Expected Council Action
In April, the Council is expected to hold its first briefing this year 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.
Key Recent Developments
The leader of the “Self-Determination” political party, Albin Kurti, was elected Kosovo’s prime minister for the second time on 22 March. During the constitutive session of the Kosovo parliament, 67 members of parliament (MPs) backed the new government led by Kurti. According to the Kosovo Constitution, a new government requires support from at least 61 of the 120 MPs in the parliament. Speaking before the vote, Kurti said that some of the most pressing issues for the new government would be addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, economic development, and the rule of law. Regarding the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he said that Kosovo would not make further compromises and would make resolving the issue of missing persons the main priority in the dialogue.
On 14 February, Kosovo held early parliamentary elections, in which “Self-Determination” won 58 seats in the parliament. More established political parties that have been in power for most of Kosovo’s history—the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK)—retained 15 and 19 seats, respectively. The support for “Self-Determination” doubled since the last elections in October 2019, while the LDK and the PDK lost 13 and five seats.
The parliamentary elections came after a turbulent year in Kosovo’s politics. In February 2020, Kurti became the prime minister after his party reached a coalition agreement with the LDK. A dispute over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the collapse of the governing coalition in March, after which the parliament dismissed Kurti’s cabinet in a vote of no confidence. In June, Avdullah Hoti of the LDK became the new prime minister with support from 61 MPs. Soon after, “Self-Determination” petitioned the Constitutional Court to review the legality of the vote to confirm Hoti’s government. It argued that one of the MPs who voted for Hoti’s government had been convicted of a crime that should have disqualified him from holding the elected position. On 21 December, the Court ruled that Hoti’s government was illegitimate, thus triggering an early election on 14 February.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the EU–facilitated dialogue on the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. In a 9 March press release, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the dialogue had resulted in some important agreements between Serbia and Kosovo. He noted, however, that the EU strongly believes that the dialogue should now move into its final stages and conclude “with one comprehensive legally-binding normalization agreement between Kosovo and Serbia dealing with all outstanding issues”.
On 2 March, the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák, travelled to Pristina, where he held meetings with government officials and leaders of political parties. He also briefed Kurti on the progress made to that point in the dialogue. The following day, Lajčák met Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Lajčák emphasised that continuing the dialogue was a key factor in advancing EU integration for both sides.
On 24 June 2020, the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office filed an indictment with the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC), charging Kosovo’s then-president, Hashim Thaçi, among others, with a series of crimes against humanity and war crimes. On 5 November, the KSC confirmed an indictment against Thaçi, after which he resigned as president, citing the need to protect the integrity of the office and the country. Later that day, Thaçi was transferred to the KSC detention centre. On 9 November, Thaçi appeared before the Court and pleaded not guilty to all charges. Formally established in 2016 by the Kosovo parliament, KSC is a special court based in The Hague that operates under Kosovo’s law and is staffed by international judges, with the mission of investigating alleged war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army during the conflict in Kosovo in the 1990s.
Key Issues and Options
Maintaining stability in Kosovo remains the Council’s primary concern. 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.
Another issue for the Council is the lack of implementation of existing agreements in the context of the EU-facilitated dialogue, especially the delays in the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities in Serb-majority northern Kosovo. In this regard, Council members will need to consider how the new government in Kosovo will approach the EU-facilitated dialogue, given that Kurti has been critical of the talks.
Also an issue for the Council will be Kosovo’s cooperation with the KSC since some political actors in Kosovo have publicly criticised its work. Should Kosovo limit its cooperation with the KSC, the Council could consider issuing a statement calling on the authorities in Kosovo to adhere to its commitments to the court.
Some Council members (France, the UK and the US, in particular) have continued to question the UNMIK 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 2018, it could also 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 closely followed mainly by members with a specific interest in the region. This is due in part to the strong engagement of regional organisations, including the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, in matters related to Kosovo.
Nevertheless, deep divisions among permanent members have continued to characterise the Council’s consideration of Kosovo. France, the UK and the US recognise Kosovo’s independence and tend to be supportive of its government; China and Russia do not recognise its independence and strongly support Serbia’s position. Six elected members (India, Kenya, Mexico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Viet Nam) do not recognise Kosovo’s independence.
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 UK has also called for a review of UNMIK’s mandate, arguing that the situation on the ground has changed.
The issue of modifying UNMIK’s mandate and its possible drawdown is likely to become more prominent in the upcoming period, given the growing number of Council members that support this position. Alone among missions regularly discussed by the Council, UNMIK’s mandate, established in 1999, 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 Resolutions|
|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.|
|1 October 2020S/2020/964||This was the most recent report on Kosovo.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|23 October 2020S/2020/1040||This letter transmitted the transcript of the videoconference briefing on Kosovo.|
|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).|