Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to hold its quarterly briefing on the situation in 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 report by the Secretary-General. As on several previous occasions, Serbia is likely to participate at a high level while Kosovo will probably be represented by its ambassador to the US.
Key Recent Developments
Following the no-confidence motion initiated by Kosovo’s legislature in May, President Hashim Thaçi dissolved the government, after which general elections were held in June. No single political party or coalition managed to get a majority of the 120 seats in the legislature to form a new government. Furthermore, the nationalist Self-Determination party, a long-standing political opposition party, achieved its best result yet by doubling its share of seats to 32 and thus becoming a considerable force in the legislature. Over the past two years, members of the Self-Determination party sought ways to obstruct the work of the previous government, including setting off smoke bombs in the legislative chamber and staging street protests.
On 9 September, after months of political impasse, the Kosovo legislature approved a new government led by Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj by a narrow majority of 62 votes. The new government also received support from Srpska List, the major political party representing Kosovar Serbs. Haradinaj is a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army who is wanted in Serbia for his alleged involvement in war crimes against Serbs during the Kosovo war in the 1990s. He was arrested earlier this year in France and previously in Slovenia in 2015 when those countries acted on an Interpol notice requested by Serbia. In both cases, Haradinaj was released. In 2005, Haradinaj surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; he was eventually acquitted of war crimes charges in 2012.
On 31 August, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini hosted another round of the high-level EU-facilitated dialogue in Brussels with the participation of Thaçi and President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia. In addition to reaffirming their commitment to continue working on a new phase of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, both sides agreed on the concluding steps for the implementation of the justice agreement, which was aimed at integrating judges and prosecutors from the Serb-dominated north into the Kosovo judiciary by 17 October. Mogherini held another meeting with Vučić and Thaçi on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September, during which they continued discussions on the normalisation of relations and implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina.
On 24 October, 40 judges and 13 prosecutors from the Serb-dominated north took an oath in Thaci’s office marking their integration into the Kosovo justice system. The judges and prosecutors had failed to appear at an earlier oath ceremony hosted by Thaçi on 17 October.
Local elections were held on 22 October throughout Kosovo, including Serb-dominated municipalities in the north. International observers characterised them as free and fair.
Issues and Options
The primary issue for the Council remains maintaining stability in Kosovo. Related to this is what role UNMIK can play in facilitating the implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina.
Since the adoption of a presidential statement in 2008, the Council has not pronounced itself on the situation in Kosovo. However, the Council monitors the situation closely, and should the tensions between Belgrade and Pristina increase and endanger stability in the region, an option for the Council would be to consider issuing a resolution or a statement calling on both sides to resolve outstanding issues through dialogue.
Another issue that has gained some traction among certain Council members, especially the P3, is to consider lengthening the reporting cycle and possibly downsize the UN mission, given the relative stability in Kosovo over the past several years. Therefore, an option for the Council would be to consider specific proposals to this end.
In light of the ongoing discussions about the need to improve the effectiveness of UN peace operations, the Council could request the Secretary-General to conduct a review of the mission.
For years, Kosovo has been a low-intensity issue for the Council that is followed closely primarily by members with particular interest in the region. Regional organisations including the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have been playing increasingly prominent roles in Kosovo.
Deep divisions among permanent members have continued on the Kosovo issue. France, the UK and the US recognise Kosovo’s independence and tend to be supportive of Kosovo’s government, while China and Russia do not recognise its independence and strongly support Serbia’s position. The P3 and Japan have become increasingly outspoken in advocating a lengthening of UNMIK’s reporting cycle and thus reducing the frequency of meetings on Kosovo. Furthermore, 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. The US has asserted that the mission remains overstaffed and over-resourced considering its limited responsibilities, and that these resources could be put to better use in more pressing situations on the Council’s agenda.
Since the current US administration has placed great emphasis on reviewing UN peacekeeping operations with the aim of reducing costs and increasing efficiency, the issue of modifying UNMIK’s mandate is likely to become more prominent. However, any attempt to change the status quo regarding UNMIK would require a new resolution, which Russia would strongly oppose and likely block.
UN DOCUMENTS ON KOSOVO
|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.|
|24 July 2017 S/2017/640||This was the Secretary-General’s report on Kosovo.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|16 August 2017 S/PV.8025||This was a briefing on UNMIK.|