EU - Major states offer to recognise independent Kosovo
At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, David Miliband said "at least half" of the bloc's 27 member states would formally extend diplomatic recognition
BRUSSELS, February 18, 2008 - Europe's big powers Britain, France, Italy
and Germany announced Monday they would recognise Kosovo's declaration of
independence, despite staunch opposition from other EU nations.
At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Britain's David Miliband
said "at least half" of the bloc's 27 member states would formally extend
diplomatic recognition by the end of the week.
"I think there's a very strong head of steam building among a wide range of
countries, who see this as the last piece of the Yugoslav jigsaw," he said.
The French, Italian and German foreign ministers also said their respective
countries had decided to recognise Kosovo, which proclaimed its independence
from Serbia on Sunday.
They had barely done so when the United States "formally recognized Kosovo
as a sovereign and independent state," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
said in a statement.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said many EU states will follow suit.
"The vast majority would do that within the next month, say February-March,
that's roughly the time frame that I understand from colleagues," he told
reporters after the foreign ministers' meeting.
"We will be well within that time frame," he said, referring to Sweden,
which under its constitution must make such moves through a royal advisory
Cyprus vowed it would never do so, slamming Kosovo's move to break away as
"legally invalid" and a "violation of the territorial intergrity and
sovereignty of Serbia."
"We will never recognize the independence of Kosovo," said Cyprus Foreign
Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.
Spain, which is grappling with Basque separatists, also quickly laid out
its official opposition.
"Spain is not going to recognise this unilateral declaration of
independence ... because it does not consider that this respects international
law," Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.
Serbia's main ally Russia has threatened to veto the recognition of Kosovo
at the UN Security Council
Despite this -- and objections from Spain, Romania and Slovakia -- Austria,
Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Finland,
Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Sweden, also said they were preparing to extend
Bildt said that in recognising the ethnic Albanian-majority breakaway
Serbian province, the EU nations would do so "noting the fact that Kosovo will
be under international supervision".
The ministers had struggled to find a common line on Kosovo's independence,
which is opposed by countries like Spain because of their own concerns with
domestic separatist movements.
Their agreed joint text left it to the individual member states to
recognise Kosovo individually. It also condemned acts of violence in Kosovo
and Serbia following Sunday's proclamation.
"It took a few hours of Belgian style-wrangling, but we reached an
agreement that has the merit of being both clear and vague at the same time,"
Belgium's Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht said.
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said his government had requested
diplomatic recognition from governments worldwide, and hoped for the first
positive responses within hours.
Despite their differences over recognising the new state, European nations
have been united in their commitment to ensure some stability in the Balkans,
given Europe's failure to prevent the bloody break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
They have already taken one major decision to boost Kosovo's viability,
with the official launch on Saturday of a 2,000-strong police and justice
mission to help ease the transition to independence.
The mission will be fully operational after a 120-day period and will
essentially train and mentor police, judges and customs officials.
Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, after NATO
bombed Belgrade to end a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists, but
it remained technically part of Serbia.