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Failure in Kosovo will damage EU clout as problem fixer: Solana

European Union top diplomat Javier Solana on Thursday urged EU member states to accept responsibility for Kosovo and Serbia, warning that a failure to stabilize the region would diminish the EU's capability as a global problem solver.

„If we fail in stabilizing Kosovo and Serbia that would ... greatly reduce our other possibilities and action in the rest of the world,” Solana told the European Parliament in session in Brussels. „If we can't properly, effectively and speedily solve the problems in our own neighborhood, it is going to be much more difficult for us to do anything like that further afield,” he added. Following the status settlement of Kosovo, the EU would be faced with „enormous responsibilities”, Solana said, adding: „Kosovo is on our continent, it has a European prospect.”

The EU has said it stands ready to play a key role in Kosovo under the United Nations plan for supervised independence for the breakaway Serbian province. A planned EU assistance mission to Kosovo is expected to total more than 1,500 members. Solana said the planned operation would be „the most important mission that the EU has had in the whole of the history of its foreign and security policy.” The EU operation could be launched as soon as the UN Security Council passes a resolution on Kosovo, he added.

Kosovo is estimated to need international assistance of up to €1.5 billion ($2 billion) for the first three years after status settlement. The 27-nation bloc's police operation in Kosovo is expected to include up to 600 officers, with a robust mandate to deal with possible unrest and violence. The overall EU operation, however, will total 1,500 members, including police trainers and magistrates who will work on improving the rule of law in Kosovo.

NATO's current 16,000-strong force in the province will also remain in the territory to ensure security. EU governments and the US have voiced strong support for the UN plan for Kosovo's supervised independence. Officials in Brussels and Washington want a UN Security Council resolution allowing for such independence to be adopted by April or May. Both the EU and the US will try over the coming weeks to bring Russia and China - which oppose Kosovo's independence - on board.

Albanian Kosovar leaders have accepted the UN plan but Serbia rejects independence for Kosovo as a breach of international law and a violation of its sovereignty. Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999 after NATO drove out Serb security forces accused of repressing ethnic Albanians who form 90% of the population. (