What Is an International Protectorate?

ThisNew York Times article says that part of the reason for the recent fighting in Macedonia is that militant ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are exploiting that province’s weakly enforced borders, the result of its status as an international protectorate, to invade Macedonia. What is an international protectorate?

An international protectorate is an area–a country or a province, for example–in which civil society has broken down to such a degree that the international community, through the United Nations, steps in to temporarily provide the functions of government. In 1999 the U.N. installed the U.N. Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo [UNMIK], which has overseen everything from the creation of a police force, to re-establishment of radio broadcasting, to resumption of university classes, to reopening of post offices. Whether Kosovo is officially or just de facto an international protectorate is ambiguous. At Russia’s insistence, the U.N. Security Council resolutions on Kosovo have acknowledged that it remains a province of Serbia, which is part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But as a practical matter, Yugoslavia does not run Kosovo; the province doesn’t even use Yugoslav currency.

One place that is officially an international protectorate is East Timor, formerly a colony of Portugal, which was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in the 1970s. East Timor came under U.N. control in 1999 after the East Timorese, in a U.N.-supervised election, voted for independence. East Timor is now run by the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor [UNTAET]. That mission is working toward the establishment of East Timor as an independent country.

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