Brussels, 11 February 2009 – The EU’s representative in Kosovo said Wednesday the former Serb province must do more to fight organized crime and corruption, and to promote democracy.

Pieter Feith said his top three priorities this year were to push stability, reforms and reconciliation between the majority ethnic Albanian population and the minority Serbs in the north of Kosovo.

The province of Kosovo gained independence last year.

Feith told lawmakers at the European Parliament there was “continued fragility” in Kosovo, notably tensions between the Albanian and Serb populations but also with the ex-Serb province’s Gypsy population.

“The government must undertake steps in the areas of accountability, organized crime,” Feith said. “It must also strengthen links between civic and political life and ensure the use of public and international donor funds in a responsible and transparent manner.”

Feith was critical of Kosovo’s government under Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, saying it had to do more to respect Kosovo’s nascent parliament and its role in a fledgling democracy.

“The assembly is still falling short of fulfilling its key role in a democracy,” Feith said. “Many decisions are still taken … without the significant involvement of the assembly.”

He also encouraged Kosovo’s political leaders to “step up” efforts to improve ties with the Serb minority and the Gypsy population. The Gypsies, also known as Roma, have lived in camps since their homes were burned after Kosovo’s 1998-99 war with Serb troops.

Feith said the government already is working to relocate Roma from the camps but that the effort was being hindered by lack of communication with the regional Serb authorities in northern Kosovo.

The U.N.’s World Health Organization has urged Kosovo to close lead-contaminated camps in the Balkan country’s industrial north where around 100 Gypsy families live.

The European Union’s 3,000-strong mission of police, judges and advisers was deployed last summer in Kosovo to help train and guide the tiny Balkan country to eventual EU membership.

Source: Associated Press