The United Nations democracy-building mission in Kosovo is a "facade" which is sowing the seeds of renewed instability in the flashpoint Serbian province, a think-tank said Friday.
The United Nations is accused of turning a blind eye in Kosovo
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said the UN administration (UNMIK) in the mainly ethnic Albanian province lacked credibility and was scrambling for an "escape strategy".
The report came as the UN Security Council is expected to hear a debate about Kosovo later Friday, ahead of talks slated for later this year on the province's final status.
The ICG said that rather than marching towards multi-ethnic democracy six years after the end of the 1998-1999 war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian separatists, Kosovo was a tinderbox ready to explode. "Recent weeks have seen an escalation in tension between (the two main ethnic Albanian political parties) so bitter that it risks spiraling into killings," the report said.
Return to instability a real possibility
A Kosovo police officer stands guard near damaged cars and apartments in a mainly Serb neighborhood in the Kosovo capital Pristina
Without a "great deal" more effort from the international community, "Kosovo is likely to return to instability ... and again put at risk all that has been invested in building a European future for the Western Balkans".
It said UNMIK, which has administered the province since NATO intervened to end the conflict, had been in a "six-year holding pattern" in which it had turned a blind eye to major challenges to democracy and the rule of law. "Rather than state-building, UNMIK is now mainly working on its own escape strategy, passing on unresolved problems that will haunt Kosovo for years to come," said ICG Kosovo Project Director Alex Anderson. "Corruption is being transferred intact."
The report said: "Problems that will come back to haunt Kosovo, like tolerance of widespread corruption and of powerful, unaccountable partisan political intelligence agencies, are being swept under the carpet rather than addressed."
Administration maintaining a cover-up
The peace is a fragile one in Kosovo despite UN efforts
It said the UN had been coddling ethnic Albanian politicians to the point of denying the existence of rival "party intelligence structures" which threatened to erupt into unrest as soon as the UN washed its hands of the province. "UNMIK is devoting most of its energy to producing a sufficiently convincing facade ... to allow Kosovo to pass the test that will open the final status process," it said.
"That facade does include some genuine progress and solid work, but it does not represent the comprehensive effort needed for democratic practices to take root."
Ethnic tensions ready to explode once more
Kosovo remains technically part of Serbia but its ethnic Albanian majority demands complete independence.
The ICG said the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague should consider granting bail to indicted former Kosovo Albanian prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, accused of rape and other atrocities, in order to calm mounting tensions in the province. "Kosovo Albanians' present peace with the international community is highly conditional ..." it warned.
"Most areas are calm, but Haradinaj's home municipality of Decan is a tinderbox, full of angry armed groups, and isolated from the rest of Kosovo."