The past few years have seen radical changes in Kosovo. After protracted and ultimately unsuccessful final-status negotiations between Serbia and the Kosovo-Albanians, Kosovo on 17 February 2008 declared its independence and was subsequently recognized by Germany and many other countries. The dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, a fraught and long-drawn-out process, was finally at an end.

On 22 July 2010 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) published its advisory opinion, which the United Nations General Assembly had requested at the instigation of Serbia in October 2008. The ICJ came to the conclusion that Kosovo’s declaration of independence of February 2008 did not violate international law.

Federal Minister Westerwelle on the publication of the ICJ’s advisory opinion on Kosovo

On 9 September 2010 a resolution co-sponsored by the EU member states and Serbia on the ICJ’s advisory opinion on Kosovo was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in New York. This paved the way for the start of a dialogue process between Belgrade and Pristina mediated by the EU.

Recognition of the Republic of Kosovo

On 20 February 2008 the German Cabinet agreed to recognize the Republic of Kosovo and to establish diplomatic relations. The formal act of recognition and announcement of a willingness to establish diplomatic relations took the form of a letter addressed by Federal President Horst Köhler to Fatmir Sejdiu, the President of the Republic of Kosovo. The German Liaison Office in Kosovo was subsequently upgraded to an Embassy.

Prior to the publication on 22 July 2010 of the ICJ’s advisory opinion on the accordance with international law of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, 69 countries, including most EU member states, had recognized Kosovo. Honduras became the 70th country to recognize the young state and the first country to do so following publication of the ICJ’s advisory opinion.

On 18 February 2008 EU Foreign Ministers had agreed that member states would determine their relations with Kosovo in accordance with their national practice and international law.

Constitution: commitment to democracy, the rule of law and protection of minorities

Already in Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February 2008, the country’s Parliament and leaders had pledged to uphold the rule of law and democratic standards as well as to scrupulously implement the Ahtisaari plan providing inter alia for the comprehensive protection of minorities as well as extensive opportunities for them to participate in political life. The constitution adopted on 15 June 2008 is firmly geared to the principles spelled out in the Ahtisaari plan and contains a clear commitment to the rule of law, democracy and multi ethnicity.

The international community has consistently attached great importance notably to the protection of minorities, which was one of the main issues in the over two years of final-status negotiations.

The challenge now is to build institutions that will translate democracy, the rule of law and protection of minorities into realities on the ground. It is important for people in Kosovo to see tangible improvements in their daily lives.

The international community’s engagement

Following the end of the war in 1999, Kosovo was placed under United Nations administration. This had a civilian component, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and a military component, Kosovo Force (KFOR), both of which continue to function in part. The legal basis for their operations is UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999, which not only mandated a military presence in Kosovo but also authorized the UN Secretary-General to establish an international civilian presence there. Following Kosovo’s declaration of independence the international community remains engaged in the country in a variety of ways.

Background to the international presences in Kosovo

UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo): Under UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999 UNMIK was granted extensive powers to exercise responsibility for all areas of public life in Kosovo. As the supreme legislative and executive authority, UNMIK worked with national and international civilian experts to rebuild the country. Following Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008 and the entry into force of the new constitution on 15 June 2008, the basic parameters of the Republic of Kosovo’s “supervised sovereignty” were in place. On 12 June 2008 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon therefore announced plans to reconfigure the international presences in Kosovo to take account of these new realities. UNMIK now has only limited residual functions and most of its responsibilities have been assumed by the Kosovo authorities and EULEX Kosovo.

KFOR (Kosovo Force): The legal basis for the operations of the NATO-led multinational force headquartered in Pristina are UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and its NATO mandate. For the third time in succession KFOR is commanded by a German national, Major General Erhard Drews, who was appointed in September 2011. With some 960 soldiers currently serving with the 6100-strong force, Germany is also the largest troop contributor to KFOR.

Over the past few years, with the security situation in Kosovo much improved and after due consideration by the North Atlantic Council, the KFOR presence in the country was progressively scaled down. There was a slight expansion again, however, when additional troops (including some 460 German soldiers) were deployed in response to the violent clashes that broke out in northern Kosovo in summer 2011.

ICR/ICO: On 28 February 2008 an International Steering Group (ISG) established by 25 countries appointed Pieter Feith from the Netherlands to be the first International Civilian Representative (ICR). The ICR carries out his mandate on the basis of Annex IX of the Ahtisaari plan (“Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement”) and in response to an explicit invitation contained in Kosovo’s declaration of independence. He has extensive powers and is authorized notably to annul any Kosovo legislation deemed inconsistent with the terms of the Ahtisaari plan. Up to 30 April 2011 Peter Feith was “double hatted”, since he was also Special Representative of the European Union (EUSR). The International Civilian Office (ICO) assists the ICR in the fulfilment of his mandate, to ensure the implementation of the Ahtisaari plan.

A strengthened EU presence in Kosovo: In mid-July 2011 EU member states agreed to take up a proposal of High Representative Catherine Ashton and create a new “double-hatted” post allowing the EUSR to serve also as head of the EU Office in Kosovo. To ensure sufficient time to implement this step, the term of EUSR Fernando Gentilini, a European External Action Service officer who had taken up his post on 1 May, was extended in late September by four months to 31 January 2012. On 19 December High Representative Ashton nominated former Slovenian Foreign Minister Samuel Žbogar to serve as from 1 February 2012 as first EUSR with the new double-hatted mandate.

EULEX Kosovo: Already on 14 December 2007 EU member states had pledged to actively support Kosovo’s efforts to build rule of law institutions and agreed to send a rule of law mission (EULEX Kosovo) to Kosovo for this purpose. On 6 April 2009 EULEX reached full strength with some 1750 international staff, including over 100 German police officers and civilian experts. EULEX is the largest ever civilian mission mounted by the EU under European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) auspices and is intended to bring greater stability to the country. Police officers, lawyers and administrative experts are helping the Kosovo authorities to build a multi-ethnic police force, justice system and administration. The mission also has limited executive powers for example with regard to the prosecution of organized crime offences, inter-ethnic crimes, war crimes, corruption and the maintenance of public order.

Last updated 30.12.2011

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