November 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 November 2012
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action

In November, the Council is scheduled to hold a quarterly debate on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which was established by resolution 1244 (1999) and will continue until otherwise decided.

The Special Representative and head of UNMIK, Farid Zarif, is expected to brief the Council on the latest Secretary-General’s report, due by 31 October.

No Council action is expected.

Key Recent Developments

On 19 October, the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Dačić and Hashim Thaçi respectively, held talks in Brussels, brokered by the EU. It was the first time that the two sides had met at the prime ministerial level since Kosovo declared independence on 17 February 2008. The discussions were also the first Belgrade-Pristina talks since February, when developments related to Serbian elections and the formation of a new government in Belgrade delayed the dialogue. The meeting in Brussels, chaired by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, took place after both sides met with Ashton separately. Describing the talks as having taken place in a “good and constructive atmosphere,” Ashton said, “we agreed to continue the dialogue for the normalisation of relations between the two sides and both committed to working together.” The talks are expected to resume in November.

Three days after the meetings in Brussels, several dozen activists took part in a rally in Pristina organised by the opposition Self-Determination Party (SDP), protesting the talks with Serbia. Police fired tear gas and arrested 60 people after protesters threw stones at police and tried to blockade the Office of the Prime Minister. The protesters asserted that Kosovo should not “bargain with Serbia,” with the SDP leader reportedly saying, “Serbia is an abnormal state and we don’t want to ‘normalise’ our relations.” Thaçi dismissed the protesters as “isolated voices.”

The previous month, on 10 September, Kosovo celebrated the end of its “supervised independence” after the closure of the International Civilian Office in Pristina. The office had been created to oversee the implementation of the provisions of the 2007 Comprehensive Settlement Proposal (the “Ahtisaari Plan”), which was endorsed by the Kosovo authorities but not Serbia. On 7 September, the Kosovo Assembly adopted 22 amendments to its constitution allowing Kosovo to end its supervised independence. This was in keeping with the 2 July decision of the International Steering Group—comprising 24 European countries and the US—to close the office.

The Kosovo Assembly also voted on 7 September to continue the partnership with the EU’s Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), extending its mandate for a further two years. (The EULEX civilian presence in Kosovo—which numbers about 3,000 personnel and includes international judges and prosecutors—operates under the overall authority of UNMIK.)

In relation to the end of Kosovo’s supervised independence, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed on 10 September that NATO did not intend to reduce troop numbers (about 6,000) in its Kosovo Force (KFOR).

On 10 October, the European Commission released the key findings of its feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Kosovo, which would pave the way for Kosovo—which is a “candidate country”—to join the EU. The Commission confirmed that Kosovo was “largely ready” to open negotiations for such an agreement. Yet the report indicated that Kosovo had to take numerous steps beforehand, including in the rule of law, protection of minorities (notably the Serbian Orthodox Church) and trade.

The equivalent findings concerning Serbia, which obtained the status of “candidate country” on 1 March, noted that Belgrade’s implementation of agreements reached with Pristina had been “uneven.” It said Serbia’s new government needed to fulfill its commitment to implement all agreements with Kosovo in order to “open up the next phase of Serbia’s EU integration.”

In October, Dačić reiterated statements advocating the partition of Kosovo as the “fastest, best and most just solution” to the Kosovo impasse. Dačić emphasised that partition was his personal position and not that of the Serbian government. In response to similar remarks in September, Thaçi said that partition would never happen. Kosovo is against partition and has argued that the division of nation states along ethnic lines runs counter to European values.

In his speech during the General Assembly’s general debate on 25 September, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić affirmed that his country was willing to “participate constructively in the negotiating process” with Pristina. Serbia could not move forward without Kosovo and Kosovo could not move forward without Serbia, he said. Nikolić reaffirmed that Serbia would never recognise Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence but that it would fulfill obligations in the agreements reached with Kosovo thus far, even though he considered those agreements “as meeting the wish list of the Albanian party and concessions made by our leadership at that time, under heavy pressure.”

As Kosovo is not a UN member or observer state it did not speak in the general debate, although its President, Atifete Jahjaga, did meet with the Secretary-General on the margins of the General Assembly on 23 September.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is maintaining the stability of the security situation throughout Kosovo. Tensions are most pronounced in northern Kosovo, and a significant issue facing the Council is the parallel security sector structures in the predominantly Serb north, where the majority refuses to recognise Pristina’s authority.

Recurring issues—such as the freedom of movement of KFOR and EULEX personnel in northern Kosovo, attacks against minorities (including Serbs) in Kosovo and declining numbers of minority returnees to Kosovo—are also likely to feature.

However, the focal point for the Council is likely to be the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and the initial signs concerning the “normalisation” of relations.  Implementation of existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina, including on border management, is also a pertinent issue.

Options

Generally, the Council chooses not to take action at these regular UNMIK debates and could refrain from doing so again in November.

One option, however, would be to issue a press statement welcoming the high-level talks between the two Prime Ministers if a second round of talks occurs before the debate.

Council Dynamics

Intractable Council differences on the issue of Kosovo have changed little in recent years. Due to deep divisions among permanent members concerning the legitimacy of the unilateral declaration of independence, the Council has found it difficult to make pronouncements on Kosovo. Resolution 1244—adopted in 1999—remains the authoritative Council decision on the situation, and China and Russia reiterate that all action must be consistent with the resolution. (The resolution reaffirmed the territorial integrity of what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia—including Kosovo—but also reaffirmed the call for Kosovo to have substantial autonomy and “meaningful self-administration.”) Several elected members—none of whom, apart from Colombia, Germany and Portugal, recognise Kosovo—likewise accentuate the need for UNMIK to implement, and act in accordance with, resolution 1244.

The focus for most members in November is likely to be forward-looking and centred on the resumed talks. Some members are likely to reinforce that it is in the interest of both parties to develop closer relations with the EU. Other members may express the need for more demonstrable progress in the investigation into the allegations of organ harvesting in Kosovo during 1999-2000.

UN Documents on Kosovo

Security Council Resolution  
10 June 1999 S/RES/1244 authorised NATO to secure and enforce the withdrawal of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) forces from Kosovo, and established UNMIK.
Security Council Meeting Record  
21 August 2012 S/PV.6822 was a briefing by the head of UNMIK.