2nd October 2013: Monthly OeKG meeting with guest speaker Jolyon NAEGELE, political director UNMIK

 

In the centuries before what is commonly accepted as the first modern peacekeeping mission in the region (the Dutch Military Mission, which was deployed in Albania in 1913-14), Austria undertook three military operations intended to expel Ottoman Turkey from the area - in 1688-90 , 1717 and 1789. However, once each of these operations had liberated Belgrade and proceeded to take Pristina and Skopje, they proved unsustainable, resulting in the resumption of Ottoman Turkish rule and the mass flight of large numbers of Christian inhabitants from Kosovo -Serbian Orthodox and Albanian Roman Catholics.

Two post-conflict international peacekeeping operations in the region both involved territorial disputes between Rome and Belgrade, first in 1919 over Fiume, (Rijeka in present-day Croatia), the second over Trieste and its hinterlands, which resulted in the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces in line with UN Security Council resolution 16 of 1947.

With the redrawing of the border between Albania and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (KSCS), Belgrade and Tirana, each for its own domestic reasons, starting in 1921 collaborated in a regional peacekeeping operation to put down the Kaçak ('brigands') rebellion in western Kosovo. Albania and KSCS established a neutral, demilitarized zone in 1922 around Junik. Belgrade's forces subsequently attacked the zone and weakened the rebels and early in the following year, Albanian forces entered the zone and drove out the rebels. Tirana and Belgrade subsequently established joint patrols to prevent the rebels from returning.

An international peacekeeping presence only returned to the western Balkans with the disintegration of Yugoslavia in July 1991, starting with: the European Community Monitor Mission or ECMM (since 2000, the European Union Monitoring Mission) in Croatia and subsequently Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and FYR Macedonia. ECMM was mandated to monitor military, political, economic, humanitarian, and human rights issues. It was targeted by Yugoslav forces early in the war in Croatia with the downing of an ECMM helicopter, killing all five on board.

Ten months after the arrival of ECMM, an armed force of peacekeepers was deployed: the UN Protection Force or UNPROFOR, initially in Croatia to ensure demilitarization of designated areas and subsequently extended to Bosnia and Herzegovina to support the delivery of humanitarian relief, monitor "no fly zones" and "safe areas" and later extended to the FYR Macedonia for preventive monitoring in border areas. By the standards of peacekeeping in the western Balkans, UNPROFOR suffered a high number of fatalities (167) which corresponded to the mission's size and the hostile military operations in its area of operations at the time.

Meanwhile, as Yugoslavia continued to disintegrate, in 1992, OSCE established in FYR Macedonia the OSCE Spillover Monitor Mission to Skopje, OSCE's longest-serving field mission, to help prevent tension and conflicts elsewhere in Yugoslavia from spreading into FYR Macedonia. With the end of the conflict in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, UNPROFOR was dissolved and was replaced by multiple missions: United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation or UNCRO and the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force or UNPREDEP in FYR Macedonia (1995-99).  The Dayton Peace Accords heralded the deployment of the Implementation Force or IFOR (Dec 1995-Dec. 1996), which was succeeded by the Stabilization Force or SFOR. Both were tasked with deterring hostilities and stabilizing the peace. SFOR lasted until December 2005, when, with the UN Security Council's authorization, it was replaced by: EUFOR, aka Operation EUFOR ALTHEA as part of the Common Security and Defense Policy in support of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The UN Security Council authorized EUFOR ALTHEA as a legal successor to SFOR. The UN Security Council on 21 December 1995 adopted resolution 1035 (1995), which established the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) and a UN civilian office in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in accordance with the Dayton Peace Agreement, that came to be known as the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH). The Security Council repeatedly renewed UNMIBH's mandate terminating it at the end of 2002, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1423. The UN Transitional Authority in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium or UNTAES (1996-98) was a transitional administration to govern the region for an initial period of 12 months, which could be extended for one additional year at the request of one of the parties; the transitional administration helped reintegrate the region peacefully into Croatia's legal and constitutional system. Thanks inter alia to a limited term with a deadline for completion, it worked - the mandate was fulfilled and Eastern Slavonia was reintegrated. Another successful mission was the UN Mission of Observers in Prevlaka or UNMOP (1996-2002) on the disputed Prevlaka Peninsula between Croatia and Montenegro. Meanwhile, in response to rampant anarchy in neighboring Albania, UN Security Council resolution 1101 (1997) established Operation Alba to prevent the unrest from spreading beyond Albania's borders.

The international community's engagement in Kosovo started with the deployment in mid-1998 of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM), consisting of some 50 diplomats who provided "intelligence about developments on the ground", which was subsequently expanded into the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM.) However, KVM faced insufficient support from contributing states and hence barely reached half its foreseen manpower of 2,000 by the time it was withdrawn from Kosovo in March 1999, just days before NATO launched airstrikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). KVM was tasked with verifying FRY's compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 1160 and 1199; i.e. to verify the October 1999 ceasefire, monitor the movement of forces, and promote human rights and democracy-building. KVM drew attention to the killings at Raçak/Račak of 45 young K-Albanian men on 15 January 1999, resulted in preparations by the U.S. and NATO for airstrikes against FRY.

The Rambouillet peace talks in February and the subsequent Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government In Kosovo of 23 February  which Kosovo signed and Serbia rejected were among a number of attempts to avoid the increasingly inevitable airstrikes, which were launched on 24 March and lasted 78 days, far longer than had been predicted and were accompanied by a new humanitarian catastrophe with an estimated 900,000 residents of Kosovo fleeing to FYR Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and onwards to third countries as well as the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of civilians in Serbia proper. As the airstrikes proceeded, NATO established the Albania Force or AFOR, which became a precursor to the Kosovo Force or KFOR.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević capitulated in the wake of NATO's reported obliteration on 7 June of a concentration of Yugoslav artillery northwest of Prizren. The airstrikes ended with the signing of the Kumanovo Military Technical Agreement of 9 June 1999, providing for a cessation of hostilities, a phased withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serbian security forces and the deployment of KFOR. The following day, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 (1999), establishing an international civilian presence - the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo UNMIK and an international military presence, the NATO-led KFOR.

At its height in 2000-01, UNMIK was the largest UN civilian peacekeeping mission to date with more than 10,000 staff engaged in local and central government initially through the Joint Interim Administration Structure followed by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government. UNMIK continues to be credited by Kosovo's leaders for its achievements prior to the Kosovo' Assembly's Declaration of Independence. Since then Kosovo representatives have on various occasions expressed the hope for the closure of UNMIK as in their view its job has been completed. Two years after the establishment of UNMIK and KFOR, three other, albeit brief, consecutive peacekeeping missions were established in FYR Macedonia in support of the Ohrid Framework Agreement of August 2001: NATO's Task Force 'Essential Harvest' was deployed to collect weapons handed over by M-Albanian insurgents, as they disbanded. The mission operated until 31 March 2003 and was succeeded by an EU military mission EUFOR Concordia from 31 March 2003 until 15 December 2003, which in turn was immediately followed by a largely unarmed EU Police Mission EUPOL Proxima with a staff of about 180.

This summary reflects the personal views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the United Nations

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