Mar 30, 2007

Kosova: EU Supports Ahtisaari’s Plan

The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of supporting Ahtisaari’s plan for supervised sovereignty in Kosova, calling it the only possible sustainable settlement option.

Below is an article published by International Herald Tribune:

The European Parliament on Thursday [29 March 2007] overwhelmingly backed a U.N. plan that would give Kosovo supervised independence from Serbia, and the EU's foreign policy chief said the bloc's planned development project in the province was "the most important EU mission in history."

The EU assembly voted to back "supervised sovereignty" for Kosovo that would give it access to international financial organizations to help its economic recovery.

U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari presented a proposal to the U.N. Security Council on Monday to grant the province eventual independence from Serbia, initially supervised by the international community.

"The European Parliament takes the view the only sustainable settlement for Kosovo is one which envisages an international presence in order to maintain the multiethnic character of Kosovo," the parliament said in a report.

But parliamentarians said the international presence must not result in the establishment of a parallel administration or replicate the current U.N. administration. Kosovo was placed under U.N. oversight in 1999, after NATO air strikes ended a Serb crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the parliament that the bloc's 2,000-strong mission to Kosovo — for which the EU assembly must approve funds — will be the largest mission the EU has ever had.

After Kosovo's final status has been determined, the EU team will move in to assist local authorities in developing autonomous institutions, police and judiciary and ensure the rights of minorities are observed. The EU also wants to prepare Kosovo for closer ties with the 27-member bloc.

"We cannot afford to fail. If we fail in stabilizing Serbia and Kosovo, it will ... reduce our possibilities to do anything like that further afield," Solana said.

The EU has said international grants of up to €1.5 billion (US$2 billion) may be required to help Kosovo in the first three years after the final status of the Serb province is determined. The money will be needed to cover Kosovo's share of the Yugoslav debt, the cost of implementing Kosovo's status, economic development and an international military and civilian presence.

Kosovo has an estimated 50 percent unemployment rate, and many people live in poverty, making it the poorest region in the western Balkans, according to EU figures.

The economy has mostly been kept afloat by international aid in reconstruction projects. Kosovo has failed to attract much foreign investment due to the unresolved political status and fears of instability.

Ahtisaari's plan faces an uncertain future in the Security Council. Russia supports Serbia, which wants the province to remain within its borders, and has implied it could use its veto power in the council if Belgrade's interests are not addressed. The United States and the European Union back the plan.

"We'll have difficulties with Russia and very probably also with China," Solana said.

He said the EU must help Serbia to overcome the loss of Kosovo and form a pro-European government that would bring the country closer to the EU.

"I'd like to be as generous as possible in helping Serbia," Solana said, but also called on Belgrade to step up its cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where wartime Bosnian Serb army commander Gen. Ratko Mladic is wanted.