Saturday, November 11, 2006

Kosovo Status: Delay Is Risky

Kosovo Status: Delay Is Risky

Europe Report N°17710 November 2006


The Kosovo final status process risks breaking down the further the decision is pushed back into 2007. The six-nation Contact Group that has sponsored the process must at minimum deliver timely endorsement of the settlement package that UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari should present before January’s end, and the UN Security Council must pass a resolution superseding 1244 (1999) to allow the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to transfer its responsibilities to Kosovo’s government and pave the way for new international bodies being readied by the EU. Acting together, the U.S. and the EU need to show the political will to recognise Kosovo as independent, and fend off partition moves from Serbia and the Serb north of Kosovo.How some key actors will behave remains unpredictable. Russia may refuse consensus in the Contact Group and block decisions in the Security Council; not all EU member states are at ease with the likely outcome. While it is uncertain whether Serbia will offer serious or only token resistance to Kosovo independence, it will certainly support the Serb north’s bid to break completely with independent Kosovo. But the two thirds of Kosovo Serbs south of the Ibar River are not as yet planning to leave: will Belgrade urge them to flee Kosovo or allow them to come to terms with the new state of affairs? Another question is whether the U.S. and EU will put resources behind repeated verbal commitments not to allow partition.The direction in which matters seem to be moving offers much potential for instability. Due primarily to Russia, the Security Council will likely endorse only the narrowest of formulas for Kosovo’s independence. Ahtisaari will have to strip his settlement package of all symbolic and some functional elements of independence to get it through the Council.Despite international officials’ denials, the settlement taking shape may resemble Bosnia’s Dayton Agreement more than Macedonia’s Ohrid. The prerogatives contemplated for the projected post-status International Community Representative are growing, and a less complete transfer of power to Kosovo’s own government is being envisaged. Kosovo’s deep Albanian-Serb cleavage, and fears of the latter’s exodus or suppression, have prompted Ahtisaari to craft decentralisation provisions that largely insulate most Kosovo Serbs from Pristina and give Belgrade continuing influence. The hope is that this will aid a peaceful, stable transition. The price will be difficult institutional arrangements that it may be necessary to disentangle later for EU accession purposes.Kosovo’s relative stability over the past year should not encourage the international community to imagine it has the luxury of finessing both sides. It has already indulged a Serbian constitutional process intended to undermine the international community’s plans for Kosovo, helping thereby to consolidate Belgrade behind retrogressive electoral practices and ideologies of the Milosevic era. Ahtisaari agreed on 10 November to delay presentation of his proposal after Belgrade set a definite 21 January 2007 date for parliamentary elections. It is important that no further slippage takes place. Further delay would be taken in Belgrade not as a cue to cooperate with an orderly Kosovo process but as a further opportunity to wreck it. Kosovo Albanian social and political fragility offer Belgrade a last opportunity to change the outcome. And delay much into 2007 would severely test Kosovo Albanian cohesion. Politicians have promised their constituents independence this year and have articulated no vision for the period after. They have marginal capacity to implement precisely the complex choreography the international community envisages as producing independence.The longer the Kosovo Albanians are forced to wait, the greater the chance they will discredit themselves with unilateral independence moves or riots. The pendulum of international support and sympathy would then swing away from them, as after the March 2004 riots. That would virtually finish prospects for retaining the Serbs of the north in a multi-ethnic Kosovo and see many leave the south. Instead of finally closing the question of western Balkan borders with an orderly Kosovo settlement, a new destabilising chapter would be opened.


To the Contact Group (U.S., UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia):

1. Act without delay on the settlement package to be presented by UN envoy Ahtisaari, and without watering it down.

To the United Nations Security Council:2.

Pass at the earliest opportunity a resolution that endorses the Ahtisaari package; supersedes Resolution 1244 (1999); brings to an end the UN Mission in Kosovo and redistributes its powers to Kosovo’s government and the new international presences stipulated in the Ahtisaari package.

Pristina/Brussels, 10 November 2006

International Crisis Group - Kosovo Status: Delay is Risky

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Anonymous said...

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Ilirian Bytyçi

bytycci said...

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