Kosovo should become a functioning state under the rule of law - that's the goal of the EU's EULEX mission. The new head of the mission, Bernd Borchardt, tells DW what progress has been made.
DW: Mr. Borchardt, since early February you have been leading the EULEX mission in Kosovo. Are you satisfied with what you have accomplished so far?
Bernd Borchardt: On the one hand, it is of course true that we are confronted here with expectations that go further than what we can actually meet. Sometimes, the public perception is more critical than the reality. When I got here, I realized how much had been done here, and that was quite impressive: 330 court rulings involving EULEX, including corruption convictions of high-ranking representatives of this country. And, two former ministers are currently on trial - Fatmir Limaj and Bujar Bukoshi.
When I arrived here, a massive wave of bombings started in northern Kosovo. Then, our police went into action with patrols and mobile checkpoints. So, we're making a difference. And my colleagues have not only done a great deal in the past, but are also continuing to do so.
The collaboration between EULEX and the Kosovo government has not always been the best. How do you see this work together and what is its purpose?
When I came here, I said publicly that I am here as a partner, that the mission here is a partnership, and that this partnership brings with it responsibilities for both sides. We try to stand behind this partnership and this responsibility. My previous experiences working with the Kosovo authorities are quite good. I see no problems. Certain things, however, are happening a bit more slowly than I expected, or hoped they would.
Are you satisfied with the support that you are getting from Brussels? Within the EU there are also disagreements when it comes to Kosovo.
Yes, I know, of course, there are five countries (Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Romania and Cyprus) that have not recognized Kosovo. But these five states want the rule of law in Kosovo to improve. As such, I do not see any insurmountable problems.
One of the biggest problems in Kosovo is corruption. How can you get a grip on that?
We have a special prosecutor's office that is primarily responsible for cases of organized crime and high-level corruption. We have 37 convictions so far, including a number of eminent persons, including a former speaker of parliament. This number also includes a former prosecutor from this special prosecutor's office who was responsible for anti-corruption work. All these people have been convicted. And as I mentioned, the anti-corruption trials of two ministers are currently running. There is probably corruption in every country around the world; that is to say that it is very difficult to clean out the very last nests of corruption. But the goal here is to make progress, to punish the guilty, and in that area we have something to show for it. And we want to do more.
How long does Kosovo really need EULEX? Again and again, there are calls of "EULEX out," while there are other people who say, EULEX must remain a little longer in Kosovo because of the link between corruption and politics in the country, as you have mentioned.
Our current mandate runs until June next year. How it goes on from there, whether it goes on, in whatever form it goes on, with what mandate it goes on, are things we must define in the triangle of our own analysis, the discussion with the EU members and the government of Kosovo. The member states are still willing to continue the mission. How this mission should look is not yet defined.
And what is your personal opinion?
I believe that northern Kosovo will certainly still need the support of an international mission after next summer. Several other trials will still ongoing and then it would certainly be useful for this to continue. In some areas I already have an opinion, but it does not make sense to make this public now, because I must first discuss this with the government and the member states.
German diplomat Bernd Borchardt (58) has headed the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX Kosovo, since the beginning of February. Its task is to help Kosovo establish the rule of law and a functioning police force and customs service. As part of the mission, about 2,000 civil servants from EU countries are deployed in Kosovo, supported by some 1,000 local staff.