Expected Council Action
In May, the Council is expected to hold a quarterly briefing on the situation in Kosovo. Zahir Tanin, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), will brief on recent developments and the latest report by the Secretary-General. Serbia is likely to participate at a high level, while Kosovo will probably be represented by its ambassador to the US.
Key Recent Developments
Since Tanin last briefed the Council in February, the security situation in Kosovo has remained relatively stable. The rift between the government and the political opposition continues to hinder the work of Kosovo’s institutions. There has been no substantial progress in implementing the agreement on the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities (ASM/CSM), which is at the core of the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. The statute of the ASM/CSM, which has yet to be drafted, would still need to be approved by the Assembly of Kosovo. This could be a daunting task, given that the opposition strongly objects to the establishment of the ASM/CSM. Another contentious issue in Kosovo is the agreement on border demarcation with Montenegro, whose ratification the opposition blocked on several occasions during 2016, including by using tear gas in the Assembly chambers and by organising street protests.
The tensions between Belgrade and Pristina have continued to linger since January, when French authorities, acting on an INTERPOL notice requested by Serbia, arrested Ramush Haradinaj for his alleged involvement in war crimes against Kosovo Serbs in the 1990s. Haradinaj is the former prime minister and current leader of the main opposition political party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), and lives in Kosovo. He was released on bail and has been held in France under judicial supervision awaiting the final decision by French courts on the extradition request by Serbia. French authorities formally released Haradinaj on 27 April, after the court in Colmar rejected Serbia’s request.
During an interview with a local TV station on 7 April, Hardinaj’s brother Daut Haradinaj, who is also a representative of the AAK in the Assembly, threatened war and ethnic cleansing of Serbs in Kosovo should his brother be extradited to Serbia. In a statement issued on 11 April, Tanin condemned the use of hate speech by the member of the Assembly and called on the authorities to investigate the incident.
In March, Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi submitted a draft bill to the Assembly that intended to transform the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into an army. Currently, international troops led by NATO are in charge of ensuring security in Kosovo. Creating armed forces would require amending Kosovo’s constitution, which would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the Assembly and by the equivalent majority of the seats reserved for representatives of ethnic minorities. Therefore, this initiative would require buy-in from the representatives of Kosovo Serbs, who strongly oppose the creation of a Kosovo army. Thaçi has apparently sought ways to expand the KSF without amending the constitution, because that could be approved by a simple majority of votes in the Assembly and thus could not be blocked by the Kosovo Serbs. This has drawn a strong reaction from Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, who has said that the creation of a Kosovo army would represent a clear violation of resolution 1244. NATO, the EU and the US have voiced concerns about any attempt to create a Kosovo army bypassing the constitutional processes. Consequently, Thaçi withdrew the initial bill from the legislature on 7 April, noting that he would seek support for the measure from all communities in Kosovo.
Maintaining stability in Kosovo is the primary issue for the Council. Related to this is what role UNMIK can play in promoting the implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina.
A further issue for the Council is whether to lengthen the reporting cycle on UNMIK and the possibility of the mission’s drawdown.
Should the tensions between Belgrade and Pristina escalate further or start to pose a risk to overall stability, the Council could consider issuing a statement calling on both sides to resolve outstanding issues through 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 lengthening the reporting cycle and possibly modify UNMIK’s mandate as advocated by some members, most notably the P3.
Given the ongoing discussions about increasing the effectiveness of UN peace operations, the Council could request the Secretary-General to conduct a review of the mission.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Kosovo has remained an issue of low intensity for the Council, followed closely by members with a particular interest in the region such as Russia, the US, the UK, and the EU members of the Council. In addition, regional organisations such as the EU, NATO, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been playing increasingly prominent roles in Kosovo.
The deep divisions among the permanent members continue to shape the Council dynamics on Kosovo. 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. During the past several debates, the P3 and some elected members, such as Japan, have become increasingly vocal in advocating lengthening UNMIK’s reporting cycle and thus reducing the frequency of meetings on Kosovo. The US and Japan, which are also the top two contributors to the UN peacekeeping budget, have called for a drawdown and eventual withdrawal of UNMIK given the stability in Kosovo. At the February briefing on Kosovo, the US noted that “UNMIK is over resourced and overstaffed in comparison with its limited responsibilities” and that the mission’s underspent resources from its budget should be returned. During an April briefing on reviewing the UN’s peacekeeping operations, the US ambassador reiterated the view that there is no reason why UNMIK should exist.
Given that the current US administration has placed great emphasis on reviewing the UN’s peacekeeping operations with the aim of reducing costs and increasing efficacy, the issue of modifying UNMIK’s mandate is likely to become more prominent. However, any attempt to change the status quo regarding UNMIK, which would require a new resolution, would be strongly opposed by Russia which at the moment would likely block such an initiative.
|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.|
|6 February 2017 S/2017/95/Rev.1||This was a report on UNMIK.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|27 February 2017 S/PV.7891||This was briefing on the situation in Kosovo.|