VIENNA: Kosovo will acquire full sovereignty in September, the 25-nation International Steering Group (ISG) overseeing the territory’s independence announced yesterday after a meeting in Vienna.
The group said Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia in 2008, had fulfilled its commitments, “thereby setting the scene for ending supervised independence after the ISG’s meeting scheduled for September 2012.”
In a statement, the ISG welcomed “the passing of the laws and amendments to implement the Comprehensive Settlement Proposal (CSP) package, including laws on cultural and religious heritage, community rights and decentralization.”
“The ISG has determined that the CSP is substantially implemented and authorizes the final steps to end supervised independence and to close the International Civilian Office,” led by Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith, the group concluded.
“The international supervision ends as of today,” Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger meanwhile said after yesterday’s meeting, which was also attended by Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci.
The 25-nation ISG includes several EU states besides Austria, as well as Turkey and the United States.
In January, the steering group had announced that Kosovo had made such progress that the “supervised independence” could be lifted by the end of the year.
The NATO-led peacekeeping force and European rule of law mission EULEX will however likely remain in place.
The ISG stressed yesterday that “the principles and spirit that have governed the CSP need to continue… after ending supervised independence.”
Kosovo and its two million majority ethnic-Albanian population have been under some form of international administration since a NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s forces out of the territory in 1999.
On February 17, 2008, it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia and has been recognized by over 80 countries, including most EU nations.
However, it continues to face opposition from Belgrade, Moscow and Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs, who make up about six percent of the population, living mainly in the north on the border with Serbia.
Improving relations with Pristina is a key condition for Serbia to get a date for opening accession talks with the 27-member European Union after Belgrade was accepted as a candidate in March.