November 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 October 2016
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EUROPE

Kosovo

Expected Council Action

In November, 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

While the overall security situation has remained stable, the ongoing rift between the government and the opposition parties continues to contribute to political instability within Kosovo. The continuing political tensions arise from the opposition’s strong disapproval of 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. In addition, in recent months, the demarcation of the border between Kosovo and Montenegro has emerged as a serious issue of contention. The opposition claims that the border agreement would deprive Kosovo of part of its territory, while the government led by Prime Minister Isa Mustafa repudiates these claims.

Though ratified by the Montenegro parliament last year, to come into force the demarcation agreement still needs the approval of a two-thirds majority in the Assembly of Kosovo. In attempting to prevent a vote in the Assembly, some members of the opposition have resorted to the use of smoke bombs in the chamber, which has caused a general disruption in the work of Kosovo institutions. Parallel to these actions in the Assembly, the opposition supporters have staged several demonstrations, sometimes violent, outside the legislature. On 1 September, the government postponed the vote on the agreement, amid protests by the opposition and a boycott by the members of the parliamentary political group representing Kosovo Serbs.              

Recently, there has also been some tension in relations between Belgrade and Pristina. On 28 September, Serbia arrested Nehat Thaci, a senior Kosovo police official, at a border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia. Thaci was detained on terrorism charges for his alleged involvement in the Kosovo conflict in the 1990s. On 12 October, the Assembly of Kosovo adopted a resolution calling for Thaci’s release and urging the EU to intervene to this end. Thaci has denied all accusations against him. As of this writing, Thaci remains in detention in the Serbian city of Niš.     

Tensions rose again on 7 October, when the Assembly of Kosovo voted to take majority control of the Trepca mining complex amid strong objections by Serbia, which also claims ownership of the mine. In an 11 October press conference, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić said that his government would reject the decision of the Kosovo authorities regarding Trepca. However, Vučić said that Serbia would not call for a special meeting of the Security Council because the situation did not pose a threat to peace and security.

The special court that will investigate crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army during the conflict in Kosovo is expected to become fully operational at the beginning of 2017. The EU has already provided initial funding for the Court. International judges will staff the court, which will operate in The Hague under Kosovo law. The Netherlands parliament still needs to ratify the agreement with Kosovo on locating the Court in The Hague before formal operations can begin. On 5 September, David Schwendiman of the US was appointed chief prosecutor of the special court.   

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 16 September, the special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, released a statement at the end of a five-day visit to Serbia and Kosovo, urging the government of Serbia and the authorities in Kosovo to show leadership and intensify their efforts to achieve durable solutions for those living in protracted displacement for some 17 years. The statement expressed concern that many IDPs, especially those belonging to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, are still living in squalid conditions. The special rapporteur emphasised that the situation of IDPs should be addressed as a key issue in the context of the EU accession framework and the Brussels dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

Key Issues

The primary issue for the Council is maintaining stability and security in Kosovo amid ongoing political tensions within Kosovo. 

Implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina and the role UNMIK could play to that end are related issues. 

Anticipating the start of the Special Court’s operations, an issue for the Council will be to encourage and follow the cooperation of Kosovo authorities with the Court. 

Tensions arising from the Kosovo’s takeover of Trepca could also be an issue for the Council.

Options

Should the current political tensions escalate further or start posing a risk to overall stability, the Council could consider issuing a statement calling on political actors to resolve outstanding issues through constructive dialogue. 

Another option would be for the Council to explore ways in which UNMIK could facilitate the implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina.

The Council could consider the calls by some members, most notably the P3, to lengthen the reporting cycle and possibly modify UNMIK’s mandate. 

Council Dynamics

Kosovo has remained an issue of rather low intensity for the Council, especially during the past several years when the Council has been preoccupied with a multiplicity of issues on its agenda considered more pressing. Moreover, other regional organisations such as the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe play a more prominent role in Kosovo. However, some members with a particular interest in the region still follow the issue closely; these include Russia and the US as well as the EU members of the Council.        

The deep divisions among the permanent members have shaped Council dynamics on Kosovo. The P3 members—France, the UK and the US—recognise Kosovo’s independence and are supportive of Kosovo’s government, while China and Russia, which do not, strongly support Serbia’s position on the issue. Despite the ongoing political tensions in Kosovo, the P3 members have supported lengthening the reporting cycle and thus reducing the frequency of meetings on Kosovo, noting that there are more pressing issues that deserve the Council’s closer attention. Russia continues to oppose any change in the reporting cycle or UNMIK’s mandate, citing the unstable political and security situation and problems in implementing the agreements between Belgrade and Pristina. The permanent members’ longstanding entrenched positions are likely to paralyse any efforts by the Council to change the reporting cycle, and altering UNMIK’s mandate is even less likely.  

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
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 Reports
28 October 2016 S/2016/901 This was the report of the Secretary-General on UNMIK.
Security Council Meeting Records
25 August 2016 S/PV.7760 This was a briefing on Kosovo.