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Two to Tango: An Agenda for the New Kosovo SRSG


A new Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri, has taken up his post at the helm of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). While UNMIK is in its fourth year, the current period is one of the most sensitive since the war. The province’s elected Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) are gradually gaining more responsibility, and final status discussions are approaching. However, recent security incidents, including the killings of a UN police officer and two Kosovo Serb teenagers in August 2003, are a stark reminder that stability is not yet deep-rooted. Frustration is growing with the poor state of the economy and the delay of the international community in addressing status. In the midst of these challenges, the crucial relationship between UNMIK and the PISG has become dangerously strained. Holkeri will need to come quickly to terms with the legacy of confrontation and tension left by his predecessor, Michael Steiner, and instil in his team a new attitude of respect for PISG and a reflex for consultation rather than unilateral action.

This report analyses case studies and concludes that, rather than being a natural by-product of power-sharing and essential to identifying problems so that they could be corrected, tense relations between the Steiner-led administration and the PISG often distracted officials from the effort to build democratic institutions and created unnecessary hostility and ill-feeling. The key objective – to establish functioning democratic institutions with checks and balances among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government – has too frequently been lost in the rhetoric of who is to blame for Kosovo’s governance problems.

Such conflict is not inevitable. Kosovo has generally been a welcoming environment for the international community. Holkeri has a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the previous UNMIK administration, refresh relations with the PISG, and ensure that any disputes lead to the identification and resolution of problems, rather than the exacerbation of tensions. Putting the relationship with the government back on track is essential. Holkeri will have to navigate extremely sensitive and important issues – such as the incipient dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the transfer of competencies to the PISG, and the implementation strategy for the benchmarks UNMIK has established as a precondition to the ultimate turn over of its authority. Maintaining a professional and collaborative relationship with the PISG will be important to ensure that these issues result in steps forward, not steps backward.

The PISG also shares responsibility for ensuring that relations are collaborative. It is the weaker party in this relationship, with no status internationally and reliant upon UNMIK for reporting progress to the Security Council. Kosovo officials must recognise that cooperative interaction is in their direct interest. Public disputes with UNMIK mark Kosovo’s reputation at a delicate time. While clamouring for more power, Kosovo officials must take seriously those areas of authority that they do have – such as the education and health sectors. They must also constructively use the instrument developed to guide the hand over of competencies to the PISG – the Transfer Council. PISG officials must show leadership by becoming proactive in developing and maintaining dialogue and constructive relations with UNMIK and assisting in creating an effectively functioning government.

This report outlines several critical issues that the government and UNMIK will have to address together. It also provides recommendations on how the two sides can put their relationship back on track. The fates of UNMIK and the PISG are intertwined. To safeguard its credibility and ensure its role in future peacekeeping missions, the UN needs its engagement in Kosovo to be a success. The PISG needs to safeguard continued international support and its path towards European integration. Yet neither side appears to recognise their shared destiny. Given the challenges ahead, this must change.


To the New SRSG, Harri Holkeri:

  1. Develop a clearly focused policy agenda that can reasonably be implemented given the declining resources available to UNMIK and its actual capacity.

  1. Share the spotlight in the local and international media with Kosovo’s elected officials in order to encourage and force them to exercise leadership.

  1. Acknowledge the contribution made by government officials at international events, including UNMIK’s quarterly report to the Security Council and lobby for the President and Prime Minister of Kosovo to be invited to Security Council sessions on Kosovo.

  1. Recognise that although UNMIK is a peacekeeping mission, capacity building and development are an important component of its mandate.

  1. Ensure that UNMIK policy initiatives are discussed with government officials before decisions are taken and public announcements made, and be prepared to negotiate with the PISG about its role in implementation.

  1. Initiate and co-chair with the Prime Minister a bi-weekly meeting between senior representatives of UNMIK and the government.

  1. Ensure that UNMIK officials – particularly the Principal International Officers assigned to ministries – have the skills and experience necessary to undertake their important capacity building role and encourage them where feasible to make the transition from executive roles to advisory positions.

  1. Together with the PISG, operationalise the Special Chamber of the Supreme Court to determine violations of the Constitutional Framework.

  1. Ensure that diplomatic offices – including development agencies – are consulted on key UNMIK actions.

  1. Activate the Independent Oversight Board for the Civil Service and do not suspend civil service officials unless appropriate procedures are followed.

  1. Reinvigorate the Transfer Council and use it to incorporate PISG officials gradually in areas of UNMIK’s reserved authority.

  1. Permit the government to manage the budget in areas under its responsibility (Chapter Five of the Constitutional Framework.

To the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government:

  1. Develop a coherent government platform, with specific policy initiatives, and build consensus with the political parties for these initiatives so that ministers do not undermine the Prime Minister.

  1. Proactively engage with UNMIK on key policy issues and carefully choose areas of confrontations.

  1. Revise the Assembly rules of procedure by removing the provision for blanket immunity and ensuring documentation is shared with UNMIK.
  1. Stop placing conditions on the initiation of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and begin to prepare for these talks by building consensus with political parties on the agenda.
  1. Ensure that senior officials, including President Rugova, regularly address the Assembly.
  1. Ensure that the Assembly exercises its mandate to hold the government accountable, for example by initiating a bi-weekly period to question ministers.
  1. Support an apolitical civil service and reach outside of Kosovo’s institutions to civil society for assistance on sensitive issues such as discussions with Belgrade.

To the Diplomatic Offices in Kosovo:

  1. Support the inclusion of areas reserved for UNMIK’s competence (Chapter Eight of the Constitutional Framework) in the work of the Transfer Council.
  1. Actively engage with UNMIK to build domestic consensus – particularly among leaders of political parties – on sensitive issues.

Pristina/Brussels, 3 September 2003


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