Kosovo Independence Move Fairly Smooth, Diplomat Says

The declaration of independence by Kosovo last month and its immediate aftermath have gone rather smoothly, and the level of opposition by the breakaway province's Serbs so far appears manageable, a senior European diplomat says.

"This has gone more or less the way it was supposed to go," the diplomat says. Most European Union countries, including Britain, Germany, and France, are backing Kosovo independence and say they will recognize Kosovo as Europe's newest sovereign state despite angry opposition by both Serbia and Russia. The move followed failed mediation efforts between the Kosovars and Serbia, first by the United Nations and then by a troika of negotiators from the European Union, Russia, and the United States.

Russian officials, says the European diplomat, have said privately that they consider the independence move a "dreadful mistake" but that they will not seek a confrontation over the issue. Nor does the Serbian leadership in Belgrade appear to be seeking a direct physical confrontation. The protests by Serbs living in Kosovo--who make up about 10 percent of the population there--have constituted "a rather low-profile reaction so far," the diplomat says. The diplomat also says that the Kosovars' assurances for the political and legal rights of Serbs within the new country have matched what the EU told them would be necessary to secure its support for independence.

"So far, the Kosovars have played as we wanted them to," says the diplomat. The EU has decided to send an 1,800-person mission of civil administrators and police to help supervise security and governance in the new country. The diplomat says that police deployments will have priority in the mission, and many will go to the north of Kosovo where most of the Serbs live. It is not anticipated that NATO will need to deploy more forces to secure Kosovo, the diplomat says, though if significant tensions were to persist, "we'll have to look at the situation."

By Thomas Omestad