Published: January 11, 2008
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia The United States and Germany have agreed to recognize Kosovo after it declares independence and to urge the rest of Europe to follow suit, say senior European Union diplomats close to negotiations over Kosovos future.
Endgame in Kosovo In a recent conversation about Kosovo, a Serbian province that has been under United Nations administration since 1999, President Bush and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany agreed it was vital to recognize Kosovo to stabilize the western Balkans, European officials said Wednesday evening. After months of failed negotiations, Kosovo is expected to declare independence after the second round of Serbian elections, planned for Feb. 3.
The European officials said the United States was aggressively pressing the European Union to ensure that the recognition of Kosovo was not delayed by even a week. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because diplomatic negotiations were continuing.
The cake has been baked, because the Americans have promised Kosovo independence, a senior European Union official said. And if Washington recognizes Kosovo and European nations do not follow, it will be a disaster.
The government of Serbia and Russia, an ally, vehemently oppose independence for Kosovo. Several European Union countries including Spain, Slovakia, Romania and Cyprus fear spurring secessionist movements in their own territories. But European Union diplomats said a majority of European nations including Germany, France, Britain and Italy planned to recognize Kosovo, regardless of dissenters.
The German Foreign Ministry said no decision had been reached on when the European Union would recognize Kosovo.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said in December, when the Security Council was unable to resolve the issue of Kosovos future, that the time had come to proceed with granting independence. The continuation of the status quo poses not only a threat to peace and stability in Kosovo but also to the region and in Europe, Mr. Khalilzad said then.
Slovenia, which took over the European Union presidency for six months on Jan. 1, is pressing members to make good on a pledge to send an 1,800-member police and civil force to Kosovo this month. European officials said Slovenia was determined to have the force in place before Kosovo declared independence.
Dimitrij Rupel, the Slovenian foreign minister, said this week that the European Unions best hope out of a potentially explosive situation in Kosovo was to soften Serbias recalcitrance by offering it closer ties to the European Union and the prospect of joining the bloc. The financial situation of Serbia is terrible, and coming closer to the E.U. will help change that, he said.
Kosovo legally remains part of Serbia, and the two rounds of Serbian elections are scheduled for Jan. 20 and Feb. 3. A declaration of independence before then would be likely to play into the hands of Serbian nationalists.
The European Union has said it will not fully embrace Serbia until it hands over those indicted on war crimes charges, including Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serbs wartime military commander. But Mr. Rupel hinted that the European Union could show more flexibility if Serbia softened its stance on Kosovo.
He stressed that the ethnic Albanians who are the overwhelming majority of Kosovos population were brutally subjugated by Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president who died in 2006. Mr. Rupel said the Albanians had the same right to self-determination achieved by Slovenia, which declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 as the nation began to disintegrate.
Kosovo, a territory of two million people, has been in limbo since NATO intervened in 1999 to stop repression by Serbian forces against the ethnic Albanians.
Some Slovenian diplomats are concerned that tiny Slovenias efforts will be upstaged by France, which takes over the European Union presidency in July. But Prime Minister Janez Jansa said Slovenias size could prove an advantage.
The fact that our political work might be perceived as lesser than other E.U. member states could give us an advantage by giving us more room for maneuver, Mr. Jansa said. It will help us to be an honest broker.