Much ado about EULEX

With EULEX’s mandate expiring on June 14, uncertainty about whether Kosovo Parliament will approve an extension in time raise questions about the mission’s success and its future.

The government-issued decision to extend the mandate of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo has once again put the Assembly and institutions to the test.

After Federica Mogherini the High Representative of the European Union did not respond to Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi’s letter where he expressed the willingness of the local institutions to extend EULEX’s mandate in Kosovo for another two years, the Government needed to resort to different, last-minute solutions.

The decision to extend the mission’s mandate for another two years must be ratified by the Assembly in a session that was expected to be held today, otherwise EULEX’s office in Kosovo will expire starting from tomorrow. However, the Presidency of the Parliament has not yet scheduled such a meeting for the vote to be held.

Mogherini’s office did not respond to requests for a comment on the complications.

“The key problem is: can EULEX be allowed in the future, in very exceptional circumstances, to take over a case or not?” explaiend Gabriele Meucci, the head of EULEX in an interview for Jeta ne Kosove. According to him, Kosovo government prefers that the mission finish the ongoing cases, without initiating new ones. On the other hand, EU member states want EULEX to have the theoretical possibility to start new cases in exceptional events, added Meucci.

Yet the member states want to have a theoretical possibility in case of an exceptional event to start a new case, to ask or to agree on to be involved in new cases.”

Glauk Konjufca, speaker of Vetëvendosje’s parliamentary group, deems the decision for the extension unnecessary.

“Our justice system is not better than in 2008 when EULEX came to Kosovo, this indicates the small if not negligible impact that EULEX had on justice in Kosovo,” said Konjufca.

Konjufca added that one of EULEX’s primary problems is that it maintains neutrality towards Kosovo’s status.

“Due to the conditions set forth by Serbia and the other five EU countries that have not recognized Kosovo’s independence, EULEX was forced to make a compromise with Serbia that harms the consolidation of the state of Kosovo, and this means  maintaing neutrality towards status. This means that they [Serbia and the other countries] have made it inside Kosovo and make decisions for us but do not recognize us, which is very problematic for a sovereign country,” he said.

On the other hand, Armend Zemaj, an MP from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), considers the extension of EULEX’s mandate necessary, especially for the preparation of the local judiciary.

“There needs to be an affinity towards the cases that have been processed and those that will be. Kosovo’s judiciary] has to be competent to lead and solve cases, and when the international community considers us as serious in that aspect, there will be no need for any international institution in the domain of security,” said Zemaj.

The EULEX mission arrived after Kosovo declared independence in February 2008 to replace the United Nations mission, UNMIK, which had previously administered the court system. It had a mandate to run the judiciary while training local colleagues in policing, prosecution and other key components of rule of law and promised to arrest “big fish” accused of war crimes, organized crime, and corruption.

EULEX’s competences were curtailed in 2011 and 2012 when the “international supervision” on Kosovo’s independence was dismissed.

The EULEX mission has regularly been an object of controversy for not arresting enough high level officials. It was rocked with allegations of corruption in 2014 when former prosecutor Maria Bamieh accused EULEX officials of corruption.

Andrea Capussela, a former economics chief in the now-defunct International Civil Office (ICO), which administered Kosovo from independence until September 2012, told Prishtina Insight in a recent interview that EULEX should  leave Kosovo immediately.

“The mission is now damaging both Kosovo and indirectly the interests of the European Union, so it should be withdrawn,” Capussela said.

Other analysts do not see EULEX in a negative light.

Ehat Miftaraj, researcher at the Kosovar Institute for Justice, local judicial institutions are still fragile, politically influenced and in need for further professional capacities and staff.

Legal analyst Vigan Qorolli considers that EULEX has benefited f Kosovar people and  should not be seen completely with a negative eye.

Qorolli is critical of how EULEX selects professional staff because, according to him, indictments were often based on inadequate legal bases.

However he is clear about one thing:

“If it were not for the foreign prosecutors and judges, justice in Kosovo would unfortunately remain nonsensical.”

14/06/2016 - 17:22

14 June 2016 - 17:22

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.