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Kosovo: Status talks get underway


On 24 October, the UN Security Council provided the green light to initiate the process to determine the future status of the ethnically-divided Kosovo. The process began in December under the leadership of Martti Ahtisaari, the UN Special Envoy, thus marking the culmination of a political process lasting six years and signalling, the beginning of the next phase of the life of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).


Over the past four years, UNMIK has attempted to implement policy according to the formula “Standards for Kosovo”,more generally known as “standards before status.”Under this arrangement, Kosovo was expected to develop stable democratic institutions under UNMIK administration before any decision could be made on its future status. The standards include promoting human rights, establishing the rule of law and protecting minority rights.


The task was clearly huge, and progress of the fledgling institutions of Kosovo had been inconsistent. However, despite frustration on the part of the majority Kosovo Albanians over lack of progress toward their ultimate goal of independence, there have been some positive developments over the past year. Significant steps have been taken in meeting the “standards”. Whereas security improved, implementation in the area of rule of law was inconsistent. Progress has been particularly slow in the protection of minority rights and return of internally displaced persons.


In October, Ambassador Kai Eide, who was appointed by the UN Secretary- General to review the situation in Kosovo, noted that progress in meeting the standards had been uneven. However, he recommended starting the process leading to the determination of Kosovo’s future status. He cautioned though that “standards” and “status” were not the be-all and end-all of the political process leading to genuine protection of minority rights by the majority population. The Norwegian diplomat warned that political life in Kosovo could not be consumed entirely by status talks, vital as they would be. There was a huge amount of work to be done even as talks proceeded, he emphasized.


Meanwhile, in September, UNMIK started working on six priority areas: continued implementation of the standards, a comprehensive reform of local government, improving security, building local capacity, maintaining a safe and secure environment and restructuring the mission itself.


Progress was already evident in some areas. UNMIK has drawn up a plan to restructure its presence in Kosovo. It initiated informal, technical-level talks with the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on contingency planning for possible future arrangements for their involvement in Kosovo following the determination of its future status. The mission started discussions with all Kosovo communities on their future security arrangements. By the end of 2005, the mission will commenced the transfer of some police and justice responsibilities from UNMIK to the new ministries of interior and justice. The transfer of police station management was completed, with all 33 police stations and five of the six regional police headquarters being run by Kosovans at the end of 2005.


While the duration and eventual outcome of status talks remained as yet uncertain, the Security Council decision meant that UNMIK had started down the road which will eventually see it join growing group of successful peacekeeping missions.


Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

© United Nations 2006