Slovenia to bring experience to bear on Kosovo crisis

Slovenia is to take over the rotating Presidency of the EU on the first of January. The EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, was in Slovenia last week for talks on the major security issues to be faced in the next six months - including the sensitive question of Kosovo's independence.

Only days before Slovenia assumes the six-month EU presidency, the EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, was here for a second visit. He held meetings with the Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, President-elect Danilo Tuerk and Prime Minister Janez Janša.

Talks wtih with the Foreign Minister focussed on Slovenia's EU presidency priorities, including the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the Western Balkans, energy issues, climate change and inter-cultural dialogue.

Solana said 2008 would be an extremely important year for the EU with a number of tough decisions. He added that he's convinced Slovenia's presidency will be up to the task.

"I am sure it is going to be a very successful presidency. It has a very tense agenda for six months and I'm sure it's going to be done with the capacity that your country has proven already in many other fields of responsibility."

The two representatives also touched on the issue of Kosovo. The UN Security Council says negotiations on a settlement for the province's future have failed and Kosovo's government is expected to respond by declaring independence early in the New Year.

The EU's foreign and security policy chief believes such a declaration will not cause a political crisis in the EU.

''No, I don't think so. I am pretty sure, that the EU is going to act together, united. We are taking important decisions, for instance, the decision to be present on the ground with the ESDP mission. We have to keep on working on that, and we have been talking about how to do it properly.''

Both Solana and Rupel voiced satisfaction with the decision, confirmed by EU leaders at last week's summit, to delay any action on Kosovo until after Serbian elections in February.

Slovenia's Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel backed EU involvement in Kosovo's future..

"We have a decision that proves the EU's unity and decisiveness to deal with Kosovo as a European issue. The EU will have an appropriate answer to the challenge posed by Kosovo."

Commenting on the EU summit's decision to deploy a civilian mission to Kosovo, Rupel also said:

''We already have a political position, while we must now deal with the many technical procedures and practical decisions."

On the future development of the EU's common foreign and security policy, Solana said the Lisbon Treaty brought positive changes in the existing decision-making system which would enable the bloc to play a more active role in the 21st century. At the meeting with Prime Minister Janez Janša, the focus of their talks was on the summits the EU would hold with third countries, including the US, Russia, and Latin America and the Caribbean in the first half of next year.