Thursday, March 09, 2006

EU: Serbia can't rule Kosovo again

By Ekrem Krasniqi-EU Observer

Serbia should admit that it cannot rule Kosovo again, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said while speaking about enlargement in Athens on Thursday (9 March), Balkans agency DTT-NET.COM writes.

He stated that Brussels expects "realism that there can be no return for Kosovo to Belgrade's rule, and there must be willingness to ensure a sustainable settlement that creates a stable, democratic and multiethnic Kosovo in the European framework."

The commissioner added that the ethnic Albanian leadership of Kosovo must reach out to the Serbian ethnic minority as a matter of urgency.

"[Kosovo's] status can only come with standards, especially as regards minority protection and decentralisation measures, the implementation of which must be urgently intensified," he stated.

"The implementation of EU standards now and not in some unspecified future - it should be the first priority of the new government of Kosovo."

Belgrade wants to freeze Kosovo status
Mr Rehn's words on Serbian rule are unlikely to get a favourable reception in Belgrade, which last month proposed to the UN that the issue of Kosovo's final status should be frozen for 20 years.

The commissioner's comment is in line with statements by senior UK diplomat John Sawers in February that Kosovo should be independent.

Kosovo legally belongs to Serbia but has been under UN administration since the EU and the US intervened to stop ethnic clashes in the region in 1999.

Pristina and Belgrade are currently in UN and EU-sponsored negotiations on the possibility of Kosovan independence, with the next round of talks tabled for 17 March.

Ethnic Albanians, pushing for independence, make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million-strong population.

Tension surrounding the talks rose last week after Pristina nominated a former guerrilla general indicted for war crimes by Belgrade, Agim Ceku, to be prime minister.

Belgrade asked the UN to block the appointment but the Serbian request was rejected by the international community despite quiet concerns in Brussels about the fragility of the Kosovo peace process.

Kosovo as universal precedent
The prospect of Kosovan independence could also have repercussions for other separatist states in the EU and its neighbours.

Serbian contacts told British conservative MEP Charles Tannock in February that if Kosovo becomes independent, the ethnic-Serb enclave of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina will also call for independence.

Meanwhile, Russia is pushing the idea that the Kosovo solution should set a universal precedent for handling Northern Cyprus and breakaway Moldovan republic Transniestria, as well as Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh in South Caucasus.

"What's so unique about Kosovo?" Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizov said in an interview with EUobserver on Thursday.

"There are similarities in the international community accepting or rejecting the self-determination of an unrecognised character, unrecognised entities. It's not only Abkhazia and South Ossetia but also North Cyprus."

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