EU says declaring Kosovo independence would create problems, not solve them

1256.jpgEU officials made it clear Thursday (June 21st) that the bloc would not support a Kosovo independence declaration and warned the province’s leadership against any unilateral action in that direction.Meeting on the sidelines of the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, the foreign ministers of the 27-nation bloc reiterated their support for a UN Security Council resolution based on UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s plan to grant Kosovo internationally supervised independence.

“The baseline is still the same,” Brussels-based EUobserver quoted Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller as saying. The bloc wants the Security Council to make a decision as soon as possible, he added.

A similar message was delivered Wednesday by the EU’s special envoy for Kosovo, Stefan Lehne. Meeting with Kosovo officials in Pristina, he said a unilateral declaration of independence would be a “huge step backwards”.

“Unilateral action, or other irresponsible behaviour in Kosovo, would take away all the goodwill that you have received and achieved in the meantime. It will not help you to overcome the remaining obstacles, but it will build many, many more,” Lehne said.

Any decision on the province’s status “needs the best possible basis, the strongest legitimacy available. And this is a [UN] Security Council resolution,” he added.

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu, however, said there are other options. “We see that every day the chances of a joint resolution are being exhausted,” he said. “We would like to have a UN resolution, but if not, there are other alternatives.”

“We are in favour of a joint resolution, but we do not agree that Kosovo should remain hostage to those who can block the process and prevent a status solution conforming to the will of the people,” the president said.

The delay in the status solution could harm regional stability, Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku said, warning of a potential “crisis of trust” among Albanians.

Russia has rejected the latest draft proposal from the West, which provided for a new round of negotiations between representatives from Belgrade and Pristina. If no agreement were reached within 120 days, the Ahtisaari plan would automatically go into effect.

Moscow has repeatedly threatened to veto any resolution that is opposed by Serbia, which wants to retain sovereignty over the province.

As the stalemate drags on, the EU is increasingly worried that Kosovo Albanians could take the matter into their own hands. That, in turn, could lead to divisions within the bloc.

“If we don’t have a UN resolution that the EU states can cluster around, we may have a repeat of the situation with [the invasion of] Iraq, when some countries went one way and some the other way,” Lars Erik Forsberg of the European Commission’s enlargement directorate was quoted as saying Thursday.

In a further complication, UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte called this week for a delay in resolving Kosovo’s status. Independence could negatively affect efforts to round up Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and the other remaining war crimes fugitives, she told reporters at a press conference in New York.

“It would be better if the decision on Kosovo is not coming out now,” del Ponte said.

Kosovo leaders reacted angrily. Skender Hyseni, a spokesperson for the Unity Team — composed of the main Kosovo political leaders — said del Ponte’s declaration “is absurd”.

“The government of Kosovo considers that del Ponte has violated in the rudest way her mandate as the chief prosecutor of The Hague tribunal, and that her interference on the issue of the status of Kosovo, particularly in relation to the co-operation of Serbia with The Hague Tribunal, is unacceptable,” read a statement released by the government.

The deputy UN chief in Kosovo, Steven Schook, said urged del Ponte to focus on her own business.

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