Kosovo's Final Status
Time is running out in Kosovo. The international community has clearly
failed in its attempts to bring security and development to the
province. A multi-ethnic Kosovo does not exist except in the bureaucratic
assessments of the international community. The events of March
2004 amounted to the strongest signal yet that the situation could
explode. Since then UNMIK has demonstrated neither the capacity nor
the courage to reverse this trend. Serbs in Kosovo are living imprisoned
in their enclaves with no freedom of movement, no jobs, and with neither
hope nor opportunity for meaningful integration into Kosovo society.
The position of the Serbian minority in Kosovo is the greatest indictment
of Europe's willingness and ability to defend its proclaimed
values. Kosovo Albanians should receive a clear message that the use of
violence is the worst enemy of their dream for independence.
The lack of leadership in Belgrade has contributed to the plight of the
Kosovo Serbs, and the Serbian community in Kosovo has to a large
degree become hostage to the political struggles in the Serbian capital.
The Albanian leadership in Kosovo must also shoulder its part of the
blame for failing to show any real willingness to engage in a process of
reconciliation and the development of multi-ethnic institutions and structures.
Our survey indicates that a majority of Kosovars is keen on living in
an "ethnically homogeneous Kosovo" (figure 22). Most Kosovo Albanian
politicians have done nothing to oppose this public mood which flies in
the face of everything that Europe believes in.
But a substantial share of the blame for the failure of the project of a
multiethnic society in Kosovo should be placed at the door of UNMIK
and the international community. Over the past few years UNMIK has
on several occasions been actively involved in a policy of reverse discrimination
in Kosovo. Under UNMIK's leadership the number of Serbs
employed in the Kosovo Electric Company has declined from more
than 4000 in 1999 to 29 now, out of total of over 8000 employees.
"The international community in Kosovo is today seen by Kosovo
Albanians as having gone from opening the way to now standing in
the way. It is seen by Kosovo Serbs as having gone from securing the
return of so many to being unable to ensure the return of so few."4
The failure of UNMIK can be explained but it should not be tolerated.
The social and economic situation in the protectorate is no less depress-
4 Kai Eide, The Situation in Kosovo. Report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Brussels, 15 July, 2004.
The Balkans in Europe’s Future l Report of the International Commission on the Balkans 20
ing. Kosovo suffers endless disruption thanks to its regular power cuts.
Some villages in the provinces are without electricity for periods of
longer than a month.
The province never boasted a self-sustaining economy and there is no
chance that it will develop one now. Currently, the unemployment rate
is about 60 to 70% (almost 90% among minorities). The construction
boom of the immediate post-war period has come to an end. Kosovo
Albanians are frustrated with their unresolved status, with the economic
situation, and with the problems of dealing with the past. The
demand for sovereignty has not diminished; on the contrary, it has
increased in the past year. UNMIK is perceived by the local public as corrupt
The Commission shares the judgment of the UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan that Kosovo has made insufficient progress towards meeting
internationally agreed standards with regard to human rights, respect for
minorities, and law and order. At the same time the Commission wishes
to underscore the urgency of dealing with the final status of Kosovo.
We do not believe that Kosovo's independence will solve all the territory's
problems, but we are concerned that postponing the status talks
will lead to a further deterioration in the situation in the province.
In our view Kosovo's independence should not be imposed on Belgrade.
The ‘imposition’ of Kosovo's independence is not only undesirable, it is
also unlikely to happen, bearing in mind that some members of the UN
Security Council (Russia, China) are opposed to it. Moreover, if Belgrade
opposes the process, it will significantly increase the chances of trouble
breaking out elsewhere whether in Bosnia, Macedonia or Montenegro.
The Commission is also pessimistic about the possibility of direct talks
alone between Belgrade and Pristina when it comes to solving the status
issue. It is up to the international community to guide this process.
In our view, negotiations on the status of Kosovo should concentrate on
offering real incentives to Belgrade so that Serbia may find acceptable
the prospect of an independent Kosovo as a future member of the EU.
Persuading Belgrade to engage is difficult but not impossible. If anything
can, the EU accession process can provide such incentives. Within
this context, Kosovo's independence should be achieved in four stages.
The first stage would see the de facto separation of Kosovo from
Serbia. In our view this stage is implicit in Resolution 1244, which trans-
We do not believe that Kosovo's independence will solve all the territory's
problems, but we are concerned that postponing the
status talks will lead to a further deterioration in the
situation in the province. The Balkans in Europe’s Future l Report of the International Commission on the Balkans 21
formed Kosovo into a UN protectorate. This is despite the fact that the
UNSCR 1244 deals with Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and not with
Serbia. It is a dangerous illusion that Kosovo can revert to rule from
Belgrade in any foreseeable future.
The second stage (independence without full sovereignty) should
recognise in 2005/2006 Kosovo as an independent entity but one
where the international community reserves its powers in the fields of
human rights and the protection of minorities. Legally Kosovo will
remain a UN protectorate but the Commission advocates transferring
the UN's authority, as defined by Chapter 7, from UNMIK to the EU.
KFOR should preserve both its mandate and its size.
Kosovo should be treated as independent but not as a sovereign state
at this stage, allowing it to develop a capacity for self-government. All
functions of a normal government that are currently performed by
UNMIK or KFOR should be transferred to the government of Kosovo. This
government will tax and police the population, regulate the economy
and provide public services. The international community should reserve
its power to intervene in those areas that are essential for meeting the
Copenhagen criteria, namely human rights and minority protection.
In order for this policy to work, we should move away from a ‘standards
before status’ policy and towards a ‘standards and status’ policy.
Decentralisation, the return of refugees, and the clarification of property
rights are the key questions to be addressed. At this stage the
Commission advocates a special arrangement for the area around
Mitrovica and a special legal status for the Serbian monasteries. A special
administrative arrangement for Mitrovica (a transitional international
administration along the lines of UNTAES in Eastern Slavonia)
should exclude the possibility of Kosovo's partition.
The Commission advocates an internationally-supervised census in
Kosovo, including of those who claim to hail from Kosovo, before we
can start designing a programme of decentralisation. The definition of
a ‘Kosovo citizen’ is of critical importance. The long-overdue census
should be complemented by clearing up the property claims in the
province. Disputed property rights are the major obstacle to economic
development in the region. This is true for both private property and
for the ‘social property’ from the Yugoslav period.
The returns policy introduced by the international community in Kosovo
should be modelled on the successful returns policy applied in Bosnia. In
our view, the implementation of the returns policy is of great imporThe
Balkans in Europe’s Future l Report of the International Commission on the Balkans 22
tance. But our conversations with both Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo and in
Serbia convinced us that the chances for a large-scale return are minimal.
The international community should provide incentives for Kosovo Serbs
to return even if they prefer to live in the mostly Serb-populated parts of
the province and not in areas where they lived before the war. It should
also take care of those who decide not to go back. A ‘Palestinisation’ of
the refugees who decide not to return to Kosovo could be a major source
of vulnerability for Serbia's democracy. This is why the Commission supports
the establishment of an ‘Inclusion Fund’ to assist the integration in
Serbian society of the Kosovo Serbs who have chosen to remain in Serbia.
This fund should be financed by the European Union.
The decentralisation of power in Kosovo and guarantees of a normal life
for Kosovo Serbs are a pre-condition for engaging Belgrade in a constructive
debate with respect to Kosovo's independence. In the view of the
Commission, some of the minority quotas provided for the Albanians in
Macedonia in the Ohrid Agreement should also be given to the Serbs of
Kosovo. Decentralisation should afford Serbian enclaves a real opportunity
for self-government and development. It is essential to appreciate how
Serbs believe that the social and economic difficulties they have experienced
over the past five years amount to an intentional policy of discrimination
and ethnic cleansing, designed by Albanians and underwritten by
the international community. So, the European Union should develop special
incentives for companies that employ citizens from ethnic minorities.
The need for policies focused on the needs of minorities should not
obscure that the culture of civil society, and not the principle of ethnic
separation, is at the heart of the European project. The ‘ghettoisation’
of ethnic minorities could promote institutional weakness and dysfunctionality
in the future state.
The US's active engagement at this second stage is of critical importance
for a successful outcome of the EU negotiating process. Kosovo
Albanians view the US as a guarantor of their independence and an
American disengagement or a split in the Euro-Atlantic community
could quickly lead to trouble.
The third stage (guided sovereignty) would coincide with Kosovo's
recognition as a candidate for EU membership and the opening of
negotiations with Brussels. There is a real purpose to this stage as the
EU cannot negotiate with itself (i.e. with a protectorate which it controls).
During this stage the EU would lose its reserved powers in the
fields of human rights and minority protection and would exercise influence
through the negotiation process alone.
The US's active engagement
at this second stage
is of critical importance for
a successful outcome of the
EU negotiating process.
The Balkans in Europe’s Future l Report of the International Commission on the Balkans 23
The fourth stage (full and shared sovereignty) will mark the absorption
of Kosovo into the EU and its adoption of the shared sovereignty
to which all EU member states are subject.
These stages would be an integral part of the overall process of Europe
integration of the Balkans as suggested earlier.
The necessary precondition for both the Serbian government and the
Serbian public is a fast track accession of Serbia to the EU together with
international guarantees for the protection of the interests of Kosovo
Serbs. Croatia provides a precedent in terms of such a fast-track
approach. In our opinion, the fast track for Serbia is a sine qua non. The
EU accession process is the only framework that gives Serbia real incentives
if not to endorse then at least to consent to such a fundamental
change in the status of Kosovo as independence represents.