European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrives Tuesday for two days of meetings with top officials in Austria, which takes over the EU's six-month presidency on Jan. 1. Solana planned to meet with Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik and President Heinz Fischer to discuss the country's EU leadership, which will have to deal with a bitter squabble over the bloc's 2007-13 budget and other issues. The leaders also planned to discuss upcoming talks on the future status of Kosovo, which is pushing to break away from Serbia-Montenegro, officials said.
The U.N.-mediated talks on Kosovo's future status are expected to formally begin in January. Although still officially a province of Serbia-Montenegro, the United Nations has administered Kosovo since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign halted the Serbian crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority insists on independence, while Serbia and the Serb minority living in the province want to retain at least formal control over the region.
Vienna will become the base for negotiators shuttling between Pristina, the province's capital, and Belgrade, reports the AP. I.L.