The European Union stressed its willingness to play a part in Balkan problem area Kosovo on June 13 as EU Foreign Ministers met in Luxembourg, although lead roles on central questions will be played by the United Nations and NATO. Ministers were discussing a joint report presenting some initial ideas on the future EU role and contribution in Kosovo prepared by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and EU Enlargement/Western Balkans Commissioner Olli Rehn. Ministers also looked at latest developments in Bosnia in a set of conclusions they adopted on the Western Balkans.
Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Ambassador Kai Eide, Norway's Permanent Representative to NATO, as his Special Envoy to carry out a comprehensive review of Kosovo. The review will be initiated this summer and could last until September. It should look at the extent to which Kosovo has implemented standards such as minority rights with the aim of establishing a multi-ethnic, stable and democratic society founded on the rule of law.
If there has been sufficient progress, the review could pave the way for talks on Kosovo's future status. The UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will be preparing the ground to hand over to a newly-defined international presence following a settlement of Kosovo's status.
Speaking after discussions on Kosovo over lunch, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said that the EU was "prepared to shoulder greater responsibility" for Kosovo whatever the future status of the UN-administered province. Kosovo had a European perspective and was still an EU priority, he said. The EU would continue to reflect on its role in the months ahead, Mr Asselborn added.
As far as the EU is concerned, the Solana-Rehn paper suggests that the EU be closely involved in the standards review process. It should also consider increasing its support to Kosovo's Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) for institutional capacity-building. This, it is said, could be shared with other international partners such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe or the Council of Europe. Mr Rehn said that EU assistance would increasingly be focusing on protection of minorities and the rule of law.
The UN is also expected to take the lead in the prospective process of resolving Kosovo's status, sending a UN envoy who will be accompanied by other international representatives. According to the Council/Commission document, an EU envoy should be selected by EU member states on the recommendation of Mr Solana in close cooperation with the European Commission and the EU Presidency.
Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians tend to favour independence for the province but this is contested by Serbs. The Solana-Rehn text does not define what the precise future status should be. But it does insist that there must be no change in the current territory of Kosovo in the sense that there should be no partition (along ethnic lines) and no union of Kosovo with any country (Albania) or part of any country after the province's status is resolved.
The Solana-Rehn paper adds that the future international presence in Kosovo could take the form of an international office with an important EU component. But an "EUMIK" is ruled out. One EU source told Europe Information that this was a way of saying that Kosovo should not become an EU protectorate (à la Bosnia, as some would say) and that the EU should not be the only actor. The document also notes that the future military presence in Kosovo should continue to be entrusted to NATO.
EU Foreign Ministers urged on June 13 the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to proceed without delay with police and public broadcasting reforms, so that the opening of talks on an EU-BiH Stabilisation and Association Agreement might be considered.
The Council conclusions on the Western Balkans referred to the "successful execution" of the EU's military operation Althea in BiH. Ministers said a presence would be required beyond the end of 2005 and called on the appropriate Council bodies to take any necessary steps to that end.
Meanwhile, Mr Solana and Argentina's Ambassador to the EU, Jorge Remes Lenicov, have signed an agreement on Argentina's participation in the Althea operation. This is the first EU military operation in which Argentina is participating. Another South American country, Chile, is also taking part.