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Peace-Making through Protectorate: Six months in Kosovo

Originally published

An RRN briefing note. by Koenraad Van Brabant
(This briefing paper offers an analytical synopsis of current practical and policy challenges in Kosovo. Information was obtained from different sources which are referred to at the end. The Relief and Rehabilitation Network publishes analytical and reflective pieces on humanitarian action for the benefit of practitioners, policy-makers and analysts. This paper and other RRN publications can be found on our Website at For more information contact





3.1. Emergency response and reconstruction.

3.2. Economic revival.

3.3. Aid coordination.

3.4. Protection.

3.5. Law and order.


4.1. Albanian Kosovar politics.

4.2. Impartiality.


5.1. A multi-ethnic society?

5.2. Political status?

5.3. Regional stability.




Tensions between Albanian Kosovars and Serbs are long standing. Historically, the ethnic Albanians first came under Serbian dominance, and then, following the defeat of Serb-led forces in 1389 at the battle of Kosovo Polje (in the plains close to Prishtina), under Turkish rule. This event has been turned into a cornerstone for Serb nationalist feelings. Kosovo's emotional importance is further enhanced by religious reasons. Indeed, the Patriarch of the Serb Orthodox Church resided in Pec between 1253 and the late 18th century. During the Second World War, the Italians in 1941 created a 'Greater Albania'. Following the defeat of the Axis powers, new states were formed in the Balkans, including Albania and Yugoslavia. In 1945 the ruler of Albania, Hoxha, accepted Tito's request to include Kosovo into the new Yugoslavia. This triggered an armed uprising and Tito had to send in 30.000 troops to quell it. Since then, the policies of Belgrade have fluctuated between 'strong hand' and more tolerance, but Kosovo remained the poorest province in Tito's Yugoslavia, and its ethnic Albanians had the lowest social status. Tensions rose again in the 1980s and culminated in 1989. The 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Polje drew over half a million Serbs in a nationalist rally. It is here that Milosevic's militant and aggressive Serbian nationalism, that would soon lead to a decade-long violent break-up of the Former Yugoslavia, first sounded widely. The degree of autonomy which Kosovo enjoyed at that time, was then withdrawn. In September 1991 the Albanian Kosovars held a referendum over independence, and in May 1992 semi-clandestine elections took place for a president and parliament. The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) under Dr. Rugova came out as the winner. Dr. Rugova was nominated president and continued to reside in Kosovo, while a 'government-in-exile' under Prime Minister Bukoshi set up house in Germany. Since then the ethnic Albanians have been running a parallel education and health system, from flats, garages and mosques, funded mainly from a 3% tax contributed by the diaspora abroad. The LDK-led government pursued a policy of non-violent resistance, a consequent boycott of the Serb state institutions where possible, and the internationalisation of the conflict. But in the following years international attention was focused on the northern Balkans, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, where war raged. Still, the West was conscious of the potential for escalating violence also in Kosovo and its peace proposals in 1993 and 1994 included references to the rights of its ethnic Albanians. As this turned out to be a 'non-negotiable' stumbling-block for Milosevic, the Kosovo issue was dropped from the Dayton agreements in late 1995. An agreement, brokered by the Sant' Egidio community, was subsequently reached in September 1996, but collapsed over different interpretations and when street protests followed in Belgrade. In the end the frustrations and ongoing repression in Kosovo radicalised young and disaffected ethnic Albanians, who took up arms. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) manifested itself first in late 1997, and the resulting 'counter-insurgency' actions by the Serbian security forces rapidly escalated the situation in 1998. International mediation led to an agreement with Belgrade for the deployment, from October onwards, of a Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) to verify a fragile cease-fire, with 1400 monitors based in the province, and NATO aerial surveillance. UNHCR-led convoys were allowed to provide emergency aid. Formal peace talks were pursued at Rambouillet but did not yield a final agreement. In the face of a deteriorating situation, the KVM, and UN and NGO humanitarian organisations, suspended operations in Kosovo on 23 March, and evacuated. At that time there were an estimated 260.000 internally displaced, 100.000 who had taken refuge in the region and 100.000 who had sought asylum elsewhere since early 1998. NATO's bombing campaign started on 24 March and lasted 11 weeks. Following a Military Technical Agreement with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), on 10 June, Belgrade withdrew its forces which allowed a new international presence to be established and the return of most of the 850.000 Albanian Kosovars who had fled or been been expelled from Kosovo by the Serb forces.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June established UNMIK, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo and KFOR (Kosovo Force), an international military presence with strong NATO participation. The mandate of KFOR is to deter new hostilities between the Serb security forces and the Albanian Kosovar armed resistance (the Kosovo Liberation Army or KLA), to oversee the demilitarisation of the KLA, to ensure public safety until such time as this task can be taken over by civilian institutions, and to provide a secure environment in which refugees can return. UNMIK is responsible for all aspects of civilian administration in Kosovo. This includes civil service, public services, economic management, law and order etc. UNMIK is organised into 4 'pillars' each with its own lead organisation: civilian administration (UN), democratisation and institution-building (OSCE), refugees and humanitarian affairs (UNHCR), and reconstruction (EC). (see ref. 1)


The mandate and authority of UNMIK differ significantly from the set-up in BiH. Kosovo, in all but name, is administered as a protectorate. UNMIK has de facto taken over the legal and executive authority in Kosovo, and will 'govern' in order to prepare Kosovo for self-government. This situation resembles League of Nations mandates, but represents a totally new situation for the UN. In BiH, by contrast, local public administration structures existed, and the civilian components of the Dayton Agreements conceive the role of the international institutions as one of a 'helping hand'. In practice, this has led to growing frustration and irritation as often the local authorities have proved to be an obstacle to the international communities efforts at promoting good governance and reconciliation. The role of the High Representative was conceived as a 'mediatory' one. He has little executive authority, and the internationally military forces (I-FOR and S-FOR) have often been reluctant to help him enforce his policies and decisions. The only effective leverage on local authorities was aid, but poor coordination among donors and too credulous acceptance of statements of intent, have meant that aid conditionality in BiH has been largely ineffective. The Rambouillet proposals copied closely the Dayton agreements. Had the Serbs accepted them, and a Serb dominated administration remained in place in Kosovo, the international community and its Chief of the Implementing Mission, would have encountered similar problems in Kosovo. As it turned out, a different scenario ensued, and the Security Council resolution establishing UNMIK vests stronger and more centralised authority in the Special Representative of the Secretary General, currently Mr. B. Kouchner. Given the sensitivities between NATO and the UN that arose over NATO's decision to launch a bombing campaign, the possibility of uniting the military and civil branches of the international presence in Kosovo under one command -as was the case with the Transitional Administrator of UNTAES in east Slavonia-, were politically not realistic, but the Security Council Resolution encourages close cooperation between the two. The SCR also puts the UN again in the lead position, whereas the Rambouillet proposals envisaged that role for the OSCE. (see ref. 2 and 3).


Major developments have taken place since mid-June: KFOR has reorganised the international troop deployments, away from national sectors with all the politial sensitivities this implied, to geographical Multi-National Brigade sectors, each with several troop contingents; the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has officially not only 'demilitarised' but also been disarmed. The UNMIK international police is beginning to deploy in Kosovo and a first batch of 173 recruits for a new Kosovo Police Service, has finished classes. As early as July UNMIK also appointed regional governors to take over local administration. A large scale humanitarian assistance programme is being implemented by a variety of governmental, intergovernmental, private company and NGO actors. The initial emphasis has been on emergency assistance, but various programmes are well into reconstruction and democratisation.

It is important to recognise how much has been achieved in such a short time. At the same time, in a way these first six months have been the easy part: the challenges remain daunting and major economic and political problems lie ahead.

3.1. Emergency Response and Reconstruction.

Emergency food distribution policy has evolved from general to targeted distribution. It is clear however that vulnerable individuals and groups will continue to need food aid for quite a while. Plans are also underway to preposition food for villages that will become inaccessible by road in winter. There have also been distributions of winter wheat seed and small farm implements, while some agencies focus on tractor repair. The main agricultural revival support will take place in the spring, when restocking of decimated herds can also be accelerated. Several agencies have helped with well cleaning, a task that not infrequently involved recovering human bodies.. Schooling has started and there is high demand for enrolment at Pristhina university. The lack of up-to-date statistics complicates prioritising, so various Kosovo-wide surveys are being undertaken to get vital information e.g. about the food economy, demographic and socio-economic conditions and health status.

The main problem however remains emergency shelter. Comprehensive assessments of damage to housing have been undertaken, to facilitate prioritising. Even then, it is clear by now that the target of one winter-proof room per house will not be reached. Kosovars with private funds or access to remittances have themselves been restauring, and many aid agencies are focusing on shelter. The problem is a supply crisis, especially for cured timber, and to a lesser degree for roofing tiles. Regional suppliers have a seller's market and sell to the highest bidder. Delays are also incurred by blockages at border crossing points, e.g. from Bulgaria into Macedonia, but also from Montenegro or Macedonia into Kosovo. Prefabricated living units and winter tents are also brought into Kosovo, but the crisis in winterised housing is giving rise to frustration and criticism from the Kosovars.

Emergency rehabilitation is also hampered by the damage to public infrastructure. There is no functioning bank system, so that everybody has to operate with cash. There is no functional postal system, and where telephones work it is mainly within towns but not between them. Public infrastructure is also heavily damaged and collapsing. The electricity supply system is overstretched and often breaking down, which affects micro-activities but also the municipal heating and water supply and -treatment systems. Fortunately the railroad between Skopje and Prishtina has reopened and Prishtina airport is now also open to commercial flights.

Mines and unexploded ordnance continue to pose a major threat. There are some 16 demining organisations at work, coordinated by the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC), which is trying to visualise the evolving picture of identified and cleared minefields through its central Information Management System for Mine Action (INCMA). Interestingly, some of the deminers are from e.g. Mozambique and BiH, a fact that has generated criticism about taking demining capacity away from countries with still a high mine risk. Although there have been serious efforts at mine awareness training, for the general population and aid agencies, the frequency of mine accidents remains fairly high. This is likely to increase in winter: demining is not possible in frozen ground, and mine markings may be rendered less visible by snow. Worrying are also rumours of mines being 'recycled' by local people: reportedly some have been laid around Serbian enclaves and others on forest paths on the Albanian border to prevent Albanians coming across to loot uninhabited houses of Kosovars. The spring thaw lead to mines 'migrating', and more casualties can be expected during the spring planting season. Unexploded ordnance, especially cluster munitions, from NATO bombing, are also a threat, and marking and clearing of those is being pursued on a priority basis. Reports that NATO forces, especially the US, would have used depleted uranium during the bombing campaign, which remains highly dangerous, are obviously highly sensitive, and no precise information is made available.

3.2. Economic Revival.

Although the retail trade has picked up unexpectedly quickly, putting consumer goods into the shops, this should not be equated with a reviving economy. Trade for the time being benefits from the absence of a regulatory and revenue-collecting regime, a situation that will not last forever.

At a macro-economic level, the economy of Kosovo was geared towards the FRY. The recent political developments and the collapsing economy in Serbia have cut existing links and different trade patterns and markets will have to develop. Minerals and small-scale agriculture are key resources for the Kosovo economy. The Trepca mines near Mitrovica produced about half of the lead and zinc of the FRY, and are therefore politically very sensitive. But many state enterprises are not operating. A potential economic division of Kosovo is also looming, with the center and south of Kosovo using the Deutsch Mark, and the north, with a stronger Serb concentration, continuing to use the Yugoslav dinar. It is as yet unclear what the impact will be on the economies of Albania and Macedonia of the current resource flows into Kosovo.

With probably as many as 50.000 internationals present, the majority military with KFOR, employment with international organisations and catering for their needs provide perhaps the biggest economic resource at the moment. But it also stimulates inflation which will hurt those not benefitting from it. The boom in the construction sector offers some scope for cottage industries and small-scale enterprise. Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe, seventy percent is younger than 30. Many of them will experience (continued) unemployment.

The physical damage in Kosovo is extensive, especially in the central-western part. A recent EU study costed the reconstruction bill for Kosovo at $ 2.1 billion. It is obvious that for most people the winter will be very difficult. An estimated 200.000 will have to be accommodated in 'collective centres' and winter tents. Agencies are also trying to identify and target vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the handicapped, families without much labour (e.g. widows). But hardship in the winter, inflation and unemployment will lead to frustrations that will become more apparent in coming months.

3.3. Aid coordination.

Although UNHCR has 'organised' Kosovo into 'areas of responsibility', unlike in Bosnia, it has not been able to 'vet' incoming NGOs, so that there are now over 300 known to be operating in Kosovo. The UN and NGOs have set up coordination 'cells' and 'councils', and national NGOs have also recently elected their own steering committee. Virtually every US or European secular NGO must be present in Kosovo, but a significant amount of assistance is also provided by church organisations, oecumenically working together. The biggest national NGO is the 'Mother Theresa Society' - Mother Theresa was born in Skopje, Macedonia, in 1910. The fora and platforms established however, are not likely to be able to achieve more than 'coordination light', with little impact on programme harmonisation. The agency competition for funds, 'territory' and 'beneficiaries' is already creating irritation among Kosovars. A repeat of the perceived 'aid agency circus' in Rwanda, could trigger more widespread public criticism of the humanitarian aid sector, and undermine the credibility of efforts in recent years to strengthen professional conduct and cooperation.

3.4. Protection.

The start of the NATO bombing campaign led to an escalation in the violence by Serb security forces and paramilitaries against Albanian Kosovars. This resulted in beatings, rape, house burning, torture, murder and looting, and over half of them were forcibly expelled and often deprived of their identity papers. Since the withdrawal of the Serb forces, the entry of KFOR and UNMIK and the return of most refugees, the pattern of 'ethnic cleansing' has reversed. Now it are especially the Serbs and Roma (Gypsies) and to a degree the Gorani (Serb-speaking Muslim Slavs) 'minorities', who have become the object of abuse and aggression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Figures given differ but the estimate is that between 20-60.000 Serbs remain in Kosovo of the approximately 200.000 present till mid-June 1999. Almost all of the 6000 Serbs, who had fled the Krajina in Croatia in 1995 and were relocated in Kosovo, have left. Figures about the Roma are even less clear, but there is little doubt that most of them have had to take refuge outside Kosovo. Many Serbs fled spontaneously in mid-June out of a generalised fear for revenge. But many others subsequently were forced to leave in the face of abduction and murder, grenade attacks, intimidation and death threats, house burning, beatings and rape. There is no doubt that individual Roma earlier collaborated with the Serb security forces, but several of these were coerced into doing so. Ethnic Albanians however now tend to hold the Roma collectively guilty. Many Serb and Roma Kosovars have fled to Serbia and Montenegro, a few to Macedonia. Sadly, Stankovic II camp in Macedonia, that a few months ago overflowed with Albanian Kosovar refugees, now houses several hundred Roma refugees. The remaining Serbs have concentrated inn Serb majority towns, villages or neighbourhoods, which more or less resemble besieged enclaves. Roma remaining in Kosovo also have had to relocate to concentrated shelters.

There are also tensions between ethnic Albanians and the Gorani minority in the south of Kosovo (Prizren-Dragash area). The Gorani are Serb-speaking Muslim Slavs. They have been accused of sympathising with the Serb security forces and are now put under pressure to 'Albanise', e.g. through changing their village names. The intimidation and violence does not stop with the 'minorities'. Majority ethnic Albanians in recent times have also come under threat. Sometimes the apparent motive has been political: moderates speaking out for reconciliation, on behalf of a multi-ethnic Kosovo, and political opponents of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Other times it have been ordinary people, who have possessions stolen and -like Russian residents staying behind after the first Chechen war (1994-1996)- are forced out of their apartments, for personal profit. (see ref. 8)

It is unclear who are the perpetrators behind the aggression against the minorities. The indications are that a mix of motives is at play. It is clear that an initial wave of violence, following the return of ethnic Albanian refugees and internally displaced, was motivated by revenge. Since then however, new factors have come into play. One of this is political. Cleansing the minorities, especially the Serbs, from Kosovo, has the 'advantage' of ending the long-standing friction with ethnic Albanians, and also deprives Belgrade of a justification for new aggressive interventions 'to protect the Serbs in Kosovo'. A second one is criminal. It is known that a number of well know Albanian criminals have sought refuge from the Albanian police in Kosovo. Criminal networks involved in drug trade, car theft, smuggling, and trafficking in women and children were well established in Albania and are now taking advantage of the law and order gap in Kosovo, to expand or relocate there. At this moment there is no extradition agreement between Kosovo and Albania, so even if apprehended, technically they cannot be handed over to the Albanian authorities. A third one is the growing power struggle within the Albanian body politic. Hardliners seeking independence for an ethnically clean Kosovo oppose moderates, and supporters of the 'KLA bloc' are vying for power and dominance with supporters of the 'LDK bloc' (see infra). (see ref. 7)

3.5. Law and Order.

The plan for restoring public security and law and order is for a gradual handover of responsibility from KFOR to the UNMIK civilian police and then to a newly recruited Kosovo Police Service, trained to be a service to the citizens rather than to the ruling regime. There are 40-45.000 KFOR troops in Kosovo. The initial target for UNMIK police was some 3100. By early November somewhat over half were deployed, and beginning to take over policing and criminal investigation functions in certain areas. By the same date the first class of 173 new recruits, among the 8 Serbs, began patrols on the streets, under the ongoing supervision on UNMIK police. The law and order vacuum is further compounded by a legal vacuum. UNMIK's approach in principle is clear: the laws of the FRY as in vogue up till March 1999, continue to apply, except where they are in contradiction with international human rights standards and other international legal norms. In practice, the judicial system was in disarray and of course a number of legal professionals may be tainted from association with the past discriminatory and repressive regime. UNMIK has appointed a number of judges and prosecutors (district courts function), who are now struggling to identify priorities in the case load. The cell and prison system also needs review and reorganisation. Although a legal framework in theory exists e.g. for contract law, employment and criminal law, and for customs, taxation and billing for public services, in practice this is not yet operational and enforceable. Vital records such as identity papers and car licence plates of fleeing Albanian Kosovars were destroyed by Serb security forces and others, such as cadastral records may have gone lost in the bombing. A sort of Property Claims and Disputes Commission will have to be installed to deal with these issues. But the situation obviously facilitates criminal activity. (see ref. 5)

KFOR and UNMIK have come under criticism from international human rights organisations for not providing adequate and preventive protection to threatened minorities. Although there are are of course many positive examples, KFOR by and large is seen as not assertive and pro-active enough. Troops show up after incidents have happened, not preventively even when threats have been reported to them. Where they respond to threats, they leave again after some time. KFOR should be more determined in seeking out arms caches, and in investigating acts of violence, and should deploy not only in towns and along major roads, but also in villages in the rural areas. Different national troops contingents have also interpreted their 'public security' mandate in different ways, some showing more vigour than others. Defendants of KFOR have pointed at constraints: not enough troops to provide more than general area security everywhere, and troops not trained for policing functions. There is a tendency however, seen earlier during the Bosnian war, to put security of the military peace-support troops above protection of endangered populations. Particular criticism has been targetted at US troops, for 'bunkering down' defensively in two bases, being constructed at a cost of $ 70 million (see Roy Gutman, 16 Sept. 1999, Newsday). A contributing factor is the perceived threat of international Islamic terrorists against US citizens also in Kosovo. UNMIK, or rather the governments supporting UNMIK, have been criticised for delays in the deployment of the international police, and for underestimating the strength required. (SG requested up to 6000). It is also clear that the area-by-area hand-over of responsibility, and of documentation and dossiers, from KFOR to the UNMIK police, is not without problems and ambiguities. Where deploying, the UNMIK police has cars but is short of other vital equipment such as telecommunications. Within UNMIK the primary responsibility for protection and respect for human rights rests with UNHCR and the OSCE. Already in the summer of 1999 an Ad Hoc Task Force on Minorities was established, which has issued periodic assessments of the situation of ethnic minorities. Protection meetings are also held in different AORs. KFOR and the UNMIK police participated in it from the beginning but many NGOs are not geared up to consider whether they can play a practical role in protection. UNMIK and the OSCE have taken umbrage to some of the criticism (letter of 16 August), pointing out that practical and preventive protection is not easy and that operational recommendations are more helpful than general criticism about an imperfect situation. (see ref. 8 and the UNHCR/OSCE letter of 16 August 1999 in reply).

The situation is indeed not easy. UNMIK and humanitarian aid agencies may try to provide protection and assistance to threatened Serb enclaves, or upon request escort Serbs out of Kosovo. But there are real concerns about suspected war criminals being harboured in these enclaves that could be helped to escape justice if they are assisted to leave Kosovo. There are also concerns about arms caches and, especially in northern Kosovo, infiltrations of undercover agents and agitators of the Serb intelligence and Ministry of the Interior. Criminal investigations by foreigners of very diverse national police cultures, into what is traditionally a closed society, which furthermore has 10 years of experience in working underground and avoiding scrutiny by the Serb police, is problematic. Finally, it should be recognised that emotions among ethnic Albanians remain very raw, and that there is lingering resentment over the failure of the international community to effectively protect them.


4.1. Albanian Kosovar politics.

Increasingly UNMIK will be confronted by the tensions and violence within the body politic of the Albanian Kosovars. The two key forces are the LDK (Democratic League of Kosovo) and the successor to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), who are the centre of volatile 'blocs', with shifting individuals and parties. Whereas the core support for the LDK comes from urban intellectuals, the KLA has stronger roots in the rural areas. The escalation of the conflict in 1999 projected the KLA to the forefront. It established a strong base in Albania, swelled its ranks with fleeing Kosovars but also with members of the Albanian diaspora coming to fight with their brethren in Kosovo. On 2 April 1999, two weeks after the start of the NATO bombing campaign, Hashim Thaci, the political head of the KLA, announced the formation of a new 'Provisional Government of Kosovo'. This coalition of several political parties did not openly challenge Rugova, who was criticised for negotiating with Milosevic, but Thaci was named as the new prime minister replacing Bukoshi. The KLA argued that Bukoshi's government-in-exile could not longer be considered as 'legitimate', since its strategy of passive resistance had clearly failed, and because 'political legitimacy' now had to be gained 'in the frontline'. Bukoshi in 1998 had tried to set up an 'armed wing', the 'Armed Forces of Kosovo' (FARC), but several of these upon reaching Albania went over to the KLA, which also asserted its primacy in Albania by the murder, in Tirana, of Bukoshi's 'Minister of Defence'. At the Rambouillet talks, the LDL and the KLA were both present to negotiate on behalf of the Albanian Kosovars.

A key provision of the SCR 1244 is the 'demilitarisation' of the KLA. On 21 June, the KFOR commander and Thaci signed an accord to that effect (ref. 10). The agreement provides for a progressive disarmament over a period of 90 days. Since then, the KLA has been not only 'demilitarised' but also 'disarmed', sometimes forcefully but mostly voluntarily. The International Organisation for Migration is operating an Information Councelling and Referral Service for former KLA combatants, and a Reintegration Fund has been established to support employment-creating initiatives. There remain doubts however whether a hard core continues to exist and operate. First there are conflicting figures about the troop strength of the KLA at the height of the conflict: 10-17.000? It is difficult therefore to be certain whether all have effectively demobilised or not. Secondly, although KLA fighters have been forcibly disarmed by KFOR troops but also voluntarily handed in weapons, it seems likely that individuals have held back weapons and there may well be hidden arms caches. The porous border with Albania also makes it easy to rearm, and Tropoja in north Albania is known for its arms bazaars. Third, considerable unease has arisen over the creation of a 5000 men strong Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK), partially drawing on former KLA fighters and agreed in mid-September. Whereas the vision of the international community is a sort of 'civil defence' force whose main task would be to help with emergencies and humanitarian assistance, Albanian activists see it more as a 'National Guard', to be developed into a military defence force. The theory is that 10% of the KPC would be from minorities, the Serb Kosovars see the KPC as a threat and have called for a 'Serb Defence Force'. Fourthly, the KLA was a factionalised fighting force without effective central command and control. It is very well possible for hardline factions, such as the LKCK (National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo) to continue to pursue their own agendas. Fifthly, the former KLA top has been ambiguous about condemning the violence against minorities. On the one hand they have consistently called for Serbs to remain in Kosovo and expressed a commitment to a multi-ethnic society. On the other hand, they have not vigorously condemned the violations, often committed by people in KLA uniforms or claiming to act in the name of the KLA, and recently Thaci, who is now a self-proclaimed politician, had to be reprimanded for making inflammatory statements. The former KLA top denies that there would have been a KLA policy of 'ethnic cleansing'. The violence and abuse in the name of the KLA have certainly contributed to a serious drop in popular support. At the same time, it remains a fact that an 'ethnically cleansed' Kosovo would greatly facilitate the achievement of the political goal of independence.

The political scene among the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo remains in flux. Whereas previously all could easily unite behind the common goal of stronger group rights, there is now a clearer power struggle between individuals and competing social visions of a future Kosovo. No party so far has formulated a clear economic policy. A similar politial fluidity exists among the Serb Kosovars, with shifting alignments that are either specific to Kosovo or relate to the power struggles taking place in Belgrade. The Gorani and the Roma for the time being have no clear political representation, but such is likely to emerge soon.

A growing challenge for the SRSG will be to constructively manage the relationship between UNMIK and the evolving Kosovar body politic. One area in which this is already apparent is that of local administration. When the Serb forces withdrew, the KLA moved in quickly and in 27 of the 29 communes appointed a 'President of Commune', a sort of 'mayor' (2 communes are Serb controlled). They and their staff usually have public administration experience, but now work with little or no resources. Although appointed by the KLA, they operated separately from KLA local structures and are accountable to the Minister of Local Government in Thaci's Provisional Government. The UNMIK appointed 5 'regional governors' were slow to deploy, at least outside their town of residence. Their brief is to take over but they too have limited staff and resources. The dilemma for UNMIK now is whether to dismiss them or co-opt them. Grounds for dismissal are plenty: they are not democratically elected and enjoy now broad popular support nor are they recognised by other political forces, esp. the LDK; minorities are not represented among them (nor women). On the other hand they have experience and no less importantly, local knowledge. It is important for UNMIK and the international presence to maintain the high level of acceptance they now enjoy in Kosovo. One factor influencing this will be whether ordinary Kosovars see tangible improvements in public administration and services (see ref. 6).

Another important area will be media. Bilaterals, multilaterals and NGOs have invested in the media sector for and in Kosovo. This has involved informative broadcasting e.g. in Albanian, the provision of radios, and material, financial and training support to local radio stations and newspaper publishers. Investments in media took place to develop channels for the international presence to inform the population, and for the Kosovar population to voice its concerns. This is not unproblematic. A new media culture needs to take root in Kosovo, and the communication between the international community and the Kosovar population may not be as simple as that. The OSCE has the media mandate ie. the authority to develop the regulatory framework, issue licenses and foster a code of conduct for the media. UNMIK has been keen on having its own TV and radio channels, to be able to pass its own messages. The Kosovars however are accustomed to a state-controlled media which they did not trust, and an underground press with its own messages. Developing a democratic media culture does not happen overnight. Although private media are active, the minorities do not have a voice in them. Kosovar-controlled media have a role to play in holding the international presence accountable, but journalists are not used to playing the role of 'fourth pillar' in a democratic set-up, ie. of critical journalism and public debate but within civil and democratic limits. There is also no strong tradition, in this long-divided part of the world, of speaking out from a position of tolerance and ethnic pluralism. This is all the more important in the light of the scheduled local elections. Yet those that have expressed such moderation have been slandered and threatened in other media under the influence of the KLA.

4.2. Impartiality.

UNMIK, and the international community behind it, have difficulty donning the cloak of impartiality again. The recent outcry over atrocities by ethnic Albanians against minorities in Kosovo creates unease among these same ethnic Albanians. The sense of loss is still acute, as well as lingering resentment over the failure of the international community to protect them, and now to aggressively pursue war criminals. Moreover, ethnic Albanians are very concerned over the many thousands still 'missing' and many more thousands, held in detention in Serbia, not all of which are accessible to the ICRC. They expect at least balanced statements from international officials and attention and action on behalf of those missing and detained.

A second issue is that Serbia-Montenegro currently have the largest refugee (approximately 510.000) and IDP (approximately 222.000) population in Europe. OCHA moreover estimates that 3 million people, in Serbia alone, are in need of assistance. The economic situation in FRY continues to deteriorate, and there too people are facing the winter, without employment, adequate shelter or functioning public utilities. The government in Belgrade is not keen on helping refugees from Kosovo too much - it wants them to return to strengthen the Serb presence in Kosovo. Yet the FRY receives less humanitarian assistance per capita than Kosovo.

Thirdly, Serb and Roma refugees from Kosovo seeking asylum outside the FRY have not received equal treatment to the ethnic Albanians before. This is discriminatory, violates their rights and undermines the principle of impartiality.

Fourthly, it is difficult for international agencies to establish and maintain a proportional representation of Kosovar ethnic groups among their staff. Initially returning aid agencies were prepared to people who had been staff before 23 March again, but many left shortly afterwards left Kosovo. Since then, agencies have generally not pursued policies of 'affirmative action', actively trying to recruit among the minorities. This is understandable in a context of high emotions and raw feelings, but also impacts on their image.


5.1. A multi-ethnic society?

Unlike BiH, people in Kosovo do not have memories of peaceful co-existence in a multi-ethnic society. Albanians and Serbs/Slavs have not lived together peacefully in Kosovo for decades, and the experience of the Albanians is one of a repression and discrimination, that existed well before the large scale violence and hostility of the last 2 years. The withdrawal of Belgrade's security forces and the return of the Albanians under international protection, has now reversed the majority-minority equation in Kosovo.

The net result of the political dynamics in Kosovo, described earlier, is one of reinforced alignments on an ethnic basis. The former KLA top is keen on local elections sooner rather than later, because it hopes to capitalise on its image of 'freedom fighters'. Informal polls at the moment suggest however that the KLA has already been compromised and that the LDK is regaining much support. Far more problematic however is the fact that elections, planned for the spring of 2000 would consolidate ethnic politics, as early and subsequent elections have done in Bosnia. They therefore run counter to the UNMIK vision -some would say 'illusion'- of a multi-ethnic Kosovo, and from that point of view, could better be postponed. Once again, the international community equates democratisation too easily with 'elections'. The virtual 'protectorate' status of Kosovo however gives UNMIK the power to postpone elections and first build a culture of democracy, tolerance and good citizenship. Hastily criticising UNMIK's 'governance authority' as 'neo-colonialism' would not seem to take account of factual conditions and attitudes on the ground.

5.2. Political status?

Both the Rambouillet text and SCR 1244 affirm the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the FRY. The KFOR and UNMIK mandates have not been given an end date, but they are defined as 'transitional'. That begs the question: transitional to what? (see ref. 3) Four options appear immediately: autonomy within the FRY, republic-status within the FRY, an independent Republic, merger with Albania. It is worrying to hear many internationals in Kosovo refer to the place as a separate country, ignoring the status of Kosovo under international agreements, and the fears this awakens in the region.

It is clear that a majority of Albanian Kosovars wants independence. After recent events they see co-existence no longer as an option. It is equally clear that Belgrade for the time being only wants to concede a restoration of the privileges under an 'autonomy' status, as they existed until 1989. Belgrade argues that many current events run counter to the MTA and the SCR, and violate its sovereignty: the attempt to transform the KLA (in the form of the Kosovo Protection Corps) rather than disband it, entry of foreigners into Kosovo without visa from Belgrade, visits by officials to Kosovo without diplomatic protocol agreed by Belgrade, the use of the D-mark rather than the dinar as legal tender, the taking over of customs functions by internationals, and even the referral to the Serbs in Kosovo as a 'minority', on the grounds that 'minority' status internationally is determined within the framework of a state and not a province. (see ref. 9). Admittedly one can argue that in attacking Croatia and Bosnia, Belgrade has not given proof of great respect for sovereignty itself, but a further 'reduction' of the FRY will be a difficult political reality in Serbia, also if Milosevic would be replaced by a more amenable regime. Although possible under SCR 1244, Belgrade is not in favour of giving Kosovo the status of 'republic' in the FRY, equal to Serbia and Montenegro, because it sees this as a stepping stone to independence. Attempts by Belgrade to force a split Kosovo, with the mines and monasteries in northern Kosovo coming back under Serbian control, remain a possible scenario.

A merger between Albania and Kosovo seems unlikely at least for the time being. Although Albania has been politically supportive of its ethnic brethren in Kosovo, and adopted an open-door policy towards the refugees, the Albanian government and opposition differently favoured the KLA and the LDK blocs, while there are also ideological differences between 'right' and 'left' wingers (the KLA has been perceived as 'Marxist'). On the other side, the Albanian flag may be flying all over Kosovo, but that does not mean that the Albanian Kosovars would vote for such a merger. Although ethnically and linguistically related, Albanian Kosovar society generally speaking tends to be more conservative but also wealthier than that in Albania. The refugee experience in Albania has made it possible to experience at first hand the family-ties but also the social and economic differences between them.

5.3. Regional stability.

The question of the end-status of Kosovo, and how it is being discussed formally but also informally, is of wider regional concern, not in the least in Montenegro and Macedonia. Both have ethnic Albanian minorities and fear the prospect of a 'Greater Albania' as much as those in the northern Balkans fear that of a 'Greater Serbia'. The government in Montenegro has increasingly openly questioned its continuing association with Belgrade to the dismay of pro-Belgrade Serbs in Montenegro. There remains a risk of military intervention by Serbia's security forces in Montenegro, which could create a new refugee flow into BIH and Kosovo.

The Kosovo war has done damage in Macedonia. This is not surprising as rising tensions between the majority Slav and Serb-speaking Macedonians and the minority ethnic Albanians in past decades tended to coincide with and result from rising tensions in Kosovo. Macedonia is the only republic that peacefully seceded from the old Yugoslavia in 1991. Since then it has sometimes been hailed as a model of a multi-ethnic society in the Balkans where differences are resolved through non-violent political processes. Indeed, Albanian Macedonians have used the existing constitutional and political mechanisms in pursuit of stronger recognition of group rights. But there is also a more radical movement, that the Macedonians see as fired by Albanian nationalists coming from Kosovo, that adopts extra-legal means. In 1991 many Albanian Macedonians boycotted the referendum on independence, while in 1992 a large majority of them in an illegal referendum expressed support for independence. In 1994 they declared an autonomous territory 'Illiryda' in western Macedonia. A hot spot is the town of Tetovo in western Macedonia where a non-official Albanian university is operating. The UN Preventive Deployment Mission in Macedonia (UNPREDEP 1992-early 1999) in turn has been hailed as a model of effective preventive diplomacy. Its original mission however was to deter aggression against Macedonia from its northern border. It took time before it started to pay attention to the internal tensions in Macedonia. This UN mission was terminated in February 1999, shortly before the NATO bombing campaign. By then a 4000 strong NATO 'extraction force' was already in place in Macedonia, to support the evacuation of the Kosovo Verification Mission, if needed. The increased deployments of NATO troops in Albania and Macedonia in response to the Kosovar refugee crisis in March and April 1999 is seen in Western circles as a humanitarian operation and a 'stabilising' act. The Macedonian government, that seeks integration with NATO and the EU, supported it, but the Slav-Macedonians saw it as a highly threatening development. The change from the UN to NATO meant a change from attempted mediation to perceived partiality. The Kosovo war thus generated distrust among many Macedonians in their own government, exacerbated tensions between Albanians and Slavs in that country. Macedonia is also economically affected: the FRY is its biggest trading partner (see ref. 11 and 12).


Critics point at what they call serious political miscalculations by the international community. The crisis in Kosovo was predictable, and the scenario that unrolled in 1999 had actually been predicted (MCI report). Western politicians were of course aware. But as Milosevic showed himself intransigent over Kosovo, the question of Kosovo was dropped from the Dayton Agreements. The result was a war in Kosovo. In that light and in the light of the experience of running after the successive crises in Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire, it is important now not to focus all attention and efforts on Kosovo. The need for regional approaches and regional solutions is recognised. NATO and EU membership are held up as prizes for the Balkan states, but it must be recognised that these are certainly not short term prospects. There is talk about a 'South-East European Stability Pact', aimed at economic regeneration and political stabilisation. This talk should quickly yield tangible benefits.

Even then there remains one problematic, and so far elusive, element for peace-building in the northern and southern Balkans: Serbia. The apparent end of the 'Kosovo war' is only one more step in an ongoing crisis.


This synthesis is derived from NGO reports, discussions with international agency staff in Kosovo in early November, and a variety of publicly available reports, especially:

1. 'United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. Questions and Answers' (July 1999) (mimeo)

2. 'Kosovo: Let's learn from Bosnia. Models and methods of international administration' (May 1999)

3. 'The New Kosovo Protectorate' (June 1999)

4. 'Who will lead the Kosovo Albanians now? Making sense of Kosovo's Feuding Factions' (June 1999)

5. ' The Policing Gap. Law and order in the new Kosovo' (August 1999)

6. 'Waiting for UNMIK. Local administration in Kosovo' (October 1999)

7. 'Violence in Kosovo. Who is killing whom?' (November 1999)

all produced by the International Crisis Group ( - see projects South Balkans)

8. 'Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Abuses against Serbs and Roma in the New Kosovo' (August 1999) by Human Rights Watch ( - see reports 1999, Kosovo)

9. 'The Position of Yugoslavia on NATO in Kosovo' (August 1999)

10. 'Undertaking of Demilitarisation and Transformation by the UCK' (21 June 1999)

11. 'Macedonia after the Kosovo War' (October 1999)

all posted on or /forum.

12. >Peacebuilding in Macedonia. Searching for common ground in civil society.= by M. Lumsden. 1999, Oslo, Peace Research Institute,

The International Rescue Committee is creating a website under its Kosovo Internet Project, see