Friday, December 09, 2005

EU urged to prepare possible Kosovo police mission

By Mark John

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union should begin preparations for a possible move to take over the policing of Kosovo from the United Nations, foreign ministers of the bloc will be urged on Monday.

The proposal is part of a report by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn that makes clear that the EU seeks a leading role alongside others in the Serbian breakaway province once its future has been settled.

"The EU could take on responsibilities in the police and rule of law and certain economic areas," said the report, a summary of which was seen by Reuters.

"Contingency planning for a possible ESDP mission on police and rule of law should start," it added, using the acronym for EU security and defense operations. The report will be discussed by EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999, when 78 days of NATO bombing drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against civilians while fighting an ethnic Albanian insurgency.

The report said the EU's future role in Kosovo will depend on how internationally-backed talks manage to resolve the gap between Serbia's insistence on sovereignty and the Albanian majority's demands for independence.

But the bloc is seen seeking a lighter presence there than in Bosnia, where its special representative Paddy Ashdown is also the United Nations' top official in the country.

"The future international civilian presence after UNMIK shall ... not be EUMIK," the report said, rejecting the option of a wholesale takeover of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo by any future EU mission, dubbed EUMIK.

The United Nations does everything from maintaining law and order and supporting reconstruction of the province to basic civilian administrative tasks.

Solana has already said he does not see any prospect for the time being of the EU taking over security from the 17,000-strong NATO-led KFOR force in Kosovo.

EU diplomats hope that diplomacy launched last month by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari to determine Kosovo's future status will come up with an accord by the end of next year.

The EU has not made any formal link between the status talks and Serbia-Montenegro's aspirations ultimately to join the bloc but diplomats say it is difficult to see how it could join without a solution to the Kosovo dispute.

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