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Europe

UN-EU Kosovo Handover Illegal, Says Serbian Minister

A decision by the UN to hand over policing in Kosovo to a European Union mission violates international law, Serbia's minister for the breakaway province, Goran Bogdanovic, said Tuesday.

European Union enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, left, and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, right, has built bridges with the EU

He said the agreement had been made between the interim UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, and the EU rule of law mission to Kosovo, EULEX, without the “consent of all interested parties and without explicit approval by the UN Security Council.”

The recent increase in EU participation in Kosovo has come without a go-head from the council, albeit owing to the veto power of Moscow, which has sided with Belgrade over the handover to EULEX.

"We are against the agreement between UNMIK and EULEX because it violates UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and international law," Tanjug news agency quoted Bogdanovic as telling journalists on a visit to Kosovo.

Resolution 1244 authorised the presence of UNMIK after NATO bombing in 1999 drove out Serbian forces waging a crackdown on ethnic Albanian guerrillas and their civilian supporters.

The UN began downsizing its mission Monday without the go-head from the council, albeit owing to the veto power of Moscow, which has sided with Belgrade over the handover to EULEX.

The UN also signed a memorandum of understanding with the EU on Monday to hand EULEX property including buildings, vehicles and equipment.

UN Secretary General orders UNMIK reshuffle

UNMIK in Kosovo

UNMIK police in Kosovo have begun to hand their posts

Those steps were in line with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's plans to put EULEX under the umbrella of a reconfigured UNMIK, as he announced in June just days before Kosovo adopted its first constitution.

In his July report to the council he highlighted "a profoundly new reality in which UNMIK can no longer perform as effectively as in the past the vast majority of its tasks as an interim administration."

He said that because the council was "unable to give guidance" he had asked the mission to cooperate with the EU "in order for it to assume an enhanced operational role in Kosovo in the area of the rule of law under the overall authority of the United Nations."

Serbia sees only 1244

But Belgrade remains staunchly opposed to any changes in Kosovo outside of 1244, which also affirms Serbia's sovereignty over the territory it views as the cradle of its history, culture and religion.

"The Serbian government does not accept the reconfiguration of UNMIK, nor the agreement with EULEX," said Bogdanovic.

"All deals that aren't passed by the Security Council are unacceptable for Serbia," added the Serbian minister.

EULEX mission to Kosovo illegitimate: Russia

EULEX head Yves de Kermabon

EULEX head Yves de Kermabon

Russian ambassador to Belgrade Alexander Konuzin told Politika daily in an interview published on Sunday that Serbia could count on "energetic" Russian support in its opposition to the EU's mission to Kosovo.

Russia was aware that the reconfiguration had started and planned to file a protest to the UN Secratariat, he said.

So far, the EU mission has deployed 285 officials including police, judges, prosecutors and custom officers in Kosovo. It will eventually employ around 3,000 officials.

Moscow supports Serbian initiative

The ethnic Albanian majority of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17. Russia and China supported Serbia's rejection of the move before the UN Security Council, but leading Western nations, including the United States and the majority of European Union countries, went ahead and recognized Kosovo as a sovereign country, triggering a downgrade of diplomatic relations from Belgrade.

Serbia on Friday submitted a request for the UN General Assembly to debate Kosovo's declaration of independence and to ask The Hague-based International Court of Justice, a UN world court, to rule on the issue.

Konyushin, the Russian ambassador, said Russia was hoping the assembly would place the issue on the agenda in September.

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