Kosovo future fuels serious EU divisions

EU member states meeting in Portugal over the weekend confirmed their deep divisions on what to do if Kosovo eventually makes a unilateral declaration of independence.

The 27-nation union only recently managed to agree to a UN plan that offers the breakaway Serbian province a strong degree of independence but not full autonomy.

But now they are faced with the prospect of Pristina making a separate independence declaration – something outside UN structures and to which Russia is strongly opposed.

The meeting at Viana do Castelo, under the EU presidency of Portugal, produced no progress on what the bloc would do under this scenario.

At the moment, Russia and the West are mediating a new round of negotiations between Kosovar and Serbian leaders, but the chances for a compromise solution between the two sides are low.

Portuguese foreign minister Luis Amado admitted to reporters that he sees no guarantees on how each EU member state would behave if the talks failed, but warned that lack of unity was a critical risk.

"I cannot conceive that we could have at the end a situation where there is a strong position of Russia, a strong position of the US and where Europe simply does not exist," Mr Amado said after the meeting, according to dtt-net.com

A group of nations, including Spain, Greece, Slovakia and Romania, say they are not prepared to recognise such a unilateral move.

"The status of Kosovo has to be resolved within the UN," Spain's Miguel Angel Moratinos insisted.

Germany crucial

But according to many western diplomats, Germany is at the forefront of European nations against any unilateral move.

One Western diplomatic source told dtt-net.com that without having Berlin "backing the US and UK's eventual move on unilateral independence, both capitals would not be ready to provoke blow ups inside the EU and risk a serious crisis with Russia".

Last week top Berlin officials warned against any attempts by western countries to sidestep the UN and Russia on Kosovo independence, saying that such a risky move would harm Germany's and the EU's relations with Moscow.

During a conference of German ambassadors held in Berlin last Monday, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that there is nothing that can be solved without Russia, including the issue of Kosovo.

"As you know, we had very tough talks with Russia already. However, I still think that with all the different points of view, Russia for us remains an important, strategic partner even if in the future we may not share the same opinions," Mr Steinmeier was quoted as saying.

[Source: Euobserver, Viana do Castelo, Por, 10Sep07]

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The Question of Kosovo
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