If Brussels aims to replace the United Nations in the protectorate, it will have to consolidate and streamline its presence there first.
By Markus Bickel in Pristina (BCR No 521, 14-Oct-04)
The European Union is keen to take over from the United Nations in Kosovo, but some EU officials warn that a Brussels-led administration may be as bureaucratic and cumbersome as the current UN one.
The protectorate’s October parliamentary elections, and Kosovo in general, featured high on the agenda at the EU Foreign Ministers' meeting in Luxemburg on October 11.
This followed the recommendations of Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, who recently criticised the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, and concluded that a restructuring of the body was “unavoidable”.
Eide's report suggested the EU should become the main player in Kosovo in the near future. In the chapter entitled "A view to the future: a new division of labour", his report said, "With the end of resolution 1244... Kosovo will probably be governed from Pristina with the EU assuming the international lead role."
Eide was tasked by the UN to investigate the ethnic violence in Kosovo in mid-March, which left at least 19 people dead and forced 4,000 Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians from their homes.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked Eide to recommend a way forward for Kosovo, governed as an international protectorate in accordance with UN resolution 1244, following the end of the NATO bombing campaign in June 1999.
Christina Gallach, spokesperson for the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, agrees that Brussels looks interested in gaining a higher profile. She told IWPR this week there was "an immediate need to bring forth the EU presence in Kosovo".
But it still remains unclear what this expanded presence will mean on the ground.
The EU has already been active at various levels in Pristina over the last four years. It works at the heart of UNMIK, where German diplomat Niklaus Graf Lambsdorff heads Pillar Four, the department responsible for reconstruction and economic development.
Besides that, Solana appointed his own special envoy for Kosovo, Fernando Gentilini of Italy, following the March violence.
At the beginning of September, Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, EC, opened another EU office in Pristina, headed by another Italian, Giorgio Mamberto, further raising the number of top-level EU diplomats in Kosovo.
The former EU special envoy for Kosovo, Wolfgang Petritsch, who headed the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo between 1999 and 2002, sees the institution as a role model for Kosovo.
"Looking at the difficult period after resolving the status question, Brussels should begin with the Europeanisation of the UN mission right away," Petrisch said.
"In the end, the same criteria count in Kosovo as in Bosnia and Serbia. If we want to find a solution, Brussels must make concrete offers concerning admission into the EU."
Reinhard Priebe, director for the Western Balkans in the External Relations Directorate-General of the EC, agrees with this position.
"Since Kosovo is part of Europe, there is no doubt we have to give it a European perspective - and take over more responsibility there," he said.
At the same time, Erhard Busek, Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, says the EU is likely to administer Kosovo better than the UN.
"The EU is the right player to lead the international mission in Pristina," he told IWPR. "Unlike the UN, it has experience in administrating transition states."
Doris Pack, head of the EU parliamentary delegation for South Eastern Europe, has demanded the more or less immediate replacement by the EU of the UNMIK structure.
"The UN is not capable of doing the job," Pack told IWPR.
Pack added that Brussels should consider establishing an EU protectorate in Kosovo, as it would "simplify the process towards EU-membership and could give the Serbs a fair chance to participate in the Kosovo institutions".
Apart from the danger of ruffling feathers in the UN, calls for an expanded EU role in Kosovo have not met universal approval among local politicians, however.
Hashim Thaci, head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, says the United States should have the leading role, not Europe.
"Until a decision on final status has been made, there should not be a change in the structure of the international administration," Thaci said.
Some EU officials also admit privately there is no guarantee that a Brussels-led administration would be less bureaucratic and cumbersome than the current UN one.
One EU diplomat in Pristina told IWPR it might well be worse, "It is ridiculous to replace the existing UN bureaucracy with an EU administration, because the structures in Brussels are even more confusing than those in New York."
The diplomat pointed to the well-known rivalries that dog Brussels, pitting different administrative structures, such as the EC, the Council of Ministers and the member states, against one another.
"Whereas in Washington you know which telephone number to call if you want to talk to the president, it is unclear inside the EU who really holds power," the official added.
The current dispersal of EU officials in Pristina has, in the eyes of some observers, led to the creation of competing and overlapping competencies. It has also not been clarified why Prodi felt the need to establish a special envoy for the EC when the EU was already so well represented in Kosovo.
Eide's report urged the EU "to consolidate its various presences in Kosovo into a more coherent and streamlined structure".
Until that process of consolidation takes place, it may be hard for Brussels to assume the commanding role in Kosovo that some of its supporters now seem to be seeking.
Markus Bickel is a Balkans correspondent for Austria Press Agency and the Berlin-based Der Tagesspiegel.