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By Stefan Bos
Budapest
20 February 2008

The European Union has begun setting up its 2,000-member police and judicial mission in Kosovo, to oversee the region's independence.  But as Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest, the operation will need support of NATO-led peacekeepers, following attacks by Serbs opposing Kosovo's breakaway from Serbia.     

Ethnic Serb students wearing medical uniforms protest against Kosovo's declaration of independence in Mitrovica, Kosovo, Wednesday, 20 Feb 2008
Ethnic Serb students wearing medical uniforms protest against Kosovo's declaration of independence in Mitrovica, Kosovo, 20 Feb 2008

European Union envoy Pieter Feith, who heads the EU international civilian mission, officially opened his office after talks with Kosovo's government in the capital, Pristina.

Feith says about 2,000 police and judicial experts under his leadership will help Kosovo to function as an independent democratic state, with a fair judiciary and respect for minority rights.

"We are particularly attached because this is part of the European Union values, to respect human rights, freedoms [and] minority rights for all citizens here in Kosovo, including the Serb community," he said.

But his mission needs support from NATO peacekeepers, amid growing tensions in Kosovo.

The NATO-led force in Kosovo (K-FOR) has stepped up patrols after two key border crossings with Serbia were blown up this week by Serbs opposed to Kosovo's independence.

A French NATO officer told France-24 television through an interpreter, that K-FOR will not tolerate violent protests.

KFOR soldiers check vehicles from Serbia entering Kosovo after reopening a checkpoint recently demolished and burnt by angry Kosovo Serbs on the Serbia-Kosovo border, 20 Feb 2008
K-FOR soldiers check vehicles from Serbia entering Kosovo after reopening a checkpoint recently demolished and burnt by angry Kosovo Serbs on Serbia-Kosovo border, 20 Feb 2008

"For K-FOR this is an unacceptable act," he said.  "A line has been crossed and we will do everything in our disposal to confront this violence."

Russia views international recognition of Kosovo's independence as "a breach of international law" and has warned that it will open a "Pandora's Box" of separatist tensions across Europe.

Serbian President Boris Tadic has appealed for calm, calling for a peaceful rally on Thursday in Belgrade to protest Kosovo's independence declaration.

Despite Serbia's opposition, the United States and a growing number of EU nations, including Britain and Germany, are recognizing Kosovo's sovereignty.  Serbia says it will withdraw its ambassadors from nations establishing diplomatic ties with Kosovo.

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