Spain exposes EU split as US leads recognition of Kosovo independence

· New nation established as European protectorate
· UK ambassador presents his credentials in Pristina

Europe's big countries and the US moved yesterday to seal Kosovo's future irreversibly as an independent country by promptly announcing the diplomatic recognition of the fledgling state.

While Washington recognised Kosovo as "a sovereign and independent state" last night, European foreign ministers spent hours wrangling over a common position. They eventually agreed a statement turning Kosovo into a European protectorate and enabling individual EU countries to establish diplomatic relations with Pristina following Sunday's declaration of independence.

Last night, Britain's representative to Pristina, David Blunt, went to the presidency building to exchange letters establishing relations with the new country. He was the first ambassador to present his credentials, followed by the French and US representatives.

Afterwards, Blunt said he had handed letters from Gordon Brown and the foreign secretary, David Miliband, to President Fatmir Sejdiu formalising UK recognition. "The United Kingdom will remain strategically engaged, but we want to support you as you tackle challenges ahead on your chosen route towards EU and Nato integration and as we together work for improving regional stability and economic development to benefit all communities in Kosovo," Blunt said.

France also announced it had recognised Kosovo as a state, while Germany said it would follow suit today. Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, released a statement saying: "The establishment of these relations will reaffirm the special ties of friendship that have linked together the people of the United States and Kosovo."

EU sources said around 17 of the union's 27 members would recognise Kosovo within days. However Spain, Cyprus and Slovakia said they would not acknowledge the new country.

Miliband said yesterday's session of EU foreign ministers in Brussels was "historic", and hoped the birth of the new country spelled an end to "two decades of violence and strife" in the Balkans.

Spain led the dissidents opposing recognition and exposed the serious divisions within the EU by calling the independence declaration illegal. "Spain will not recognise the unilateral act," said Miguel Angel Moratinos, the foreign minister. "This does not respect international law."

Madrid's argument echoed the denunciation of the Kosovo "fake state" in Serbia and Russia's furious criticism of western support for the breakaway. But despite the opposition, officials note that Spain has a contingent of police earmarked for the 1,800-strong EU mission being sent to Kosovo to replace the UN there.

The statement agreed by all 27 EU countries enables Brussels to press ahead with state-building operations in Kosovo, despite arguments over the legal basis and the lack of an explicit UN mandate because of Russian blocking tactics in the security council.

Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy supremo, wrote to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, requesting his vocal support for the European mission, but the UN chief is under strong pressure from the Russians to refuse any endorsement.

The developments of the past two days intensify the worsening standoff between Russia and the west on a host of issues.

The EU statement sought to dispel Russia's argument that recognition of Kosovo opened a pandora's box by encouraging secessionists in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. The EU statement said the Kosovo breakaway was unique, due to the wars in the 1990s that tore Yugoslavia into seven different countries. "Kosovo constitutes a sui generis case," it said.

At Spanish insistence, and with an eye to Basque and Catalan separatists, the statement also underlined the EU member states' "adherence to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity".

Brussels also sought to sweeten the bitter pill for Serbia by talking up its potential for integrating with Europe.


Ian Traynor in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Senior Kosovo figures face prosecution for crimes against humanity

Possible indictment of senior officials of former Kosovo Liberation Army relate to claims of ethnic cleansing since 1999

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor

29, Jul, 2014 @8:42 AM

Timothy Garton Ash: There are great national anthems - now we need an international one
Timothy Garton Ash: Spain struggles to find new words while Kosovo seeks a song of its own. La Marseillaise shows us how it's really done

Timothy Garton Ash

17, Jan, 2008 @3:15 PM

Article image
The EU, war, peace, and dictatorships | Letters
Letters: Frank Jackson considers alternative histories in which a European Union was created post-1918 and Yugoslavia was a member state; Harry Eyres says the EU, not the second world war, ended dictatorships in western Europe


08, Aug, 2017 @5:44 PM

Article image
US and EU powers to recognise Kosovan statehood

US, Britain, France and Germany say they will recognise Kosovo after its declaration of independence, but Spain remains opposed

Mark Tran, James Orr and agencies

18, Feb, 2008 @7:20 PM

Article image
Kosovo at 10: challenges overshadow independence celebrations
Migration, youth unemployment and unresolved alleged war crimes are headaches for Kosovo’s international backers

Andrew MacDowall in Pristina, Mitrovica and Decani, Kosovo

16, Feb, 2018 @12:42 PM

Article image
Extremists ahead as Serbs go to the polls

Radicals are likely to form coalition with anti-EU prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica

Ian Traynor, Europe editor

09, May, 2008 @12:29 AM

Article image
'Are we a society of values, or of blood?' Old questions hang over the new Kosovo

Albanians and Serbs united in uncertainty as province prepares to go it alone

Julian Borger in Pristina

16, Feb, 2008 @12:02 AM

Article image
Kosovo awaits first election results since independence as tensions rise
• Serb minority heeding Serbia's call to boycott vote
• EU concerned that unrest could lead to Kosovo's partition

Paul Lewis in Pristina

12, Dec, 2010 @6:51 PM

Pro-EU parties take surprise lead in Serbian election

Serbia appears to have rejected a sharp turn away from Europe as president Boris Tadic announces victory

Mark Rice-Oxley and agencies in Belgrade

11, May, 2008 @11:23 PM

Serbia's PM blocks EU pact in protest over Kosovo declaration
Serbia's nationalist prime minister yesterday blocked the signing of a landmark pact between Belgrade and the EU in an attempt to delay the secession of Kosovo

Ian Traynor in Brussels

07, Feb, 2008 @12:15 AM