MSC: Discussing the Kosovo Army from a security perspective

After a series of diplomatic failures, the official Pristina introduced Kosovo Army to citizens as a way of creating the impression that the current government's policy is successful, and that the Serbs, particularly in the North of Kosovo, should not be afraid because the existing legal framework reached between the NATO and Pristina prevents the Army from deploying in the North without KFOR`s approval. These are some of the conclusions presented last night in a debate on the transformation of the KSF into the army, organized by the NGO "Aktiv" in Kosovska Mitrovica.

The Director of the Kosovo Center for Security Studies Fljorijan Ćehaja believes that the Army forming itself was something that was expected, and that the only reason why Brussels and the NATO did not support it was the unfavorable political moment in which the decision was implemented.

"Kosovo Army has no capacity to spread to the North, and there is neither the political will nor the logic that would justify it. Secondly, there is this legal framework reached between the NATO and the Government of Kosovo according to which KSF can come to the North exclusively with the consent of the NATO and KFOR. It is politically very risky and I do not think there is any reason for it to have any physical impact on the Serbian community. There is a lot of fake news," - said Cehaja, emphasizing that the moment in which everything is taking place is filled with emotions that are easy to manipulate.

Former director of the NGO "Humane Center Mitrovica" and security researcher Veroljub Petronic thinks that the reason for the fear present in the population, particularly in the North, lies in the unwillingness of both Pristina and Belgrade to provide the population with complete information about what this transformation really means for them.

"Pristina was not ready to provide concrete facts about the possible deployment of the Army in the North, which created space for the spread of false news. On the other hand, Belgrade did not even deal with the Kosovo Army issue, which should have been done long before, back in 1999" - Petronic said.

Explaining how the process of transformation of security forces into the army takes place, Ćehaja said that no drastic changes in reality should be expected.

"There is a three-phase plan that should be implemented in the next ten years. Essentially, the changes will take place in the mandate. KSF played the role of civil defense, demining, and had individual military capabilities. Now they have a typical defensive mandate" - says Ćehaja, adding that it is only a professional army, and that there will be no compulsory military service in Kosovo.

The transformation of the military will include increased investment in weapons, as well as some operational changes such as renaming the Ministry of the Kosovo Security Forces into the Ministry of Defense.

Petronic noted that the number of soldiers would be increased.

"It will have 5000 active units and 3000 reserve soldiers. It will have a flying operation, artillery, and anti-aircraft defense systems. Generally, it will have the elements of armed forces" - added Petronić.

Discussing the role of KFOR in Kosovo, both panelists agreed that forming the Army would not, in any way, affect the mandate of the International Military Mission whose presence and role are defined by the Resolution 1244.

The accusations in which Pristina was blamed for violating its own constitution through its decision to form an army, Cehaja considered as untruthful. He noted that the disagreement was caused by the name of the forces, but adds that, if there were any legal obstacles, no bilateral partner of Kosovo would support it. Thus, the support came from the United States, Great Britain, Croatia and many other partners who, either financially or through the training, supported the formation of the Army.

Asked to comment the appearance of pamphlets in the southern part of Mitrovica, calling for the mobilization of the population and causing disturbance among the residents of North Kosovo, the panelists emphasized it was someone's intention to manipulate the already tense situation, and that that the legal ways to mobilize people were well-known.

"It's frivolous and should not worry the population," the panelists said.

The debate was organized in Mitrovica Social Club within the project of Center for Civic Energy, financially supported by the Kosovo Foundation for an Open Society (KFOS).