28th Sep 2023

EU Kosovo mission to face delay

  • The EU mission does not enjoy unanimous approval in Kosovo (Photo: Pim de Kuijer)

The EU's mission to Kosovo is unlikely to be fully operational by 15 June, as first planned, due to opposition by Serbia and Russia which are blocking the transfer of power from the UN to the EU and local authorities.

Under an initial plan, UN mission UNMIK which has been administering Kosovo since 1999, was to hand over the power to local authorities on 15 June.

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After this, the EU would have stepped in to help with police and judicial work, while NATO forces would have continued to be responsible for hard security in Kosovo, according to the AFP agency.

However, this transfer of power has been blocked by UN members Serbia and Russia, which do not recognise Kosovo's unilaterally proclaimed independence of 17 February.

For his part, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has also avoided clear statements on the matter so far, saying simply that the UN was taking note of the EU's wish to intervene.

"It's quite possible that we won't progress much further by June 15, as long as we don't have a clearer political framework," Yves de Kermabon, EULEX mission chief, told AFP.

"The mission is somewhat on standby waiting for decisions from the United Nations," he added.

The EULEX mission, consisting of around 2,000 people, was set to be the EU's response to Kosovo's independence and the new situation in this part of the Balkans. Brussels has repeatedly stated that Kosovo is a "European problem."

But to date, only some 200 to 300 people are on the ground, according to press agencies.

Moreover, it remains unclear how the transfer of power will take place, if at all. One possibility would be that the UN stays on the ground after June.

But this model risks confirming Kosovo's North-South division, with UNMIK taking care of the mostly Serb-populated North and the EU running the rest of the majority-Albanian state, European diplomats told Reuters.

Despite the problems, EULEX's Mr Kerambon does not foresee a delay of more than "one, two or three months," and expects the mission's general objectives to be eventually reached.

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

But EULEX's main aim is to help Kosovo authorities in areas related to the rule of law, particularly police, judiciary, customs and correctional services.

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