By Ramesh Jaura
This is the first of two reports from Kosovo, on its efforts to garner international recognition in the aftermath of unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008 subsequent to the breakup of Yugoslavia after Josip Broz Tito’s death in the 1980s. – The Editor
BERLIN | PRISTINA (IDN) – The United Nations Security Council has engaged with the situation in Kosovo and its relations with Serbia three times already this year. But when the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly opens on September 18, 2018, Kosovo will be missing. It is the only among seven breakaway states of former Yugoslavia that is not yet a member of the UN.
The present situation will not be rectified until Kosovo and Serbia, the core republic of former Yugoslavia, defy apparently insurmountable differences and come to a settlement aided by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), with cooperation from the European Union facilitated dialogue.
As specified in Security Council Resolution 1244, since 1999 the UN has maintained an Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, with cooperation from the European Union 2008 onward.
The priorities of the Mission remain to promote security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and in the region. In furtherance of its goals, UNMIK continues its constructive engagement with Pristina and Belgrade – the seats of governments of Kosovo and Serbia respectively – all communities in Kosovo and regional and international actors.
Kosovo, the landlocked territory in the Balkan Peninsula with a population of less than two million, unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008 in the aftermath of the Kosovo War in the whirl and muddle of Yugoslav Wars.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) started its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia on March 24,1999 because “efforts to achieve a negotiated, political solution to the Kosovo crisis” had failed. It did so “without seeking explicit Security Council authorization”.
Three weeks before the 78-day air campaign against Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in Belgrade was halted, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan went on record to declare that while the Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, “it was the rejection of a political settlement by the Yugoslav authorities which made this action necessary, and that, indeed, there ‘are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit of peace’.”
The Kosovo Force (KFOR) – a NATO-led international peacekeeping force – entered Kosovo on June 11, 1999, two days after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. At the time, Kosovo was facing a grave humanitarian crisis, with military forces from Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in daily engagement. Nearly one million people had fled Kosovo as refugees.
Today, nearly 4,000 troops from the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), provided by 28 countries continue to work towards maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens and communities in Kosovo.
As a media team including IDN – which visited Kosovo late June 2018 – learnt, throughout Kosovo, KFOR is cooperating and coordinating with the United Nations, the European Union and other international actors to support the development of a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic and peaceful Kosovo.
Over time, as the security situation has improved, NATO has been “gradually adjusting KFOR’s force posture towards a smaller and more flexible force with fewer static tasks,” KFOR officials told the media team. With the consent of the North Atlantic Council (NAC), KFOR has been responding to the security situation on the ground. It has gradually transferred responsibilities to the Kosovo Police and other local authorities.
Much to the umbrage of Serbia, Kosovo government sources do not conceal that they look forward to KFOR becoming an army that given due training by NATO officers might participate in UN missions in conflict areas.
Since declaring independence ten years ago, such ambitions to share international responsibility appear to have aided Kosovo gain diplomatic recognition as a sovereign state by 111 out of 193 UN member nations. These include 23 out of 28 European Union (EU) states, 25 out of 29 NATO members, and 36 out of 57 countries constituting the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Kosovo is also a member of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, Venice Commission, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Olympic Committee, among others.
Besides, Kosovo’s bid for membership of International Criminal Police Organisation – Interpol – has been included in the agenda of the 87th session of its General Assembly to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in November 2018.
Kosovo is keen to join UNESCO too. But Serbia and Russia are pitted against such bids by Kosovo to broaden the base of its diplomatic recognitions. Like Serbia, Russia has been strongly opposed to Kosovo’s declaration of independence on the plea that it violates “the sovereignty of the Republic of Serbia, the Charter of the United Nations, UNSCR 1244, the principles of the Helsinki Final Act, Kosovo’s Constitutional Framework and the high-level Contact Group accords”.
In February 2008, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated, “Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government declared a unilateral proclamation of independence of the province, thus violating the sovereignty of the Republic of Serbia, the Charter of the United Nations, UNSCR 1244, the principles of the Helsinki Final Act, Kosovo’s Constitutional Framework and the high-level Contact Group accords.”
Russia also requested that a UN Security Council emergency meeting be held to discuss the issue and that “those who are considering supporting separatism should understand what dangerous consequences their actions threaten to have for world order, international stability and the authority of the UN Security Council’s decisions that took decades to build.”
In March 2014, however, Russia used Kosovo’s declaration of independence as a justification for recognizing the independence of Crimea, citing the so-called “Kosovo independence precedent”.
Kosovo, on the other hand, enjoys the support of the EU except from five countries – Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania, and Greece – and the United States. In fact, Kosovo considers the United States its greatest partner in gaining recognition from the rest of the world, a view U.S. officials share.
Washington officially recognized the Republic of Kosovo as a country, one day before it declared independence from Serbia. U.S. President George W. Bush on February 19, 2008 stated that recognizing Kosovo as an independent nation would “bring peace to a region scarred by war”.
Kosovo has named certain places in Pristina after U.S. leaders such as Bill Clinton Ave and George W. Bush Street. There is in fact a statute of Clinton in Pristina. There are also several cities in Kosovo, including the city and municipality of Prizren, with streets named after President Woodrow Wilson.
This reflects a landmark support for U.S leadership in the face of it declining in most parts of the world. The latest Gallup poll shows that Kosovars and Albanians remain America’s most steadfast fans. In fact the latest poll by Gallup shows that support is higher in Kosovo than anywhere else in Europe.
The poll published on January 18, 2018 showed that 75 per cent of people in Kosovo support the performance of the leadership of the United States. Neighbouring Albania comes second, with 72 per cent support, the report said.
“The U.S. garnered majority approval in just three countries or areas in Europe in 2017 – Kosovo, which leads the region and the world in approval of U.S. leadership, Albania, which ranks second worldwide, and Poland,” the report noted. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 August 2018]
Photo: Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj (second from left) talking to a media team end of June 2018 at his office in Pristina. He is flanked by Kosovo government officials. Credit: Cia Pak | Scannews.
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
facebook.com/IDN.GoingDeeper – twitter.com/InDepthNews