Slovakia warns against unilateral independence for Kosovo

Published on December 5, 2007,

Category: Growing International Opposition to Imposed Solution

BRUSSELS, Belgium-Slovakia's prime minister said Tuesday it was "hard to imagine" his country would recognize Kosovo if the breakaway Serbian province declares its independence unilaterally.

Kosovo has vowed to do so in the coming months if the U.N. Security Council does not sign off on statehood, repeatedly saying it would not consider any other alternative.

"It's hard for us to imagine that we would recognize a Kosovo that unilaterally declares itself independent," Robert Fico said after meetings European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Although it is formally a part of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the U.N. since 1999, when NATO airstrikes ended a bloody crackdown by Serbian forces on ethnic Albanian separatists.

International mediators overseeing talks on the future status of the province are due to report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by Dec. 10. Talks between independence-seeking ethnic Albanians and Serbs bent on keeping the province have reached a dead end.

The European Union is not united on the issue: Hungary, Greece, Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus and Romania are fearful that independence for the province could awaken separatists elsewhere in Europe.

The United States, which favors independence for Kosovo, has indicated that it may recognize a unilateral declaration of independence if the Kosovo Albanians press ahead with their own state. Russia, meanwhile, disagrees with any plan that does not have Serbia's support.

Fico called for EU unity on the issue, warning it would be a "grave mistake" if the bloc failed to reach a consensus on how to proceed.

"It would be a sign of weakness. I have a feeling some superpowers are already counting on that," he said, without giving any details.

Barroso said it would be "difficult to explain" to others that EU countries are unable to reach a common position on a European issue.

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