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Kosovo to prove big challenge to EU

Jan. 30, 2008 at 3:00 PM

BRUSSELS, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Kosovo's impending independence declaration could spark violent outrage and pose a significant challenge to the European Union.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said recently that he plans to announce a date for a Kosovo declaration of independence in the near future. Officials from the International Institute for Strategic Studies warn that an independence announcement could trigger conflicts with Albanians in Serbia and Serbs in northern Kosovo and Bosnia -- Herzegovina could following suit, the International Institute for Strategic Studies reported.

Top EU officials have said that if Kosovo declares independence that it would be recognized. However, several states including Cyprus have openly refused to consider an independent Kosovo under the rationale that the move would encourage separatist movements elsewhere.

Some officials have been urging the European Union to speed up Serbia's path to EU membership. Critics counter that Serbia should first be forced to cooperate fully with international war-crimes investigators. Officials in Belgrade recently voted to "reject any treaty which did not treat Kosovo as part of Serbia -- including the EU deal," the release said.

Col. Christopher Langton, senior fellow for conflict and defense diplomacy at the Institute for International Strategic Studies in London, called the Serbian rejection threat serious.

However, many believe that if Serbia's voters were to opt for future EU membership, it could force the country to regularize its relationship with Kosovo.

"One of the great advantages of the long EU accession process is that it forces potential members to get involved in their own conflict resolution," Langton said.

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