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New Kosovo Violence as Possible Threats Predicted in UN Internal Document Loom

September 25, 2006

(Balkanalysis.com Research Service)- The senior UN security official in Kosovo has disclosed that KFOR is “anticipating wide-scale violent actions and demonstrations carried out by hardline Serbian and Albanian groups,” as negotiations reach a climax over Kosovo’s projected independence.

According to Makfax, on Sept. 22, KFOR arrested seven Kosovar Albanians allegedly involved in the anti-Serbian riots of March 2004. However, four recent bombings, some of which left elderly Serbs hospitalized, have led to UN condemnation- but little else.

On Sept. 1, Italy’s 2,500 KFOR forces passed on the overall command to the dependable Germans. German general Roland Kather took over for General Giuseppe Valotto and will have a mandate through summer 2007, according to AKI. The Germans, avenging their failed World War II efforts to crush the Serbs in Kosovo, are expected to take a hard line. The KFOR presence has in recent months been expanded in northern Kosovo, inhabited by Serbs. The stated justification has been to protect the Serbs but to most engaged observers it is fairly obvious that the real goal is to prevent weapons or reinforcements from arriving out of Serbia proper in case of future Albanian attacks on the beleaguered Serbian minority.

The UN regime in Pristina has long been aware of the potential for large-scale violence if the two ethnic groups fail to reach an agreement, which remains the case even as the deadline for conclusion of negotiations draws nearer, and UNMIK’s mandate draws to a close.

Inside documents reveal that the UN has long been brainstorming possible scenarios that could materialize by the end of the year. The existence of these reports shows that UN and related personnel in the UNMIK mission have been discussing and debating the potential for violence according to the possible results of the status talks.

The most celebrated such report was the internal UNHCR document on refugees. It was deliberated in January, 2006 (though the exact dates were not given later) and caused a sensation in the local and foreign media when it was cited in late spring.

This report indicated that the refugee body was making contingency plans for up to 70,000 Serbian refugees (out of around 100,000 total) being forced to flee in case of future trouble. At first UNHCR rejected the allegations, then downplayed the significance of the report, passing it off as a “routine” bit of brainstorming and not a policy. Eventually, after the initial furor had subsided, wire services such as Reuters were referencing the text, in a bizarre twist, as almost a confidence-building measure which would indicate that fear not, the authorities have got the master plan all worked out.

However, a second internal document, from the UN’s Civil Police, was made available several months ago to Balkanalysis.com several months ago. Dated February 2006, the informal report considers five possible scenarios that could unfold in the disputed province by November. The hypotheses considered include: 1.) a decision for full independence in November; 2.) “more than autonomy, less than independence’; 3.) talks prolonged into the new year of 2007; 4.) a repetition of Yugoslavia’s experience of the 1990″s, when armed Albanians operating from rural areas target the authorities (in this case, internationals).

All of these scenarios have since been discussed in the media and either championed or rejected by different international powers. What is perhaps most interesting about the UN document is that the events of 2006 have proven its accuracy. Generally speaking, none of the possible scenarios lead to happy results, at least as far the security situation is concerned. Take the conclusion to option 2:

“After lengthy talks and shuttle diplomacy, spearheaded by Marti Ahtisaari, and ending with a for-and-against balance between the contact group members. Kosovo is granted more than autonomy, less than independence. When official news of the outcome is presented to the public, extremist factions of former KLA veterans take up arms and commit to a strategy of hit and run against the IC, however, the IC are reluctant to officially claim who is responsible for the attacks.”

Kosovo Albanians, have stated they will settle for nothing less than full independence, which the Belgrade authorities adamantly oppose. The West supports the former, but if independence is granted, the internal report hypothesizes, the following could occur:

“Serbs do not accept full independence, Serb dominated part of Mitrovica, north of the Ibar is partitioned. The international and PISG administration are helpless in preventing the division, former KLA fighters prepare take direct action against Serb resistance in the north, disregarding moderate Albanian efforts for direct dialogue. Adjoining this, a faction of KA extremists commit to hit and run tactics against IC, IC condemns attacks, majority try to pin the blame on rebel Serbs south of Ibar, who became disgruntled at the decision for Independence.”

The third scenario — talks deferment — is also being seen as a face-saving alternative. Several recent articles following Serbian President Tadic’s visit to Washington have alleged that the Bush administration will delay a decision on Kosovo until after the Serbian elections, in the hopes that the Radical Party will not be able to use the Kosovo issue to seize power. In this context, the conclusion to the third hypothetical situation in the February 2006 UN report seems prescient as well:

“By the end of November 2006 and running into early December, talks on future status are weakening and the contact group proposes a break until the new year, Kosovo Albanians show signs of frustration by demanding that a settlement is made, however, recent security incidents affecting minority communities, freedom of movement and other issues, provide stumbling blocks for the majority administration.”

As November draws closer, it remains to be seen which of these scenarios will materialize. In whatever case, it is instructive to note that the UN has been well aware of them for some time. Larger political decisions that will emerge should be analyzed in light of this awareness.

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