EU Report Reveals Plans For Running Kosovo

Monday, March 12th 2007, 5:37 am
By: News On 6

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ A confidential EU report on Kosovo's future reveals the bloc is well-advanced in planning its mission to replace the U.N. administration, despite a political deadlock over a U.N. plan to grant the disputed province supervised statehood.

According to the report _ made available Monday to The Associated Press _ a 72-member European Union delegation with 200 local support staff would have a mandate to oversee implementation of the U.N. plan.

Serbia has rejected the U.N. plan, after a final round of talks between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo ended inconclusively Saturday.

That plan still could serve as the basis for Kosovo's future, however, if approved by the U.N. Security Council.

Drafted by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, the plan would grant Kosovo internationally supervised statehood, with its own army, flag, anthem and constitution. The province's Serb minority, in turn, would gain broad rights in local governance and cultural protections.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn called the U.N. plan ``a realistic compromise, given the parties' irreconcilable positions on Kosovo's status.''

The U.N. Security Council is split on the issue, however, with Russia supporting Serbia and the United States backing the U.N. plan. No date has been set for a final resolution of the issue.

The EU, meanwhile, has been preparing to take over from the 3,000-strong U.N. authority that has been running Kosovo since a brief war in 1999, when NATO forces expelled the Serb army.

The confidential report, which assumes Security Council approval of the U.N. plan, maps out a transition between the U.N. administration, known as UNMIK, and its EU-led successor. It estimates the EU operation would cost $24.3 million in its first year.

Unlike UNMIK, the EU delegation would not have direct responsibility for running Kosovo, which will be left to the local government. But the chief EU representative would retain veto power over government decisions and the authority to sack officials found to be obstructing implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Diplomats in Brussels say Dutch diplomat Peter Feith is a serious candidate for the post. His candidacy would have to be approved by the U.N. Security Council.

Feith has extensive experience in the Balkans. He was in charge of the European Union's first military mission, the deployment in 2003 of 400 troops to Macedonia to replace a NATO peacekeeping force. He also headed the EU mission that brought peace to Indonesia's embattled province of Aceh in 2006.

The EU team also would provide guidance to Kosovo authorities in drafting a new constitution. A separate policy unit would monitor government work, while a legal unit would advise on whether new legislation was compatible with the Security Council resolution.

The EU team would be based in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, with offices in both Mitrovica, the Serbian stronghold in northern Kosovo, and in Serbia's capital of Belgrade. The latter would require the Serbian government's cooperation.

The U.N. plan also calls for NATO's current, 16,500-troop force to remain initially, and withdraw once security was stable in the province of 2 million.

The remaining force would be responsible for overseeing the disbandment of Kosovo's civilian emergency unit, the Kosovo Protection Corps, which consists mainly of former ethnic Albanian rebels who fought the Serbian army in Kosovo's 1998-99 war.

This will be replaced by a nascent multiethnic army, the Kosovo Security Force, to be set up under NATO supervision together with a civilian-run Defense Ministry.