posted on Thu 7 Feb 2019 1:50 PM
Kosovo Briefing

This afternoon (7 February), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), in line with the longstanding practice of holding these meetings on a quarterly basis. The frequency of reporting on UNMIK has been a contentious issue in the Council for some time. In this regard, the US in particular would prefer that this issue be discussed less frequently, while Russia has expressed a desire to maintain the quarterly reporting cycle.

Resolution 1244, which established the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo, requested only that the Secretary-General report to the Council “at regular intervals on the implementation of this resolution”. Since 1999, when the resolution was adopted, the Secretary-General has established a practice of reporting to the Council at three-month intervals.

In line with the standard practice of quarterly reporting on UNMIK, the Council’s “provisional programme of work” for February foresaw an UNMIK briefing today, 7 February.  However, the provisional programme of work for this month was not adopted as planned on 1 February, due to disagreement over whether this briefing should take place. At a 1 February press conference kicking off his country’s Council presidency, Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba (Equatorial Guinea) said that Council delegations would continue to negotiate to find a way out of the impasse; however, if this were not possible, he noted that a procedural vote might take place on 7 February on whether to discuss Kosovo, following which the Council would adopt its provisional programme of work for February.

At press time, it seems that to break the current impasse some members have worked on a compromise to avoid the use of a procedural vote and allow today’s meeting to go ahead, in exchange for a reduced reporting cycle in the future. It appears that a presidential note has been agreed specifying the new reporting cycle. This includes convening today’s session as one of three UNMIK meetings in the Council in 2019 and holding two annual Council meetings on this issue from 2020.

The US and EU members of the Council have consistently argued that there is no need for the Council to discuss UNMIK on a quarterly basis, given what they view as the relative stability of the country and the presence of more pressing issues on the Council’s agenda. During its presidency in August 2018, the UK made these arguments and excluded UNMIK from the programme of work, in spite of objections from Russia and some other Council members.

At the time, the UK had also initiated discussions among Council members on finding a suitable compromise on a new reporting cycle. It seems that members discussed the possibility of holding meetings on UNMIK in four-month intervals and possibly changing the format of some of the meetings from a briefing (that is, a public meeting) to closed consultations. However, these discussions stalled amidst persistent disagreements on the issue.

In line with the quarterly reporting cycle, China included UNMIK on the programme of work during its presidency in November 2018, without apparent opposition from the P3 and others.

Those supporting a decrease in the reporting frequency on UNMIK seem to have pointed out that they would be open to discussions on Kosovo as required by the situation on the ground. In this regard, the Council held an emergency session on Kosovo outside the normal reporting cycle on 17 December, after the country’s parliament passed laws that initiated the transformation of the Kosovo Security Forces—which had addressed non-military tasks such as assisting civilian authorities, disaster relief, and humanitarian efforts—into a more traditional army.

At today’s meeting, the Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Zahir Tanin, is expected to brief (via video teleconference) on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest UNMIK report.  Some of the issues that the Council might discuss today include an ongoing tariff dispute between Belgrade and Pristina and the lack of progress in the EU-facilitated dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. Kosovo maintains a 100 percent tariff on imported goods from Serbia, which has had negative effects on the EU-facilitated dialogue that has stalled for months. Council members have already voiced their concerns about this policy and some may reiterate these concerns today. Additionally, some members may decide to reiterate their views on the UNMIK reporting cycle.