EU to launch Kosovo mission before independence
By Paul Taylor
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is set to complete authorization of a big supervisory mission in Kosovo this week, just before the territory is expected to declare independence from Serbia, diplomats and EU officials said.
They said the 27-nation bloc will use a low-profile diplomatic procedure to approve an operations plan for the 1,800-strong police and justice mission -- the last of four preparatory documents required to launch deployment.
"The O-plan will be adopted this week by written procedure," one official said.
A senior EU diplomat said the decision did not need to go to ministers since the bloc's leaders had agreed in principle in December to send the mission, due to replace the U.N. administration in Kosovo.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders are expected to declare independence next Sunday, despite fierce opposition from Belgrade and Moscow. EU foreign ministers hold their monthly meeting in Brussels the following day.
Russia has argued the EU would be acting illegally but EU lawyers contend that U.N. Security Council resolution 1244, adopted in 1999 after a NATO air war drove Serb forces out of the province, provides a legal basis.
EU ministers are expected to adopt a general statement on Kosovo's future next Monday, taking note of the declaration of independence, calling for stability and leaving it to each member state to decide on recognition, diplomats said. Continued...