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Kosovo

Expected Council Action

In August, the Council is expected to hold its quarterly briefing on the situation in Kosovo. Zahir Tanin, the Special Representative and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), will brief on recent developments and the latest report by the Secretary-General. As on several previous occasions, Serbia is likely to participate at a high level, while Kosovo will probably be represented by its ambassador to the US.

Key Recent Developments

During his briefing to the Council in May, Tanin raised concerns about heightened nationalist rhetoric and the lack of progress in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. He also said that frequent elections in both Serbia and Kosovo have contributed to delays in the EU-facilitated dialogue on the normalisation of relations. Notwithstanding the political tensions between Belgrade and Pristina, Tanin noted that the overall security situation remained relatively stable.     

In May, Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi dissolved the legislature after 78 of its 120 representatives approved a no-confidence motion, bringing down the government led by Prime Minister Isa Mustafa.

General elections were held on 11 June with the participation of about 41 percent of the electorate. The coalition of political parties led by Thaçi’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) won 39 seats in the parliament. The coalition led by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK)—Mustafa’s party—won 29 seats. The nationalist Self Determination party achieved the most significant result by obtaining 32 seats, which doubled its presence in the legislature. This party has been a vocal opponent of the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and has been fiercely opposed to the government led by Mustafa.  On multiple occasions during the past two years, members of Self Determination sought ways to obstruct the normal functioning of the parliament, including setting off smoke bombs in the chamber and organising street protests. 

The leading PDK coalition has nominated the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander Ramush Haradinaj for the post of prime minister. Haradinaj is wanted in Serbia for his alleged involvement in war crimes against Serbs during the Kosovo war in the 1990s. Earlier this year, Haradinaj was at the centre of a dispute between Serbia and Kosovo after French authorities arrested him upon entering that country. French police acted on an Interpol notice requested by Serbia. Haradinaj was held under judicial supervision in France for several months and released when the court formally ruled against Serbia’s extradition request. In 2005, Haradinaj surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); he was eventually acquitted of war crimes charges in 2012.

At press time, it is still unknown which political party or coalition of parties will have enough votes to form the new government. The next constituent session of the parliament has been set for 3 August. 

After a break of more than six months, the high-level EU-facilitated dialogue resumed on 3 July in Brussels. Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, hosted a meeting with President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia and Thaçi, during which they agreed to start a new phase in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, while also stressing the importance of implementing existing agreements.  

On 28 June, the special court based in The Hague that will investigate crimes committed by the KLA during the conflict in Kosovo approved rules of procedure and evidence, paving the way towards issuing its first indictments.   

Human Rights-Related Developments

In a 26 May statement, the spokesman for the Secretary-General announced the establishment of a trust fund to implement community-based assistance projects, primarily in North Mitrovica, South Mitrovica and Leposavić but also to benefit the broader Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. The announcement follows the July 2016 report of the Human Rights Advisory Panel, which examined alleged human rights violations by UNMIK, including a complaint submitted by 138 individuals from the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities that they suffered lead poisoning and other serious health consequences as a result of their relocation to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in northern Kosovo. Via his spokesman, the Secretary-General expressed “profound regret” for the suffering endured by those living in IDP camps and called on the international community to support the initiative by providing resources to the trust fund.

On 29 and 30 June, members of the Working Group on Persons Unaccounted for in Relation to the Events in Kosovo and representatives of UNMIK, the ICRC and the UN Working Group on Missing Persons and Enforced Disappearances met in Geneva to discuss the issue of the 1,658 persons who remain missing in Kosovo. In statements on 29 June at the opening of the roundtable, the High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “It is right and urgent that all parties make the extra effort to ensure the fate and whereabouts of every missing person is at last known.” Tanin emphasised that finding the missing persons was not only a humanitarian imperative but also a human rights one.

Key Issues

Maintaining stability in Kosovo remains the primary issue for the Council. Related to this is what role UNMIK can play in promoting the implementation of the existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina.

A further issue for the Council is whether to lengthen the reporting cycle on UNMIK and the possibility of the mission’s drawdown.

Options

Should the tensions between Belgrade and Pristina escalate further or start to pose a risk to overall stability, the Council could consider issuing a statement calling on both sides to resolve outstanding issues through dialogue. However, the Council has not pronounced itself on the situation in Kosovo in almost ten years, with the last presidential statement adopted in 2008.  

If the situation remains stable, the Council could consider lengthening the reporting cycle.  

Given the ongoing discussions about the need to improve the effectiveness of UN peace operations, the Council could request the Secretary-General to conduct a review of the mission.    

Council Dynamics

Kosovo remains a low-intensity issue for the Council that is followed closely mainly by members with particular interest in the region. Other regional organisations such as the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have been playing increasingly prominent roles in Kosovo.

The permanent members of the Council continue to be deeply divided on Kosovo. France, the UK and the US recognise Kosovo’s independence and tend to be supportive of Kosovo’s government while China and Russia, which do not, strongly support Serbia’s position on the issue. The P3 and Japan have become increasingly outspoken in advocating a lengthening of UNMIK’s reporting cycle and thus reducing the frequency of meetings on Kosovo. Furthermore, the US and Japan, which are also the top two contributors to the UN peacekeeping budget, have called for a drawdown and eventual withdrawal of UNMIK, given the stability in Kosovo. The US has asserted that the mission remains overstaffed and over-resourced considering its limited responsibilities and that these resources could be put to better use in more pressing situations on the Council’s agenda.         

Since the current US administration has placed great emphasis on reviewing the UN peacekeeping operations with the aim of reducing costs and increasing efficiency, the issue of modifying UNMIK’s mandate is likely to become more prominent. However, any attempt to change the status quo regarding UNMIK would require a new resolution, which Russia would strongly oppose and be likely to block.

UN DOCUMENTS

Security Council Resolution
10 June 1999 S/RES/1244 This resolution authorised NATO to secure and enforce the withdrawal of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia forces from Kosovo and established UNMIK.
Secretary-General's Report
3 May 2017 S/2017/387 This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNMIK.
Security Council Meeting Record
16 May 2017 S/PV.7940 This was a briefing by Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMIK.

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