( AFP ) - The European Union is moving closer toward a common position on Kosovo, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Monday, with the Serbian province likely to move toward independence next month.
"I think the position within the European Union is coming closer," he told reporters as he arrived for talks between EU foreign ministers in Brussels, where the future status of Kosovo will top the agenda.
"I think that we will be able to get a position in which members of the European Union will be together and then taking the responsibility they have to take," he said.
Solana said the future of Kosovo "will be one of the most important issues" at a summit of EU leaders here on Friday, following the collapse of talks between Serbia and officials from its breakaway southern province.
Throughout the week, major European powers will endeavour to drum up wide EU support for recognizing Kosovo should it declare independence, and secure a commitment to deploy a civilian mission to ease the transition.
At Monday's meeting, Britain, France, Germany and Italy -- who with the United States are ready to back an independence move expected next month -- will try to convince more of their partners to follow suit.
At least four EU nations -- Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Spain -- are reluctant to recognise a unilateral declaration of independence, in part because of the precedent it might set for separatists nearer to home.
Solana said the EU could be ready, if requested by the United Nations, to rapidly deploy an 1,800-strong police and civilian mission to Kosovo to ease the transition from the UN mission there to local rule.
"Our responsibilities will be met," he said. "It will be something negotiated, if necessary, with the United Nations."
Kosovo has been managed under UN Security Council resolution 1244, which was agreed in 1999 after NATO bombed Belgrade to stop a crackdown on the ethnic Albanians.
The resolution set up the UN mission, UNMIK, which has run Kosovo ever since and allowed for NATO to deploy a peacekeeping force, KFOR, which now numbers almost 17,000 troops.
The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo -- one of Europe's poorest regions -- is impatient for independence but they have committed to coordinate any move to break away with their EU and US partners.
However Serbia, backed by its ally Russia, considers the southern province to be an integral part of its territory and history and is only willing to grant wide autonomy.
Russia has threatened to veto such a move at the United Nations, forcing the EU and US allies to move on outside the UN umbrella