On December 17th, the UN Security Council (UNSC) convened in an emergency meeting in an attempt to tackle the issue of Kosovo’s decision to transform its security force into an army.
In the briefing to the UNSC meeting, Jean Pierre Lacroix, head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) expressed his concern regarding the recent situation.
The decision by Kosovo’s “parliament” to form a national army was described by the UN Peacekeeping chief on December 17 as having “further deteriorated relations between Belgrade and Pristina,” which, he said, have been strained for some time.
He began his briefing by reminding of the November 21st tariffs that Kosovo imposed on all goods imported from Serbia and Bosnia, raising them from 10 to 100%. In response, the mayors of four Kosovo Serb-majority regions of northern Kosovo, announced their resignations and the parliaments of their municipalities stopped official communications with the capital, Pristina.
Serbia responded by saying that it would only take part in EU-facilitated talks with Kosovo if the tariffs were reversed.
Not only did the tariffs not get reversed, but Kosovo adopted three laws that provide for “substantial changes” to the mandate, role and strength of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF).
On December 14th, the Kosovo government released a statement:
“The Government of the Republic of Kosovo congratulates the citizens of Kosovo after approval by the Assembly of three draft laws, the Draft Law on the Security Force, the Draft Law on KSF Service and the Draft Law on the Ministry of Defense.
The Government of the Republic of Kosovo considers that Kosovo’s right for an army, a multiethnic and professional force built under the highest NATO standards, stems from sacrifice and freedom, from the rule of law, the sovereign, the will of the citizens to protect and promote pro-Western values in Kosovo and beyond. “Kosovo is NATO and NATO is Kosovo. For this no one has any doubt. Together with the allies, NATO will be only in the service of democracy, security, peace and development in Kosovo, the region and wherever it is required.”
Serbia, on its part condemned the decision, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic saying that Kosovo’s decision to upgrade the KSF into an army would not contribute to “cooperate, stability in the region.”
“It is better to sit down and talk about how we can build a different future, rather than look at how we can raise barriers,” she said.
According to Lacroix, Serbia characterized the move by Kosovo as an act of “political aggression” and called on KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force – which was set up following a Security Council resolution and is responsible for establishing a secure environment in the country – not to allow any kind of “Kosovo Army” to operate. Further claiming that the move is in violation of a UN resolution that ended Kosovo’s war for independence.
Lacroix said that it was crucial that the two countries avoid any steps that could further worsen the situation, and urged them to “find ways to re-engage in the dialogue aimed at the normalization of their mutual relations.” The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), he added, is working closely with KFOR, and focusing on inter-community trust building, which is “essential for the long-term normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.”
During the UNSC meeting, Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that Pristina is behaving “like a spoiled child who, when they don’t get their toy or what they want, throw a tantrum.”
Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nenebzya said that Kosovo’s decisions threatens to repeat the armed conflict in the Balkans.
“Emergence of Kosovo armed forces resents a threat to peace and security in the region, fraught with a repetition of the armed conflict,” the he said.
Speaking at the UN Security Council emergency meeting on Kosovo, Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzya said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army to replace its lightly armed emergency response force.
“The EU reaction to the decision by Pristina cannot be described as other than toothless. This irresponsible policy has crossed the line,” Nebenzya was cited as saying after the meeting.
The diplomat said the lack of decisive action on the part of the 28-member bloc was a “great disappointment,” adding that the EU seems to “have turned a blind eye on the illegal creation of Kosovo’s ‘army.’”
Earlier, on December 14th, UN chief António Guterres “noted with concern” Kosovo’s adoption of the draft laws to strengthen its Security Force, reiterating that only it has the responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment in the country, and calling on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from any actions that could raise tensions.
On the same day, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg released a statement, expressing regret that Kosovo made the decision, despite concerns expressed by NATO.
“NATO supports the development of the Kosovo Security Force under its current mandate. With the change of mandate, the North Atlantic Council will now have to re-examine the level of NATO’s engagement with the Kosovo Security Force.”
He further reiterated that the decision must not escalate tensions in the region.
On its part, the EU held the 3rd meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council between the European Union and Kosovo in Brussels on December 17th, no mention was made of Kosovo’s decision was made in the press release.
Earlier, however, following Kosovo’s decision on December 14th, the EU spokesperson Maja Kocijančič released a statement saying that “the mandate of the KSF should only be changed through an inclusive and gradual process in accordance with Kosovo Constitution.”
“The European Union expects Kosovo to continue upholding its obligations under the First Agreement concluded in Brussels in April 2013 and its security arrangements.”
On his part, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, on December 16th said that the decision was “irreversible,” while offering assurance that a new national military does not threaten ethnic Serbs living in the candidate country.
“Whatever happens at the Security Council, despite the concerns of a certain individual or a country, the formation of the Kosovo army is an irreversible act,” Thaci said.