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Kosovo Deserves Better

14 August 2015

Gabriele Meucci - EULEX Head of Mission 

I was disappointed to see the results, released in June, of the 2015 Freedom House report on Nations in Transit. According to this study, Kosovo earned the rating “Semi-Consolidated Authoritarian Regime,” and with it, the rank of the least democratic regime in the Balkans. I initially found this shocking, maybe even unfair, but then I read the report’s definition:  a “semi-consolidated authoritarian regime” is one that attempts “to mask authoritarianism or relies on informal power structures with limited respect for the institutions and practices of democracy.”

This definition struck a nerve for me. EULEX advisors have been in Kosovo since 2008, and our success has been mixed. The biggest successes have been achieved in sectors where Kosovo colleagues and counterparts are motivated to move forward, embrace change, and resist the old, informal power structures that compromise rule of law. That’s not to say that improvement has been steady – there are always setbacks and occasions when things go wrong. Even Kosovo’s best institutions experience this at one time or another, and strong institutions see setbacks as an opportunity to identify shortcomings and make corrections to improve future performance.  

But that is not what is happening with Kosovo Correctional Services (KCS). In 2012, KCS was on its way to being one of Kosovo’s success stories, and the Prisoner Escort Unit was one of the strongest parts of KCS. Progress was so good that EULEX relinquished its executive capacity (where we provided correctional officers with authority under Kosovo law to serve alongside local counterparts) and moved back to what we call MMA – Mentoring, Monitoring, and Advising. Unfortunately, KCS did not continue on its positive trajectory. Over the course of the past 18 months, there have been a number of incidents with KCS where procedures and institutions of democracy were disregarded in the service of informal power structures and political interests. Any one of these would have been a scandal nearly anywhere else, but in Kosovo, it seemed that most people shrugged, and things continued as they have always been.  

EULEX has worked diligently to ensure that Kosovo has the means and the knowledge to move beyond informal power structures and embrace EU standards for rule of law. So, what happened, that those convicted in the Drenica trial are housed in a place where they seem to come and go as they please and can obtain a doctor’s order to go to UCCK as easily as you or I can buy an espresso?  

I believe- I know- that Kosovo can do better than this. Kosovo has, in its hands, the key to its future EU perspective. Sometimes, such as last week, Kosovo uses that key, demonstrating its commitment to the rule of law, dealing with its past, and ensuring justice for victims of crimes that occurred during and immediately following the war. Still, in some areas of rule of law – not just KCS – Kosovo chooses to remain in the past, in a prison of informal power structures, accepting corruption and nepotism, and expecting change to come from outside.  

We at EULEX are but guests in Kosovo, and as guests, we know that we cannot force change – Kosovo’s people must be the ones to decide that it is time that Kosovo send its criminals to prison and proves its rule of law institutions are ready to handle high-profile cases and prisoners without EULEX’s assistance. Only Kosovo’s citizens can decide to step forward and say that they are done - done with informal power structures, done with shady business deals that pilfer funding and authority from institutions and democracy, and done being the country that earns the rank of the least democratic in the Balkans.

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