Capital Prishtina
Time Zone CET (GMT+1)
Country Code 377 (Monaco); 381 (Serbia)
Mobile Codes 44
Currency Euro
Land Area 10,908 sq km
Population 1.8 million
Language Albanian, Serbian, Turkish
Major Religions Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism

Notes on the 15th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1244

By Anita McKinna

Today is the 10th of June, marking the fifteenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which established the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and marked the beginning of the reconstruction of Kosovo after the war. It is in many ways an extraordinary document, both for the far-reaching mandate of UNMIK that is not constrained by time, and for its inclusion of provision for a political process designated to determine Kosovo’s future status, which has not been paralleled either before or since.

1244 allowed Kosovo to develop its democratic institutions and begin to slowly overcome the effects of the war, with an extensive international presence. While Kosovo still has many improvements to make, including strengthening rule of law, addressing transitional justice, combating widespread corruption, and boosting economic development, recent milestones including the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo regarding the normalization of relations, and this weekend’s parliamentary elections (the first where Serb turnout has been encouraged by the Serbian Government since the war), demonstrate the significant progress that has been made with respect to inter-ethnic relations and democratic development in Kosovo since 1999.

With the help of the international administration, Kosovo has developed democratic institutions almost from scratch. On paper its protection of minority rights, including substantial reserved seats in the Kosovo Assembly, goes further than many Western European countries. The Brussels Agreement signed last year by Kosovo and Serbia’s respective prime ministers marked the beginning of the process of normalization of relations between the two countries.

This cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia has also meant that both countries have progressed towards membership in the EU, with Serbia officially starting EU accession talks in January and Kosovo completing negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU.

Despite progress in relations between Kosovo and Serbia, UNSC Resolution 1244 is still in place on its fifteenth birthday. As it reaffirms the commitment of UN member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (succeeded by Serbia), the refusal of Serbia (as well as Russia and China) to recognize Kosovo’s independence means that it has not been replaced or abrogated. Despite the International Court of Justice ruling in 2010 that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law, Kosovo’s independence is still disputed.

The continuing relevance of 1244 was again reiterated in the 2012 “asterisk agreement”, whereby Kosovo would be allowed to be represented in regional and international meetings as long as there was an asterisk next to its name, which referred to the footnote stating that ‘this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence’.

For many Serbs, 1244 is seen as protection against Kosovo’s independence and means that so long as it is in place, Kosovo is still a part of Serbia. For many Albanians in Kosovo, 1244 is seen as an outdated shackle that should be removed, especially now that the Brussels Agreement has been signed. Since the declaration of independence, 1244 has restricted Kosovo’s sovereignty, and has ensured that Kosovo’s authorities have no ownership over the international presence. Its continuing relevance is also hindering Kosovo’s chances of membership in many international and regional institutions. Opposition leader Isa Mustafa from the Democratic League of Kosovo party has used 1244 in his recent election campaigning, promising that he will succeed in replacing it and open the path to finalizing recognitions for Kosovo and its membership in international institutions, thus highlighting that even fifteen years on, 1244 is still an important issue in Kosovo’s domestic political scene.

Fifteen years after it came into effect, UNSC Resolution 1244 continues to have a significant impact on Kosovo. It has shaped the contradictory relationship between the international community and Kosovo. On one hand it facilitates the regionally-unparalleled international presence, even fifteen years after the end of the war. But on the other hand it is at the same time contributing to Kosovo’s international isolation and inability to gain membership into the very international institutions that make up this presence. Thus the fifteenth anniversary of Resolution 1244 is a significant landmark for both the youngest country in Europe and for the international community, for which Kosovo, and UN Security Council Resolution 1244, represents a bold attempt to transform a post-conflict society.