Kosovo status process
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During and after the breakup of Yugoslavia there were increasing ethnic and regional conflicts, culminating in the Kosovo War of 1999. The result of that war was the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, an agreement reached between the Yugoslav Army (VJ) and NATO. This led to the initiation of a Kosovo status process in 2005.
By 2007, a plan had been formulated by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari. While the plan was accepted by the local government in Kosovo and backed by the United States and the European Union, it was strongly opposed by Serbia and their ally Russia. Various UN-facilitated attempts to negotiate an agreement left Kosovo's status unresolved.
Supported by the United States and some European countries, Kosovo's government declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008. Kosovo's current political status is uncertain. The International Court of Justice ruled that the declaration did not violate international law. As of 27 February 2017, 111 UN member states have recognized Kosovo's independence. Of the international organizations, Kosovo has been granted full membership in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
New negotiations between Serbia and the Kosovar Albanians started on March 8, 2011 with the EU as a mediator and full backing of the UN. Among the main issues, the parties will discuss on regional cooperation, freedom of movement, and the rule of law. The first round involved the discussion on telecommunications, mobility, civil register, and CEFTA issues.
Western support for Kosovo's declaration of independence had involved supervision by an "International Civilian Office". That office was wound up in September 2012, although there are still some other forms of international transitional support, including EULEX.
- 1 Background
- 2 Positions of the parties
- 3 Progress of the status talks
- 4 ICJ ruling
- 5 Belgrade–Pristina negotiations
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
At the end of the Kosovo War in 1999, the UN Security Council adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, which placed Kosovo under transitional UN administration, demanded a withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo and envisioned an eventual UN-facilitated political process to determine whether Kosovo would become independent or remain part of Serbia. In October 2005, a UN-commissioned report written by Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide recommended that the status process should begin, arguing that "all sides need clarity with regard to the future status of Kosovo". The Security Council issued a Presidential Statement in October 2005  to endorse Eide's conclusions and authorize the launch of a status process.
International negotiations began in 2006 to determine the final status of Kosovo, as envisaged under Resolution 1244. While Serbia's continued sovereignty over Kosovo was recognized by the international community at that time, a majority of the province's population sought independence.
The UN-backed talks, led by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, began in February 2006. While progress was made on technical matters, both parties remained diametrically opposed on the question of independence. In February 2007, Ahtisaari delivered a draft status settlement proposal to leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, the basis for a draft UN Security Council Resolution which proposes "supervised independence" for the province. As of early July 2007 a draft resolution, backed by the United States and the European Union members of the Security Council, had been rewritten four times to try to accommodate Russian concerns that such a resolution would undermine the principle of state sovereignty. Russia, which holds veto power in the Security Council as one of five permanent members, had stated that it would not support any resolution which was not acceptable to Belgrade. While most observers had, at the beginning of the talks, anticipated independence as the most likely outcome, others have suggested that a rapid resolution might not be preferable.
After many weeks of discussions at the UN, the United States and the European members of the Security Council formally "discarded" a draft resolution backing Ahtisaari's proposal on 20 July 2007, having failed to secure Russian backing, and instead proposed a new period of talks.
Positions of the parties
Belgrade's position on the status of Kosovo is that Kosovo should enjoy substantial autonomy, but not be granted independence. Frequently dubbed "more than autonomy, less than independence," Belgrade's vision for Kosovo includes expanding autonomy in which Kosovo is largely free to govern itself, although Kosovo would not be permitted an independent role in international relations or defence and would remain nominally within the state of Serbia. The Serbian side has also proposed the One Country Two Systems formula, i.e. the "Hong Kong model" as a solution, but it was rejected by the Albanian politicians.
Serbia argues that Kosovo's independence would be a violation of Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and therefore contrary to the UN Charter and principles of international law. Belgrade also asserts the UNMIK has allowed widespread discrimination against Kosovo's Serb minority and has not facilitated the return of about 200,000 of internally displaced persons who fled Kosovo during and immediately after the conflict. Serbia insists that UNSCR 1244, which envisioned a UN-facilitated political process to determine status, precludes independence through a preambular reference to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia). Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica has said that, '...any imposed solution that would seize part of our territory would be a violation of international law.'
Albanians of Kosovo
Kosovo Albanians generally assert that they could not remain within a Serbian state citing the repression by the Milošević government in the 1990s. Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Çeku claimed that "recognizing Kosovo's independence would close the dark chapters of Balkan history, and create the opportunity for a new and sustainable regional stability." 
In November 2005, the Contact Group countries released a set of "Guiding Principles" for the resolution of Kosovo's status. These principles notably included the requirement that there be no return to the situation prior to 1999 and that there be no change in Kosovo's borders (i.e., no partition of Kosovo) and no union of Kosovo with any neighboring state. The same statement includes a call for all parties to refrain from unilateral steps and reject any form of violence. The Contact Group affirms that the final decision on the status of Kosovo should be endorsed by the UN Security Council.
At a January 2006 meeting of foreign ministers, the Contact Group further declared that a settlement "needs, inter alia, to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo" and emphasized the need for the settlement to address the concerns of Kosovo's ethnic minorities. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in September 2006 that the world must apply the same standards to the separatist Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as it does to the Serbian province of Kosovo, where many are seeking independence. He also added that Russia would not endorse any UN Security Council resolution which it felt compromised these rights.
Progress of the status talks
The UN-facilitated Kosovo future status process was led by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland; Austrian diplomat Albert Rohan is his deputy. Ahtisaari's office — the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo (UNOSEK) — is located in Vienna, Austria, and includes liaison staff from NATO, the EU and the United States. Ahtisaari is supported in his efforts by Ambassador Frank G. Wisner, the U.S. Representative to the Kosovo Status Talks. Ahtisaari holds regular meetings with representatives of the Contact Group.
The initial status negotiations focused on technical issues important for Kosovo's long-term stability, particularly the rights and protection of Kosovo's minorities (especially the Kosovo Serbs). Ahtisaari brought the parties together for the first direct dialogue in February 2006 to discuss decentralization of local government, which is an important measure to protect Kosovo Serb communities. Subsequent meetings addressed economic issues, property rights, protection of Serbian Orthodox Church heritage and institutional guarantees for the rights of Kosovo's minorities.
On 24 July 2006, Ahtisaari brought the parties together in Vienna for the first high-level talks on the status outcome itself. Serbian President Boris Tadić, Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica, Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Agim Çeku attended and presented their respective platforms for Kosovo's future status. Ahtisaari later told the press that the meeting resulted in no breakthroughs, but added that the discussion was "frank and candid" and the atmosphere was better than he could have expected.
Ahtisaari briefed Contact Group foreign ministers on 20 September 2006, in New York City at a meeting chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. At that meeting, the Contact Group released a press statement that reaffirmed its desire to work towards a negotiated settlement in the course of 2006 and also endorsed Ahtisaari's plans to develop a comprehensive proposal for a status settlement.
But with the end of 2006 approaching, and despite progress on technical matters, both parties remained diametrically opposed on the question of status itself.
Special Envoy Ahtisaari, after consultations with the Contact Group in Vienna on 10 November, decided to delay sharing his proposal with the parties until after Serbia held parliamentary elections on 21 January 2007. He said he would take his proposal to the parties "without delay" after these elections.
On 2 February 2007, UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari delivered to Belgrade and Pristina a draft status settlement proposal, covering a wide range of issues related to Kosovo's future, in particular measures to protect Kosovo's non-Albanian communities. The proposal included provisions covering:
- Constitutional provisions
- Rights of Communities and their Members
- Decentralization of local government
- Justice system
- Religious and cultural heritage
- International debt
- Property and archives
- Kosovo security sector
- International Civilian Representative
- European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) Rule of Law mission
- International Military Presence (e.g., continuation of KFOR)
- Legislative agenda
While not yet mentioning the word "independence," the draft Settlement included several provisions that were widely interpreted as implying statehood for Kosovo. For example, the draft Settlement would give Kosovo the right to apply for membership in international organizations, create a Kosovo Security Force and adopt national symbols. Ahtisaari said that after a period of consultations with the parties he would finalize his Settlement proposal for submission to the UN Security Council and at that stage he would also elaborate on the status issue itself.
In Belgrade, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica refused to receive Ahtisaari. Koštunica claimed that because Serbia had still not formed a new government after the January 21 parliamentary elections he had no mandate to discuss Kosovo and therefore could not meet Ahtisaari. Nevertheless, he later denounced the proposal as "illegitimate and unacceptable" because he alleged it "violates the U.N. Charter ... by undermining sovereignty of U.N. member Serbia." President Boris Tadić did receive Ahtisaari, after which he reaffirmed his vow to never accept an independent Kosovo. Foreign Minister Vuk Drašković warned that it was "necessary to avoid an imposed solution that could cause Serbia to become a factor of instability."
In Pristina, Kosovo Albanian leaders issued a statement after meeting with Ahtisaari saying they are "convinced that the international process for the resolution of Kosovo's status led by President Ahtisaari will be concluded soon with Kosovo becoming an independent state."
The United States called the proposal "fair and balanced," while the EU Presidency noted that Ahtisaari's proposals "build on almost twelve months of direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina."
On 21 February, Ahtisaari began a period of consultations with the parties in Vienna to finalize the Settlement. He made clear that his proposal was a draft and that he would incorporate compromise solutions into the final document. After this period of consultations and further modification of the Settlement, Ahtisaari convened a high-level meeting of the parties in Vienna on March 10. After this meeting, leaders from both sides signaled a total unwillingness to compromise on their central demands (Kosovo Albanians for Kosovo's independence; Serbia for continued sovereignty over Kosovo). Concluding that there was no chance for the two sides to reconcile their positions, Ahtisaari said he intended to submit to the UN Security Council his proposed status recommendations, including an explicit recommendation for the status outcome itself, by the end of March.
In November 2008, the EU accepted the demand of Serbia not to implement the plan of Ahtisaari through EULEX.
On 3 April, Ahtisaari presented to the UN Security Council his final package of proposals, which included a clear recommendation that Kosovo should become independent subject to a period of international supervision.
Pristina accepted Ahtisaari's final Settlement, while Belgrade rejected it. Immediately after the proposals become public, the United States and Germany (in its capacity as EU Presidency) issued strong statements of support. The European Union's Parliament also declared its full support to Ahtisaari's plan. Russia, however, called for new rounds of negotiations, possibly with a new special envoy. At least one other member of the Security Council, South Africa, a non-permanent member, has expressed agreement with Russian concerns.
On 11 May, European members of the UN Security Council, Germany and the United States circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution that would replace UN Security Council Resolution 1244, endorse Ahtisaari's Settlement and end the UN administration after a transition period of 120 days. The U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN said that the European/U.S. draft had enough support in the Security Council to be adopted unless Russia chooses to use its Security Council veto, which Russia has stated at numerous occasions that it might use unless the resolution is acceptable by both sides. 
Russia rejected a UN Security Council resolution based on the Ahtisaari Plan. As discussions progressed in the week of 16 July, seemingly with little hope of agreement, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was quoted as saying that the European Union would cease supporting efforts to agree a resolution backing the Ahtisaari plan 'within days' if Russian concerns could not be met. Russia had rejected another draft resolution on Monday 16 July which had called for further talks between Serbia and Kosovo Albanians, describing the draft as, 'permeated with the concept of the independence of Kosovo'. British Deputy Head of Mission in New York, Karen Pierce, told reporters on 17 July that a final draft of the resolution would be introduced 'within 36 hours'.
According to news service Reuters, Solana had said that a further, four-month period of talks would be conducted under the authority of the Contact Group, though did not discount that a resolution might still be agreed in the coming days. German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to support renewed talks between the parties after discussions with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica, 'We are now thinking about whether it would be possible to support a phase of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina to try once again to find a solution,' Merkel was quoted as saying.
The United States, United Kingdom and other European members of the Security Council formally 'discarded' a draft resolution backing Ahtisaari's proposal on 20 July 2007, having failed to secure Russian backing.
The UN Secretary-General later endorsed another time-limited round of negotiations led by a U.S./EU/Russian Troika of negotiators. The Troika completed its work on 10 December 2007, without having achieved an agreement between the parties on Kosovo's status.
At the outset of the process, the Contact Group said in numerous public statements that regardless of status outcome a new international presence would be established in Kosovo to supervise the implementation of the settlement and guarantee minority rights.
An International Civilian Office (ICO), structured along the lines of the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, would be established and include participation from many states, notably EU members and the United States. The ICO, as described in Ahtisaari's draft status proposal, would possess certain executive powers to supervise and enforce status settlement implementation (e.g., fire ministers or overturn laws).
2008 Declaration of Independence
On 17 February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo declared that Kosovo is independent from Serbia; Kosovo Serb parliamentarians, however, boycotted the session. In the following weeks Kosovo's independence was recognised by many states, including around two thirds of the European Union. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica responded by stating, "Today, this policy of force thinks that it has triumphed by establishing a false state."
The independence has so far been recognised by 111 countries. Kosovo's independence is still quite controversial, with many countries opposing independence and others calling for further negotiations.
On 15 May 2008, the foreign ministers of Russia, China, and India issued a joint call for new negotiations, joining with the resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 22 January 2008, which called for new negotiations on the basis of UNSC 1244 and expressed regret that much of the preconditions for the even initiation of the Kosovo status process, including the return of non-Albanian refugees, was abandoned.
On July 22, 2010 the International Court of Justice ruled that the declaration did not violate international law, because it was not issued by the Assembly of Kosovo, Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, or any other official body and thus the authors, who named themselves "representatives of the people of Kosovo" were not bound by the Constitutional Framework (promulgated by UNMIK) or by UNSCR1244 that is addressed only to United Nations Member States and organs of the United Nations. Prior to the announcement Hashim Thaçi said there would be no "winners or losers" and that "I expect this to be a correct decision, according to the will of Kosovo's citizens. Kosovo will respect the advisory opinion." For his part, Serbia's President, Boris Tadić, warned that "If the International Court of Justice sets a new principle, it would trigger a process that would create several new countries and destabilise numerous regions in the world."
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The Talks between Serbia and Kosovo began on 8 March 2011.
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