Friday, March 10, 2006

EU ponders Kosovo's way towards independence

In Short:

The issue of Kosovo's quest for independence from Serbia will feature high on the EU foreign ministers' Salzburg meeting agenda. According to Commissioner Rehn, Serbia should not rule the province again.

• EU-Western Balkans relations
Brief News:

The president of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu, is scheduled to meet with the EU's foreign ministers who hold a two-day informal council meeting on 10-11 March in Salzburg, Austria. Regional co-operation in the Western Balkans is one of the key topics of the meeting. The ministers will be briefed by Martti Ahtisaari, the UN's special envoy to the Kosovo talks.

Belgrade and Pristina are currently engaged in UN and EU-sponsored negotiations on Kosovo's independence. Status talks started in February in Vienna. The next round of talks is scheduled for 17 March.

In a speech in Athens, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn reiterated the EU's intention to promote a negotiated solution based on the understanding that "there can be no return for Kosovo to Belgrade's rule." The EU also expects Kosovo to be "realistic" by recognising that "status can only come with standards, especially as regards minority protection and decentralisation measures."

Meanwhile, the head of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, said that Moscow believes that it is premature to settle the status of Kosovo, and that no decision can be taken that bypasses the leadership in Belgrade. Serbia has recently proposed that the issue of Kosovo's final status should be frozen for 20 years.

Some 90% of Kosovo's two million population are ethnic Albanians and they are pushing for full independence.

In a related development, Kosovo's provisional assembly was scheduled on 10 March to elect a new government under Prime Minister-nominate Agim Ceku. Ceku, a former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leader, is set to replace Bajram Kosumi, who resigned last week, in the post. Ceku's nomination has been strongly criticised by Serbia on the grounds that he is considered a war criminal by Belgrade.


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Kosovo independence almost inevitable -Straw

SALZBURG, Austria (Reuters) - Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Friday that Kosovo's path to independence from Serbia was "almost inevitable".

"Everybody accepts that the pre-1999 situation is unsustainable as a basis for the future, and if that is the case, then a pathway towards independence becomes almost inevitable," Straw told a news conference at a European Union foreign ministers' meeting in Austria.

It was the clearest statement to date by a senior minister that Western powers will support a form of independence for the overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian Serbian province in talks being brokered by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.

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