19th Aug 2022

Thorny Kosovo issue to be discussed by EU foreign ministers

The future status of Kosovo is going to be high on the agenda of EU foreign ministers meeting in Portugal on Friday and Saturday (7-8 September), as they try to overcome internal divisions and move closer towards a common EU position on the sensitive issue.

The EU's strong internal differences on the breakaway Serbian province have already prompted Wolfgang Ischinger, the EU's Kosovo envoy, to warn that there will be "chaos" if the bloc does not manage to speak with one voice.

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  • Pristina - the capital of Kosovo (Photo: Wikipedia)

Some member states such as the UK, France and Germany, had indicated they may support unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo, while others – including Spain, Greece and Slovakia have been opposed, fearing repercussions in other regions.

The meeting of EU foreign ministers in Viana do Castelo in Portugal is seen as "a part of a concession building exercise which we have to have in the EU", a spokesperson for the Portuguese presidency of the EU said.

Both France and the UK have made appeals on the Kosovo issue ahead of the meeting.

"Kosovo will be a major test of our common foreign and security policy", French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and his British counterpart David Miliband wrote in a joint article in Le Monde.

"We have to show that, despite our differences, despite possible difficulties within the [United Nations] Security Council, we are ready to stand together to ensure stability in Kosovo and allow the European Union to play the role that comes to it naturally".

A Balkan powder-keg

International talks on its future status opened in February 2006 in Vienna but have been in deadlock ever since, with both Kosovo and Serbia standing firm on their positions.

Kosovo is currently under the administration of the United Nations as its final status was left undecided at the end of the Yugoslavia-NATO war in June 1999.

Kosovo wants full independence; Serbia is refusing. The UN security Council is also divided with Russia saying it will not support any move towards Kosovo's independence if it is not also supported by Belgrade.

Both sides have upped the rhetoric as the difficult talks continue.

Kosovan prime minister Agim Ceku was quoted as saying in the media last week that "we are ready, in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution, to declare independence and ask for recognition by the EU and the United States".

Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic reacted strongly.

"Serbia will have no choice but to respond to acts that would jeopardize its sovereignty and territorial integrity", he said according to the Associated Press.

"The unilateral declaration of independence would bring protracted instability to the region", he added.

Another option to partition the province along ethnic lines has been mooted recently but has been firmly rejected by the EU's enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn unless both sides agree to it.

The international talks on Kosovo are being brokered by Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the US.

The next talks at ministerial level will take place in New York on 27 September and general elections will be held in Kosovo on 17 November.

For its part, the EU is hoping that the talks on the future status of the breakaway province will be concluded before the 10 December deadline, saving it from scrambling to get a united stance if Kosovo makes a unilateral declaration on independence following failed talks.

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