Saturday, October 08, 2005
A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF THE SITUATION IN KOSOVO - REPORT
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 political stagnation and widespread frustration Kosovo has entered a new period of dynamic development. A political process is underway and is gaining momentum. It is based on a comprehensive political strategy, which includes the prospects for a future status process.
The standard 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, Government and UNMIK has been ambitious and covered essential areas of public life and economy. Kosovo has also put in place systems providing public services across most of Kosovo. A civil service is taking shape. Over the last 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 it. The interests of Kosovo Serbs would be better served if their representatives returned to the Assembly. Kosovo Albanian parties should stimulate such a process. Time has also come for Belgrade to abandon its negative position to 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 underway. 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 the 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 Kosovo’s economy. 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 rule of law is respected.
Today, rule of law is hampered by a lack of ability and readiness to enforce legislation at all levels. Respect for rule of law is inadequately entrenched and the mechanisms to enforce it are not sufficiently developed. The Kosovo Police Service is gradually taking on new and more demanding tasks. However, crimes of a more serious nature or with ethnic dimension 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 with the increasing backlog of cases, which 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, intimidation of witnesses as well as of law enforcement and judicial officials. For inter-ethnic crime, the law enforcement mechanism is also weak.
Organized crime and corruption has been characterized as the biggest threats to Kosovo’s stability and the sustainability of its institutions. These are widespread phenomena, but the level is difficult to assess. The Government has not taken the necessary administrative and legislative action to fight organized crime and 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 the post-conflict trauma, the establishment of Ministries of Justice and Interior could lead to the impression that they have fallen under the control of one political party of one ethnic group. Transfer of competencies in such sensitive areas cannot work without a firm oversight, intervention and sanctioning policy. In 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 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’s 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. These are frequently unreported cases of low-level, inter-ethnic violence and incidents. This affects the 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 livelihoods.
The overall return process has virtually come to a halt. A 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, it is a widespread view that currently as many or more Kosovo Serbs are leaving Kosovo than returning. A viable return process will require support and attention over a longer period of time, in particular to facilitate access to service and repossession of land. Great 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 return of people to where they can live and not only where they have lived. However, it must be ensured that a more flexible policy is not misused for political manipulation.
A 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 de dealt with on an emergency basis.
The Serbian Orthodox religious sites and institutions represent a particularly element of the spiritual fabric of Kosovo Serbs. They are also part of the world cultural heritage. The 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 competencies in areas such as police, justice, education, culture, media and the economy. It could allow for horizontal links between Kosovo Serb majority municipalities. This 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 be 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 underway, must continue. Based on a comprehensive strategy, it has provided Kosovo with a political perspective. 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 progress on track. The international community will during the future status process 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.
There is now a shared expectation in Kosovo, 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 Kosovo’s future statues. 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 – through 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 conclusion.
The international community will need strength to carry the future status process forward. The UN 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 he 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 the particular with regard to police and justice and in monitoring and supporting the standards process. NATO will also have to continue its presence. A US contribution to KFOR is essential in order to provide a visible expression of continued engagement. The 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 from the broader international community. A Bonn powers arrangement could be envisaged within areas related to inter-ethnic issues.
A roadmap 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 Stabilisation and Association Agreement represents a milestone in this respect.
To determine Kosovo’s future status will in itself be a demanding challenge. The international community must do the utmost to ensure that whatever the status becomes 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 international presence.
Posted by KosovaReport at 12:01 AM