19th Apr 2019

EU Kosovo mission launched

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS The European Union launched its Kosovo mission on Saturday (16 February), just a day before the breakaway Serbian province declared independence.

Dubbed EULEX, the mission has three components - a rule of law mission, an EU special representative who will also chair an International Civilian Office there, and a European Commission unit leading economic development and reform.

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The aim is to help the Kosovo authorities in all areas related to the rule of law, in particular in the police, judiciary, customs and correctional services.

"It's the most important mission for the EU until now", the head of EULEX mission, Yves de Kermabon, said on Saturday (16 February), adding "we are not there to administrate but to assist with some executive powers".

Over 120 days, the 27-nation bloc will deploy more than 2,000 police, customs officers, judges and prosecutors in Kosovo territory. Member states will participate differently in the mission, Romania will send 175 people for example, while Belgium will send 45 and Slovakia eight.

Several non-EU states are also taking part in the mission, including the United States, Turkey, Switzerland, Croatia and Norway. The international staff will be accompanied by 1,000 locals.

"During the four month transition, UNMIK will stay in place and stay in charge of the security and the situation in Kosovo", Mr Kermabon said, referring to an interim civilian administration led by the United Nations. UNMIK was established by UN Security Council resolution 1244 in 1999.

But any major security threats in Kosovo will be primarily dealt with by the 17,000-strong NATO-led forces, KFOR.

Legally, the EU mission is based on the same resolution, 1244, although Serbia and Russia continue to strongly criticise this arrangement.

Serbia has called the EU's presence "an occupation", with the country's deputy prime minister Bozidar Djelic handing a formal protest to Slovenian Ambassador to Belgrade Miroslav Luci, whose country currently holds the EU's presidency.

"The Government of Serbia considers this decision, made outside the auspices of the United Nations Security Council, illegal," Belgrade's statement was cited as saying by AFP news agency.

Meanwhile, Russia called on Sunday for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. It will enter its second day today (18 February).

The costs of the mission are estimated at €205 million for the initial 16 months of its presence, although it is widely expected that it will last much longer.

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