EU Kosovo mission to start Saturday morning

14.02.08 @ 13:11

  1. By Renata Goldirova

BRUSSELS - The European Union has given its final "operational" go-ahead to the 1,800-strong mission of policemen, prosecutors and judges to be deployed to Serbia's breakaway region of Kosovo, with the actual deployment expected to start on Saturday morning (16 February).

  • Pristina - The timing of the EU mission to Kosovo has been crucial (Photo: UNMIK)

Diplomats have confirmed to EUobserver that the 27-nation bloc on Wednesday initiated a so-called 'silent procedure' - a low profile diplomatic procedure - to formalise the mission, a process that runs until midnight Friday.

The timing has been crucial due to the fact that the disputed region of Kosovo is likely to declare independence on Sunday (17 February).

Several EU states demanded the mission be approved before the act of independence, as they feared giving the go ahead afterwards would imply recognition of a new Kosovo state.

"The actual fight over the mission took place last week", one EU diplomat said, when asked about the stance of different member states during Wednesday decision-making process.

Last week the EU approved the so-called joint action, ending 90 percent of preparatory work, but Cyprus took advantage of a "constructive abstention" mechanism, meaning that Nicosia will not participate in the mission, but will not block it.

Diplomats say that the mission is legally based on current UN Security Council resolution 1244 - the same one that introduced the UN administration over the Serbian province back in 1999.

"There is still hope that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will formally support the mission", a diplomat said.

However, he addmitted that the chances of this happening are slim due to heavy pressure from Russia as well as legal ambiguity over the mission at UN headquarters.

Earlier this month, Russian ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told journalists in Brussels that he was "sure" that the head of United Nations would "not legitimise" the EU's mission.

The nod of approval "would mean that Ban Ki-Moon was going beyond his responsibilities as secretary general", Mr Chizhov stressed and acknowledged that Moscow was putting the UN chief under heavy pressure.

An EU diplomat on Thursday suggested that the bloc would try to "beef" up the legality of the mission by referring to general principles of international law.

Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999 when NATO air strikes ended Serbia's crackdown against ethnic Albanians.

The EU's mission to Serbia's breakaway province is designed to take over some of the UN's duties in order to strengthen stability in Kosovo and ensure that its future set-up observes democratic standards.