EU fudges Kosovo independence recognition

18.02.08 @ 19:28

  1. By Elitsa Vucheva

BRUSSELS - EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (18 February) adopted a common text in reaction to Kosovo's proclamation of independence, leaving it up to the bloc's member states whether to recognise the newly proclaimed state.

  • The EU has left it to member states to decide on Kosovo recognition (Photo: EUobserver.com)

"The council takes note that the resolution [of independence adopted by the Kosovo assembly on Sunday] commits Kosovo to the principles of democracy and equality of all its citizens, the protection of the Serb and other minorities, the protection of the cultural and religious heritage and international supervision," read the final text.

"The council [the EU's foreign ministers] notes that member states will decide, in accordance with national practice and international law, on their relations with Kosovo," the document continues.

Due to the conflict in the late 1990s, and the extended period of international administration, ministers also felt that Kosovo constitutes a sui generis case that does not call into question the territorial integrity principles of the UN Charter.

Announcing the decision, Slovenian foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, expressed his "happiness that we managed to see a uniformed decision, a unified stance and that we protected the unity of the EU."

"We managed to react accordingly to a historic event," he added.

The refusal of some member states – such as Spain, Cyprus, Romania and Greece – to recognise Kosovo ensured that Monday's debates were heated and lengthy.

But while those countries reiterated their positions during the meeting, they did not object to the council's final text, which had itself been significantly revised from earlier versions.

An earlier draft – rejected by member states – read: "Member states can decide, in accordance with national practice and legal norms, to establish their relations with Kosovo as an independent state under international supervision."

Spain had strongly opposed this text and put forward its own, very similar to the one eventually adopted by the ministers.

France, UK, Italy to recognise independence

Some member states declared their intention to recognise Kosovo immediately after Monday's meeting.

"We intend to recognise Kosovo," French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner told journalists, the AP reports.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has written a letter informing Pristina that Paris would establish diplomatic ties with the new country, Mr Kouchner said.

The UK, Italy, Belgium and Germany also said they would recognise Kosovo.

"A majority of [EU] member states will recognise a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo founded on the rule of law. Germany, too, will make this step," the country's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said.

At least half the bloc's members will formalise their recognition of Kosovo by the end of the week, the UK's David Miliband predicted.

"The British government has decided to recognise Kosovo," he said.

On the other hand, Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos stated that his country would not "recognise the unilateral act proclaimed... by the assembly of Kosovo".

Romania, Cyprus and Greece have also reaffirmed their earlier positions opposing independence at this stage.

For now, Slovakia will not recognise Kosovo either and will again assess the situation after the deployment of the EU's civilian mission to Kosovo, which will be finalised in four months.

Another group of states, including Bulgaria and Denmark, have expressed their readiness to recognise Kosovo, provided that its government implements the principles to which it has committed itself – such as democracy and the respect of the rights of all minorities living on Kosovo's soil.

Bulgarian foreign minister Ivailo Kalfin told journalists that if Kosovo sticks to its commitments, Sofia could decide to establish diplomatic relations with Pristina in the next few weeks.