Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Thursday, 21 February 2008

Viewpoint: The EU's toughest operation

Roy Reeve (courtesy EUPT Kosovo)
There will be 1,900 European specialists and 1,000 local staff
The Russians have branded the EU's police and justice mission to Kosovo illegal but Roy Reeve, the British diplomat who has been planning it, insists he has not encountered substantial opposition on the ground.

He tells the BBC News website of his hopes for the mission.

We're not the UN, not just a different-coloured beret on the tour.

Our current planning is that we will have specialist police officers sitting in the same police stations working directly alongside Kosovo police counterparts, whether Serbian or Albanian, so we will be in all parts of Kosovo.

The whole aim is to make ourselves very open to the population at large - we are not hiding behind international privileges and immunities

Our judges will sit on the district courts alongside their Kosovo partners, again they can be either Serbian or Albanian depending where it is, and we will also be working in the prosecutors' offices as well.

We are not going to have separate fortresses scattered around the countryside from which we will sally forth occasionally to do good deeds.

The aim of this mission is to work alongside our opposite numbers and increase their capabilities, while we will retain some executive authority and powers, if there are cases which may be too difficult for the local authorities to tackle.

Sensitive areas

There are some sensitive areas such as organised crime, corruption, trafficking. There is also an element of some war crimes cases which are still left over, which we will need to start working on.

This has been something the UN has not really focused on perhaps as much as they should have, but these are things we will pick up.

They may be difficult for the newly established institutions to handle in the early days, so we will take those on.

We are seeing a lot of incidents and activities on the ground in the Serb enclaves. Whether they will still be going on when we get here I do not know.

But we will have a major public outreach programme over the next two or three months, saying to them: "Look, this is in your interests.

If we can work with the people here to deliver a better police service, a better judicial system than exists at the moment, then you should see the value of that, you should begin to work with us."

We have been obviously talking to them over the course of the last year or so, explaining what it is were trying to do, but at the moment the political temperature is high.

There are Serbian members of the Kosovo police service, so there is some commitment to the rule of law on the ground.

The mandate of our mission is Kosovo-wide. It would be silly for me to start predicting exact moves or how we are going to handle it. But our intent is clear, that we will operate throughout the entire territory.

Government in place

The legal view - and this is what all member states based their judgement on when they agreed to the launch of this mission - is that the continuation of (UN Security Council resolution) 1244, the invitation we have received from the newly constituted government of Kosovo is sufficient for us to operate, because the situation has changed.

It is going to be the biggest field operation that the EU has ever put on the ground

We do now have a government in place which has been recognised by some countries and may be recognised by others as we go forward.

All of the EU member countries agreed, at midnight last Friday to be precise, to launch the mission. That agreement is there and that gives us what we need.

It is going to be the biggest field operation that the EU has ever put on the ground. We are going to be putting on the ground some 1,900 international specialists, together with their local team of over 1,000 people.

But since the planning team has been on the ground since May 2006 and we are over 100-strong, we think we have got everything in place.

Over the course of the last 18 months or so, there have been regular visits to Belgrade to explain what we are going to do.

It is not going to be a big-bang entry.

We are going to have to work with what we find on the ground and there is going to be a period of transition, three to four months, between the UN finally handing over to us and us becoming fully operational.

No takeover

The original mandate for this operation is two years. We are coming in with an exit strategy already in mind.

In some of the specialised police areas - investigations, forensic science - we can probably achieve European levels fairly rapidly so we can start to scale that down. In other areas, perhaps working with the judiciary, it might take longer.

This is not a European takeover or a European protectorate with regard to what we are trying to do here and we are not just simply replacing the UN with yet another international organisation.

We are not replacing the UN as the executive proconsuls of Kosovo.

The whole aim is to make ourselves very open to the population at large. We are not hiding behind international privileges and immunities.

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