21 March 2007

EU to oversee Kosovo police, judiciary, once final status resolved

Associated Press, Wednesday, December 20, 2006 11:24 AM

PRISTINA, Serbia-European Union officials will remain in Kosovo after the issue over the Serbian province's future status is resolved, in order to oversee the police and judiciary, EU officials said Wednesday.

The "international community does not seek to govern Kosovo any more," said Torbjorn Sohlstrom, the senior EU official in Kosovo.

The province has been run by a United Nations-led administration since 1999, after a NATO-led air campaign halted a crackdown by Serb forces on ethnic Albanians separatist rebels. U.N.-mediated negotiations aim to resolve the province's future status. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants full independence, but Belgrade wants to retain some control over what it considers a crucial part of Serbia.

Locally elected leaders in the province will have "ownership and accountability" of Kosovo's affairs, Sohlstrom said. But he added that "at the same time, we need to find the balance between this strong ownership and accountability with strong international guarantees in some areas."

The EU is also planning to establish a mission of up to 1,300 personnel, mainly consisting of police officers who will mentor and assist the local police force. Some will also deal with sensitive cases of organized crime, interethnic crime and corruption, said Casper Klynge, who heads the EU planning team in Kosovo.

The U.N. mission, which holds veto power over local decision-making, is in the process of reducing its presence and handing over responsibilities to local institutions.

A U.N. envoy facilitating months of so far inconclusive talks between the bitterly divided sides is due to make a final recommendation early next year on the province's future.

Diplomats say the province will likely get some sort of independence, although there are concerns about the security of the 100,000 or so Serbs still living in Kosovo.