Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is expected to hold this year’s final regular briefing on the situation in Kosovo. 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
In February, the Council reached an agreement on a note by the president that specified the frequency of meetings on Kosovo, namely, that the Council would hold three meetings on Kosovo in 2019 (February, June, and October) and two meetings annually starting in 2020 (April and October). Resolution 1244, which established UNMIK in 1999, did not specify the reporting cycle or the frequency of meetings. Before this year, the Council has maintained a practice of holding meetings on Kosovo at three-month intervals.
Earlier in the year, Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) started conducting interviews with some former senior commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Formally established in 2016, KSC is a special court based in The Hague that operates under Kosovo law and is staffed by international judges, with the mission of investigating alleged war crimes committed by the KLA during the conflict in Kosovo in the 1990s.
In July, the KSC subpoenaed Ramush Haradinaj, Kosovo’s Prime Minister, for questioning. On 19 July, Haradinaj stepped down as prime minister and travelled to The Hague several days later to face the court. Although he appeared before the KSC, Haradinaj did not answer questions and has exercised his right to remain silent as advised by his legal counsel. This was the second time Haradinaj resigned as prime minister to face allegations of war crimes. In 2005, he stepped down after he was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He was ultimately acquitted of all ICTY war crimes charges in 2012.
Immediately after he resigned as prime minister, Haradinaj called on Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaçi to organise elections so that the new government could be formed. In an extraordinary session held on 22 August, Kosovo’s lawmakers voted in favour of dissolving the parliament, triggering new elections. Several days later, Thaçi announced that elections will be held on 6 October. In a 13 September statement, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini announced that the EU had dispatched an Election Observation Mission to Kosovo to focus on all aspects and stages of the electoral process. Mogherini stressed that Kosovo has remained a political priority for the EU. Furthermore, she emphasised that the elections come at a time when Kosovo needs to take decisive steps on reforms and on normalising relations with Serbia.
On the diplomatic front, there continues to be no progress in the EU-facilitated talks between Belgrade and Pristina. The relationship between the two sides was further strained last November when Kosovo imposed 100 percent tariffs on Serbian imports. Then-Prime Minister Haradinaj said publicly that the tariffs would only be lifted after Serbia recognised Kosovo. The EU and the US have since called on Kosovo to revoke the tariffs and for both parties to resume dialogue. Despite the international pressure, Kosovo has continued to maintain the tariff policy toward Serbia.
Issues and Options
Maintaining stability in Kosovo remains the Council’s primary concern. The Council will continue to monitor the diplomatic efforts to advance the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and any efforts towards reaching a final agreement on Kosovo.
While the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina remains stalled, an issue for the Council is the lack of implementation of already existing agreements, especially on the establishment of Association/Community of Serb Municipalities in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo. A related issue is whether UNMIK could play a role in facilitating implementation of the existing agreements.
The Council will follow closely the developments related to the October parliamentary elections in Kosovo and the subsequent process of forming a new government.
Some members of the Council, the P3 in particular, have continued to question 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 less frequent reporting cycle in February, it could also request the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of UNMIK to consider the effectiveness of the mission.
Due to the active engagement of regional organisations, including the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Kosovo remains a low-intensity issue for the Council. A few members with a specific interest in the region, however, continue to follow the situation in Kosovo with closer scrutiny.
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
|Security Council Resolution|
|10 June 1999S/RES/1244||This resolution authorised NATO to secure and enforce the withdrawal of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia forces from Kosovo and established UNMIK.|
|3 June 2019S/2019/461||This was the report on UNMIK.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|10 June 2019S/PV.8541||The Council held the second of three briefings on Kosovo scheduled for 2019.|
|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).|