February 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2016
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action

In February, the Council is expected to hold its quarterly briefing on Kosovo. Zahir Tanin, the 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. Serbia is likely to participate at a high level, while Kosovo will probably be represented by its ambassador to the US.

Key Recent Developments

Both Serbia and Kosovo have traditionally participated in Council meetings at a high level. Kosovo decided to depart from this practice and was represented by its ambassador to the US, Vlora Çitaku, at the 19 November 2015 briefing. 

In her statement to the Council, Çitaku said that, from now on, Kosovo will continue to participate at the ambassadorial level, noting that “the time is long overdue to change the nature and the format of the relationship between Kosovo and the UN in general and the format of the debate in the Security Council in particular”. Furthermore, Çitaku noted that the Council should lengthen the reporting cycle on Kosovo in order to make the meetings more useful, rather than a venue for exchanging long-held positions on the issue. 

On the domestic front, the political situation in Kosovo has been somewhat precarious following the signing of the 25 August 2015 agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on key issues, including energy, telecommunications, establishment of the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities (ASM/CSM) in northern Kosovo and the freedom of movement on a bridge dividing the town of Mitrovica. In particular, the establishment of the ASM/CSM has proven to be the most contentious part of the agreement. From the outset, the opposition parties have resisted the creation of the ASM/CSM, fearing that this would lead to the creation of another layer of government and eventually pose a risk of secession.

Since October 2015, the representatives of the opposition parties have continued to disrupt the normal functioning of the Assembly of Kosovo by repeatedly setting off tear gas and smoke bombs in the assembly chamber. Moreover, political turmoil has on several occasions spilled into the streets of Pristina and other towns, with supporters of the opposition clashing with police. In the latest incident in the Assembly on 14 December 2015, the representatives of the opposition set off smoke bombs in the chamber twice on the same day. The following day, Kosovo police arrested eight members of the opposition implicated in the incidents. Previously, the police had arrested five members of the opposition who were alleged to have been involved in similar smoke-bomb incidents in October and November 2015.

In light of mounting pressure from the opposition legislators and subsequent street protests, the president of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, ordered the Constitutional Court to review the legality of the agreement on the establishment of the ASM/CSM. Initially, the Court suspended the implementation of the agreement pending a complete review. Then on 23 December 2015, the Court upheld the legality of the agreement, ruling that the creation of the ASM/CSM is in line with the constitution. However, the Court said that some aspects of the agreement pertaining to the ASM/CSM were unconstitutional and ordered the relevant authorities to correct this through legal amendments.  

Protesters returned to the streets of Pristina on 9 January in the largest anti-government demonstrations so far. According to media reports, more than 10,000 people took part in demonstrations organised by the opposition parties, which continue to hold grievances towards the agreement on the ASM/CSM. Protesters set fire to parts of the main Kosovo government building and clashed with police, leaving dozens injured. The leaders of the opposition parties said that they would continue to encourage public unrest and disruption of the work of the assembly until the current government resigns and the agreement on the ASM/CSM is renounced.      

The long-awaited formation of the special court that is supposed to investigate cases of war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army during the conflict in Kosovo still has not materialised. Nevertheless, a positive development on the issue was the 15 January formal announcement that the Netherlands agreed to host the court in The Hague. The court is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2016, contingent on the final approval of its establishment by the legislatures of both Kosovo and the Netherlands. The official name of the court will be the Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution. The court will be established under Kosovo law but will be staffed by international judges; funding for the court will be provided by the EU.

Key Issues

Maintaining stability is the main issue for the Council, especially amid the recent heightened political tensions in Kosovo. 

UNMIK’s role in promoting the implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina is a related issue.

Also an issue the Council will be following closely is the timely establishment of the special court for war crimes and subsequent cooperation by the Kosovo authorities with the court.  

Options

Should the current political crisis in Kosovo continue to disrupt the normal functioning of the Kosovo institutions or pose a threat to overall stability, the Council could consider issuing a statement urging political actors in Kosovo to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve the issues. 

The Council could also explore ways in which UNMIK could facilitate the implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina, including the 25 August 2015 agreement.  

Looking ahead, should the agreements between Belgrade and Pristina be fully implemented, the Council could consider modifying UNMIK’s mandate, including reducing its presence.

Council Dynamics

Kosovo remains an issue of relatively low intensity for the Council, mainly because of the preeminent role of the regional organisations in Kosovo, primarily the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Council’s dynamics on Kosovo are unchanged and are characterised by the deep division between permanent members. France, the UK and the US all recognise Kosovo’s independence; China and Russia do not and remain strongly supportive of Serbia’s position. This division is likely to prevent any attempt by the Council to alter UNMIK’s mandate in the near future. Russia will likely use the current political crisis and instability in Kosovo as an argument against any attempts to lengthen the reporting cycle on Kosovo or alter UNMIK’s mandate.

The changed composition of the Council as of 1 January is not likely to have a significant effect on Council dynamics. Of the new Council members, Egypt, Japan and Senegal recognise Kosovo while Ukraine and Uruguay do not.

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.
Secretary-General’s Report
19 November 2015 S/PV.7563 This was the regular quarterly debate on Kosovo.