By Ramesh Jaura
This is the second report from Kosovo, stressing the importance of an EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. The first is titled Kosovo Looks Forward To UN Membership. – The Editor
BERLIN | PRISTINA (IDN) – In the wake of the Kosovo War, in the whirl and muddle of Yugoslav Wars, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, Kosovo, as part of Serbia and Yugoslavia, was placed under United Nations administration UNMIK by virtue of the Security Council Resolution 1244.
NATO launched the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia on March 24,1999 because “efforts to achieve a negotiated, political solution to the Kosovo crisis” had failed. But it did so “without seeking explicit Security Council authorization”.
In 2008, Kosovo declared independence and has since been recognized by 111 out of 193 UN member states. Though Serbia claims Kosovo as part of its sovereign territory, and refuses to recognize it as an independent state, Belgrade has accepted the legitimacy of Kosovo’s institutions with the Brussels Agreement of 2013.
The 15-point First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations was made between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo on the normalization of their relations. It was negotiated and concluded on April 19, 2013, although not signed by either party, in Brussels under the auspices of the European Union. The negotiations were led by Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, and mediated by EU High Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton.
After the agreement was concluded, the European Commission officially advised that work start on Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo, and accession negotiations began with Serbia. The European Union, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nations supported the agreement. U.S. diplomats supported the EU-led dialogue from the beginning.
The Brussels Agreement brought Serbia close to EU accession talks and Kosovo to initialling SAA. The EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa signed the SAA in October 2015, which entered into force in April 2016. One of the most difficult problems, according to knowledgeable sources, still is removing the parallel Serbian structures in the Northern part of Kosovo until full sovereignty.
The Brussels Agreement is one among several steps that have been taken in the on-going dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina facilitated by the EU High Representative Mogherini that lends optimism to Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj as he told a visiting media team including IDN end of June 2018 in Pristina.
In the aftermath of a High Level Meeting of the EU facilitated Dialogue with the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić and the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi on June 24 in Brussels, a spokesperson of the EU said:
“The High Representative and the Presidents had an intensive and productive discussion on the framework of an agreement on comprehensive normalisation of relations between the two sides. They agreed to intensify the work in the coming weeks.”
Optimism also prevailed after the European Union Western Balkans Summit in Sofia on May 17 in which the President of Kosovo, the Prime Minister of Kosovo and the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, Behgjet Pacolli, participated.
At the conclusion of the Summit, the European Union adopted a declaration in which it reaffirmed its “unequivocal support” for the region’s European perspective and outlined a number of measures to be implemented by the Governments of Western Balkans countries to improve infrastructure connectivity, security and the rule of law in the region.
On July 10, Heads of Government of European Union member States and their Western Balkans partners met in London under the Berlin process. At the conclusion of the meeting, all participants in the process signed joint declarations on regional cooperation and good-neighbourly relations, war crimes and missing persons.
Earlier on June 8, the European Council decided to refocus the mandate of the EU rule of law mission EULEX Kosovo. The mission, established 10 years ago, has had two operational objectives: a monitoring, mentoring and advising objective, providing support to Kosovo’s rule of law institutions and to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, and an executive objective, supporting the adjudication of constitutional and civil justice and prosecuting and adjudicating selected criminal cases.
The decision brings the judicial executive part of the mission’s mandate in Kosovo to an end: Kosovo will assume responsibility for all transferred investigations, prosecutions and trials.
As of June 14, the mission will concentrate on: monitoring selected cases and trials in Kosovo’s criminal and civil justice institutions; monitoring, mentoring and advising the Kosovo correctional service; continuing its operational support for the implementation of EU-facilitated dialogue agreements for the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
The Council decision provides for the revised mandate to run until June 14, 2020. It also allocates a combined budget for the mission’s operations in Kosovo and for the specialist chambers and the specialist prosecutor’s office of EUR 169.8 million for two years (June 15, 2018 – June 14, 2020).
In his quarterly briefing to the Security Council, UNMIK head Zahir Tanin assured on May 14, 2018 that the Mission continues to focus on creating an atmosphere that allows for compromise in good faith.
“Our efforts are aimed at sustaining peace, ensuring we remain at the forefront of monitoring and analysing the situation and reinforcing strategic coordination with members of all UN entities, as well as international partners” alongside the authorities in Kosovo, he said.
He described the recent Kosovo Trust-Building Forum, which brought together UNMIK, the EULEX, the OSCE and more than 100 community leaders, to discuss ways of building a positive path for the future.
“Multiple focus groups worked to strengthen understanding across community divides. The resulting outcomes identified by participants provided a roadmap for objectives to be implemented in Kosovo,” recalled Tanin of the Forum, urging all leaders in Kosovo to move forward with more trust, compassion, understanding, and clarity.
Turning to Kosovo’s relations with the rest of Europe, Tanin, who is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Kosovo, said a number of steps must be taken, including a security agreement with Montenegro and strengthening the rule of law and human rights portfolios.
In that vein, he noted the approval of a new draft of the Kosovo criminal code, introducing stricter penalties for offences related to corruption and misuse of official duty.
Referring to the protection of cultural heritage, he described progress in the so-called “special protected zones” and said the world was watching how the Government was handling construction near the Visoki Dečani Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in western Kosovo.
In his regular report on developments in Kosovo, covering mid-April to mid-July, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on July 30 said, he was concerned about the intention to build a road in the protected zone around the (Serbian Orthodox) monastery – and called on local authorities to respect laws and decisions according to which construction there is forbidden.
At the same time, he welcomed the continuation of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina with the mediation of the EU. The Security Council chair for the month of August, Ambassador Karen Pierce, Britain’s Permanent Representative to UN, has also stressed the importance of making progress on normalizing relations as the only way of advancing on European integration.
Replying to a question by journalists at the UN headquarters in New York, Pierce reportedly called on Kosovo and Serbia to halt applying tactics at the Security Council. The Council must focus on the most pressing issues of international peace and security and even though Kosovo remains important, it no longer has the intensity of 18 years ago when it generated “a regular drumbeat” of consultations, Pierce stressed. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 August 2018]
Photo: EU and Western Balkans Summit: Strengthening cooperation at all levels to support the region’s transformation. Credit: eeas.europa.eu
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
facebook.com/IDN.GoingDeeper – twitter.com/InDepthNews