerns, namely the killing of two Serbs in Kosovo and reports that Libyan and Syrian rebels had visited Kosovo for training purposes. Hervé Ladsous, head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, briefed members providing an update on attacks against minorities—including Serb returnees—in Kosovo. The number of incidents targeting minorities, including attacks against Orthodox churches in Kosovo, had increased since the publication of the Secretary-General’s report of 27 April (S/2012/275), Ladsous noted, although this was not necessarily part of a broader trend. He also observed that figures for the first half of this year pointed to a decrease in the number of returnees to Kosovo, relative to the equivalent period last year.

Regarding the shooting of the two Serbs on 6 July, Ladsous said that an investigation into the killings was underway and that the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) was involved.

It seems that Russia addressed the issue of Kosovo possibly being used as a training ground for rebels, pointing to reports in the media that Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian opposition figure, had visited Kosovo in late April. Those articles had reported an Associated Press interview with Abdulhamid in which he was quoted as saying, “We come here to learn”, making linkages between the Kosovo Liberation Army’s experiences and Syrian opposition groups.

The response of the P3 in particular seemed to be that if there was substance to these allegations then hard evidence should be presented. (Another Council member opined that, if the accusations were true, the Council should be concerned.) Several Western members had questioned whether it was necessary for the Council to discuss this matter in the first place.

Other violent incidents in Kosovo occurred in recent months. On 28 June, more than 50 people were injured in clashes between Kosovo police and about 70 young Serbs who were travelling to the historic site of Gazimestan, to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. In response, the head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Kosovo strongly condemned the violence, calling for a thorough investigation into the events, including into allegations of excessive use of force by some police officers.

On 1 June, two NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeepers were injured as they attempted to remove roadblocks erected by local Serbs north of Mitrovica in predominantly Serb northern Kosovo. In a press release, KFOR said that the activity was to improve freedom of movement not only for KFOR but “for all people in Kosovo.” At least three Kosovo Serbs were also reportedly injured.

Serbs in Kosovo voted peacefully in a runoff to the Serbian presidential election on 20 May. (The OSCE had brought voting materials to polling stations in Kosovo and returned them to the Serbian electoral commission for counting.) President Tomislav Nikolić assumed office on 31 May. Nikolić—a former extreme nationalist and now leader of the Serbian Progressive Party—has said that he is in favour of accession to the EU but would never renounce Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia.     

On 24 July, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Kosovo as part of a regional trip, which included Belgrade the day before. In Kosovo, Ban met with UNMIK and international partners, including KFOR, EULEX and the OSCE, in addition to the authorities in Pristina. (It was the first time that the Secretary-General had visited Kosovo—which is not a UN member—since its declaration of independence in 2008.) Ban reiterated upon arrival in Kosovo that an overriding theme of his regional visit was the importance of dialogue and mutual respect.

During the consultations on 17 July, Russia apparently said that it hoped the Secretary-General’s visit would be in line with resolution 1244 (it was). The resolution, which remains the authoritative Council resolution on the issue, reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of what is now Serbia, and called for “substantial autonomy and meaningful self-administration for Kosovo.”

Human Rights-Related Developments

Briefing the Security Council on 14 May, Zarif stressed that there should be no let-up in the combined efforts of UNMIK and the Kosovar authorities on human rights issues that are fundamental to reconciliation and to the protection of the rights of minority communities throughout Kosovo. These, he said, particularly included progress in determining the fate of the missing, creating conditions for safe voluntary returns, the fair adjudication and resolution of property claims and full and effective implementation of the legal frameworks for the protection and preservation of cultural and religious heritage. 

Key Issues

Important issues that Council members are likely to address during the debate include:

Another issue is the role of the Kosovar authorities in northern Kosovo and the refusal of Kosovo Serbs to recognise Pristina. Related to this is the next phase of the Belgrade-Pristina talks, following the formation of a new Serbian government in July.

A further issue is the decision on 2 July of the International Steering Group for Kosovo—comprising 23 European countries, Turkey and the US—to end Kosovo’s “supervised independence.” This will entail the closing of the International Civilian Office in September.

A broader issue for the Council is the implications of developments in Kosovo for the wider region, where neighbouring countries also have sizeable ethnic minorities.

Options

As on previous occasions, the Council could receive the briefing from Special Representative Zarif but take no action.

Alternatively, the Council could issue a statement acknowledging the decision to end Kosovo’s “supervised independence” while expressing the concerns of various members vis-à-vis the situation in Kosovo. Such a statement could place a premium on adherence to the rule of law in Kosovo.

Council members might choose to elaborate on the reported presence of Syrian and Libyan armed opposition members in Kosovo and discuss whether measures should be taken to investigate the matter further.

Council Dynamics

The Council is deeply divided on the issue of Kosovo. Strained relations among the P5 on other Council agenda items in recent months are unlikely to improve the prospects for anything approaching Council unity on the issue.

Six Council members have recognised Kosovo—the current four EU members, the US and Colombia. These countries often emphasise the need to be forward-looking and realistic about its status as a sovereign country. They have also pointed to the importance of the freedom of movement in northern Kosovo, including the fulfilment of KFOR’s and EULEX’s lawful mandates, and rejected the support of parallel structures in the north.

Conversely, Russia has consistently reiterated that resolution 1244 remains the international legal basis for a settlement in Kosovo. It emphasises that any attempt by Pristina to exert authority over the Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo could destabilise the situation. Other members, including those who joined the Council this year, have sought to encourage both sides to avoid action and rhetoric that would inflame tensions. It seems some of these members will be keen to emphasise the need for the Kosovar authorities to protect the rights of non-ethnic Albanians, including guaranteeing the safety of religious and cultural sites.

UN Documents
Security Council Resolution  
10 JUNE 1999
S/RES/1244 
Authorised NATO to secure and enforce the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and established UNMIK.
Secretary-General’s Report  
27 APRIL 2012
S/2012/275 
Covered the period from 16 January to 15 April 2012.
Latest Council Meeting Record  
14 MAY 2012
S/PV.6769 
Was a meeting on Kosovo.