Pristina/Brussels, 6 December 2007: Diplomatic efforts to broker a deal between Belgrade and Pristina on Kosovo’s final status will be fully exhausted with the conclusion of the Troika process on 10 December, and the international community must now coordinate a political process to bring about Kosovo’s conditional, or supervised, independence.

Kosovo Countdown: A Blueprint for Transition,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses why a decision to support Kosovo’s transition to conditional independence in the first half of 2008 should be delayed no longer, and offers a detailed step-by-step guide on  how this can be achieved and implemented.

“The longer status uncertainty lasts, the more agitated the region around Kosovo will become and the more a sense of developing security crisis will grow”, says Alex Anderson, Crisis Group’s Kosovo Project Director in Pristina. “To avoid instability filling the vacuum, Western capitals need to set out an orderly path for transition as soon as possible”.

Russia’s firm support for Serbia in the UN Security Council has greatly complicated Kosovo’s transition (which otherwise has broad international support) to the status of an independent country, but one operating under the close supervision of the international community, especially on Serbian minority rights issues, in accordance with the plan devised by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari earlier this year.

The report argues that Security Council Resolution 1244 should not operate as a constraint either on the deployment of EU rule-of-law and civilian transition missions now being planned, or on the ultimate recognition of Kosovo’s independence by individual states. As Crisis Group President Gareth Evans explains, “The language of 1244 does not explicitly guarantee the continuation of Serbia’s formal sovereignty until such time as the Security Council decides otherwise. It provides rather for a ‘political process’ to ‘determine Kosovo’s future status’. And the political process that will in fact unfold is recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty by a large number of states.”

Once the inevitable Troika failure is reported on or about 10 December, the “Quint” – France, Germany, Italy, the UK and U.S. – should, despite Serbian and Russian opposition, promptly begin implementing a plan to orchestrate a peaceful transition. The Quint and the EU –  specifically at the 14 December meeting of the European Council of heads of state and government –  must reaffirm that the Ahtisaari plan remains the best basis for the settlement of the Kosovo issue and underline that the EU is ready to assume a significant role in implementing the plan, including by deploying civilian and rule-of-law missions. And the UN Secretary-General should clearly welcome the EU pledge to create these new missions.

The transition process should begin with a statement by the new Kosovo government in January of its intent to declare independence 120 days later, in May 2008, making clear also its complete acceptance of the Ahtisaari plan, and its willingness for the EU immediately to deploy the new missions, as well as NATO to keep its force (KFOR) there. The Quint and as many EU member states as possible would, following that statement, commit to recognising Kosovo’s independence in May.

“All this will clearly require some delicate coordination, but it is certainly better for the international community to manage the process than to have to react to an uncoordinated, unsupervised, possibly violent independence procedure that could stimulate instability in Kosovo’s neighbour countries”, says Sabine Freizer, Director of Crisis Group’s Europe Program.

full report can be downloaded at: