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Friday, March 23, 2012

Kosovo: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs

On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. On February 18, the
United States recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Of the 27 EU countries, 22 have
recognized Kosovo, including key countries such as France, Germany, Britain, and Italy. Eightyeight
countries in all have recognized Kosovo. When it declared independence, Kosovo pledged
to implement the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement, drafted by U.N.
envoy Martti Ahtisaari. The document contains provisions aimed at safeguarding the rights of
ethnic Serbs and other minorities. An International Civilian Representative and EULEX, a
European Union-led law-and-order mission, are tasked with guaranteeing Kosovo’s
implementation of the plan. KFOR, a NATO-led peacekeeping force, has the mission of providing
a secure environment.

Serbia strongly objects to Kosovo’s declaration of independence. It has used diplomatic means to
try to persuade countries to not recognize Kosovo. It has set up parallel governing institutions in
Serb-majority areas in Kosovo. However, after a July 2010 International Court of Justice ruling
that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was not illegal, the EU pressured Serbia into agreeing
to hold direct talks with Kosovo over technical issues. The talks, which got underway in March
2011, have produced agreements on freedom of movement, trade, land registry records, and other
issues. However, the deployment of Kosovo police units to northern Kosovo in July 2011 sparked
violence and blockades of local roads by Serbs. KFOR then took over control of two border posts
in the north. The deployment of Kosovo customs officials to the posts in September caused Serbs
to reimpose their road blockades, leading to clashes with KFOR. Serbia broke off the talks with
Kosovo for a short time, but then soon returned to them.

Kosovo faces other daunting challenges, aside from those posed by its struggle for international
recognition and the status of its ethnic minorities. According to an October 2011 European
Commission report on Kosovo, the country suffers from weak institutions, including the judiciary
and law enforcement. Kosovo has high levels of government corruption and powerful organized
crime networks. Many Kosovars are poor and reported unemployment is very high.

The United States has strongly supported the Serbia-Kosovo talks. U.S. officials have stressed
that the United States is a “guest,” not as a participant or mediator at the talks. In July 2011, a
State Department spokesman expressed U.S. “regret” that the Kosovo government tried to take
control of customs posts in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo without consulting the international
community. The United States condemned violence by Serbs in northern Kosovo and called on
them to restore freedom of movement in the area and for Serbia to “remain committed” to the
EU-mediated talks with Kosovo.

Since U.S. recognition of Kosovo’s independence in February 2008, congressional action on
Kosovo has focused largely on foreign aid appropriations legislation. Aid to Kosovo has declined
significantly in recent years. In FY2011, Kosovo received a total of $85.428 million in U.S. aid.
In FY2012, Kosovo will receive an estimated $67.45 million. For FY2013, the Administration
requested a total of $57.669 million for Kosovo. Of this amount, $42.544 million is aid for
political and economic reforms from the Economic Support Fund, $10.674 million from the
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account, $0.7 million in IMET military
training aid, $3 million in Foreign Military Financing, and $0.75 million in NADR aid to assist
non-proliferation and anti-terrorism efforts.

Date of Report: March
13, 2012
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Russia’s March 2012 Presidential Election: Outcome and Implications

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

Challenges to Russia’s democratic development have long been of concern to Congress as it has considered the course of U.S.-Russia cooperation. The Obama Administration has been critical of the apparently flawed Russian presidential election which took place on March 4, 2012, but has called for continued engagement with Russia and newly elected President Vladimir Putin on issues of mutual strategic concern. Some in Congress also have criticized the conduct of the election, but have endorsed continued engagement, while others have called for stepping back and reevaluating the Administration’s engagement policy. Congress may consider the implications of another Putin presidency, lagging democratization, and human rights abuses in Russia as it debates possible future foreign assistance and trade legislation and other aspects of U.S.-Russia relations.

Five candidates were able to register for the March 4, 2012, presidential election. Of these, Prime Minister Putin had announced in September 2011 that he intended to switch positions with current President Dmitriy Medvedev, and return to the presidency for a third term. Three of the other four candidates—Communist Party head Gennadiy Zyuganov, Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, and A Just Russia Party head Sergey Mironov—were nominated by parties with seats in the Duma. The remaining candidate, businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, was self-nominated and was required to gather 2 million signatures to register. Other prospective candidates dropped out or were disqualified on technical grounds by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). Opposition Yabloko Party head Grigoriy Yavlinskiy was disqualified by the CEC on the grounds that over 5% of the signatures he gathered were invalid. Many critics argued that he was eliminated because he would have been the only bona fide opposition candidate on the ballot. Of the registered candidates running against Putin, all but Prokhorov had run in previous presidential elections and lost badly.

According to the final report of the CEC, Putin won 63.6% of 71.8 million votes cast, somewhat less than the 71.3% he had received in his last presidential election in 2004. In their preliminary report, monitors led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concluded that the election was well organized but that there were several problems. Although the report did not state outright that the election was “not free and fair,” some of the monitors at a press conference stated that they had not viewed it as free and fair. According to the report, Prime Minister Putin received an advantage in media coverage, and authorities mobilized local officials and resources to garner support for Putin. The OSCE monitors witnessed irregularities in votecounting in nearly one-third of the 98 polling stations visited and in about 15% of 72 higher-level territorial electoral commissions.

The initial protests after Putin’s election by those who view the electoral process as tainted appeared smaller in size and number than after the Duma election. Authorities approved a protest rally in Pushkin Square in central Moscow on March 5, along with Putin victory rallies elsewhere in the city. After some of the protesters allegedly did not disperse after the time for the rally had elapsed, police forcibly intervened and reportedly detained up to 250 demonstrators, including activist Alexey Navalny, who later was released.

Date of Report: March
14, 2012
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Price: $29.95

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