What's In Blue

Posted Sun 13 May 2012

Kosovo Debate

The Council will hold a debate on Kosovo on Monday afternoon (14 May) with Farid Zarif, head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), scheduled to brief on the Secretary-General’s latest report. The report of 27 April (S/2012/275) highlights some of the positive political developments in the region in recent months, but was written against the backdrop of increasing tensions ahead of the much-disputed conduct of Serbian elections in Kosovo, which took place on 6 May. During Monday’s debate, the foreign ministers of both Serbia and Kosovo look set to again address the Council. As with other recent debates on UNMIK, no Council action is anticipated.

Several Council members—particularly European states and those who recognise Kosovo’s independence—will likely welcome positive recent developments related to the EU. Most notably, on 1 March EU member states formally granted candidacy status to Serbia, whose application had been pending since 2009. (Later in the month, the European Commissioner for Enlargement also formally launched a feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between Kosovo and the EU.)

These agreements came on the back of a number of EU-mediated dialogue meetings between Belgrade and Pristina, which culminated in an agreement in late February for Kosovo to be represented at regional meetings under a nameplate reading: “Kosovo*”. However, subsequent disagreements over where the asterisk’s explanatory footnote should be placed (the footnote refers to both Council resolution 1244 and the ICJ’s advisory opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence) have resulted in boycotts and walk-outs of regional meetings. The problems arising from these “mutually exclusive interpretations” are likely to be raised on Monday, and it is probable that members will encourage the two sides to resolve the issue so that both parties participate in future.

An important focus for Council members will likely be the seemingly successful undertaking of Serbian elections (presidential and parliamentary) in Kosovo on 6 May. (It had been agreed between Belgrade and the OSCE that the latter would take responsibility for overseeing the voting of Serbian citizens who live in Kosovo.) Despite concerns that the elections would result in violent skirmishes, the OSCE was quoted as saying that “not a single incident occurred in Kosovo during the elections”. However, Council members might mention the local elections that went ahead in two municipalities in predominantly Serb northern Kosovo despite calls from the international community and, notably, Belgrade for them not to. Several Council members will likely note Belgrade’s cooperation and attention might be more focused on the rhetoric and action of Serb leaders in northern Kosovo.

Despite the peaceful conduct of elections, the precarious security situation in Kosovo recently is likely to be addressed by Zarif. Russia, in particular, has ongoing concerns about the stability in Kosovo and in the past, like Serbia, has presented a less rosy picture of the realities on the ground. (As with China and several other elected Council members, Russia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence.) Russia is also likely to pick up on points made in the Secretary-General’s report concerning the resistance by the authorities in Pristina to measures aimed at protecting cultural and religious sites in Kosovo.

An issue that was prominently mentioned during the last UNMIK debate on 8 February – and which is likely to surface again on Monday – is the investigation into allegations of human organ trafficking and inhuman treatment of people in Kosovo. (See Kosovo brief in SCR’s May Forecast for background.) Annex I of the Secretary-General’s report provides more details than in the past of the ongoing investigations of the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) into the issue. (Lack of transparency and information provided to the Council concerning the EULEX Task Force’s ongoing investigations seems to have been an issue for several members and Russia might again address the issue on Monday.)

One development concerning the organ tracking issue since the publication of the Secretary-General’s report is the passing of a law on Thursday (11 May) by the Albanian parliament. The law creates the necessary legal framework to allow the EULEX prosecution team to conduct thorough investigations in Albania. The development is likely to be highlighted by the US and European members on the Council as a positive indicator that progress is being made towards a comprehensive and impartial investigation. Those members have long-contended that EULEX’s investigations into the serious allegations should be allowed to run their course.

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