Thursday, January 25, 2007

EU told to limit its future role in Kosovo

By Andrew Beatty

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Agim Çeku has warned that delaying Kosovo’s independence will undermine the province’s chances of joining the European Union and cautioned against establishing direct EU control over the province.

Ahead of the publication on 2 February of a United Nations report that will set out proposals for Kosovo’s final status, Çeku said that any further delay in granting Kosovo independence from Serbia would see the province “fall even further behind the EU curve” and would “undermine [Kosovo’s] EU perspectives”.
“We need a decision on status as soon as possible. The longer we drag on the inevitable…the more we will isolate our public,” he said.
The report by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari is expected to recommend that Kosovo become independent, albeit supervised by the international community.
Reacting to Çeku’s comments, Serbia’s ambassador to the EU Roksanda Nincić said the international community should avoid treating Ahtisaari’s proposal as “gospel”.
“Ahtisaari’s proposal is exactly what it says, it is a proposal. It is not a solution. It would be a grave mistake to think of it as a solution,” she said.
“A solution needs to be decided by both parties on the ground.”
There is little agreement among EU member states or the international community on whether more talks between Serbia and Kosovo would be useful and how far the two sides should be allowed to rework Ahtisaari’s proposals.
Russia has threatened to use its UN Security Council veto against any proposals that have not been agreed by Serbia.
The role of the body overseeing Kosovo’s independence is also proving controversial.
Çeku said the EU should limit its role to helping build capacity in the new government.
He said the EU and the international community should not have powers similar to those they have in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the Office of the High Representative (OHR) has the power to dismiss government ministers and reject laws.
“We do not need an OHR-type structure in Kosovo,” he said. “Our decision-makers may be less driven if there is a feeling that the EU stands behind to fix everything we do not get right.”
He added: “There is always the option of integrating external experts into Kosovo institutions… but this is something different from having an international veto on the process.”
EU diplomats working on Kosovo said they would wait for Ahtisaari’s proposals to see what role the EU and the so-called International Civilian Office will play.
“We are still in the planning stage, a lot depends on the recommendations. We need the status process before the EU can come and play any role,” said one EU diplomat in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital.
But some diplomats warn that Ahtisaari’s failure to reach a negotiated compromise between the Serb and Kosovo authorities means that the EU will have to have a direct role in ensuring international standards are met, particularly when it comes to protecting the province’s ethnic-Serb minority.
The EU is also keen to ensure that the ICO is not seen as a replacement for the UN mission in Kosovo, Unmik, which currently oversees the running of the province and which has proven to be as unpopular as it is powerful.
“We will not take over from Unmik, most of the responsibility will be transferred to the Kosovo authorities. It is important for the Kosovo authorities to take charge, we will not administer Kosovo,” said one EU diplomat.

© Copyright 2007 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.

EU told to limit its future role in Kosovo

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