European Union foreign ministers have approved sending a mission to Kosovo to plan for a possible role in assisting police, judiciary and administrative officials in the Serbian province.
The ministers said the mission will help authorities in Kosovo manage any crisis that may arise in the justice sphere. A preparatory group is to begin operations in Kosovo at the end of this month, with a full 800 person team of police and justice experts to be in play by early September.
The ministers instructed the team to study the possible transfer of some justice-related functions from the United Nations to EU personnel. The U.N. currently administers Kosovo.
The European Union is increasing its role in Kosovo as the province's leaders continue U.N.-mediated talks with representatives of the Serbian government on the area's future.
Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of the Kosovo's population. They are calling for full independence from Serbia. But Serbia says Kosovo is crucial to Serbian national identity, and wants to create a Serbian entity within the province with special ties to Belgrade. Kosovo's ethnic Albanians reject this, fearing it will lead to a division of the province.