Two to Tango: An Agenda for the New Kosovo SRSG
Two to Tango: An Agenda for the New Kosovo SRSG
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue
How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue
Report 148 / Europe & Central Asia

Two to Tango: An Agenda for the New Kosovo SRSG

A new Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri, has taken up his post at the helm of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). While UNMIK is in its fourth year, the current period is one of the most sensitive since the war.

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Executive Summary

A new Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri, has taken up his post at the helm of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). While UNMIK is in its fourth year, the current period is one of the most sensitive since the war. The province’s elected Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) are gradually gaining more responsibility, and final status discussions are approaching. However, recent security incidents, including the killings of a UN police officer and two Kosovo Serb teenagers in August 2003, are a stark reminder that stability is not yet deep-rooted. Frustration is growing with the poor state of the economy and the delay of the international community in addressing status. In the midst of these challenges, the crucial relationship between UNMIK and the PISG has become dangerously strained. Holkeri will need to come quickly to terms with the legacy of confrontation and tension left by his predecessor, Michael Steiner, and instil in his team a new attitude of respect for PISG and a reflex for consultation rather than unilateral action.

This report analyses case studies and concludes that, rather than being a natural by-product of power-sharing and essential to identifying problems so that they could be corrected, tense relations between the Steiner-led administration and the PISG often distracted officials from the effort to build democratic institutions and created unnecessary hostility and ill-feeling. The key objective – to establish functioning democratic institutions with checks and balances among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government – has too frequently been lost in the rhetoric of who is to blame for Kosovo’s governance problems.

Such conflict is not inevitable. Kosovo has generally been a welcoming environment for the international community. Holkeri has a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the previous UNMIK administration, refresh relations with the PISG, and ensure that any disputes lead to the identification and resolution of problems, rather than the exacerbation of tensions. Putting the relationship with the government back on track is essential. Holkeri will have to navigate extremely sensitive and important issues – such as the incipient dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the transfer of competencies to the PISG, and the implementation strategy for the benchmarks UNMIK has established as a precondition to the ultimate turn over of its authority. Maintaining a professional and collaborative relationship with the PISG will be important to ensure that these issues result in steps forward, not steps backward.

The PISG also shares responsibility for ensuring that relations are collaborative. It is the weaker party in this relationship, with no status internationally and reliant upon UNMIK for reporting progress to the Security Council. Kosovo officials must recognise that cooperative interaction is in their direct interest. Public disputes with UNMIK mark Kosovo’s reputation at a delicate time. While clamouring for more power, Kosovo officials must take seriously those areas of authority that they do have – such as the education and health sectors. They must also constructively use the instrument developed to guide the hand over of competencies to the PISG – the Transfer Council. PISG officials must show leadership by becoming proactive in developing and maintaining dialogue and constructive relations with UNMIK and assisting in creating an effectively functioning government.

This report outlines several critical issues that the government and UNMIK will have to address together. It also provides recommendations on how the two sides can put their relationship back on track. The fates of UNMIK and the PISG are intertwined. To safeguard its credibility and ensure its role in future peacekeeping missions, the UN needs its engagement in Kosovo to be a success. The PISG needs to safeguard continued international support and its path towards European integration. Yet neither side appears to recognise their shared destiny. Given the challenges ahead, this must change.

Pristina/Brussels, 3 September 2003

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