April 2024 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action

In April, the Security Council is expected to hold its first briefing this year on the situation in Kosovo. Special Representative and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Caroline Ziadeh will brief on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest report.

Key Recent Developments

There has been very limited progress in implementing the obligations that Belgrade and Pristina accepted verbally under the EU-proposed Agreement on the Path to Normalisation of 27 February 2023 and its Implementation Annex of 18 March 2023. The 11-point agreement stipulated that neither Kosovo nor Serbia can represent the other in the international sphere and that Serbia will not object to Kosovo’s membership in international organisations. In exchange, Kosovo committed to forming “specific arrangements and guarantees…to ensure an appropriate level of self-management” for the Serbian community in Kosovo. While ethnic Albanians make up more than 90 percent of Kosovo’s population, they are a small minority in the north, where over 50,000 ethnic Serbs reside. The annex notably emphasised the need for the parties to implement the agreement’s 11 points independently of each other.

Diverging views on the sequencing of the implementation, however, have hindered concrete progress. The Secretary-General’s 5 October 2023 report on UNMIK noted that “[w]hile Belgrade insisted that concrete steps towards establishing the Association/Community needed to take priority, Pristina maintained that no article of the Agreement could be a precondition for the implementation of other articles and that articles needed to be advanced ‘independently’”. Following an EU-facilitated meeting between Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on 14 September 2023, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles said that while Vučić was amenable to the EU’s suggestion of concurrent implementation of political normalisation aspects, “Kurti was not ready to move forward and start a credible process towards establishing the Association/Community”, insisting instead “on formalising de facto recognition [of Kosovo] as the first step”.

The establishment of the Community/Association of Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo was stipulated in the 2013 First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations, with a subsequent agreement reached in 2015 outlining the formation steps. However, the 2015 agreement was not adopted by the Kosovo Assembly because of objections from the opposition. The case was eventually brought to Kosovo’s constitutional court, which approved the agreement but determined that several of its aspects violated the spirit of Kosovo’s constitution.

On 26 October 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met with Kurti and Vučić on the margins of a European Council meeting. In a joint statement the following day, the three leaders acknowledged that a draft statute had been presented to Kurti and Vučić, encompassing “a modern European way to address the sensitive issue of minority protection in line with best European practices and standards”. The details of the proposal have not been made public. The statement called on Kosovo to “launch the procedure to establish the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities in Kosovo as prescribed in the draft Statute, and on Serbia to deliver on de-facto recognition”. Belgrade and Pristina have described the draft statute as a “good basis” for further discussion.

Meanwhile, tensions in northern Kosovo escalated in the absence of tangible progress in the EU-facilitated dialogue. On 18 January, the Central Bank of Kosovo announced a new policy on cash operations. The policy, which entered into force on 1 February, made the euro “the only valid currency for conducting cash payment transactions”, effectively suspending the use of the Serbian dinar in Kosovo. After declaring independence in 2008, Kosovo adopted the euro as its currency. However, in municipalities with a Serb majority, particularly in the northern region, residents have continued to use the Serbian dinar and accept financial assistance from Belgrade, which is provided in dinars. In a national address on 2 February, Vučić described Kosovo’s policy as an attempt to “ethnically cleanse” Kosovo Serbs.

At Serbia’s request and with Russia’s support, the Security Council convened on 8 February for a briefing on the situation in Kosovo. Kurti and Vučić participated under rule 39 and rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure, respectively. (For background, see our What’s in Blue story of 7 February.)

Twice during the week of 25 March, briefings sought by Russia to mark the 25th anniversary of NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia did not take place, after procedural votes showed a lack of sufficient Council support. On 25 March, this briefing, foreseen under the “Threats to international peace and security” agenda item, did not take place after France called for a procedural vote on the meeting’s provisional agenda.  Three countries voted in favour of adopting the provisional agenda (Algeria, China, and Russia), and 12 abstained. Russia requested a briefing on the same topic for 28 March, under the agenda item “Maintenance of international peace and security”. This briefing also did not take place, as a procedural vote on the adoption of the meeting’s provisional agenda, requested by France, garnered six votes in favour (Algeria, China, Guyana, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Russia), while the remaining nine Council members abstained. (For background, see our What’s in Blue stories of 24 March and 28 March.)

Key Issues and Options

The Council’s priority is to maintain stability in Kosovo and promote the de-escalation of tensions in the north. It will continue to monitor diplomatic efforts to advance the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and any efforts towards reaching a final, legally binding agreement on Kosovo. To this end, the Council could consider pursuing a presidential statement calling on Belgrade and Pristina to implement in good faith the February 2023 verbal agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia and its annex.

Another key issue is how to promote constructive dialogue on this politically charged issue in the Council. Belgrade and Pristina often advance contrasting narratives about the drivers of regional instability at the Council’s open briefings on Kosovo. Council members may wish to consider changing the format of the meeting from an open briefing to closed consultations. This could allow for a more candid discussion of the challenges to implementing the February 2023 agreement.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Council members are united in supporting the EU-facilitated dialogue to establish conditions for the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. Deep divisions among permanent members, however, continue to characterise the Council’s approach to the issue. Among the five permanent Council members, 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 and its claim to territorial integrity. Six elected members (Guyana, Japan, Malta, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland) recognise Kosovo’s independence while three (Algeria, Ecuador, and Mozambique) do not. According to Kosovo, Sierra Leone officially recognised its independence in June 2008. According to media reports, however, Serbia claimed in March 2020 that Sierra Leone had withdrawn its recognition, citing a note verbale on the matter from Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kosovo disputes the validity of the withdrawal.

The issue of modifying UNMIK’s mandate with a view to its possible drawdown is another point of contention among Council members. The US has been the most vocal proponent of ending UNMIK’s mandate and reducing the frequency of briefings, citing the level of stability in Kosovo. Similarly, the UK has called for a review of UNMIK’s mandate, arguing that conditions on the ground have changed completely since UNMIK was established nearly 25 years ago. At the 27 April 2023 briefing, former elected member Albania proposed reducing the frequency of Council meetings to one per year. Russia, however, has opposed the idea of altering UNMIK’s mandate and cutting its budget, advocating instead for maintaining the open and regular nature of Council meetings on the situation in Kosovo.

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Security Council Meeting Records
8 February 2024S/PV.9545 This was a meeting on the situation in Kosovo requested by Serbia.
23 October 2023S/PV.9450 This was the second regular briefing of the year on the situation in Kosovo.
Secretary-General’s Reports
5 October 2023S/2023/735 This was the latest Secretary-General’s report on Kosovo.

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