Kosovo: EU Drifting Toward Solution Outside UN

By Ahto Lobjakas

BRUSSELS, July 18, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Until now, the European Union has
been a firm supporter of resolving the dispute over Kosovo's future
status in the UN Security Council.

But the EU seems to be acknowledging that this may prove impossible.

While the United States and the EU support Kosovo's independence,
Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said this week that
the chances of a Security Council resolution not backed by Serbia
being approved are "close to zero." Serbia insists it will not accept
Kosovo's independence.

After talks on July 17 with UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari, who authored
the proposal to give Kosovo internationally supervised independence,
the EU's foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, indicated the bloc is
now contemplating turning to other venues for settling the issue.

Move To Contact Group

Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Solana said the Contact Group for
Kosovo, which comprises the United States, Britain, Germany, France,
Italy, and Russia, could take a lead role in the absence of an
agreement at the United Nations.

"If [there is] no possibility [for an agreement] at the United Nations
at this time, I'm sure that there will be an agreement of the members
of the Contact Group to open the process of negotiations [between
Serbia and Kosovo] more or less [along the lines] of what we
introduced in the [draft] resolution," Solana said.

The Contact Group was first convened in the 1990s as an informal venue
for the major powers to discuss the bloody disputes in the Balkans. In
recent years, it has largely dealt with Kosovo.

Solana did not say how he intends to overcome Kosovo's refusal to
enter new talks with Serbia over its future, reiterated most recently
in Brussels last week by Prime Minister Agim Ceku.

Avoiding Russia's Veto

However, the move to turn to the Contact Group may be inspired less by
the hope of reviving talks between Serbia and Kosovo, than an attempt
to outmaneuver Russia. Unlike in the UN Security Council, Russia has
no veto power in the Contact Group.

Alain Deletroz, a vice president of the International Crisis Group, an
influential think tank, says that resorting to the Contact Group may
also help the EU to circumvent its own internal divisions on Kosovo.

Several EU member states are thought to harbor doubts on Kosovo's
independence, although a tenuous consensus exists at the EU level to
support it.

Deletroz said in a briefing in Brussels on July 17 that the "key EU
member states" in the group -- Britain, Germany, France, and Italy --
could assume the responsibility for an EU decision, allowing skeptics
to lie low.

"What these key member states should come up with is a clear statement
[directed at] Moscow, more than anything else, that if they carry on
blocking like this, there will be a recognition by this group of
European countries of a unilateral declaration of independence by
Kosovo," Deletroz said.

The United States has already said it backs independence for Kosovo.

Thawing 'Frozen Conflicts'

Deletroz says a recognition of Kosovo's independence by the EU
countries in the Contact Group would enable the bloc to agree to a
deployment of a crucial 1,600-man EU police mission in Kosovo without
the need to revisit the divisive status issue.

Deletroz admits that settling Kosovo's status outside the confines of
the United Nations would increase the likelihood that it will be
viewed as a precedent by other irredentist regions in the world,
especially those involved in the so-called frozen conflicts on the
territory of the former Soviet Union.

Russia has already warned it would be under "great pressure" to
recognize the separatist regimes in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in
Georgia and Transdniester in Moldova if Kosovo is given independence.

However, Deletroz said, recognizing "small autonomies fighting for
their independence" could would be a double-edged sword for Russia,
which is itself facing a separatist insurgency in Chechnya.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
                                  Serbian News Network - SNN



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