Kosovo’s fragile transition

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“Kosovo is proving to be a difficult test for EU security and defence policy,” argues a September report from the International Crisis Group (ICG), which urges the bloc to show more determination to deliver on international commitments and avoid compromising ongoing negotiations with Russia over the deployment of a new EU defence mission to Georgia.

The report claims that the international community has not provided adequate support to Kosovo since it started the state-building process after its declaration of independence in February. It warns that although “major violence has been avoided,” the divisions between Albanian and Serb areas have only widened.

The rule-of-law mission (EU-LEX), the EU’s biggest-ever mission under the European Security and Defence Policy, has only just started to deploy, with merely a quarter of the agreed 2,000 international staffers on the ground, the ICG points out. The group adds that the UN is still partially functioning as an “interim administration” as the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is suffering serious delays. 

Moreover, the Ahtisaari Plan, the basis for international recognition of Kosovo’s independence, has been undermined by the very same international organisations meant to contribute to its implementation, the report states.

With the EU and the US struggling to show resolve in the face of Serb resistance and Russian attempts to draw parallels between its support for Georgia’s breakaway regions and Western backing for Kosovo, the prospects for a unitary state are dissipating, the ICG warns. “Pressure to redraw borders on ethnic lines throughout the former Yugoslavia will mount,” making the EU membership perspectives of the region’s countries further removed, it fears.

The report calls on the EU to fully deploy EU-LEX by December and “make strategic use of Serbia’s accession process to secure deployment of its field missions Kosovo-wide” and force Serbia to get used to its former province’s new status. It also urges the UN to further reduce its mission and offer support to EU-LEX so that transitional arrangements for police, courts and customs in the Serb-majority areas can be agreed.

“At a time when the EU is engaged in tough talks with Russia about the deployment of a new ESDP mission to Georgia, it would be dangerous to show lack of resolve so close to home,” the report concludes.

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