Kosovo: born on the 15th of June

by | Jun 15, 2008

Kosovo continues to limp, hop and stumble towards statehood.  Today, the UN hands over some policing and justice duties to the EU, in a deal hammered out by Ban Ki-moon and Javier Solana that’s less than a week old and still contains some notable gaps.  As predicted here ages ago, the UN will be staying on to offer a political “umbrella” for EU activities.

The Russians are making a hoo-ha about the EU presence on behalf of the Serbs, and you have to admire the rhetoric.  Here’s Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO, hardliner Dmitry Rogozin, on the subject:

“We warned our UN colleagues long ago that there were such things as honour, duty and the UN resolution that must be complied with. Unfortunately political forces which prefer to wipe their feet on international laws like on a doormat prevail in Europe.”

But this feels like a venting session rather than anything more serious (confirming another prediction made here, that Moscow’s leverage on Kosovo has always been more limited than it appeared).  Everyone else is shuffling their feet.   The EU may now have a foothold in Kosovo, but it’s been made to look pretty silly along the way, especially when it became clear that it couldn’t afford to deploy without inheriting second-hand vehicles and kit from the UN.

But a bigger problem is that EU and UN personnel, who were best buddies up until the start of this year, have fallen out badly in the run-up to this decision.  Worse still, the latest carve-up of responsibilities leaves both politically weakened.  Although the UN may be staying on, its credibility with the Kosovo Albanians is shot – indeed, the latter are saying openly they expect the UN to be gone by autumn

Conversely, Ban’s decision provides no indication on what role the EU’s political chief in Kosovo, Peter Feith, should play.  Feith was meant to oversee the Kosovo government and wade in if it started to misbehave.  But he still lacks the de jure authority to do so while the UN leadership lacks the de facto power to intervene.  The winners?  The Kosovo Albanians, I think.  They should be able to maneuver quite nimbly in this mess…


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