"It is with profound sadness that I have heard of the death of President Ibrahim Rugova," said Javier Solana, EU's common foreign and security policy chief, in a statement.
Solana heaped praise on the moderate leader, saying he was a "man of peace."
"With him (his death) Kosovo has lost a historic leader who devoted his life to protecting and promoting the rights of the people of Kosovo."
Solana was NATO secretary general when the alliance launched air strikes against the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, after which the Serbian province was put under UN administration.
Solana noted that the death of Rugova comes at a particularly challenging time for Kosovo as talks on the final status of the Serbian province were due to start in days.
"I call on all leaders of Kosovo to show unity and responsibility. This is the best way to pay tribute to the memory of President Rugova," said Solana.
U.S. army medics who were treating the late cancer striken Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova stand guard at his residence in Kosovo's capital Pristina on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006. Rugova who had been suffering from lung cancer, died on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006 according to officials. Rugova had been at the forefront of ethnic Albanian demand for independence from Serbia since the early 1990s, when he started leading a nonviolent movement against the policies of Slobodan Milosevic, then president of Yugoslavia. (AP Photo / Visar Kryeziu)
Flags fly at half staff on top of Kosovo's President Ibrahim Rugova's residence as Kosovo Police officers guard the building in Kosovo's capital Pristina on Saturday, Jan 21, 2006. Rugova, who had been suffering from lung cancer, died on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006 according to officials. Rugova had been at the forefront of ethnic Albanian demand for independence from Serbia since the early 1990s, when he started leading a nonviolent movement against the policies of Slobodan Milosevic, then president of Yugoslavia. (AP Photo / Visar Kryeziu)
Rugova, who died of lung cancer at the age of 61 in the Kosovar capital of Pristina on Saturday, had been at the forefront of Kosovar ethnic Albanians' struggle for independence from Serbia since the early 1990s. But unlike militant ethnic Albanians, he took a moderate approach.
In a separate statement, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, also extended condolences.
"In the name of the presidency of the European Union and in my own name, I would like to convey my condolences to his family, to the provisional institutions of self-government of Kosovo and to the entire population of Kosovo," said Plassnik.
"During his exceptional political career President Rugova worked tirelessly for the interest of Kosovo. As a staunch and unwavering defender of the principle of non-violence he has continuously pursued his efforts through political dialogue."
Like Solana, Plassnik also called for cooperation among leaders of Kosovo at this crucial juncture.
"At a time, when the future status of Kosovo is being negotiated, we call on all sides to keep up his political legacy in cooperating and finding a solution which will bring peace, prosperity, security and lasting stability to Kosovo and all its people," she said. Enditem