No one can force EULEX to stay in Kosovo if the EU and Pristina agree it’s time to go. But that would simply pass the buck back again to the UN. A little coordination before doing that would be good, not least because it seems a continued international presence will be necessary for the various Belgrade-Pristina agreements to be implemented in a peaceful manner.
By Gerard M. Gallucci
It’s no secret that the Western powers that ushered Kosovo into its unilaterally declared independence – unilateral in that it was decided outside the ambit of the UN Security Council resolution that authorized the international intervention in the first place – are in a hurry to get out. The US long ago ceded the intervention mission to the EU. It maintains some 700 troops in the Kosovo NATO force (KFOR) but passed the lead in the unsettled north to the Germans (who are now the biggest NATO element in the territory). The US also plays a supportive role in getting the Kosovo Albanians to behave, e.g., to accept negotiated compromises with Serbia. But the Americans feel pretty much off the hook. It’s the EU that remains holding the bag.
Being the international mission sitting in Pristina has not always been very comfortable. The locals began throwing grenades at the UN HQ in 2005. UNMIK retired from that space when the EU mission – EULEX – received the UN’s mandate for rule of law in 2008. This was not through a decision by the UNSC but by a slight-of-hand by the Secretary General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). DPKO was also in a hurry to shed itself of as much responsibility for Kosovo as possible. EULEX arrived in Pristina seeing itself as the white knight that would clean up the “mess” left by the UN. Let history judge how that went.
What is clear, however, is that the Kosovo Albanians are quite ready for EULEX to leave the scene. Violent protests against EULEX began in 2009. Last week, the Kosovo parliament passed a resolution demanding that the EU mission depart by June 2014. The Kosovo Albanians expressed particular displeasure with EULEX’s rather anemic investigation into war crimes committed by the KLA. Pristina believes that EULEX entered Kosovo with its agreement and can be told to leave the same way. EULEX knows it is not wanted and said in response to the parliamentary vote that “the decision on EULEX’s further mandate would be based on joint assessments … by agreement and in a coordinated way.” It’s not clear if that will include coordination with the UN but it should.
It seems fair enough that as EULEX simply was passed the UN mandate for rule of law under UNSCR 1244, it can now say “sorry, it’s yours again.” No one can force EULEX to stay in Kosovo if the EU and Pristina agree it’s time to go. But that would simply pass the buck back again to the UN. A little coordination before doing that would be a good thing. Not least because it seems a continued international presence will be necessary for the various Belgrade-Pristina agreements to be implemented in a peaceful manner. Belgrade has made it clear that the internationals – EULEX, the OSCE and UN – must continue to play a role under 1244. The OSCE would oversee eventual elections and internationals will have to play the crucial role of standing between Serbian and Kosovo officials and procedures to avoid agreements on customs, governance, phones, energy and most everything else becoming mired in status disputes. The only chance that the north Kosovo Serbs might accept the agreements made for their inclusion in the Kosovo framework centered on Pristina would be for those to be implemented in a status-neutral manner. (This means no practical involvement of Pristina officials, police and decisions in local affairs north of the Ibar.)
So, maybe the EU and Pristina can decide on their own EULEX’s departure. But the UN must stand ready then to step back into the rule of law mission, certainly in the north. KFOR too would have to remain – and remain status-neutral. The UN would have to return its own police and customs officials. The UNMIK office in the north would have to be properly manned and supported by the UN states present in Kosovo. UNMIK would have to be accepted by everyone – even the mayor of south Mitrovica – as the legitimate administration of Kosovo north of the Ibar. Is the Quint ready for that?
Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. He will serve as Diplomat-in-Residence at Drake University for the 2013-14 school year.
To read TransConflict’s policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.
To learn more about both Serbia and Kosovo, please check out TransConflict’s reading lists series by clicking here.