Quarterly Debate on Kosovo
Tomorrow (19 November) the Security Council will hold its quarterly debate on Kosovo during which it will be briefed by Farid Zarif, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), on the latest report of the Secretary-General (S/2013/631) and other recent developments, particularly the recent municipal elections. Prime Minister Ivica Dačić of Serbia and Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo will also participate in the debate.
Even though Zarif will base his briefing on the latest Secretary-General’s report covering the period from 16 July to 15 October, the Council will be keen to hear more about the latest developments regarding the 3 November municipal elections, which fell outside the reporting period. Due to incidents in North Mitrovica, where masked men stormed the polling stations, the election commission in Pristina decided to repeat elections in three polling stations on 17 November. Council members are likely to be particularly interested in Zarif’s assessment of the results of this election in the north as they are intended to integrate the province into the rest of Kosovo, while maintaining some autonomy.
A related issue is the implementation of the “First agreement on principles governing the normalization of relations” between Belgrade and Pristina. One of the main elements of this agreement is related to the participation of Kosovar Serbs in these elections. In an effort to boost participation of Serbs in the repeat elections, Dačić visited North Mitrovica on 15 November and called upon the local population to turn out in high numbers. Despite some resistance and calls for boycott, preliminary results by the central election commission show a turnout of around 22 percent. In his statement today, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Secretary General Lamberto Zannier described the elections as successful and turnout as very good. Council members may be interested in Zarif’s view of Kosovar Serb turnout.
Statements by both Dačić and Thaçi will be closely followed by Council members. In his statement Dačić will likely emphasise Serbia’s efforts to ensure participation of Kosovo Serbs in local elections, as well as the implementation of the 19 April agreement despite challenges from Pristina. On the other hand Thaçi is expected to praise the authorities in Kosovo for success in ensuring smooth and regular local elections, and as was the case in the previous debate, call for a reduction of both UNMIK and the international presence in Kosovo.
Despite minor challenges on the ground, France, the UK and the US will likely commend both Serbia and Kosovo on the successful completion of the elections and their progress in the EU facilitated dialogue. As was the case in previous debates Russia will likely tend to be more sympathetic to Serbia pointing out the necessity of maintaining UNMIK in Kosovo due to continuing instability and threats to the Serb population.
While the discussion is likely to be dominated by the recent elections, Zarif is expected to also brief on other issues raised in the Secretary-General’s report such as the security situation especially in light of the killing of one EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) staff member on 19 September. Other issues could include the return of communities, human rights, rule of law and UNMIK’s role in supporting EULEX.
Council members continue to be divided on Kosovo which has made it difficult to agree on any Council action. There continues to be a stalemate between those on the Council who have recognised Kosovo—Australia, France, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, the UK and the US—and Russia. Although there has been progress in the EU-facilitated political dialogue, this has not led to any change in Council dynamics on this issue. While there was an attempt by Luxembourg following the signing of “First agreement on principles governing the normalisation of relations” to get agreement on a press statement, this time there appears to be no appetite to even suggest that the Council issue any sort of statement on the outcome of the elections.