Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is expected to hold its second of three briefings on the situation in Kosovo scheduled for this year. The Special Representative and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Zahir Tanin, will brief on recent developments and the latest report by the Secretary-General. In line with established practice, Serbia is likely to participate at a high level while Kosovo will probably be represented by its ambassador to the US.
Key Recent Developments
Resolution 1244, which established UNMIK in 1999, did not specify the reporting cycle or the frequency of meetings on Kosovo, but the Council has adopted the practice of holding meetings at three-month intervals. Leading up to the most recent meeting in February, Council members reached an agreement on a Note by the President that modified the frequency of meetings. The note said the Council would hold three meetings on Kosovo this year (February, June and October) and two meetings annually starting in 2020 (April and October). During the first several days of February, Council members could not reach consensus on the programme of work, because some members opposed the inclusion of a briefing on Kosovo. The presidential note came as a compromise to avoid a procedural vote.
During the 7 February briefing, Tanin and some members expressed concern over the lack of progress in dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina as well as rising tensions between the two. An issue at the centre of the discussions was Kosovo’s imposition of 100 percent tariffs on imports from Serbia. Kosovo initially imposed tariffs in November 2018 in response to what it perceived as a campaign by Serbia against Kosovo’s bid to join Interpol. Kosovo’s prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, has taken the position that the tariffs will be maintained until Serbia formally recognises Kosovo. An impasse in the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has continued for almost a year, without progress on implementing the existing agreements, most notably the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities (ASM/CSM) in northern Kosovo. In an effort to revive the dialogue, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a regional Balkan summit in Berlin on 29 and 30 April. The summit brought together the leaders of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini attended and held bilateral talks with, among others, President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia and President Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo. Vučić reiterated that Serbia would continue the dialogue after Kosovo revoked tariffs on Serbian imports, while Thaçi insisted that Serbia recognise Kosovo. There was no breakthrough at the summit, but the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo agreed to continue discussions in Paris at the beginning of July. In remarks to the media, Thaçi criticised the EU for its inability to make any advances in the Western Balkans. He called for greater involvement by the US in the dialogue on the final agreement on Kosovo.
Issues and Options
In light of the ongoing tensions between Belgrade and Pristina, the Council’s primary concern is to maintain stability in Kosovo. The Council will continue to monitor diplomatic efforts to advance the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and any efforts towards reaching a final agreement on Kosovo.
The EU has been the main facilitator of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which resulted in the 2013 Brussels agreement on the normalisation of relations between the two. While there was progress in some areas, an issue for the Council remains the lack of implementation of the main aspects of the agreement and what role, if any, UNMIK might play in facilitating its implementation.
Some members of the Council, the P3 in particular, have previously questioned the reporting cycle and called for downsizing the mission in light of the relative overall stability on the ground. While the Council reached an agreement on a more limited reporting cycle in February, it could request the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of UNMIK to consider the effectiveness of the mission.
Kosovo remains a low-intensity issue for the Council and is followed closely mainly by members with a specific interest in the region. This is in part due to the pre-eminence in Kosovo of regional organisations, including the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Nevertheless, deep divisions among permanent members have continued to characterise the Council’s consideration of the Kosovo issue. France, the UK and the US recognise Kosovo’s independence and tend to be supportive of its government, while China and Russia do not recognise its independence and strongly support Serbia’s position. Earlier this year, the P3 and EU members of the Council eventually prevailed in their months-long effort to reduce the frequency of meetings on Kosovo.
The US has been the most vocal proponent of a drawdown and eventual withdrawal of UNMIK, citing the level of stability in Kosovo. The US has also asserted that the mission is overstaffed and over-resourced for its limited responsibilities and that these resources could be put to better use in more pressing situations on the Council’s agenda.
The issue of modifying UNMIK’s mandate is likely to become more prominent. Alone among missions regularly discussed by the Council, UNMIK’s mandate is open-ended. Any attempt to change it would require a new resolution, which Russia would strongly oppose and most likely block.
UN DOCUMENTS ON KOSOVO
|1 February 2019S/2019/102||This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNMIK.|
|Security Council Letter|
|14 December 2018S/2018/1111||This was a letter by Serbia requesting an emergency meeting on the situation in Kosovo.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|7 February 2019S/PV.8459||This was a briefing by Special Representative and head of UNMIK Zahir Tanin on the Secretary-General’s latest report and recent developments in Kosovo.|
|Note by the President of the Security Council|
|7 February 2019S/2019/120||This was a note by the Council president (Equatorial Guinea) stating that the Council will hold briefings on Kosovo in June and October 2019 and that as of 2020, briefings will be held twice a year (in April and October).|