EU foreign ministers will meet today (18 February) in an attempt to thrash out a joint reaction to Kosovo’s declaration of independence amid strong divisions over whether to recognise the newborn state.
While the Union’s four largest nations – Britain, France, Germany and Italy – are expected to announce their recognition directly after the meeting, at least six other countries, including Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Spain and Greece, insist they cannot back Kosovo’s unilateral decision to break away from Serbia.
The move, announced on 17 February by Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, was immediately declared illegal by Serbia, raising fears of a repeat of the violence that marked the collapse of Yugoslavia a decade ago and putting pressure on the EU to garner some kind of common position in order to guarantee stability in the region.
EU presidency holder Slovenia said foreign ministers were unlikely to do more than “take note” of the move and attempt to assure both Kosovo and Serbia that they have a future within the EU.
However, reaching a consensus on the exact wording is likely to prove difficult, with several EU members fearing that Kosovo’s separation could fuel separatist movements in their own countries.
Among others, Cyprus, whose small island is divided between the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot South and a Turkish Cypriot North recognised only by Turkey, could prove the most difficult to convince.
The country has already refused to declare itself in favour of a 1,800 strong police and administration mission to the ethnic Albanian territory, approved by the 27 on 16 February despite strong opposition from Serbia and its Russian ally.
“I hope we are going to have a platform that is united with virtually everyone,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said before the meeting, adding: “My aim is to have 26. I think that is achievable.”