01 February 2006

EU envoy to visit Kosovo

Associated Press, Jan 17, 2006 4:40 AM


PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro-The European Union envoy for Kosovo talks was to arrive in this disputed province Tuesday to discuss the EU's role in the process, an official said.


Stefan Lehne, who will represent the EU in the upcoming U.N.-mediated talks, will meet with Kosovo's leaders and U.N. officials, said Torbjorn Sohlstrom, an EU official in the province.


The two day visit will include discussions on the status talks process but also on the EU's future role in Kosovo, in the fields such as justice and police, after its status is decided, Sohlstrom said.


Lehne was appointed last year as EU's representative to help former Finnish President Martii Ahtisaari, who will lead those discussions. He currently serves as director for southeastern Europe at EU headquarters and is a senior adviser to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.


European Union officials recommended late last year that the bloc take over policing duties in Kosovo from the United Nations, which has been administering the province since 1999, adding the EU had a responsibility to help rebuild the troubled Balkan province.


A report drafted by Solana and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn suggested the EU prepare for a police mission, which would be deployed after its future status has been decided.


Although still technically a province within the loose union of Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo has been administered by the U.N. since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign halted ex-president Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.


Serbian leaders want Kosovo to be split administratively between its majority Albanians and minority Serbs, granting Albanians self-government while keeping the province part of Serbia. Ethnic Albanians are pressing for complete independence from Belgrade.


U.N.-sponsored final status discussions for Kosovo are expected to begin next week in Vienna, Austria.