EU Nations Approve Policing Mission for Kosovo

The European Union gave the final approval Saturday for the deployment a 1,800-strong policing and administration mission for Kosovo.

The decision comes just before the province's ethnic Albanian leadership is expected to declare independence from Serbia, possibly on Sunday.

No EU nations objected to the mission, which will take four months to put in place, and is designed to help build a police, justice and customs system for Kosovo free of political interference.

The force will include 700 police officers for patrols and who are trained in crowd and riot control. Judges, prosecutors and other legal experts would be sent to offer training and for administrative work.

Although Kosovo is technically part of Serbia, the impoverished province of two million people has been administered by the United Nations since a brief war in 1999. The EU force will replace the U.N. mission now in Kosovo.

Officials said earlier this week that the EU force could grow to more than 2,000 people besides 1,000 other non-EU experts from the United States and other countries.

Serbia and Russia are against the EU mission, arguing it has no legal authority from the United Nations to deploy. The two also oppose independence for Kosovo, saying international borders can only be changed with the agreement of all parties involved.

Cyprus lifted its threat to block the mission last week but along with other EU nations like Spain, Romania, Greece, remains opposed to recognizing the independence of Kosovo.

EU Foreign ministers will hold talks on Monday to try to forge a common stance on Kosovo. Bigger states like Britain, France and Germany are expected to move quickly alongside the United States to recognize Pristina's sovereignty.

In a legal text published Saturday, the EU said the mission, EU-LEX, will "assist the Kosovo institutions, judicial authorities and law enforcement agencies in their progress toward sustainability and accountability."

It added that the EU's administrative tasks would help in "further developing and strengthening an independent multiethnic justice system and multiethnic police and customs service ... free from political interference."