BRUSSELS (AP)--The European Union must continue to provide significant financial assistance for Kosovo in the coming years, provided political leaders in the southern Serbian province and Belgrade resolve their disputes peacefully, the E.U. head office said Wednesday.
In a report to the 25 E.U. governments, the European Commission said the union must maintain economic assistance and other programs that have cost EUR1.6 billion since 1999.
It said assistance must be maintained "to enhance its economic development and facilitate its constructive participation" in the Balkans' progress toward European integration.
The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo wants the province to be independent, while Belgrade insists it have autonomy but remain within Serbia-Montenegro.
Kosovo has been an international protectorate administered by the United Nations and a North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led peacekeeping force since 1999, when a NATO air war against the former Yugoslavia ended a Serb crackdown on ethnic-Albanian separatists. [ 20-04-05 1033GMT ]