B B. Explanatory memorandum by Mr von
Following a request for a debate under urgent procedure
on the political situation in the Balkans, the Political Affairs
Committee appointed me rapporteur on 3 October 2011. This was prompted
by the recent upsurge of tension and political instability in the
Balkans, and in particular: the violent clashes in North KosovoNote
the administrative checkpoints with Serbia, which led to one death
during the summer and the continuing tensions and outbreaks of violence
even today, blocking progress in the EU-mediated talks between Pristina and
Belgrade; the political impasse in Bosnia and Herzegovina which,
one year after the October 2010 general elections, is still without
a state-level government, representing the longest political crisis
in the country since the end of the war in 1995.
2 In Albania, a long-standing political crisis following the
last parliamentary and local elections seems to have come to an
end with the formal conclusion of the local elections and the decision
of the leader of the Socialist Party to end his party’s boycott
of the parliament.
It is worth recalling that, on 26 January 2011, the Parliamentary
Assembly adopted Resolution
(2011) and Recommendation
(2011) on reconciliation and political dialogue
between the countries of the former Yugoslavia, in which it supported
the efforts of the countries of the former Yugoslavia to reconcile
and reconstruct a new relationship with each other; welcomed their
commitment to regional co-operation and their willingness to overcome
the legacy of the past, and called for renewed efforts by all the
governments in the region to achieve full reconciliation and Euro-Atlantic
integration. Current tension with respect to North Kosovo and the
political stalemate in Bosnia and Herzegovina endanger both the
reconciliation process and the process of Euro-Atlantic integration.
4 It should be recalled that, since the unilateral
declaration of independence of 17 February 2008, the Kosovo institutions
consider themselves to be the sovereign and legitimate authorities
of Kosovo and have taken steps to affirm Kosovo’s statehood. Eighty-four
members of the United Nations have recognised the independence of
Kosovo. For its part, Serbia claims Kosovo as part of its own sovereign
The Assembly expressed its views on Kosovo most recently in
2010 when adopting Resolution
(2010) and Recommendation
(2010) on the situation in Kosovo and the role of
the Council of Europe on the basis of a status-neutral approach.Note
6 I was rapporteur for that report and have continued to follow
the situation since then. In fact, I visited Kosovo in November
2010 prior to the elections.
7 In its reply to last year’s recommendation on Kosovo, the
Committee of Ministers outlined the co-operation programmes already
established in Kosovo (mostly as part of joint Council of Europe/European Union
projects) and acknowledged that any monitoring process of the situation
in Kosovo would only be truly meaningful if the relevant and competent
authorities in Kosovo were directly involved in the monitoring process and
responsible for following up the recommendations. The Ministers’
Deputies’ willingness to launch a feasibility study on the implementation
of the monitoring mechanisms of Council of Europe conventions in Kosovo
is to be particularly welcomed.
8 North Kosovo refers to a region in the northern part of Kosovo
with an ethnic Serb majority which functions largely autonomously
from the remainder of the disputed territory, which has an ethnic
Albanian majority. Parallel Serb institutions function in North
Kosovo for Serbs living there, a situation clearly opposed by the
institutions of Kosovo. NATO-led Kosovo Peace Forces (KFOR) provide
security from external and internal threats to the entire territory
9 At the end of July 2011, tension in North Kosovo was triggered
by the Kosovo Government’s decision to send special police forces
to take control of two checkpoints at the administrative border
with Serbia so as to enforce a ban on the import of Serbian products.
The checkpoints had until then been guarded by ethnic Serb members
of the Kosovo police. The Kosovo Government suspected them of failing
to implement customs controls. The Kosovo authorities’ efforts to
take control of the checkpoints were resisted by ethnic Serbs in North
Kosovo. The latter set up road blocks and barricades and demanded
that a solution be found to the issue of checkpoints control. A
Kosovo police officer was murdered on 25 July 2011 and further violence
erupted. On 28 July 2011, with tension mounting, the two crossings
were declared restricted military zones by KFOR.
10 Despite a request by Serbia to the United Nations Security
Council to prevent the Kosovo authorities from taking control of
checkpoints, on 16 September 2011, the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX)
deployed customs and border officers, protected by NATO KFOR forces.
11 Today, tensions remain high in the North, and there have been
further outbreaks of violence between KFOR forces and Kosovo Serbs,
who continue to reject the presence of Kosovo customs officers at
the administrative border between Kosovo and Serbia.
12 As a result of the escalation of tension, a round of EU-brokered
talks between Belgrade and Pristina, due to take place in Brussels
on 27 and 28 September 2011, was indefinitely adjourned. The Serbian authorities
initially wanted to resolve the stalemate by putting the issue on
the agenda of the regular EU-mediated dialogue with Pristina, but
the Kosovo Government refused to discuss it. On 28 September 2011, Serbia
pulled out of the EU-mediated scheduled dialogue session, after
stating that it would only discuss the border situation. It is likely
that EU talks will be extremely difficult to resume until the situation
in North Kosovo has been resolved.
13 There has been a strong international response to the latest
developments in Kosovo.
14 The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign
Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, urged the two sides
to refrain from further actions and to find a peaceful solution
to the problem via dialogue. The United States has accused the Serbs
of provoking violence, while the Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed
deep concern over the situation in Kosovo, stating that this conflict,
largely perceived as a border incident, could destabilise the situation
in the whole region.
15 On 28 September, the members of the United Nations Security
Council gathered for emergency consultations in New York to discuss
the situation in southern Serbia, but failed to reach a common stance
on the conflict.
16 The government and opposition in Pristina have been unanimous
in arguing that the actions of the Kosovo authorities are legitimate
and should continue until the full implementation of control on
the checkpoints. On 29 September, Kosovo's Interior Minister, Bajram
Rexhepi, said that roadblocks put up by local Serbs would be removed,
while pledging that the Kosovo authorities would make no unilateral
moves and that any action would be co-ordinated with KFOR forces
and the EU mission.
17 The Serbian Government has firmly condemned the violence in
Kosovo and has called on KFOR and EULEX to guarantee security in
Kosovo and not to tolerate unilateral moves on the part of the Kosovo authorities.
It also stated that the government will not give up the search for
a peaceful solution to the Kosovo issue.
18 It is most unfortunate that the matter of controlling the
Northern Kosovo border is now being considered in the context of
a state of crisis and tension.
19 However, it is to be welcomed that the Serb authorities have
demonstrated that they are committed to the dialogue and are ready
to seek a solution to specific problems.
20 While the arrest of former Bosnian Serb military commander
Ratko Mladic and Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic earlier this
year seemed to have removed the last remaining blocks to Serbia
gaining EU candidate status, on 22 August, German Chancellor Angela
Merkel announced that she would demand that Serbia become a stabilising
factor in the Balkans, especially by improving its relations with
Kosovo. She expected the pro-Western government coalition led by
President Boris Tadic’s Democratic Party to abandon its dual policy
of seeking EU membership while denying Kosovo’s independence.
21 It would seem unlikely that Serbia will make considerable
progress towards normalising its relations with Kosovo before the
2012 elections. The goal of the Serbian ruling coalition will most
likely be to find the fine balance between acquiring EU candidacy
status and resisting the pressure to recognise Kosovo as this would significantly
boost the re-election bid of Serbia’s current coalition partners
in the forthcoming elections. However, if Serbia obtains candidacy
status while failing to meet Chancellor Merkel’s demands, the European Union
could lose leverage vis-à-vis Serbia in its efforts to stabilise
22 At the same time, the situation in North Kosovo delays Kosovo’s
own progress towards European integration, including the long-standing
visa liberalisation process for people from Kosovo.
23 I believe that the solution lies eventually in seeking a compromise,
with the two sides making concessions. A political agreement on
how to run North Kosovo is a prerequisite for a long-term sustainable solution.
Securing such an agreement is essential not only for the sake of
stability in the Balkans, but also with regard to the EU bids of
both Belgrade and Pristina.
3 Bosnia and Herzegovina
24 3 October 2011 marked one year following the October
2010 general elections. One year later, Bosnia and Herzegovina is
still without a state-level government. This is the longest political
crisis since the end of the war in 1995.
25 The outgoing government is handling current affairs but cannot
introduce the reforms necessary for Bosnia and Herzegovina to be
in a position to join the European Union. The Stabilisation and
Association Agreement (SAA), ratified by all EU member states since
October 2010, has still not been put into force because Bosnia and
Herzegovina would immediately have to be found in violation of the
agreement for failure to adopt a law on census, a law on state aid
and a constitutional reform aimed at eliminating the discrimination found
by the European Court of Human Rights to be in violation of the
European Convention on Human Rights in the Sejdic
and Finci case in December 2009.
26 This situation has dire consequences: the country has seen
its credit ratings downgraded by international financial agencies;
foreign direct investments have fallen 75% since 2009; unemployment
is at over 43% of the working population; the state functions on
temporary financing since no state budget has yet been adopted.
This is not to mention the serious damage done to the country’s
reputation abroad. The struggle among the various levels of government
(state level, entity level, cantons) over the distribution of the
€96 million allocated by the European Union under the 2011 Instrument
for pre-accession (IPA) may result in part of the funds being re-allocated
to regional programmes, while the International Monetary Fund may
be unable to disburse the second tranche of the €1.2 billion stand-by
arrangement. Bankruptcy and over indebtedness loom in both entities.
The root cause of this problem lies in the fight, on an ethnic
basis, over the allocation of ministerial posts in the 10-member
Council of Ministers. There are nine ministries (and nine deputy
ministers), plus a chairperson, to be shared between the main ethnic
parties representing the three constituent peoples: the Bosniacs,
Serbs and Croats.Note
28 It may be recalled that the main winner of the October 2010
elections was the multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party. In coalition
with the main Bosniac party (SDA) and two small Croat parties (HSP
and NSRzB), they hold 17 of the 42 seats in the state parliament
and are thus claiming the post of Chairperson of the Council of
Ministers. Their candidate, Mr Slavo Kukic, an ethnic Croat not
affiliated to any party, was not however confirmed by parliament
in July 2011, due to the opposition of the Serb and mainstream Croat
According to the law on the Council of Ministers, the three-member
Presidency should have presented new candidates for the post of
Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers within the following eight
days. Instead, they are still waiting for an inter-party agreement
on the distribution of posts. The last meeting of the six main party
leaders, on 26 September 2011 in Brcko, produced no results, despite
the main Serb parties (SNSD and SDS)Note
showing a little more flexibility than
before. The main stumbling block remains the allocation of the posts
“reserved” for the Croats: both the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)
and the breakaway HDZ-1990, which together hold four seats in the
state parliament, insist that they are the only “legitimate” representatives
of the Bosnian Croats and therefore demand three ministries, including
the post of Chairperson of the Council of Ministers. They do not
accept that ethnic Croats, members of the multi-ethnic SDP, are legitimate
representatives of the Croat people, since a number of them, including
the Croat member of the Presidency, were elected with the help of
30 This political impasse does not foster inter-ethnic trust
and a sense of common good for the country. It has furthermore strengthened
the allegation of the authorities in Republika Srpska that “peaceful
separation” would be a better solution. The Croat community, for
its part, which represents between 10% and 12% of the total population
(while Bosniacs make up between 40% and 48% of the 3.9 million inhabitants)
fears marginalisation and political irrelevance.
31 Unless the party leaders act quickly to resolve matters, Bosnia
and Herzegovina risks becoming a black hole in the Western Balkans:
indeed the state constitution and election legislation do not provide
for the possibility of holding early elections. The political impasse
could in theory last until the next general elections scheduled
32 Furthermore, this situation affects regional co-operation.
Relations with Serbia have been slowly improving over the past couple
of years, but Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is the only country
from the region not to have recognised Kosovo, was until recently
violating the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) by refusing
to recognise customs stamps bearing the symbols of Kosovo or the
inscription “Kosovo Customs Services” (as recognised by UNMIK).
The so-called Sarajevo process aimed at finding a global solution
to the refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) problem in
the region is not yet developing sufficient momentum.
33 Bosnia and Herzegovina has also failed to fulfil its obligations
and commitments to the Council of Europe. In particular, almost
two years after the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights,
no credible efforts have been made to implement the Sejdic and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina judgment.
Minorities or the "others" that do not belong to the "three constituent
peoples" (Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs) are still unable to stand
34 Albania has recently experienced a serious political
crisis over the outcome of the Tirana mayoral election, which was
itself rooted in the political crisis that ensued after the June
2009 parliamentary elections.
Alleging that fraud had taken place in a number of districts,
the Socialist party appealed against the results of the 2009 parliamentary
elections to the Central Election Commission (CEC), and later to
the Electoral College.Note
both instances, the appeals of the Socialist party were dismissed.
In protest against the outcome of the elections, the Socialist party
decided to boycott the work of the parliament, as well as of a number
of state institutions. Given that the governing majority lacks the
three-fifths qualified majority to implement constitutional and
organic changes, this boycott has negatively affected the implementation
of a number of important reforms needed for possible accession to
the European Union, which is one of the main political priorities
for the country. Eventually, the Socialist party ended its boycott
of the parliament and replaced it by a “conditional relation with
the parliament”. This decision was partly guided by the wish not
to lose its parliamentary mandates, which it would have lost if
its members had not been sworn in within six months after the elections.
While the Socialist party formally returned to the parliament, in
reality the stagnation and political stand-off continued. This in
turn affected the preparations for the local elections that were
held on 8 May 2011.
36 Following the local elections, Mr Lulzim Basha (Democratic
Party) was officially declared the winner of the 2011 mayoral election
for Tirana, on 23 June 2011, with a majority of 93 votes over his
rival, incumbent Mayor Edi Rama (Socialist Party). The Central Election
Commission's decisions were strongly disputed and several appeals
were filed against the results. A re-run of the elections was demanded
from the Electoral College by the Socialist party. However, these
appeals and demands were rejected by the Electoral College on legal
grounds. On 1 August 2011, Mr Basha was installed as the new Mayor
According to information provided by the Monitoring Committee’s
co-rapporteurs on Albania, Mr Jirsa and Mr Petrenco, on their recent
fact-finding visit to Tirana (30 June to 1 July 2011),Note
2011 local elections in Albania are now formally concluded and their
outcome seems to have been accepted by the Albanian population,
if not by all its political leaders.
38 In a welcome development, the international community has
acted in unison under the co-ordination of the Ambassadors of the
European Union, the United States and the OSCE. This has been instrumental
in avoiding the escalation and internationalisation of the crisis
and has contributed to the final acceptance of the outcome of these
elections by the electoral stakeholders, including, most importantly,
the Albanian voters.
39 The leader of the Socialist Party, Mr Rama, explicitly promised
that his party would not boycott the parliament again and would
return to work after the summer break. It is now important that
all parties work towards normalising the political situation and
engage in a political dialogue within the parliament on the priorities
for the country including the EU accession talks.
40 I welcome the agreement reached recently between the ruling
Democratic Party and the Socialist Party to proceed with electoral
reform to address the shortcomings encountered in both the parliamentary
and local elections. Such a reform should also aim at increasing
the possibilities for smaller parties to enter the parliament. This
would increase representativeness and pluralism and stop the political
bipolarisation which has marked Albanian politics for the last decades
and much frustrated the Albanian people. It is equally important
to put an end to the practice of negotiating over and changing the
electoral code on the eve of each election.
41 In this context, it may be noted that the Secretary General
of the Council of Europe wrote to the Albanian authorities, informing
them of his intention to ask the Venice Commission for an opinion
on how the shortcomings noted during the local elections can be
avoided in the future. This was seen by some of the co-rapporteurs’
interlocutors as possible interference in the domestic court proceedings.
However, in my view, the Secretary General’s intentions were misunderstood
and I fully support his proposal which seeks to improve and clarify
the election code for future elections.
42 I understand that the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee
intend to return to Albania to assess the progress made in honouring
the full spectrum of accession obligations and commitments of Albania
to the Council of Europe. It is very important that the political
stand-off does not continue to paralyse the legislative process
and the adoption of the reforms that are needed for the country,
including the start of accession negotiations with the European
5 Need for continuous close monitoring of the
43 Both Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina are under
the Assembly’s monitoring procedure. Therefore, the situation there
is and must continue to be followed closely by the Monitoring Committee.
For its part, the Political Affairs Committee is closely following
the situation in Kosovo. A new visit should be organised soon and
we should hold an exchange of views on the overall situation in
Kosovo, in the presence of representatives of the political forces
elected to the Kosovo Assembly, in line with Resolution 1739
(2010), at one of
our next meetings.
45 Hence, through the work of the Political Affairs Committee,
on the one hand, and the Monitoring Committee, on the other, the
Assembly should continue to follow closely the situation in these
countries and, if need be, in other countries in the Balkans with
a view to promoting security, stability and respect for democracy,
the rule of law and human rights. Concrete recommendations are made
in the draft resolution.