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Analysis: Kosovo's End Game

Council on Foreign Relations

December 5, 2007
Author: Lee Hudson Teslik

After more than eight years under a UN protectorate, and centuries of ethnic wrangling, Kosovo seems on the verge of settling its political status—sort of. On December 10, a UN deadline for settling the Serbian province’s “final status” seems all but certain to pass without a clear resolution. The United States and many EU supporters of a supervised Kosovo independence plan are deadlocked with veto-wielding UN Security Council member Russia, which wants Kosovo to remain part of Serbia. At some point after December 10, Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians, the overwhelming majority of the province’s population, say they will unilaterally declare independence (AP). What might happen after that remains anyone’s guess, but international troops are bracing for possible violence (VOA).

A unilateral declaration raises several potential problems. First, it would further complicate a transition away from the current UN-led administration. Kosovo can call itself a country, but with Russian opposition, it can’t be admitted into the United Nations. Moreover, UN peacekeepers won’t be allowed to stay in Kosovo, and the idea of transitioning to an EU-led peacekeeping force is complicated by the fact that some eastern EU members likely won’t recognize Kosovo (B92). Yet the need for peacekeepers isn’t likely to fade. Pockets of Serb and Roma minorities remain throughout Kosovo. As recently as November 2007, the UN reiterated the need to protect these groups. The pressing question is whether a power vacuum might set off new bouts of ethnic killing.

A declaration of independence might also leave Kosovo in an awkward position regionally. Certainly it would calcify relations between Kosovo and Serbia, at least in the short term.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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