EULEX deployment under way

BELGRADE -- The EULEX mission, which currently numbers 1,400 personnel and will increase eventually to 1,900, officially began its mandate in Kosovo at 09:00 CET today.

EULEX police prepare to deploy (FoNet, archive)
EULEX police prepare to deploy (FoNet, archive)

1,400 mission members will be deployed throughout the province, and in a few months’ time, once the mission becomes fully operational, it will include 1,900 international and 1,100 local personnel.

EULEX Chief Yves de Kermabon said that the mission had begun its operations throughout Kosovo, taking over judicial, police and customs powers from UNMIK.

After a meeting with Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu, also attended by Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and EU Special Envoy for Kosovo Pieter Feith, de Kermabon said that the mission he was leading had begun to deploy in the north of Kosovo.

That was earlier confirmed by EULEX spokesman Victor Reuter, who said that the EU mission deployment in Kosovo was going well and that 100 EULEX personnel had been deployed in the north of the province.

Approximately 20 members of the EU mission have entered the northern Kosovska Mitrovica District Court building.

Milija Milošević, commander of the northern Kosovska Mitrovica police station said that two EULEX policemen, from Germany and the Czech Republic, had come to the station. Their task is to supervise the work of the local staff.

"We have made contact with them, and they will be there in a monitoring and advisory capacity. They will be working along with us, as this is the new mission that has begun working this morning,” Milošević told journalists.

1,400 mission members will be deployed throughout the province, and in a few months’ time, once the mission becomes fully operational, it will include 1,900 international and 1,100 local personnel.

Kosovo’s authorities have commended the EULEX deployment. They have given full support to the mission, believing that it will facilitate unity in Kosovo and function on the basis of existing constitutional provisions.

Sejdiu said that EULEX’s deployment throughout Kosovo was testimony to the commitment to Kosovo’s integrity and joint efforts to establish the rule of law.

EU welcomes mission's arrival

Officials in Brussels and EULEX representatives believe that the mission will finally bring reconciliation between the hostile parties in Kosovo and will resolve the chaotic state of affairs in the region.

EU Common Foreign and Security Policy Chief Javier Solana has welcomed the start of the mission’s work.

“The EU mission to Kosovo is becoming officially operative. I can say that we’ve had a very constructive meeting with mission chief Yves de Kermabon and with a representative of the Serbian government. I want to underline that we’re closely cooperating with the Serbian government and with Priština. I sincerely hope that this marks a new page in the development of the EULEX mission,“ said Solana.

EU foreign ministers, who discussed the issue at yesterday’s EU Council of Ministers in Brussels, believe that it is an important and key stage, said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Asked which laws would be applied after EULEX’s arrival, Kouchner said that Kosovo law would be applied.

“Kosovo has been recognized by over 50 countries, therefore Kosovo law will be applied. I think there will difficulties, but this operation will enable a framework where this will unfold. And the agreement with Serbia will be decisive,“ said Kouchner.

EULEX's role will be as a mentor and adviser to local institutions, and will also monitor local authorities, EULEX spokesman Victor Reuter told B92.

“They’re in the driver’s seat while we retain certain executive functions, when it comes to crime,corruption, organized crime, war crimes, issues linked to ethnic and property relations. So, every time local institutions are unable to address a specific issue or dossier, we’ll be there to do it for them,“ he explained.

EU Special Envoy to Kosovo Pieter Feith adds that the mission’s goal is not just of a technical nature: “Once EULEX is deployed throughout Kosovo, the mission’s task won’t just be technical work to enhance the rule of law and help combat corruption and organized crime, but also to increase freedom of movement, cultural exchange and facilitate investment.“

EULEX’s budget in the first 16 months will total EUR 205mn, making it the EU’s largest civil mission.

The mission, that will work in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, is based on a decision by EU members in February 2008.

EULEX is made up of representatives from EU member-states, Croatia, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the U.S.