November 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2015
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action 

In November, the Council is expected to hold its quarterly debate on Kosovo. Zahir Tanin, the newly appointed Special Representative and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), will brief on recent developments and the latest Secretary-General’s report. Both Serbia and Kosovo are likely to participate at high-level.

Key Recent Developments

Farid Zarif briefed the Council for the last time in his role as Special Representative during the debate on 21 August. Zarif emphasised the considerable progress since he assumed the position in 2011, most notably regarding normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina and the integration of the Serb minority in local and central institutions. On 19 August, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Zahir Tanin, former permanent representative of Afghanistan to the UN, as Special Representative.      

The EU-facilitated high-level dialogue on normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina resumed in Brussels on 25 August. After lengthy negotiations, prime ministers Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia and Isa Mustafa of Kosovo finalised the agreements on four key issues: energy, telecommunications, establishment of the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities (ASM/CSM) in northern Kosovo and freedom of movement on a bridge dividing the town of Mitrovica.

Of the four, the agreement on the ASM/CSM remains the most contentious, and both sides seem to provide differing interpretations of the agreement itself. Following the high-level meeting, Vučić told the media that the ASM/CSM will have wide-ranging powers and will be able to make decisions on issues such as health care, education, urban/rural planning and economic development. On the other hand, Mustafa said that the ASM/CSM will not have executive powers and that it will not contradict Kosovo laws by creating another tier of government. The opposition in Kosovo has been vocal in its disapproval of the agreement, fearing that the ASM/CSM would eventually challenge the sovereignty of Kosovo and pose risk of secession. The agreements have to be approved by the parliaments in both Serbia and Kosovo.     

Amid mounting pressure from the international community, the Kosovo Assembly adopted on 3 August a constitutional amendment necessary for the establishment of a special court for war crimes committed during the Kosovo war. Facing substantial opposition in the legislature, the government managed to establish the court, despite several delays of the vote and one failed attempt to obtain the two-thirds majority necessary to amend the constitution. An already significant rift between the government and the opposition widened further after the 25 August agreement on the establishment of the ASM/CSM.    

On several occasions in September and October, opposition parties—the Self-Determination party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and the Initiative for Kosovo—were persistent in obstructing the functioning of the Kosovo Assembly. On 1 October, the opposition parties blocked the work of the Assembly by physically preventing its speaker, Kadri Veseli, from beginning the session. The opposition, led by the Self-Determination party, demanded that Prime Minister Mustafa annul the agreement on the ASM/CSM. On 8 October, the formal session had to be suspended again after some members of the opposition set off two smoke bombs in the Assembly chamber.    

On 13 October, the unrest spilled over onto the streets around the police station in Pristina after Kosovo police arrested Albin Kurti, the leader of the Self-Determination party. Kurti was questioned by the police because of his alleged involvement in the Assembly smoke-bomb incident. Following the arrest, Kurti’s supporters clashed with the police, who used tear gas to disperse them. According to media reports, 15 policemen were injured. After Kurti was released from police custody later that day, he joined the remaining demonstrators. The opposition has since called for more anti-government protests and further resistance to the agreement on the ASM/CSM.  

Despite mandatory security checks imposed on all members of the Assembly after the first incident, opposition representatives set off three smoke bombs on 15 October, preventing another session of the Assembly. The Assembly session scheduled for 23 October was postponed again after opposition representatives set off smoke bombs in the chamber on two occasions the same day. Following the incident, Kosovo police clashed with several hundred protesters gathered outside the Assembly building after some of them started throwing Molotov cocktails at the police and the Assembly.

On 13 October, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini hosted in Brussels an informal meeting with Vučić and Mustafa. Both sides reviewed progress and restated their commitment to implementing agreements within the framework of the EU-facilitated dialogue. Though not yet confirmed, the next round of high-level dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is expected to take place in November.  

Kosovo submitted its application for membership in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in August. On 21 October, the UNESCO executive board voted in favour of recommending admission of Kosovo to the organisation. The final vote on Kosovo membership will be in November when a general conference of UNESCO’s 195 members is scheduled to vote on the issue. Membership approval requires a two-thirds majority vote of the general conference.       

Key Issues

Maintaining stability in Kosovo remains the main issue for the Council, especially amid the recent renewed political turmoil.  

Implementing the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina and what role UNMIK could play to that end is a related issue.  

Exacerbated by the recent political crisis in Kosovo, an increasingly important issue for the Council will be the uninterrupted functioning of the special court for war crimes and the cooperation of Kosovo authorities with the court.     

Options 

Should the current political crisis in Kosovo continue or escalate, the Council could consider issuing a statement urging political actors in Kosovo to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve the issues. 

The Council could explore what role UNMIK could play in facilitating the implementation of the latest agreements reached on 25 August.

Looking ahead, if the current political turmoil subsides and the accords between Pristina and Belgrade hold, the Council could consider modifying UNMIK’s mandate, possibly with an eye to reducing its presence.   

Alternatively, the Council could choose to take no action, as was the case in previous years.

Council Dynamics

Kosovo has been an issue of relatively low intensity for the Council during the past several years. This is in part due to the fact that other regional organisations, primarily the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, play more active roles in Kosovo. 

The Council’s dynamics on Kosovo remain unchanged. Permanent members France, the UK and the US recognise Kosovo, while China and Russia do not and remain supportive of Serbia’s position. The split between Russia and the P3 has become more evident in the context of Russia’s recent vetoes on other Europe-related issues, namely the resolutions on the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide and the tribunal for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17.   

Several Council members, most notably the P3 and Lithuania, have previously suggested lengthening the reporting cycle for the Secretary-General’s reports on Kosovo due to the relatively stable situation on the ground. Russia is still strongly opposed to any alteration of the reporting cycle or of UNMIK’s mandate. In reinforcing this view, Russia is likely to cite the most recent political crisis to highlight the volatility and instability of Kosovo.   

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution
10 June 1999 S/RES/1244 This resolution authorised NATO to secure and enforce the withdrawal of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia forces from Kosovo and established UNMIK.
Security Council Meeting Record
21 August 2015 S/PV.7510 This was the quarterly debate on Kosovo.

 

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