A comprehensive review of the situation in Kosovo
This report contains a comprehensive review of the situation in Kosovo with
the aim of assessing whether the conditions are now in place for initiating and
conducting the future status process. The review has also been used to seek progress on the ground and to contribute to an environment conducive to taking the political process forward.
Following a period of political stagnation and widespread frustration, Kosovo
has entered a new period of dynamic development. A political process is under way
and is gaining momentum. It is based on a comprehensive political strategy, which
includes the prospects for a future status process.
The standards implementation process is an important part of this dynamic.
The record of implementation so far is uneven. Particular progress has been made in the development of new institutional frameworks. After the end of the conflict in
1999, there was a total institutional vacuum in Kosovo. Today, a comprehensive set
of institutions has been established which includes executive, legislative and judicial
bodies at the central as well as the local levels. Much progress has also been
achieved in the development of a sustainable legal framework. The legislative work
of the Assembly, the Government and UNMIK has been ambitious, covering
essential areas of public life and the economy. Systems providing public services
have been put in place across most of Kosovo. A civil service is taking shape. Over
the recent period, a significant transfer of competences has occurred. The local
leaders have gradually assumed ownership of their own institutions.
The development of new institutions is undermined by a strong tendency among
politicians to see themselves as accountable to their political parties rather than to
the public they serve. Appointments are, therefore, regularly made on the basis of
political and clan affiliation rather than competence.
The Kosovo Serbs have chosen to stay outside the central political institutions
and maintain parallel structures for health and educational services. The Kosovo
Serbs fear that they will become a decoration to any central-level political
institution, with little ability to yield tangible results. The Kosovo Albanians have
done little to dispel this fear. The interests of the Kosovo Serbs would be better
served if their representatives returned to the Assembly. The Kosovo Albanian
parties should stimulate such a process. The time has also come for Belgrade to
abandon its negative position towards Kosovo Serb participation.
With regard to the economy, significant progress has been made. Economic
structures have been established and modern legislation exists in many essential
areas. Nevertheless, the current economic situation remains bleak. The
unemployment rate is still high and poverty is widespread. Grave problems exist
with regard to lack of public income as well as an antiquated energy sector. To
improve the situation, serious efforts must be undertaken. There are, however,
positive longer-term prospects. The privatization process is well under way. It could
have a direct and positive impact on the economy in Kosovo as many of the socially
owned enterprises have been idle. However, the privatization process could lead to
discrimination in employment along ethnic lines and affect the sustainability of
minority communities. It is important to avoid such negative effects. Kosovo also
has valuable and unexploited natural resources, which would turn Kosovo into an
energy exporter in an energy-hungry region.
If a future status process is launched, this will certainly have a positive effect
on the economy of Kosovo. However, the Kosovo authorities must understand that
they cannot depend on the international community to solve their problems. They
must take steps to ensure that shortcomings are addressed. Investment and
integration will depend not only on status, but also on a predictable and stable
Kosovo, where the rule of law is respected.
Today, the rule of law is hampered by a lack of ability and readiness to enforce
legislation at all levels. Respect for the rule of law is inadequately entrenched and
the mechanisms to enforce it are not sufficiently developed. The Kosovo Police
Service (KPS) is gradually taking on new and more demanding tasks. However,
crimes of a more serious nature or with ethnic dimensions remain difficult for the
KPS to address. The Kosovo justice system is regarded as the weakest of Kosovo’s
institutions. The civil justice system is of particular concern, its increasing backlog
of cases now stands at several tens of thousands. Combating serious crime, including organized crime and corruption, has proven to be difficult for the KPS and the justice system. It is hindered by family or clan solidarity and by the intimidation of witnesses and of law enforcement and judicial officials. For inter-ethnic crime, the
law enforcement mechanism is also weak.
Organized crime and corruption have been characterized as the biggest threats
to the stability of Kosovo and the sustainability of its institutions. These are
widespread phenomena, but their level is difficult to assess. The government has not taken the necessary administrative and legislative action to fight organized crime and to prevent corruption in provisional institutions.
The Kosovo police and judiciary are fragile institutions. Further transfer of
competences in these areas should be considered with great caution. In a deeply
divided society, which is still recovering from post-conflict trauma, the
establishment of ministries of justice and the interior could lead to the impression
that they have fallen under the control of one political party or one ethnic group. The
transfer of competences in such sensitive areas cannot work without a firm
oversight, intervention and sanctioning policy. In the light of the limitations of the
police and judicial systems, there will be a need for a continued presence of
international police with executive powers in sensitive areas. The current ongoing
reduction in the number of international judges and prosecutors is premature and
should be urgently reconsidered.
With regard to the foundation for a multi-ethnic society, the situation is grim.
Kosovo leaders and the international community should take urgent steps in order to correct this picture. The overall security situation is stable, but fragile. The level of
reported crime, including inter-ethnic crime, is low. However, on the ground, the
situation is complex and troubling, especially for minority communities. There are
frequently unreported cases of low-level, inter-ethnic violence and incidents. This
affects freedom of movement in a negative way. To correct this situation, it will be
important to prosecute crime more vigorously. When perpetrators remain at large, a
sense of impunity prevails. Belgrade should abstain from inflammatory comments,
which could contribute to an insecure environment.
Respecting property rights is one of the most urgent challenges with regard to
ensuring a truly multi-ethnic society. At present, property rights are neither respected
nor ensured. A great number of agricultural and commercial properties remain
illegally occupied. This represents a serious obstacle to returns and sustainable
The overall return process has virtually come to a halt. The general atmosphere
in many places is not conducive to return. Multi-ethnicity is often not seen as a goal.
While overall statistics are hard to find, there is a widespread view that currently as
many or more Kosovo Serbs are leaving Kosovo than are returning. A viable return
process will require support and attention over a longer period of time, in particular
to facilitate access to services and repossession of land. Greater attention will also be needed to those who have remained.
The return process is hampered by the fact that assistance is only provided to
those who return to their home of origin. A more flexible policy of assistance should
be considered to support the return of people to where they can live and not only to
where they have lived. However, it must be ensured that a more flexible policy is not
misused for political manipulation.
The continued existence of camps inside Kosovo is a disgrace for the
governing structures and for the international community. The Roma camps in
Plementina and Zitkovac are particularly distressing. They should be dealt with on
an emergency basis.
The Serbian Orthodox religious sites and institutions represent a critical
element of the spiritual fabric of Kosovo Serbs. They are also part of the world
cultural heritage. There is a need to create a “protective space” around these sites,
with the involvement of the international community, in order to make them less
vulnerable to political manipulation.
To achieve sustainable return and viable minority communities, a wider
decentralization process will be required. It could envisage enhanced competences in
areas such as the police, justice, education, culture, the media and the economy. It
could allow for horizontal links between Kosovo Serb majority municipalities. It
would also facilitate the absorption of parallel structures into legitimate entities.
However, it should not endanger central institutions in Kosovo or weaken Pristina’s
authority. The international community must stand ready to assist in the
establishment of arrangements for wider decentralization.
There will not be any good moment for addressing Kosovo’s future status. It
will continue to be a highly sensitive political issue. Nevertheless, an overall
assessment leads to the conclusion that the time has come to commence this process.
The political process, which is now under way, must continue. Based on a
comprehensive strategy, it has provided Kosovo with a political perspective. Kosovo
having moved from stagnation to expectation, stagnation cannot again be allowed to take hold.
Further progress in standards implementation is urgently required. It is unlikely that postponing the future status process will lead to further and tangible results.
However, moving into the future status process entails a risk that attention will be focused on status to the detriment of standards. It will require great effort to keep the standards implementation process on track. During the future status process, the international community will have a strong leverage to move standards implementation forward. That leverage must be fully exploited. Provided the future status process is properly handled, it can bring about further progress in standards implementation.
There is now a shared expectation in Kosovo and in Belgrade, as well as in the
region, that the future status process will start. During this comprehensive review, there has been a gradual shift in the preparedness for such a process among the interlocutors. Furthermore, all sides need clarity with regard to the future status of Kosovo. It is of great importance that the future status process takes place at a time when the international community is still present in Kosovo in sufficient strength.
The future status process must be moved forward with caution. All the parties
must be brought together — and kept together — throughout the status process. The end result must be stable and sustainable. Artificial deadlines should not be set.
Once the process has started, it cannot be blocked and must be brought to a
The international community will need strength to carry the future status
process forward. The United Nations has done a credible and impressive job in
fulfilling its mandate in difficult circumstances. But its leverage in Kosovo is
diminishing. Kosovo is located in Europe, where strong regional organizations exist.
In the future, they — and in particular the European Union (EU) — will have to play the most prominent role in Kosovo. They will have the leverage required and will be able to offer prospects in the framework of the European integration process.
A future status process should be accompanied by a clear expression by the
international community that it is determined to stay and support this process as well as its outcome. The EU should, in the near term, consider stepping up its presence on the ground. When status has been determined, the EU will be expected to play a more prominent role, in particular with regard to the police and justice and in monitoring and supporting the standards process. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will also have to continue its presence. A United States
contribution to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) is essential in order to provide a visible expression of continued engagement. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has a valuable asset in its field experience and expertise. This presence will continue to be required. A high representative or a similar arrangement should be considered, firmly anchored in the EU and with the continued involvement of the broader international community. A “Bonn Powers” arrangement could be envisaged in areas related to inter-ethnic issues.
A road map for integration into international structures would provide Kosovo
with real prospects for the future. Belgrade will also need incentives for integration into Euro-Atlantic frameworks of cooperation. The EU decision to start negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro for a stabilization and association agreement represents a milestone in this respect.
Determining the future status of Kosovo will in itself be a demanding
challenge. The international community must do the utmost to ensure that, whatever the eventual status, it does not become a failed status. Entering the future status process does not mean entering the last stage, but the next stage of the internationalpresence.
link to the document: www.un.org/Docs/journal/asp/ws.asp