Accessibility links

Balkans: A Guide To International Officials

  • Jeremy Bransten

Prague, 5 August 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Correspondent Jeremy Bransten provides a thumbnail sketch of each of the major international players in the Balkans.


Bernard Kouchner heads the UN's Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The mandate of the mission is to prepare Kosovo for local elections and self-sustaining autonomy (not independence.)

Kouchner has been given broad powers by UN Security Council Resolution 1244 to run Kosovo, direct reconstruction efforts and rebuild and staff all necessary institutions. Kouchner, a French citizen, is a medical doctor and former French health minister. He was one of the co-founders of the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.


Lieutenant General Michael (Mike) Jackson of Britain is the commander of KFOR forces in Kosovo. KFOR is the NATO-led international peacekeeping force in the province. The task of the roughly 40,000 KFOR troops is to keep peace and, where necessary, run basic services until the UN establishes its own civil administration.

KFOR officers now run many enterprises in Kosovo, such as water and electricity utilities, as the UN has been slow to deploy staff.


Martti Ahtisaari is the president of Finland and current head of the rotating EU presidency. Ahtisaari -- along with Russia's former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin -- helped negotiate the agreement that led to the Serb pullout of Kosovo and the end of NATO's bombing campaign.

Ahtisaari has been active in Balkan diplomacy in the past. In 1993, he was a special representative to the former Yugoslavia for the UN Secretary-General.


Christopher Hill is the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia. Hill was a key member of the diplomatic team that helped negotiate an end to the 1992-95 Bosnian war. As an aide to former U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke, Hill helped draft the Dayton Peace Accords.

Hill now shuttles back and forth between Macedonia and Kosovo, helping to implement U.S. policy in the region. Most recently, Hill accompanied ethnic Albanian political leader Ibrahim Rugova on his return to Pristina from exile in Italy.


Robert Gelbard is a U.S. diplomat with the rank of ambassador and U.S. special Balkans envoy. He remains responsible for coordinating and implementing U.S. policy regarding the Dayton peace accords in Bosnia.

Gelbard was one of the U.S diplomats who helped draft the Dayton agreement. Gelbard says U.S policy is to isolate Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, assist democratic groups within Serbia, help in the international reconstruction of Kosovo and provide support to the reformist government in Montenegro.


Knut Vollebaek is Norway's foreign minister and current head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Norway took over the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE from Poland at the start of the year.

The OSCE links 55 countries in North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union. The organization describes its role as conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.


Daan Everts is head of the OSCE's mission in Kosovo. A Dutch diplomat, he was head of the OSCE mission in Albania from 1997 until his present posting. In Kosovo, the OSCE is charged with rebuilding and staffing civilian institutions under UN direction.


Bodo Hombach -- the EU's Balkan coordinator -- is German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's chief-of-staff. As Balkan coordinator, he is charged with overseeing regional reconstruction efforts as outlined at last week's Balkan Stability Pact summit in Sarajevo.

The EU plans to open an office in the Greek port of Thessaloniki to coordinate Balkan reconstruction, and Hombach's mission presumably will be to run it. Hombach was Germany's chief negotiator with international Jewish groups on the issue of setting up a compensation fund for Holocaust survivors and their descendents.


Wolfgang Petritsch was recently approved by the UN security council to be the new international High Representative in Bosnia. The main task of the High Representative is to oversee implementation of the Dayton peace accords.

Petritsch, an Austrian diplomat, previously served as Austrian ambassador to Belgrade and the EU's special representative for Kosovo. As High Representative, Petritsch succeeds Carlos Westendorp, a former Spanish foreign minister.


Jacques Klein is the new UN representative to Bosnia. The U.S. diplomat takes over from former Finnish Defense Minister Elisabeth Rehn. The UN mission's tasks include reforming, supervising and advising local Croat, Serbian and Muslim police.

Although there is clearly some overlap in their UN duties, Petritsch and Klein operate separately. Klein's job is more narrowly defined, while Petritsch has an overall mandate to implement international decisions in Bosnia.


Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister, is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for the Balkans. Bildt formerly served as the international community's High Representative in Bosnia. He was succeeded in that post by Carlos Westendorp, who has now been followed by Wolfgang Petritsch.


Eduard Kukan, current Slovak foreign minister, is Kofi Annan's second special envoy for the Balkans. Unlike Bildt, however, who travels to the region frequently and often speaks out on related issues, Kukan has kept a low profile, especially since KFOR forces moved into Kosovo.


Louise Arbour is the main prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (known as the War Crimes Tribunal) at The Hague.

Arbour is of French-Canadian origin. She recently handed out indictments against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and other senior officials on charges of war crimes for their alleged role in directing the repression and mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. "Our policy," she was quoted as saying, "is to pursue cases that lead us to the highest military and political level."


Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald heads the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague.


Dennis McNamara heads the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission For Refugees) mission in Kosovo. The UNHCR -- headed by Sadako Ogata in Geneva -- is responsible for helping to repatriate refugees and take care of the immediate needs of those who are homeless or otherwise incapable of feeding and clothing themselves.

The UNHCR faces a huge task in Kosovo ahead of winter, with hundreds of thousands of people still lacking suitable shelter. The UNHCR is coordinating its work with scores of humanitarian NGOs now operating throughout the Balkans.