West Grants Kosovo Full SovereigntyWorld | September 10, 2012, Monday // 13:26| views
Kosovo has come one step closer to full independence. Photo from DW
Thirteen years after the end of the Kosovo war, international supervision of Kosovo ends on Monday even though foreign involvement and supervision in the country is far from being over.
The International Steering Group (ISG), comprised of 25 countries including the UK and the US, has been supervising Kosovo's independence since the former Serbian province unilaterally proclaimed it in 2008.
During a recent conference in Vienna, the ISG said it had determined that the UN Comprehensive Settlement Proposal - more commonly known as the Ahtisaari Plan and precondition to independence – was "substantially implemented."
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's independence, and has not accepted the Ahtisaari Plan and never cooperated with the International Civilian Office, set up to implement it.
"This is an important step for Kosovo and for its people," ISG-appointed International Civilian Representative Pieter Feith told The Independent, calling the decision "appropriate and timely," as cited by The Independent.
Kosovo's people "will now have to demonstrate themselves that they're willing to use the institutions that we have helped to set up to move towards a truly multi-ethnic decentralised democracy in the Balkans," he said.
But though Kosovo might become fully sovereign nation, the many international organizations present on the ground will not be going anywhere anytime soon. Overall, the total cost of the international presence in Kosovo is still about half a billion dollars a year, and some 5,000 NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeepers are currently deployed on the territory.
The mandate of the EU mission in Kosovo EULEX has just been renewed for another two years, with an annual budget of EUR 111 M.
Chief Spokesperson Nicholas Hawton admitted that although much progress had been made, EULEX was "still needed" in Kosovo in the area of rule of law.
He added that the fact EULEX was able to consequently downsize its staff and budget "and save European tax-payers' money" was an indication of the progress Kosovo had made.
"But we're not out of the wood in any sense, there is still a lot of work to do." He said organised crime and corruption especially remained "big challenges."
The ISG announcement was unsurprisingly acclaimed in Kosovo. During a press conference after the meeting in Vienna, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci called it a "symbolical and historical date" for his country.
Serbs make up most of northern Kosovo and reject Pristina's institutions. Recent troubles included clashes between Serbs and the KFOR and attacks on Serbian civilian buses during a Serbian holiday.
So far, 91 out of 193 UN member states have recognized Kosovo's independence.
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