Kosovo to gain full sovereignty

Balkan territory, which broke away from Serbia in 2008 after civil war, gets nod from International Steering Group.

    Kosovo will finally gain full soverignty in September, almost four years after breaking away from Serbia, the International Steering Group [ISG] overseeing its independence has announced.

    "The international supervision ends as of today," said Michael Spindelegger, Austrian foreign minister, who hosted the event in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

    In January, the 25-nation ISG that includes several EU states besides Austria as well as Turkey and the US, had announced that the Balkan territory had made such progress that "supervised independence" could be lifted by the end of the year.

    The ISG congratulated Kosovo for fulfilling the conditions required by the so-called Comprehensive Settlement Proposal (CSP), "including (passing) laws on cultural and religious heritage, community rights and decentralisation."

    Hashim Thaci, the Kosovo prime minister, who attended the meeting, said it was an "historic day" and a "new step for Kosovo" but Serbia warned that the decision could pose a risk for ethnic Serbs.

    Monday's decision effectively means the end of international administration and supervision of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence in 2008, but a NATO-led KFOR (the Kosovo Force) peacekeeping force or European rule of law mission EULEX will likely remain in place.

    Kosovo, a two-million-strong majority ethnic Albanian republic, has been under some form of international administration since a NATO bombing campaign ousted Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's forces in 1999.

    On February 17, 2008, it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia and has been recognised by 86 countries, including most EU nations.

    However, it continues to face opposition from Belgrade, Kosovo's ethnic Serbs and Russia.

    A senior Serbian official said Monday's decision was bad news for its Serb minority.

    "When any international mission in Kosovo leaves, it can mean a greater danger for both Serbs and Serbia," Oliver Ivanovic, Serbia's state secretary for Kosovo, told B92 television.

    While Kosovo's Serb community rejected the 25-nation ISG "at the very beginning" and had little contact with it, "Any foreigner or foreign mission is better" as Serbs and Albanians "are not able to function" without international
    mediation, said Ivanovic.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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