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Kosovo: EU Approves Mission As Independence Declaration Nears

A French peacekeeper on patrol in Kosovo (epa) The European Union has given approval for the deployment of a policing and administrative mission to Kosovo, which will take over the duties now performed by UN officials.

The EU mission consists of about 2,000 personnel who will assist the breakaway Serbian province during its transition to full independence. Exactly when the mission will start work is not clear, but it is expected to be in place when Kosovo declares independence.

The mission won approval from member states in Brussels on February 4 and is ready to be deployed. When it does move, that will be a sign that Kosovo's declaration of independence is imminent.

Success in this mission is important not just for Kosovo and the Balkans, but for the EU itself.

The bloc of 27 nations must show that it can guide Kosovo during a lengthy transition period, despite the hostility of most Serbs to losing the mostly ethnic-Albanian province, which is considered by many Serbs to be the cradle of Serbian history.

Judy Butt, a Balkan specialist with the Paris-based Institute for Security Studies, says the EU has amassed a certain amount of experience in the Balkans.

"The missions we have in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the military mission there since 2003, and a police mission even before that, and an EU special representative since 2002, in fact the [international] high representative doubles as the EU representative, so Bosnia has been a testing ground for this mission," Butt says. "But [the task in] Kosovo is bigger."

The EU will have the power to intervene to block the Kosovar government's activities if these are seen as not conducive to social harmony, particularly in relation to the ethnic-Serbian minority.

"There will be an international civilian representative, who will also be the EU's special representative," butt says. "That's how it will work, and the EU officials are accountable for day-to-day monitoring of what is going on; political control is in Brussels with the ambassadors of the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union."

The EU administration will have the continuing support of some 17,000 NATO soldiers to ensure stability in the volatile region, where ethnic tensions continue to simmer.

Analysts believe that the EU mission could last a decade, as Kosovo gradually settles in to being an independent country within Europe. It has been under UN administration since 1999, after a NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian forces out of the province following Belgrade's crackdown on the ethnic-Albanian majority.

RFE/RL Balkan Report

RFE/RL Balkan Report


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