Home News EU – Major states offer to recognise independent Kosovo

EU – Major states offer to recognise independent Kosovo

Published on 19/02/2008

   BRUSSELS, February 18, 2008 - Europe's big powers Britain, France, Italyand Germany announced Monday they would recognise Kosovo's declaration ofindependence, despite staunch opposition from other EU nations.   At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Britain's David Milibandsaid "at least half" of the bloc's 27 member states would formally extenddiplomatic recognition by the end of the week.   "I think there's a very strong head of steam building among a wide range ofcountries, who see this as the last piece of the Yugoslav jigsaw," he said.   The French, Italian and German foreign ministers also said their respectivecountries had decided to recognise Kosovo, which proclaimed its independencefrom Serbia on Sunday.   They had barely done so when the United States "formally recognized Kosovoas a sovereign and independent state," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Ricesaid 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 toldreporters 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 advisorycouncil.   Cyprus vowed it would never do so, slamming Kosovo's move to break away as"legally invalid" and a "violation of the territorial intergrity andsovereignty of Serbia."   "We will never recognize the independence of Kosovo," said Cyprus ForeignMinister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.   Spain, which is grappling with Basque separatists, also quickly laid outits official opposition.   "Spain is not going to recognise this unilateral declaration ofindependence ... because it does not consider that this respects internationallaw," Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.   Serbia's main ally Russia has threatened to veto the recognition of Kosovoat 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 extendformal recognition.   Bildt said that in recognising the ethnic Albanian-majority breakawaySerbian province, the EU nations would do so "noting the fact that Kosovo willbe 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 withdomestic separatist movements.   Their agreed joint text left it to the individual member states torecognise Kosovo individually. It also condemned acts of violence in Kosovoand Serbia following Sunday's proclamation.   "It took a few hours of Belgian style-wrangling, but we reached anagreement 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 requesteddiplomatic recognition from governments worldwide, and hoped for the firstpositive responses within hours.   Despite their differences over recognising the new state, European nationshave 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 justicemission to help ease the transition to independence.   The mission will be fully operational after a 120-day period and willessentially train and mentor police, judges and customs officials.   Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, after NATObombed Belgrade to end a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists, butit remained technically part of Serbia.