Preventing a conflict relapse in Kosovo


A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation peacekeeping force, a UN transitional administration, and a political mission from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have successfully helped to prevent a conflict relapse in Kosovo since 1999.

Slobodan Milošević withdrew Yugoslav forces from Kosovo in early June, marking the end of the war.1 On 10 June, the UN Security Council gave NATO the go-ahead to send personnel into Kosovo as stipulated in the technical agreement with Milošević, and, two days later, 42,000 troops of the international Kosovo Force (KFOR) moved into Kosovo, where they were tasked with maintaining a safe and secure environment and preventing renewed war.2 Although the conflict was over, tensions between Kosovo’s Albanian and Serb communities threatened to spark a conflict relapse which could have escalated into a regional war. Furthermore, with the Kosovar Albanian population now enjoying the benefits of political power, the plight of the Serb population that remained in Kosovo became a humanitarian concern. Kosovo also lacked the most basic structures of governance in the aftermath of the conflict and the Yugoslav withdrawal from the area. Cognisant of these risks, the UN Security Council established the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) to coordinate the international efforts in Kosovo and govern the territory until the institutions for self-rule could be built.3

UNMIK provided many basic services to the population between 1999 and 2002, when it took up a more supervisory role following the election of local representatives to administrative bodies.4 UNMIK was supported by parallel missions from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which focused on democratisation, elections, and institution building, and the EU, which led the economic recovery.5 Furthermore, KFOR remained in Kosovo to provide security and ensure stability.6 It continues to maintain a force of 3,800 personnel at the time of writing. Following the declaration of Kosovan independence in 2008, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo was established to support the development of the Kosovan police force and judiciary.7 Ongoing talks between Serbian and Kosovan authorities have been mediated by the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo since 2005.8 Although the status of Kosovo remains contested and progress with regard to building state institutions has been undeniably slow, the array of international efforts to stabilise the area have helped prevent a conflict relapse in Kosovo for over two decades.

1 Patrick Wintour, Ian Traynor, & Ed Vulliamy. “Why Milosevic blinked first.” The Guardian. (1999) Available at: (Accessed 23/11/2020)

2 NATO. NATO’s role in Kosovo. (NATO, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020)

3 UN Security Council. Resolution 1244. (UN, 1999) Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020)

4 Daan W. Everts. Peacekeeping in Albania and Kosovo: Conflict Response and International Intervention in the Western Balkans, 1997-2002. (London: I.B. Tauris, 2020) p.198-9

5 OSCE. OSCE Mission in Kosovo: Mandate. (OSCE, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020); Marcus Brand. The Development of Kosovo Institutions and the Transition of Authority from UNMIK to Local Self-Government. (Geneva: Centre for Applied Studies in International Negotiations, 2003) p.10

6 NATO. NATO’s role in Kosovo.

7 EULEX. About EULEX. (EU, 2020) Available at:,60 (Accessed 24/11/2020)

8 UNOSEK. Origins of UNOSEK. (UNOSEK, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020)

Start Year


End Year




UN Regional Group

Eastern Europe

Type of Conflict

Risk of a conflict relapse

Type of Initiative

International transitional administration, Monitoring, observation, political, and verification missions, Peacekeeping mission

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The EU, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and the UN




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