posted on Mon 17 Dec 2018 11:20 AM
Meeting on the Situation in Kosovo

This afternoon (17 December), the Council will hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Kosovo. Serbia requested the meeting in a 14 December letter to the President of the Council, citing the decision of the Kosovo authorities to transform the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF), which has to date addressed non-military tasks into a more traditional army. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief, and there is a possibility that a representative of the Department of Political Affairs may brief as well. President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia and President Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo will also participate in the meeting.

There seems to have been discussion regarding the format of the meeting, with some members inclined to hold the meeting in consultations. The meeting will however be held in the open chamber, as requested by other Council members. It may also be recalled that non-UN officials (in this case, government officials from Serbia and Kosovo) are not permitted to participate in consultations with Council members.

Key decisions were made in the Kosovo parliament late last week with direct bearing on Serbia’s request for today’s meeting. On 14 December, the representatives of the Kosovo parliament approved several laws paving the way for the transformation of the KSF into regular armed forces. Established in 2009, the KSF has been a lightly-armed force with a staff of around 2,000, and has dealt with non-military tasks such as assisting civilian authorities, disaster relief, and humanitarian efforts in Kosovo. The laws adopted by the parliament last week seek the creation of a Ministry of Defense, an increase in the KSF regular forces to 5,000, and the formation of reserve forces of 3,000 over the next ten years. Since 1999, international troops led by NATO have been in charge of ensuring security in Kosovo, under resolution 1244, which established the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Given the extensive media coverage of the events that transpired in Kosovo’s parliament late last week, Council members will most likely not be expecting to hear any new details on these developments. However, they might be eager to hear more from Lacroix on the UN’s position on the issue. UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the head of UNMIK, Zahir Tanin, issued similar statements on 14 December noting that resolution 1244 gives the NATO-led Kosovo Forces (KFOR) responsibility for providing security in Kosovo. In this regard, the Secretary-General emphasised in this statement that “any restriction to the discharge by KFOR of its security responsibilities would be inconsistent with the resolution.”

The international response to the recent developments in Kosovo has varied. It is likely that these differences will be reflected during the meeting. Russia and the US in particular have contrasting views. Russia has emphasised the need for the Council’s continued attention and for the ongoing presence of UNMIK, given its perception that Kosovo remains unstable. Both Russia and Serbia are likely to stress that the formation of the Kosovo armed forces serves as a provocation and a direct violation of resolution 1244, which could have destabilizing effects on the region. In contrast, the US has welcomed the gradual transition of the KSF into armed forces as a sovereign right of Kosovo.

The EU spokesperson recently issued a statement noting that the competencies of the KSF should be changed through an inclusive and gradual process.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has expressed concern over the timing of the decision by Kosovo’s authorities to expand the competencies of the KSF. He further noted that NATO will have to reexamine its role in Kosovo after the change in mandate of the KSF.

Council engagement on Kosovo has traditionally been characterised by divisions between Russia and China, on the one hand, and the P3 on the other. The Council’s approach to Kosovo has changed gradually over the past several years, however. The P3 and some other members have advocated a lengthening of UNMIK’s reporting cycle, thus reducing the frequency of meetings on Kosovo. The UK’s decision to remove the Kosovo meeting from the August programme of work demonstrated that there is substantial support among members for lengthening the reporting cycle. Nonetheless, the current escalation of tensions, if unresolved, could restore greater Council attention to the Kosovo issue.