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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.

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