The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo
In June 1999, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1244 to establish the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). This mission was enacted to help establish a Kosovar government, facilitate the development of democratic institutions, coordinate humanitarian relief, and promote security, stability and respect for human rights.
In August 2008, the UN mission transferred its authority to the government of Kosovo and to the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). The transfer has allowed the Kosovar government to assume responsibility over its country and its citizens, while the UN mission continues to provide support and guidance to the government and EULEX.
The Mission's mandate includes:
• Demilitarizing armed groups;
• Providing security for the return of the displaced and refugees;
• Monitoring the border;
• Facilitating the political process;
• Building government capacity.
In 1989, Kosovo, a semi-autonomous province of Yugoslavia mostly made up of ethnic Albanians, was stripped of its autonomy by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
In response, the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army attacked Serb targets, which led to a violent crackdown by the Serbian army and the persecution of Kosovar Albanians, killing more than 1,500 and forcing 400,000 more from their homes. Read more || Hide text
Due to the humanitarian consequences and regional impacts of the escalating crisis, the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted resolution 1199 in September 1998. The resolution expressed concerns over the excessive use of force by the Serbian military against Kosovar Albanians and called for a ceasefire by both parties.
Despite the international community's diplomatic efforts, in March 1999, violence erupted again. In June 1999, the United States led a NATO campaign to halt ethnic cleansing in Kosovo carried out by the Serbian military. NATO continued airstrikes against the Serbian forces for 78 days until then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic withdrew all Serbian forces from Kosovo. At that time, the UNSC authorized resolution 1244, establishing UNMIK to govern Kosovo.
In February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo unanimously declared Kosovo's independence from Serbia and established the Republic of Kosovo. This declaration was formally legalized by the International Court of Justice on July 22, 2010. The Republic is now recognized by 98 states, including the United States. Prior to this formal declaration in 2008, much of the UN's authority had been transferred to Kosovo's government and EULEX. Although Serbian and Albanian relations within Kosovo are tense, the government has made an effort to engage with the country’s minority populations. Currently, northern Serbs are guaranteed 10 representatives in the Assembly of Kosovo, while ten more seats are allocated for other minority ethnic groups.
UNMIK is now in its final chapter as the UN continues to downsize its presence in Kosovo. In December 2010, Kosovo authorities conducted democratic elections without UNMIK involvement. After the constitutional court ruled the first election unconstitutional due to reports of voting irregularities, Kosovo elected deputy general director of Kosovo police, Atifete Jahjaga, president on April 7, 2011. The 37-year-old represents the country’s Independent Party and is Kosovo’s first female president. In addition to her background as a police officer, Jahjaga attended professional research programs at both the National Academy of the FBI and the Department of Justice in the U.S.
How UNMIK Affects American Interests
- Secures a peaceful Kosovo. The United States seeks a stable, democratic, and economically viable Kosovo, and over the last ten years, UNMIK has made substantial strides in establishing peace and security in the region. Due to its success, and the fact that Kosovo is now self-governing, the UN is decreasing its personnel. Still, UNMIK and the United States continue to work with NATO forces to maintain stability in the region. Almost 800 Americans serve in NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR). Additionally, since 1999, the United States has contributed over $1.2 billion to Kosovo's development. It is estimated that $67.45 million in US aid went to Kosovo in the year 2012.
- Supports the Kosovo Police Service. UNMIK has worked with the United States to provide the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) with training and guidance. The U.S. will provide the KPS with an estimated $58 million in 2013, which will include $3 million in Foreign Military Financing and $700,000 for International Military Education Training (IMET). The UN and U.S. investment has helped the police service become a highly respected and trusted institution. KPS now commands all 33 police stations, six Regional Police Headquarters, and 13 border control stations throughout the country.
- Fosters better relations. The UN continues to monitor Kosovo closely, and reports that progress has been made in the northern region. The Mitrovica North administrative office has begun providing services aimed at forging a better relationship between northern Serbs and the Kosovo government. By renovating public buildings, rehabilitating playgrounds and providing wireless Internet access in public parks, the 55 workers in the administrative office are attempting to mollify hostilities and cultivate trust. These civilian workers, however, still report intimidation tactics, such as the burning of three staff vehicles between July 16 and October 15, 2012.
- Prosecutes serious crimes. The UNMIK Department of Justice (DOJ) division has improved the process for prosecuting serious crimes, including cases of corruption, terrorism, and war crimes. As local capacity improves, the UN has begun shifting responsibilities to local institutions. It is also working with the Kosovo Special Prosecutors Office to enable local prosecutors to take on more serious cases in the future. Since commencing operations in December 2008, EULEX has prioritized cases handed over by UNMIK. In Mitrovica, local staff continues work to establish an inventory of 30,000 prosecution files necessary for the government to address past human rights violations. Therefore, the Interministerial Working Group on Dealing with the Past and Reconciliation committee was formed on July 4, 2012 to deal with human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law.
- Promotes economic development. UNMIK is actively engaged in the promotion of economic development and stability, and over the years, Kosovo has demonstrated growth in the global market place. In 2006, UNMIK signed Kosovo’s accession to the Central Europe Free Trade Area (CEFTA) on the country’s behalf, and in 2009, Kosovo joined the International Monetary Fund. The US also believes that Kosovo can be a valuable trading partner, having exported over $18 million worth of goods and services to Kosovo in 2012.
- Divided communities. While progress has been made, divisions between Albanians and Serbs continue. Within Kosovo itself, there are ongoing tensions between the country’s ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority. Serb defiance is rooted in the north, where Kosovo’s courts, police, and customs authorities do not operate. In September of 2012, at a joint session between Kosovo officials and northern Kosovo municipalities, Kosovo’s northern residents refused to recognize the independence of Kosovo in any form. Additionally, Kosovo’s central municipal governments do not provide sufficient safeguards to protect the human rights of minority communities.
- Unfriendly neighbors. Serbia continues to resist recognizing Kosovo’s independence. Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, emphasized that his country “will never, under any circumstances, implicitly or explicitly, recognize the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian authorities.” In an effort to continue talks between Serbia and Kosovo leaders, the UNMIK facilitated a new security coordination forum in northern Kosovo which included EULEX, the Kosovo Force (KFOR), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and northern Kosovo leaders. There are ongoing talks about the country’s cooperating on such projects as certifying diplomas, establishing freedom of movement, and joint managing crossing points.
- Unprepared for returnees. It is estimated that there are currently 182,955 Kosovar refugees and 17,900 internally displaced people. Many fear that poor economic conditions and weak institutions will lead to continued instability. Additionally, minority groups (Serbs and others) do not believe the government and the international community can protect them should they return to their communities. UNMIK continues to work with the European Union and the government to help families return to Kosovo.
*Last Updated January 2013