August 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 July 2016
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action

In August, the Council is expected to hold its quarterly briefing on Kosovo. Zahir Tanin, the Secretary-General’s 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 will probably participate at a high level, while Kosovo is likely to be represented by its ambassador to the US.   

Key Recent Developments

The overall political situation in Kosovo has remained stable, but political tensions between the government and the opposition parties have continued to undermine the normal functioning of Kosovo’s institutions. The political crisis reached its peak during late 2015 and early 2016 when members of the opposition disrupted the work of the legislature on several occasions by activating tear gas and smoke bombs in the chamber. In March, the three main opposition parties started their boycott of the work of the Assembly of Kosovo in an effort to voice their strong objection to several pieces of legislation which were pending approval of the Assembly. On 9 June, the largest opposition party, Self-determination, decided to end the boycott.

The border demarcation agreement with Montenegro is the most contentious issue currently dominating political debate in Kosovo. Signed during the 2015 EU-Western Balkans summit in Vienna, the agreement defines the official border between Kosovo and Montenegro. The government, led by Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, has continually repudiated the opposition’s claims that Kosovo will lose part of its territory as a result of the agreement. Montenegro’s parliament has already ratified the agreement, while the Assembly of Kosovo has yet to give its approval. The ratification of such an agreement by Kosovo’s legislature would require the support of a two-thirds majority, which means that the ruling government coalition would still need the support of some members of the opposition. Following a request by some legislators, the Assembly has agreed to discuss the agreement in a debate on 3 August, although no date has been set for the formal vote on the matter. The opposition is expected to participate in these discussions.     

During her meeting with Kosovo president Hasim Thaci in Brussels on 22 June, Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, urged Kosovo to ratify the border demarcation agreement. Together with reform of the justice system and adoption of anticorruption measures, the implementation of the agreement is one of the key EU conditions for visa liberalisation measures for Kosovo citizens.  

The opposition has been equally vocal in its resistance to the 25 August 2015 agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, which among other things, mandates the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities (ASM/CSM) in northern Kosovo. The opposition claims that the creation of these local self-governing units would increase the risk of secession. Though the agreement was signed almost a year ago, there has been little progress on actual implementation. In June, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci announced the formation of a working group that will be responsible for creating the ASM/CSM. The ruling coalition that controls the government has said that both agreements—on demarcation and the ASM/CSM—will be implemented despite some opposition in the Assembly. The government pointed out that the Constitutional Court has already upheld the legality of the agreement on the ASM/CSM, paving the way for implementation.

Though imminent, the formal establishment of the special court that will be charged with investigating war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army during the conflict in Kosovo is still pending. In August 2015, the Assembly of Kosovo approved constitutional amendments that would allow the creation of the court. Consequently, the Netherlands announced that it would host the court in The Hague. Final approval for the court needs to be granted by the Dutch parliament, which at press time had not yet voted on the issue. The EU is expected to be the major contributor of funds to the court’s budget, with individual countries likely to make additional contributions. The court, which will operate under Kosovo law with international judges, is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.

Ahead of the expiry of the mandate of the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) on 14 June, the Kosovo government indicated that it would like the EULEX mandate to be extended for an additional two years. Since 2008, EULEX has provided support for Kosovo’s legal institutions. It was also involved in monitoring some highly sensitive criminal cases and could directly take on cases involving organised crime and corruption. While requesting the extended presence of EULEX, the Kosovo government proposed that the mandate limit the scope of EULEX’s activities to monitoring and advisory roles only. On 14 July, the Council of the EU approved the extension of the mandate as proposed by Kosovo. On 17 June, the Assembly formally ratified the agreement between the EU and Kosovo to extend EULEX’s mandate.

On 4 July, France hosted the third annual Western Balkans Summit, which gathered the leaders of prospective EU members from the region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) as well as EU members Austria, Germany, France and Italy. As part of a five-year process started in Berlin in 2014, the main aim of the summit is to promote the EU’s perspective and regional cooperation in the Balkans.  

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 13 July, UNMIK’s  Human Rights Advisory Panel (established in 2006 to examine complaints of alleged human rights violations committed by or attributable to UNMIK in Kosovo) published its final annual report, covering 1 January 2015 to 31 May, after completing its docket of 527 registered complaints. During the reporting period, the Panel adopted opinions on the merits of 88 cases: in 83 cases it found violations of human rights by or attributable to UNMIK, including violations of the right to life, the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment and the right to an effective investigation under the European Convention on Human Rights. The report highlights the lack of implementation of the Panel’s opinions, especially with regard to UNMIK paying financial compensation to the complainants, as well as the lack of significant progress of continuing investigations by the EU Rule of Law Mission or by Kosovo law enforcement institutions regarding the Panel’s cases related to abductions, disappearances and killings. The report concludes: “Now that the Panel has concluded its mandate, putting an end to an eight-year process of issuing admissibility decisions, opinions, and recommendations, the Panel is forced to proclaim this process a total failure.… Due to UNMIK’s unwillingness to follow any of the Panel’s recommendations and UNMIK’s general intransigence, the…process has obtained no redress for the complainants.”

Key Issues

Amid ongoing political tensions between the government and the opposition, the main issue for the Council is maintaining stability in Kosovo.

Another issue is what role UNMIK could play in promoting the implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina.   

The Council will closely follow the developments regarding the establishment of the special court for war crimes and subsequent cooperation by the Kosovo authorities with the court.

Options

Should the current political tensions between the government and opposition parties escalate and cause further disruption in the functioning of Kosovo’s institutions, the Council could consider issuing a statement urging political actors to engage in dialogue as a way of resolving the outstanding issues.

The Council could also explore ways in which UNMIK could facilitate the implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina.

Given the gravity of allegations brought by the UNMIK’s Human Rights Advisory Panel in its final report, the Council could consider seeking more information on the matter by inviting members of the Panel for a briefing or an informal interactive dialogue.  

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 continues to be an issue of rather low intensity for the Council. This is mainly a consequence of the pre-eminence of other regional organisations in Kosovo, primarily the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The issue is only followed closely by a few Council members with a vested interest in the region, such as Russia, the US and EU members of the Council.    

The profound division between the permanent members shapes the Council’s dynamics on Kosovo. While France, the UK and the US recognise Kosovo’s independence, China and Russia do not and remain strong supporters of Serbia’s position. Some Council members have been supportive of lengthening the reporting cycle and consequently reducing the frequency of the meetings on Kosovo. However, the division between the permanent members is likely to stall any attempt to change the reporting cycle or alter UNMIK’s mandate. Russia has been adamant in its opposition to altering UNMIK’s mandate and the possibility of the mission’s drawdown, citing instability in Kosovo, especially in recent months amidst the political crisis in 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
16 May 2016 S/PV.7693 This was a meeting on the Secretary-General’s UNMIK report.