Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary written evidence submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Current Situation

  1.  In June 1999, UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (UNSCR 1244) placed Kosovo under interim UN administration (provided by the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK)), pending a process to determine its future status. UNMIK's role since then has been to establish a secure environment with the assistance of the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) and build democratic self-governing institutions to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants of Kosovo. The goal is to build the conditions as set out in UNSCR 1244 within which Kosovo's future status can be addressed.

  2.  UNSCR 1244 successive Special Representatives for the Secretary General set out that Kosovo must meet certain standards before its future status can be addressed in the so-called "standards before status" policy. Over the past 12 months, many in the region, the UN and wider international actors have come to see this policy as too static. There has been growing recognition within the international community that the status question cannot be left indefinitely. The violence this year (see below) further highlights that the uncertainty over Kosovo's future status is a source of instability in Kosovo, and potentially throughout the region. In 2003, the UK was instrumental in drawing up a Contact Group initiative which sets a framework and timetable within which Kosovo could work to reach these "standards". Endorsed by the UN Security Council (UNSC) as the Standards Review Mechanism in December 2003, this initiative provides for a formal review of Kosovo's progress around mid-2005 (after the 2004 Kosovo Assembly elections). If sufficient progress has been made, then a process will begin to determine its final status in accordance with UNSCR 1244. If the review is negative, another date will be set for a further formal review. In the run up to mid-2005, reviews of Kosovo's progress against the standards will be conducted by UNMIK in consultation with the Contact Group and other relevant parties on the ground, and reported to the UNSC by the UN Secretary-General in his quarterly reports on Kosovo.

  3.  On 17 March 2004, the worst violence since 1999 broke out in Kosovo after three Kosovo Albanian children were drowned after allegedly being chased into a river by Kosovo Serbs with dogs. Violent clashes in Mitrovica (North Kosovo) between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs triggered inter-ethnic violence elsewhere in Kosovo resulting in 20 fatalities (including both Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs) and approximately 954 injured. Violence was also directed at UNMIK and, for the first time, KFOR. Our assessment is that the violence was not part of a wide pre-meditated strategy to target minorities or the international presence. Rather, extremists exploited an opportunity to mobilise people involved in demonstrations over the deaths of the children to co-ordinate further attacks across Kosovo.

  4.  The violence highlighted the growing frustrations of the citizens of Kosovo with the current situation, notably poor economic opportunities and lack of certainty about the future. As a result, the UN and the Contact Group concluded that while the international community should not be deflected by extremists from the policy of making a better society based around core standards, there were lessons it could learn to make international agencies' work more effective in Kosovo and address the violence's underlying causes. Following consultations with the UN, the Contact Group now meets every six to eight weeks in Pristina to help maintain momentum on the ground in addressing the causes of the March violence and improving everyday life in Kosovo for all its citizens. UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan commissioned a report into the violence and into the UN's policy on Kosovo as set out in paragraph 11.

  5.  In September 2004, the Contact Group, in close consultation with the UN, issued a public statement re-affirming the mid-2005 review date and the importance of standards implementation, particularly relating to minority security and representation [Annex A]. Furthermore it stated that the basis of any future settlement must include the promotion of security and stability in the Balkans where all people are free to live, work and travel without fear, hostility or danger regardless of ethnic background, race or religion. The Contact Group also stated for the first time that a Kosovo built upon these foundations would not return to the situation prevailing before March 1999. The Contact Group will now hold consultations with the UN on the modalities of the Review.

Internal Politics

  6.  Under UNSCR 1244, the responsibility for governing Kosovo is shared between Provisional Institutions of Self Government (PISG, consisting of the President, the Assembly, the Government, and municipalities) and the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative (SRSG) for Kosovo, currently Mr Soren Jessen-Petersen (Denmark). Under the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government of 15 May 2001 the areas listed under Chapter 8 (including foreign affairs, security and protection of minorities) are reserved for the SRSG and the areas under Chapter 5 (including health, education, environment, spatial planning) are transferred to the Kosovo PISG. The SRSG "retains the authority to intervene" in Chapter 5 issues, for example by dismissing the Assembly if the rights of communities are not being fully protected.

  7.  The PISG is a grand coalition containing Ministers from the three main Kosovo"Albanian parties, the main Kosovo-Serb political coalition, and from other minority communities. Dr Ibrahim Rugova (Democratic League of Kosovo—LDK) is President of Kosovo; Dr Bajram Rexhepi (Democratic Party of Kosovo—PDK) is Prime Minister; and Professor Nexhat Daci (LDK) is Assembly Speaker. The three main Kosovo Albanian parties are the LDK (headed by Mr Ibrahim Rugova), PDK (headed by Mr Hashim Thaci) and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK—headed by Mr Ramush Llaradinaj). All share the same principal goal of attaining independence for Kosovo. The main Kosovo-Serb political entity is Coalition Povratak (KP, headed by Dragisa Krstovic), which attempts to draw together the different Kosovo-Serb interests and has strong links to Belgrade.

  8.  In the Kosovo-wide Assembly elections in November 2001, the LDK obtained 45.65% of the votes; PDK 25.7%; AAK 7.83% and KP 11.3%. Of its 120 seats, 10 are reserved for representatives of the Serb community and a further 10 for other non-Kosovo-Albanian communities. However the reserved seats do not prevent such communities from gaining extra seats (in 2001 Coalition Povratak won a total of 22). The next Assembly elections will be held on 23 October 2004.

  9.  Key challenges facing Kosovo and the international community include building confidence and reconciliation between the different ethnic communities and creating the conditions for a multi-ethnic and tolerant Kosovo. The violence in March demonstrates that much work remains to be done. Establishing more representative and effective local government to ensure that all Kosovo's citizens participate in decision-making at different levels and have equal access to essential services, is key. UNMIK has established a "Working Group of Local Government Reform", which it co-heads with the PISG, and which has produced a Framework Document for the reform of Local Self-Government. The Contact Group, in close co-ordination with UNMIK, has offered to support discussion between Belgrade and Pristina to take this forward. As part of this process, the Contact Group met with representatives from Belgrade in Vienna on 28 September 2004. Local government reform and security for Kosovo's minorities was discussed with UNMIK, the Council of Europe and representatives of the PISG, who agreed to take Belgrade's concerns into account. The Contact Group urged Belgrade to contribute to the Working Group on Local Government Reform which is continuing in Pristina.

  10.  In terms of Kosovo's services, promising progress has been made in establishing a multi-ethnic Kosovo Police Service (KPS) where 15.5% of officers represent minority communities. Progress has been slower on the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC—civilian emergency organisation) which has around only 4% minority representation (and few of these are Serbs).

International Engagement

  11.  UNMIK, headed by SRSG Jessen-Petersen who arrived on 16 August 2004, is the primary focus of the international civilian presence in Kosovo. Following the March violence, the UN Secretary General (UNSG) commissioned a report into the UN's policy on Kosovo by Ambassador Kai Eide, the Norwegian Permanent Representative to NATO. The report highlighted that the UN needed to pursue a more dynamic policy in Kosovo, in particular to address the Kosovo population's frustrations over the economy and lack of PISG powers, and address the situation relating to minority representation, rights and security. The UNSG is currently considering its recommendations but both Ambassador Eide and SRSG Jessen-Petersen have highlighted these as priorities. The SRSG has stated his intention to make Kosovo's institutions more effective by transferring increased responsibility to the PISG alongside an intense local capacity building programme. The Contact Group supported these priorities in their public statement of 22 September 2004 and stated that it will put special focus on these areas in future reviews of Kosovo's progress.

  12.  UNMIK retains the lead responsibility for law and order in Kosovo. An international police mission works closely with local officers from the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) to support KFOR in providing security. Over 350 cases have been filed by local and international prosecutors in relation to the March violence. More than 270 people have been arrested and are being processed by the local judiciary. 80 have already been convicted of minor offences. International Prosecutors are also handling 52 cases related to serious crimes, including judicial investigations into the 20 deaths.

  13.  KFOR is the international force responsible for establishing and maintaining security in Kosovo. Following the March violence, which highlighted weaknesses in KFOR's response, NATO conducted a comprehensive lessons learned exercise. This highlighted that while reinforcements arrived with commendable speed and that this had a significant effect in ending the violence, there were a number of areas where KFOR needed to improve its capabilities. We continue to push for implementation of these findings and some progress has been made in improving KFOR's ability to respond to events similar to the March violence, such as removing national caveats on crowd and riot control. We must ensure that our military engagement is sufficient to continue to build on our past investment in the region, not least in the run up to possible future events such as Kosovo Final Status discussions, and is based upon requirements on the ground. Original plans were for KFOR to downsize from 17,500 to 10,000 during 2004, but following the March violence this will be reviewed after the October elections, and is unlikely to occur this year. Our ultimate aim remains to enable the region to ensure its own security whilst keeping partners and allies (particularly the US) engaged on the ground for as long as necessary.

Bilateral Engagement/Assistance

  14.  Bilaterally, and through our work with the UN, NATO, EU, OSCE and other international organisations and NGOs, we continue to support efforts to build a democratic, tolerant and stable Kosovo. In financial year 2002-03 the UK provided over £128 million of multilateral assistance to Kosovo and £2.9 million bilateral assistance. The EU funds change and reconstruction in Kosovo primarily through its regional aid programme CARDS (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation), which is designed to support the objectives of the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAp). Between 2001 and 2003 the EU committed more than 336 million Euro through CARDS. The UK has long supported these commitments and contributes about 19% of total CARDS funding.

  15.  To help underpin security, the UK currently provides around 200 troops to KFOR deployed on specific tasks relating to extremists and organised crime. We also have over 100 police deployed in the UNMIK police mission in Kosovo, the majority of whom are performing an executive policing function. UK officers are also deployed in a training, mentoring and intelligence role. UNMIK's ultimate aim is to train the Kosovo Police Service to a level where they can replace UNMIK in their current duties and meet European and international policing standards. Following the widespread civil unrest in March we are addressing the lessons learned to assist UNMIK Police and the KPS to respond more effectively to public disorder.

  16.  High-level visits to Kosovo in recent years have included: Minister for Europe Dr Denis MacShane, as part of a regional tour in April 2004; the Commons Defence Select Committee in February 2004 and HRH the Princess Royal in February 2003. We have also hosted visits to the UK by Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, Ethem Ceku in March 2004, the then SRSG Harm Holkeri in February 2004 and Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi in October 2003.


Contact Group Political Directors' statement following a meeting in the margins of UNGA on 22 September

  "The Political Directors of the Contact Group—Germany, France, Italy, the Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States of America, and representatives of the European Union—met the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Soren Jessen-Petersen, on 22nd September 2004 in New York to assess the situation in Kosovo and the way towards determining Kosovo's future status as outlined in UNSC Resolution 1244. The Contact Group paid tribute to the Secretary-General's initiative in commissioning the comprehensive Kosovo Report prepared by Ambassador Kai Eide of Norway and looked forward to the Secretary-General's further consultations, which he initiated in his 20 September meetings. Welcoming the Eide Report, the Contact Group agreed with the Secretary-General that it provided an integrated and comprehensive strategy for Kosovo.

  The Contact Group discussed some principal goals which govern the further political process. Kosovo's future, like that of the entire region, is as part of Europe.

  The basis of any settlement must include the promotion of security and stability in the Balkans. As the "Standards for Kosovo" document states, the future for Kosovo must be one in which all people, "regardless of ethnic background, race or religion, are free to live, work and travel without fear, hostility or danger, and where there is tolerance, justice and peace for everyone". The Contact Group's attitude towards the future of Kosovo will depend heavily on the extent to which this statement matches the reality on the ground in Kosovo, particularly in regard to Kosovo's Serb and other non-Albanian communities. The emergence of such a Kosovo will contribute to moving the Western Balkan region towards European integration. These indicators mean that Kosovo would not return to the situation prevailing there before March 1999.

  The Contact Group expects concrete progress on decentralisation in Kosovo. In this context, the Contact Group supports the Framework Document for the Reform of Local Self-Government in Kosovo of 19 July. It also supports UNMIK and the PISG in elaborating Kosovo's decentralisation concept, taking into account issues such as the protection of minority community rights and security and the need to ensure better living conditions for all inhabitants in Kosovo. The Contact Group looked forward to the implementation of pilot projects by the PISG and UNMIK, and called on the representatives of the Kosovo Serb community to join the Pristina based "Working Group of Local Government Reform" co-headed by UNMIK and the PISG. Without prejudice to any eventual status settlement, the Contact Group emphasised the importance of effective institutional mechanisms to ensure the protection of minority communities.

  Recognising Belgrade's interest in decentralisation, the Contact Group reaffirmed its support for constructive engagement with Belgrade. In this context, elements of the Belgrade Plan could enrich the UNMIK-led process. The Contact Group expressed its readiness to support discussion between Belgrade and Pristina, including the PISG and representatives of the Kosovo Serb community, and UNMIK, at a mutually acceptable time and place. Ultimately, any solution to these issues must be agreed by and benefit all communities within Kosovo.

  The Contact Group expects to see the transfer to the PISG, in accordance with UNSCR 1244 and in full respect of the Constitutional Framework, of all responsibilities which do not prejudge Kosovo's future status. The Contact Group expects the PISG to discharge increasingly these new functions in a spirit of responsibility, effectiveness and co-operation. It further supports the SRSG's intention to reinforce the accountability of the PISG through exercise of robust oversight.

  The Contact Group recalled the statement by the President of the Security Council of 12 December 2003 which noted that a first opportunity for a comprehensive review of the PISG's progress in meeting the standards would occur around mid-2005 and stresses that advancement towards a process to determine future status of Kosovo in accordance with resolution 1244 will depend on the positive outcome of this comprehensive review. The regular review process to measure Kosovo's progress towards Standards is under way. The Contact Group urges the PISG and all Kosovo "s leaders to implement the standards constructively and in good faith. Failure to do so, or efforts by any quarter to undermine the standards implementation process, could have consequences for the Comprehensive Review.

  The Contact Group supports the SRSG's intention, after the March violence, to put special emphasis on security, minority protection, returns, decentralisation, freedom of movement, and the economy. The Contact Group welcomes the intention of UNMIK to devote particular attention to international co-ordination on the economy in close co-operation with the EU Commission and other key players. The Contact Group will focus in future reviews on the areas below:

    —  Rule of Law: Welcome progress has been made in bringing to justice those responsible for the violence in March. The Contact Group calls for a policy of "zero tolerance" towards those who propagate hatred and violence against ethnic minorities. It is imperative to protect witnesses and to instil tolerance and mutual respect. The Contact Group welcomes the growing professional conduct of the Kosovo Police Service and looks forward to constructive engagement by the Kosovo Protection Corps in line with its mandate as a civilian emergency organisation.

    —  Sustainable Returns, Reconstruction, Reintegration: The Contact Group notes the significant work done by the PISG in reconstruction since the March events and urges that this work be completed without delay, including rebuilding churches and other religious sites. It welcomes the efforts of the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the UNESCO to assess and find funding for the restoration of religious and cultural sites. The Contact Group also calls on the Provisional Institutions to increase their efforts to create the conditions for safe and sustainable returns, and on UNMIK to implement the measures outlined in the 14 July statement, notably the creation of a Ministry of Returns. The Contact Group looks forward to close co-operation with Belgrade authorities and UNHCR in carrying out a re-registration of IDP's.

    —  Freedom of Movement, Security: Movement by members of minority communities continues to require military or police escort. Kosovo institutions at all levels, especially the municipal presidents and the KPS, must do their part to ensure that minorities, particularly Kosovo Serbs, can live and move around freely, that all persons displaced from their homes have the opportunity to return, and are free to build a safe future for their families.

    —  Functioning Democratic Institutions: The Contact Group expects all political leaders and parties to ensure free and fair Assembly elections in Kosovo, based on the rule of law. The Contact Group reiterates the importance of Kosovo Serbs' participation in these elections, this being the best and only way for them to address their legitimate concerns. The Contact Group calls on all communities in Kosovo to participate in the elections, and in particular for the registration of all candidates by 1 October.

  The Political Directors will continue to closely follow the process of implementing the Kosovo standards and requested their representatives to continue their regular meetings in Pristina."

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

6 October 2004

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