An EU audit has leveled criticism against the European rule of law mission in Kosovo alleging that crime and corruption are still rampant. Hoping for progress, the European Commission wants to negotiate.
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) issued a sobering assessment that the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) is not efficient enough. The report, issued on Tuesday (30.10.2012)), asserted that a high level of crime and corruption are still present in the transitional country.
Court of Auditors member Gijs de Vries, who was responsible for the report, said the ECA found police are "not yet capable of dealings with serious financial crimes such as money laundering." In an interview published by the European Commission, de Vries added that "there is a lot of political interference with the judiciary and with the police."
The international community provided 3.5 billion euros ($4.5 billion) in assistance to Kosovo between 1999 and 2007, two-thirds of which came from the EU and member states. An additional 700 million euros in assistance was provided by the EU between 2007 and 2011.
Political dialogue needed
The auditors recognized the difficult conditions on the ground and taciturn Kosovo agencies as largely responsible for preventing effective progress in the country. Kosovo authorities "do not devote sufficient attention to strengthening the rule of law," de Vries said.
But the EU is to blame, as well: "The European Union must do a better job in providing assistance," for example by promoting political dialogue, the ECA said.
The auditors' report recommended, among other things, to better link the assistance in Kosovo with security needs in the EU. Human trafficking between the Western Balkans and EU has increased in recent years, but there has yet to be a political reaction to the trend, according to the report.
EU to follow recommendations
According to monitoring agencies, Kosovo should be offered more incentives to improve the rule of law. Although liberalization of visas could be one such option, de Vries said, the 96 conditions the EU has attached to this make it ineffective.
"More priorities, sharper priorities need to be formulated by the European Union," de Vries concluded.
The EU's rule of law mission includes security support, such as during this visit of Serbia's former president
The European Commission reacted evenly to the report. "This report is important and we will follow up accordingly," said Peter Stano, a spokesperson for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle. Some of the recommendations have already been implemented, Stano told DW, for example working on political dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton brought together heads of state - Hashim Thaci for Kosovo und Ivica Dacic for Serbia - in Brussels in mid-October and on Wednesday, Ashton will travel to the Western Balkans, including a stop Kosovo.
Violent conflicts continue, primarily in northern regions of the country, between the largely Serbian population and the Albanian-run government. The European Commission emphasized its previous successes in the country, such as the 300 civil and criminal cases resolved through the EU mission.
International involvement is key
Stano pointed out that the Commission agrees with the audit regarding problematic Kosovo agencies. Pristina has to work on resolving the problems in the north, regardless of EU help.
The EU's focus continues to be the rule of law. Rule of law remains "at the center of whatever we are doing with the partner countries in the Western Balkans," Stano said. This is because it has "to do with the basic values of the European Union, and second it has immediate impact on people in that country, in region or on the ground," Stano added.
The EULEX has been working for four years in Pristina against corruption and other crimes. Police, prosecutors and judges are supposed to be helping introduce democratic standards and move forward against illegal activity. NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) peace troops provided military support to the EU mission.
Dusan Reljic of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs said international support for Kosovo as provided by the United Nations, NATO and the EULEX is essential. He asserted that money spent here is not wasted.
The Balkan expert said the former Yugoslavia is a flash point for crisis. "The situation on-site continues to be so precarious that Kosovo and Macedonia could erupt into open conflict in short order," Reljic told DW.
Reljic said he sees as the underlying problem that the fight against crime and corruption is directed against all Kosovo officials, which causes the political class to lose its willingness to work with international experts.
Which makes the Court of Auditors report all the more meaningful, he added, since it shows that the EULEX has made progress - albeit only in small steps.