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Balkans: Politics and Government

Volume 472: debated on Thursday 21 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the political and security situation in the Balkans. (186176)

On 17 February the Kosovo Assembly passed a resolution declaring Kosovo to be independent. On 18 February my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary announced that the UK recognised Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state and would establish diplomatic relations in accordance with the Vienna Convention.

On 18 February the European General Affairs and External Relations Council called on Belgrade and Pristina to respect previous commitments to refrain from any activities or statements which might endanger the security situation. At a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) also reaffirmed that Kosovo Force (KFOR) will continue to ensure a safe and secure environment.

Since the Kosovo declaration of independence, there have been demonstrations in Belgrade and amongst the Serb communities in Kosovo. There was some damage to property caused by demonstrators outside the US and Slovenian embassies in Belgrade. There have been small explosions near the EU offices in North Mitrovica. There are no reported casualties.

The UK remains fully committed to safeguarding the region’s security and contributes to KFOR, and the EU forces in Bosnia. We remain ready to fulfil our obligations to NATO’s pan-Balkans Operational Reserve Force (ORF), and we stand ready to send the UK ORF battalion, currently at highest readiness, if requested by the NATO Commander. The UK will also contribute approximately 80 personnel to the European Security and Defence Policy Police and Rule of Law mission currently deploying to Kosovo and the International Civilian Office overseeing settlement implementation.

We will continue to work intensively with our EU and NATO partners to deliver peaceful progress towards Euro and Euro-Atlantic integration for the whole Balkan region.