The UN SC session regarding the situation in Kosovo, or why the sessions of the institution are not a waste of time

Author: Miloš Hrnjaz

Morning show of one of our popular television stations. The journalists are having a chat on various issues, including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session on the current state of affairs in Kosovo after the regulation of the Kosovo Central Bank on cash operations. The said regulation, among others, foresees that euro alone is to be used in Kosovo as legal tender. The guest on the show says: “And even when they organize these Security Council sessions, it’s all a waste of time and nothing more.” This is an illustration of collective thinking of analysts, who have all recently in unison been explaining that nothing should be expected from this session, which was called urgently by Serbia, and that these sessions are usually “for internal use only.”

A more careful analysis shows, however, that such estimates are superficial. This can be seen if the said session held on February 8 is placed in a broader political context and UNSC jurisdiction, but also if the possible consequences of what was said at the session are examined.

Political context of UNSC session from February 8

This February 17 marks sixteen years since the Declaration of Independence of Kosovo was adopted. During this time we had seen a steady conclusion of Kosovo’s statehood, which is probably going slower than many had hoped in Kosovo and in the West, but quicker and more certain than the majority in Serbia would have liked. The process of finalizing the said statehood happens by Pristina obtaining an ever greater number of jurisdictions which are a characteristic of a sovereign state. It spreads them and applies in Northern Kosovo, i.e. Serb-majority municipalities.

This is the context within which the regulation on cash operations of Kosovo Central Bank should be seen. Statements, such as those made by Nenad Rašić, that this issue should be observed as an operational challenge, and not a political matter, are not entirely true. The matter of legal currency in Kosovo is a technical and political one at the same time, due to the broader context within which this regulation was adopted, and within which it is to function. As was pointed out in multiple places, it also has immense consequences to the daily lives of Serbs in Kosovo and companies who do business in this territory.

Jurisdiction of the UNSC and importance of its sessions – the case of Kosovo I find it somewhat odd to explain the importance of UNSC sessions. In an institutional sense, it is the most important United Nations institution for keeping peace and security worldwide. In a practical sense, it is an institution where power is concentrated. At the same time, the UNSC has adopted over 130 resolutions which deal with Yugoslavia and Serbia, whose importance cannot be overemphasized. It is also the most important international institution, where the situation in Kosovo is discussed every 6 months. In the end, sessions are also an opportunity to present and legitimize of Serbia in a less formal way in regards to Kosovo.

UNSC session from February 8 – events and outcomes

On February 5 this year, the Permanent Representative of Serbia with the UN has submitted a request to hold a UNSC session, invoking Article 35 of the UN Charter, and Article 3 of the Rules of Procedure of the UNSC. Although there were assessments that submitting the request was a success or the fact the UNSC accepted to deal with this issue was a success, the UNSC practice shows that this institution rarely denies the requests coming from member states that the UNSC discusses a particular situation in regards to Article 35.

In this text it is not possible to present in detail the opinions of all participants of the discussion in front of the UNSC, so I will stick to the most important impressions. First to address the audience was Carolien Ziadeh, head of UNMIK, who expressed deep concerns regarding the unilateral actions which clearly fall under the process of political dialogue and agreements reached within it. At the same time, she said that “such actions not only increase tensions, but weaken possibilities for reaching lasting peace and security among all communities in Kosovo,” and that “more needs to be done in the spirit of conflict prevention in order to gain members of non-majority communities.”

These assessments made by the head of UNMIK are important not just because they criticize the unilateral actions that were discussed during the session, but also because they are tied to future moves of the Pristina government which, although legal, must have in mind interests of non-majority communities in Kosovo.

The President of Serbia placed the regulation on cash operations within the context of “widely spread attacks and exile” of Serbs in Kosovo, which leads to “irreparable damage” to local population, insisting on practical consequences of this regulation’s implementation to the Serbs in the north of Kosovo. At the same time, he said that such a regulation breaks the previously agreed upon agreements from 2015, EU regulations, and that it represents the continuation of “structural violence” over Serbs. Terms such as “widespread attacks” and “exile” were used to emphasize stopping the so-called “crimes against humanity” over Serbs.

On the other side, the Prime Minister of Kosovo rejected such statements, citing findings and reports of international institutions. He placed them within the context of purported “colonial and genocidal policies” of Serbia, and pointed out his dedication to the process of dialogue and cooperation which he has with Serbs in Kosovo. He said that the goal of the said regulation is to stop certain illegal activities, as well as to establish rule of law in Kosovo, not to make the lives of Serbs any harder. In some other statements regarding the implementation of the regulation he said that perhaps there were certain flaws in “informing the citizens and regarding the procedure of implementing the regulation,” but that these things will be rectified.

When it comes to statements of UNSC member states, they all “expressed (deep) concern” over the adoption of the regulation, since it negatively impacts the lives of Serbs in Kosovo. The array of such statements went from the necessity to suspend such a decision until measures were taken that it does not impact the Serb population in Kosovo, all the way to requests that the illegal regulation be canceled, since it represents the continuation of the exile of the Serb population. Adopting the regulation (or at the very least the means of adoption and implementation) has, beyond a doubt, suffered serious criticism at the UNSC. On the other hand, many countries (US, UK, Switzerland, Slovenia, etc.) also pointed out the events in Banjska/Banjskë, mentioning the need to punish all those who took part in them, and bring to light all details regarding this conflict.


The Regulation on Cash Operations of the Kosovo Central Bank could have a strong negative impact to the lives of Serbs in Kosovo. Since Serbia practically does not have mechanisms to prevent the adoption and implementation of such a decision, the request that the issue be taken for a discussion in front of the UNSC is a logical and desirable one, although the session being held does not constitute a win on its own. The critique of practically all UNSCR members regarding the adoption and implementation of the said regulation is important since the political pressure on the government in Pristina to at least implement a decision on its suspension is increased. At the same time, a clear message was sent that the conflict in Banjska/Banjskë are not forgotten, nor are the previously accepted negotiation obligations.

At the very end, the notions that Security Council sessions are irrelevant are a mere analytical laziness, since outcomes of such sessions cannot be estimated only on whether their outcome is a binding resolution, which would fundamentally change the story on the status of Kosovo. Sessions such as the one on February 8 are important, since they can impact the concrete position of all those who live in Kosovo. In addition, this session also established informal standards of future similar decisions because the said request was that, although they are legal, they be the product of an arrangement with minority communities, and that during the implementation stage care has to be taken of how they are impacted.

This content was funded by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Pristina. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the State Department.

Alternativna in partnership with New Social Initiative.

Miloš Hrnjaz

Miloš Hrnjaz is an associate professor at the University of Belgrade – Faculty of Political Sciences, where he teaches international public law, international humanitarian law and the right to use force in international relations. His last book deals with the legal qualification of armed conflicts in Yugoslavia. He received scholarships for training at several institutions such as Leiden University, the International Court of Justice, as well as the Geneva Academy for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law. He also held the position of Assistant Chief Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia. Together with several of his colleagues and friends, he founded the Belgrade International Law Circle.

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