FACTBOX: EU launches Kosovo police and justice mission

Sat Feb 16, 2008 11:09am EST

A Kosovo Albanian man waves an Albanian flag in celebration for up-coming province's independence in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica February 15, 2008. Serbia swore in President Boris Tadic on Friday two days before Kosovo proclaims independence, in the country's most traumatic moment since it was bombed by NATO in 1999 to end ethnic cleansing in the province. REUTERS/Hazir Reka

A Kosovo Albanian man waves an Albanian flag in celebration for up-coming province's independence in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica February 15, 2008. Serbia swore in President Boris Tadic on Friday two days before Kosovo proclaims independence, in the country's most traumatic moment since it was bombed by NATO in 1999 to end ethnic cleansing in the province.

Credit: Reuters/Hazir Reka

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(Reuters) - European Union states approved on Saturday the launch of a 2,000-strong police and justice mission for Kosovo. The territory's Albanian leaders are expected to declare its independence from Serbia on Sunday.

Here are some key facts about the EU presence in Kosovo:

* The EU's role on the ground will have three components -- a "rule of law mission", an EU special representative who will also head an International Civilian Office there and a European Commission unit leading economic development and reform.

* The EU rejects Russian arguments that the EU presence will be illegal. It argues the existing U.N. Security Council resolution 1244 on Kosovo provides a legal basis for the mission and cites a January 3 report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noting the EU's readiness to play "an enhanced role".

* The rule of law mission will comprise some 2,000 international staff and 1,000 locals. Its job will be mostly to mentor, monitor and advise the police, judiciary, customs and prison authorities in Kosovo.

* It will have limited executive powers allowing EU personnel to intervene in cases of organized crime, corruption and in apprehending war criminals. It will also have four anti-riot units but any major threat to the stability of Kosovo will be primarily a task for the 17,000-strong NATO-led KFOR.

* After the launch, there will be a transition period of 120 days before the EU takes over from the U.N. administration (UNMIK). The EU mission will assume its powers only after that period. The initial budget runs for 16 months, although it is widely assumed the mission will last much longer.

* Several non-EU states are to take part in the rule of law mission: the United States, Turkey, Switzerland, Croatia and Norway have all signaled they will contribute personnel.

(Reporting by Mark John; Editing by Paul Taylor and Catherine Evans)

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