EU inaction could see 'major crisis' in Kosovo, NGO warns
EU procrastination and
internal division on the future status of Kosovo could see the region relapse into instability, NGO International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned ahead of a January or February recommendation on status by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari.
"Time is running out for Kosovo…the risk of implosion becomes greater the deeper Kosovo goes into 2007 without its status settled," the ICG study says, adding that the UK and France want to quickly follow up Mr Ahtisaari's plan – expected to endorse "independence" without using the word itself – with a UN resolution.
But Germany and Italy would rather wait several months until a new Serbian government forms after the 21 January elections, while Spain, Greece, Cyprus and EU-member-to-be Romania are leaning toward Serbia's argument that Kosovo should be given limited autonomy but not sovereignty.
"Let it rot, then we'll see. The Kosovo solution will rely on a big mess or violence in March," the ICG cites one EU official as saying on the attitude of some states in the international community, with the UN's postponement of the status solution from 2006 to 2007 already sparking street violence and threats from fringe pro-independence groups last month.
If the UN tables a resolution on the future status of Kosovo as quickly as March, Russia and China are likely to try and block Kosovo independence via their security council vetoes, but the report argues that even a vetoed resolution would help the Kosovan Albanian government to control more radical pro-independence groups in the territory.
"If Brussels fails to coalesce quickly around a strong internal consensus, it risks inheriting a major new crisis," the ICG says, adding "The US strongly favours an early resolution of Kosovo's status but it cannot bring one…without the EU doing its share of the heavy lifting [at UN level]."
Kosovo is formally part of Serbia but has been administered by the UN since 1999, after NATO forces intervened to halt a Serb crackdown on the majority ethnic Albanian population, with the EU now gearing up to take over high government and policing roles from the UN in a transitional phase before full sovereignty, on the Bosnia model.