Securing Kosovo

Members of the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) march during a celebration marking the sixth anniversary of Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, in Pristina February 17, 2014. Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence in 2008 with the backing of the Western powers which waged a NATO air war in 1999 to wrest control of the territory from late Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic. REUTERS/Hazir Reka (KOSOVO - Tags: MILITARY ANNIVERSARY POLITICS) - RTX18ZJ3

The country reviews its security institutions to determine roles and missions

By Faruk Geci, director, Directorate of Policy and Plans, Ministry of the Kosovo Security Force

The Republic of Kosovo, the newest country in the Western Balkans, became a sovereign state on February 17, 2008, after 10 years under international administration. Kosovo has managed to build its institutions –– especially its security institutions –– by recognizing the importance of continuous improvement in their capacity to provide safety and security for its citizens. As part of that process, in March 2012, the government initiated the first Strategic Security Sector Review (SSSR) — a whole-of-government review of its security institutions. The purpose of the SSSR was to conduct a comprehensive analysis of all aspects of security in Kosovo to evaluate current and future security challenges, clearly define the roles of each institution to avoid duplication and maximize institutional capabilities, and identify capabilities to provide for the safety and security of Kosovo. Through this analysis, the SSSR has produced strategic-level policy guidance and concrete recommendations for Kosovo’s security sector.

Kosovo aspires to be an integral part of regional and global security structures, in particular the European Union, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations. It also desires to maintain and promote peaceful neighborly relations to enhance stability and confidence among nations in the region. Indeed, Kosovo’s national security is closely related to regional and Euro-Atlantic security.

Evaluating institutions

The comprehensive SSSR process included security sector institutions such as the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), the police and the intelligence services, as well as the responsible ministries of KSF, foreign affairs, interior, justice, finance, health, education, environment and infrastructure. Kosovo established the SSSR Inter-ministerial Working Group, a cross section of security sector actors. As the first post-independence review in Kosovo, the SSSR has emphasized local leadership and ownership, with the ultimate objective of making security sector institutions more efficient, effective and accountable to Kosovo’s citizens.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (C) reviews an honor guard of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) in Pristina during his first visit to Kosovo on January 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ARMEND NIMANI        (Photo credit should read ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, center, reviews an honor guard of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo in January 2015 in Pristina. [AFP/GETTY IMAGES]

Each institution involved in the SSSR defines its legal basis and its roles and missions and offers recommendations for the continued consolidation of Kosovo’s security institutions. Given the importance of a well-coordinated approach to SSSR implementation, the prime minister’s office will play a central role in prioritizing and overseeing the implementation of SSSR recommendations and ensuring that implementation remains affordable and transparent.

Through a thorough and methodical analysis conducted over two years, the SSSR revealed the need to gradually develop capabilities to assume greater responsibilities to meet Kosovo’s obligation to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity. The SSSR recommends the development of necessary capacities and the dissolution of those not required and provides recommendations for necessary legislative changes.

The SSSR considered the macroeconomic overview of the years 2014 to 2018. The economic structure (gross domestic product components as percentage of overall GDP) is assumed to remain widely constant. Real GDP for 2014 is expected to increase by 4.1 percent from the previous year, and real average annual growth from 2014 to 2018 is expected to be 4.8 percent, driven by increased consumption. Throughout the period covered by the SSSR, the government will continually evaluate the progress of security sector reforms and make budget and financial adjustments as necessary, including extending the implementation time of programs if budgetary forecasts require such adjustments.

Foreign partnerships

This requires that the government take note of global, regional and local perspectives of state security. Distant developments may have an impact on national security. As a result, the security of the state is closely connected to and dependent upon the security of the region and wider Europe. Peace and stability in Europe and beyond depend on cooperation between states, either bilaterally or multilaterally or within intergovernmental organizations. Regional cooperation in the security sector is necessary not only to combat common threats, but also to overcome the legacy of the past and minimize internal and external tensions and threats. It is self-evident that Kosovo can be secure only if the region and Europe are secure.

Finally, Kosovo must look to the future to be able to address all levels of security challenges. Now is the time to lay foundations on which Kosovo’s government can build capacities to defend the state long term in a realistic, affordable and holistic manner. Our vision in Kosovo is to be a force for stability and security, not only at home, but also in the region and wider Europe.

The government has developed a successful partnership with international missions in Kosovo, such as NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) mission, the EU Rule of Law Mission and other international instruments. Kosovo is grateful for the significant role that international institutions have played in developing and strengthening Kosovo’s security sector and rule of law capacities and, more broadly, in establishing a safe and secure environment. As the presence of international institutions diminishes, it is important for Kosovo to continue the consolidation and strengthening of its security sector.


The national security interests and objectives of the Republic of Kosovo are independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity; constitutional order; sustainable economic development; life, welfare, property and safety of the citizens; and regional stability and membership in international organizations. These interests and objectives form the basis for the mission and tasks of current and future national institutions and security institutions in particular.

From a strategic viewpoint, Kosovo is a small, new country in the Balkans, bordered by other small countries. As globalization shrinks the world, Kosovo is not immune to associated risks and threats. On one hand, the security environment in Kosovo and the region is expected to be more placid, especially after the April 2013 agreement for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. This has created a sense of progress and improved opportunities for economic development, peace, stability and regional security.

On the other hand, numerous ongoing difficulties demand understanding, dialogue and cooperation. In light of a broad spectrum of strategic circumstances, and considering the global, regional and internal environment, Kosovo’s security institutions have taken a wider approach in terms of the strategic security environment.


The SSSR has identified numerous internal risks, including ethnic and religious extremism, natural disasters, unexploded ordnance/improvised explosive devices, proliferation of small arms, organized crime, economic underdevelopment, unemployment, weak security/justice institutions, corruption, contested/undetermined borders and misuse of natural resources. All these could threaten Kosovo’s security and rule of law and damage the image of the country abroad.

Through its security and defense policies, Kosovo aims to build a functional and modern security system. Kosovo’s security will depend on developing sufficient capabilities in its institutions. Kosovo also aims to be both a beneficiary of and a contributor to Euro-Atlantic institutions. The presence of KFOR and other international security structures in Kosovo will allow time to develop a good foundation of internal security capabilities by respecting international agreements and the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo.

Security policies are designed from internal, regional and global perspectives to preserve and promote national interests, both directly and indirectly. These policies will be achieved through short-, mid- and long-term planning. For example, the evolution of the Ministry for the Kosovo Security Force into the Ministry of Defense and particularly the transformation of the KSF into the Kosovo Armed Forces will be developed in three phases through 2024 based on a long-term plan that will allow time to establish, professionalize and modernize the force.

The transformation will occur in accordance with national interests; human, material and financial requirements; and opportunities for national development. Kosovo’s primary concern is the security of its citizens, fostering a secure environment, establishment of security and defense structures, contributing to regional security and stability and contributing to international and global security.

The primary intention of the SSSR analysis is to provide the government of Kosovo with a set of recommendations for the transparent, balanced and affordable development of Kosovo’s security institutions to meet current and projected security challenges.

Needs identified by the SSSR:

1.  Review the National Security Strategy.

2.  Draft a National Defense Strategy.

3.  Review and revise the National Response Plan to reflect SSSR findings.


1. Transition the KSF to the Kosovo Armed Forces with the mission to defend the nation’s territorial integrity, provide military support to civil authorities during disasters and participate in international peacekeeping operations.

2. Transition the Ministry of the Kosovo Security Force to a Ministry of Defense with the responsibility of providing civilian oversight and guidance for the new Kosovo Armed Forces. Also, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) will work closely with the Ministry of Defense to transition responsibilities over time to the MIA in the field of emergency management. Given Kosovo’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and membership in regional and international organizations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to increase its presence abroad as a key diplomatic pillar of Kosovo’s security.

3.  Create a NATO interministerial working group in the office of the prime minister to help develop a closer relationship with the Alliance, given Kosovo’s Euro-Atlantic perspective and goal of improving relations with Euro-Atlantic institutions.  

Objectives of the SSSR

  1. Define Kosovo’s strategic objectives and the security and defense policies of the Republic of Kosovo.
  2. Define the strategic security environment and possible security risks and threats.
  3. Analyze the current capacities of internal security institutions.
  4. Define the capacities that internal security institutions will need in the future.
  5. Recommend a process for developing necessary capacities and the dissolution of those not required, based on Strategic Security Sector Review (SSSR) capabilities analysis.
  6. Provide guidance for developing a new National Security Strategy of Kosovo.
  7. Recommend necessary legislative changes.
  8. Establish security institutions based on SSSR recommendations and the National Security Strategy.

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