Thursday, February 28, 2008


International group formed to supervise independence

Vienna, 28 Feb. (AKI) - The European Union and several other countries formed on Thursday an International Steering Group (ICG) to supervise the independence of Kosovo declared by majority ethnic Albanians on 17 February.

The ICG, which will be the highest international authority in Kosovo, was formed at a meeting in Vienna and will comprise 15 countries, including members of the six-country 'Control Group', such as the United States, Great Britain, Italy, France and Germany.

Its sixth member, Russia,will not be part of the ICG, because it opposes Kosovo's independence, Dutch diplomat Peter Feith, who will be the EU civilian representative in Kosovo, told journalists.

Other members of the ICG are Austria, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Turkey, Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Feith said the membership was open to other countries on the criteria that “they must be friends of Kosovo independence”.

Feith said it would be good if Russia also joined, but stressed that “chances are small for that to happen at this moment”.

Russia has blocked Kosovo's independence drive in the UN Security Council and is backing Serbia’s diplomatic battle to deny independence to Kosovo, which has a 90 percent ethnic Albanian population.

Russia is a member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council along with the US, China, France, and Britain thus it can veto any resolution regarding Kosovo's membership in the UN.

Feith said the main ICG task would be to implement a plan by former UN negotiator Martti Ahtisaari for what he called an internationally supervised independence.

After the plan was blocked in the UN by Russia, the EU decided to go at it alone, bypassing the Security Council and 20 countries have so far recognized Kosovo on a bilateral basis.

The EU mission is due to replace the current UN administration, which has controlled Kosovo since 1999, but Belgrade and Moscow have said that EU presence in the province would be illegal without the approval of the Security Council.

EU action is backed by a 17,000 strong NATO force deployed in Kosovo, and Feith said the international community “would tolerate no violence” in the province. The remaining 100,000 Serbs in Kosovo oppose independence and have vowed to recognise only Belgrade’s authority.

Belgrade has for the past nine years kept parallel institutions in Kosovo and vowed it would continue to do so. But Feith said no parallel institutions or partitioning of Kosovo would be tolerated.

Most Kosovo Serbs are concentrated in the north of the province, with their backs on Serbia proper, and have for the most part ignored ethnic Albanian authorities in Pristina.

The province has been practically partitioned along the River Ibar, and Feith said Serbs would be allowed to keep “special ties” to Belgrade.

“These ties, however, must be transparent and must respect the authority of the government in Pristina,” he concluded.

Pertinent Links:

1) International group formed to supervise independence

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