You must enable JavaScript to view this site.
This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Review our legal notice and privacy policy for more details.
Homepage > Regions / Countries > Europe > Balkans > Kosovo > Kosovo Countdown: A Blueprint for Transition

Kosovo Countdown: A Blueprint for Transition

Europe Report N°188 6 Dec 2007


Kosovo’s transition to the status of conditional, or supervised, independence has been greatly complicated by Russia’s firm support of Serbia’s refusal to accept that it has lost its one-time province. Recognition of conditional independence has broad international, and certainly European Union (EU) and American, support. Under threat of Moscow’s veto, the Security Council will not revoke its Resolution 1244 of 1999 that acknowledged Serbian sovereignty while setting up the UN Mission (UNMIK) to prepare Kosovo for self-government pending a political settlement on its future status. Nor will the Council be allowed to approve the plan for a conditionally independent Kosovo devised by the Secretary-General’s special representative, Martti Ahtisaari, earlier this year and authorise the EU-led missions meant to implement that plan.

While the Troika of U.S., EU and Russian diplomats explored the bleak prospects for Kosovo-Serbia agreement over the past several months, Brussels and Washington have also been able to use the time to devise ways to support Kosovo’s transition to conditional independence without needing the support of the Security Council. The EU now has a better sense of the need to maintain its unity and take primary responsibility for the crisis. But Kosovo and the wider Western Balkans have become less stable, and further delay would worsen matters: this is not a situation that can drift comfortably into “frozen conflict” status. Once the Contact Group reports the inevitable Troika failure to the UN Secretary-General on or about 10 December, the “Quint” – France, Germany, Italy, the UK and U.S. – should, despite Serbian and Russian opposition, promptly begin implementing a plan to orchestrate a peaceful transition culminating in Kosovo’s conditional independence in May 2008.

The situation on the ground risks overtaking capitals. Belgrade and hardline local leaders have pulled Serbs further away from the Albanian majority in Kosovo, encouraging their boycott of the 17 November 2007 elections. Clashes involving Albanian armed groups have occurred in northern Macedonia and tensions, encouraged by Serbia and Russia, have increased in Bosnia. It will take perhaps into January for the winners of the Kosovo elections to form their new government, which will be one prepared to work with Western supporters but not to accept another round of talks with Belgrade. It is apparent from the intensive efforts of the Troika, which provided the parties ample opportunity to explore every possible solution, that there is no chance for a negotiated agreement.

Accepting paralysis is not a viable option, however. It would lead to an uncoordinated, unsupervised, possibly violent independence process that could stimulate instability in Kosovo’s neighbour countries. It would also seriously damage both the UN’s prestige and the EU’s development as a major political actor on the global stage.

Much now depends on the dynamics between the EU and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The EU must say officially at the 14 December European Council of heads of state and government that it considers the negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo to be over, that the Ahtisaari plan is the best way forward and that it is ready to deploy field missions (a rule-of-law mission under its European Security and Defence Policy, ESDP, and an International Civilian Office, ICO). Following that, the Secretary-General needs to make clear that he welcomes the EU pledge to create the new missions to further implement 1244. Thereafter, in early 2008, the EU should take the necessary action to deploy both missions.

The Secretary-General and Brussels have a degree of mutual dependence in this process. Without a clear and unequivocal message from the European Council meeting, Ban is unlikely to feel able to make any statement welcoming the EU missions. He cannot be expected to act against Russian pressure without certainty that the EU itself will be resolute. And without his help in giving at least some semblance of UN cover, the EU will be less likely to overcome last reservations and vote on actual mission deployment.

The U.S., UK and France will have to work hard in New York – and be prepared to accept some damage in their relations with Moscow – to ensure that the clear majority of the Security Council will lend support to such a course. It would be prudent to move quickly to obtain statements from the current membership in December, since most of the five new members who will rotate on to the Council in January 2008 will take a considerable time to familiarise themselves with the issues. The stage would then be set for the new Kosovo government in January to state its intention to declare independence on Ahtisaari plan terms in May, following a 120-day transition (also foreseen by Ahtisaari), and to invite the EU immediately to deploy the new missions, as well as NATO to keep its force (KFOR) there. The Quint and as many EU member states as possible would, following that statement of intention, pledge to recognise Kosovo’s independence promptly after the declaration in May 2008, provided it acts during the 120-day transition in conformity with the Ahtisaari plan.

Much else remains to be done. NATO, UNMIK and Kosovo institutions must agree on a security plan to ensure a peaceful transition. Pristina is behind in developing the laws necessary to implement the Ahtisaari plan. Considerable planning and liaison is required within the EU, between the Quint and Pristina, and between advance elements of the missions and Kosovo authorities to ensure that all know the post-independence division of responsibilities. The elected government and its institutions, not the missions, must be UNMIK’s primary successors, but those missions must be accepted to have the discretionary power to monitor and supervise as Ahtisaari envisaged even without a clear Security Council mandate. New joint commissions and procedures on the ground may be part of the formula.

Of course, even after a conditionally independent Kosovo is up and running, the international community will still need to help it and Serbia resolve their dispute in a manner that leads ultimately to the revocation of Resolution 1244, gains Kosovo UN membership and at last guarantees Western Balkan stability. In the immediate term, the EU will need to maintain consensus that the European Commission should help the new state get on its feet economically and travel the long road to EU membership. The West must keep pressures and incentives on Serbia to accept reality. That acceptance will take time. In the current political constellation in Belgrade, the prospect of EU membership is not alluring enough to produce a fundamental policy reversal. Nevertheless, if it is to retain its ability to resolve a latent conflict, the EU should not repeat its mistake with Cyprus and allow Serbia to join until it has squared relations with Pristina.

But the task of the moment is to make conditional independence operational, without further hesitation.


To the “Quint” (the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, Italy) and the European Union (EU) and its Member States:

1.  In the case of the EU, issue a declaration at the European Council of heads of state and government on 14 December 2007:

a) noting that the Troika’s mandate has been exhausted, and the international community, in particular the EU, has explored with Belgrade and Pristina every reasonable status outcome for Kosovo in search of a mutually acceptable outcome;

b) reaffirming that the Ahtisaari plan remains the best basis for the settlement of the Kosovo issue; and

c) underlining that the EU is ready to rapidly assume, in consultation with other key international actors, a significant role in Kosovo in the implementation of the Ahtisaari plan, including by preparing itself to deploy a civilian European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) rule-of-law mission and the International Civilian Office (ICO).

2.  Further prepare in December-January Kosovo’s transition to conditional independence by:

a) in the case of the Quint, working up a detailed plan with Pristina authorities on the mechanism and schedule for declaring independence to include a transition period of 120 days;

b) working urgently together and with other relevant stakeholders, including the UN Secretariat, to determine a structure and reporting lines for the ICO;

c) further building the on-the-ground capacities of the ESDP rule-of-law mission and the ICO, via their respective planning teams;

d) ensuring UNMIK Police have the resources and will to cope with security challenges anticipated when Kosovo begins the independence process and before the ESDP rule-of-law mission is deployed; and

e) in the case of the U.S. and EU, appointing envoys to work intensively on the ground with Kosovo’s newly elected leadership on outreach to Kosovo Serb communities, tailoring guarantees to specific local concerns and preparing for the creation of new Serb-majority municipalities pursuant to the Ahtisaari plan.

3.  Following Kosovo’s likely January statement of intent to declare independence in May 2008, and provided that statement includes a commitment to implementation of all relevant provisions of the Ahtisaari plan:

a) the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC, foreign ministers) should take note of the statement of intent, authorise the European Commission and other EU bodies to enter into contractual relations with Kosovo’s elected government, and adopt Joint Actions to deploy the EU Special Representative (EUSR), the ESDP rule-of-law mission and the ICO;

b) the members of the Quint and as many other EU member states as possible should pledge to recognise Kosovo’s independence promptly after it is declared in May 2008, provided that the transition period preparations have been conducted in accordance with the Ahtisaari plan; and

c) the EU and the other participating states should promptly deploy the ESDP rule-of-law and ICO missions so that they are able to assume their full responsibilities when Kosovo’s conditional independence enters into effect in May 2008.

To the UN Secretary-General:

4.  State, when transmitting the Contact Group report on the Troika facilitation of Serbia-Kosovo negotiations to the Security Council in December 2007 or in a separate public manner at that time, that:

a) the negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade have failed to reach agreement on Kosovo’s future status;

b) Special Envoy Ahtisaari’s Report and Comprehensive Proposal (the Ahtisaari plan) continues to offer the best way forward to a sustainable solution on Kosovo’s future status;

c) the UN will continue to have a role on the ground in Kosovo with the help of other international organisations, as envisaged in Security Council Resolution 1244 and the Ahtisaari plan; and

d) he welcomes the EU’s willingness to take on the new responsibilities of a civilian ESDP rule-of-law mission and an ICO.

To Member States of the UN Security Council:

5.  Support by individual statements in the Council the Ahtisaari plan as the best way forward to a sustainable solution on Kosovo’s future status and welcome the readiness of the EU and other participating states to deploy a civilian ESDP rule-of-law mission and an ICO.

To the Kosovo Political Leadership:

6.  Form a new coalition government as quickly as possible after the 17 November elections and decide upon the bodies that will lead Kosovo through the independence process.

7.   Intensify work on the package of state-forming legislation stipulated in the Ahtisaari plan and agree its details with the ICO planning team in order to be able to adopt it as a whole early in the four months following the statement of intent to declare independence.

8.  Make a genuine effort, working with EU and U.S. envoys, to reach out to Kosovo’s Serb communities, address their concerns (while explaining them to Kosovo Albanians) and offer an early start to creation of new Serb-majority municipalities at least in the larger enclaves of Gracanica and Ranilug.

9.  In January 2008 invite deployment of the ESDP rule-of-law mission and the ICO and state the intention to declare independence in May 2008, upon completion of a 120-day transition process, while:

a) making clear Kosovo’s commitment to fully accept and implement the Ahtisaari plan;

b) coordinating with the Quint and the EU on the text of the declaration, its timing and the steps to be taken during the transition period; and

c) allowing time specifically for KFOR, UNMIK Police and the Kosovo Police Service to activate an agreed security plan.

To NATO and its Member States:

10.  Ensure that all national components of KFOR can be relied upon to implement a security plan that will secure Kosovo’s borders, including north of the Ibar River, and to support the transition to conditional independence and that reinforcements are available and ready for quick deployment if the need arises.

Pristina/Belgrade/New York/Brussels, 6 December 2007

This page in: