Tony Barber

For weeks it has been an uncomfortable secret in Brussels that the European Union’s law and order mission in Kosovo is stuck in a political, diplomatic and legal morass. This initiative, announced with great fanfare last December, was supposed to show the EU at its best, shouldering responsibilities in a conflict-torn part of Europe where it did not exactly cover itself with glory in the 1990s.

Instead, officials now acknowledge that there is absolutely no chance that the EU will deploy its full complement of 1,900 policemen, judges, prosecutors and other administrators by mid-June, as originally planned. Why not? Because the authority to transfer police powers from the United Nations operation that is already in place in Kosovo to the new EU mission rests with the UN Security Council, where Russia has a veto. Read more

Tony Barber

Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia is an amiable, gifted diplomat with the hardest job in town. As the international community’s high representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, he is tasked with turning this most unhappy and dysfunctional of states into a viable long-term entity. He is also supposed somehow to put Bosnia on an irreversible path to European Union membership. Neither goal looks remotely in sight.

When Lajcak met some reporters in Brussels this week, he was pressed to say what impact the Kosovo crisis would have on Bosnia. After all, the declaration of independence by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority in the teeth of opposition from Serbia would seem to provide the perfect justification for the ever restive Bosnian Serbs to announce that they want to secede from the state that boxes them together with Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats. Read more

Tony Barber

At a conference on Europe’s future held last October in Brussels, Robert Cooper, a high-level European Union foreign policy strategist, made an interesting observation. "I like the idea of 27 countries struggling to agree with each other. It is rather undignified, but it is a powerful message," he said.

Well, when it comes to the EU’s policy on Serbia and Kosovo, one can certainly agree with the "undignified" bit. Something of a low point was reached this week at the regular monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers. It produced an offer to Serbia of an "interim political agreement", dangling the carrots of freer trade, visa liberalisation and educational exchanges in the vague hope that this would cause Serb voters to back Boris Tadic, the moderate incumbent, in this weekend’s presidential election run-off.

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