• The EU police mission in Kosovo, Eulex, is the Union's biggest operation of its kind (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

Crime levels bode ill for Kosovo's EU visa-free bid

12.02.13 @ 19:03

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - Kosovo is lagging behind in crime fighting reforms, limiting its prospects of obtaining EU visa-free travel.

The European Commission in a report released on Tuesday (12 February) described Kosovo’s capacity to fight organised crime and corruption as limited, “with a potentially severe impact on the EU’s internal security.”

Senior commission officials delivered the message to Kosovo’s minister for European Integration Vlora Citaku on Tuesday.

Despite the bad news, Citaku told reporters in Pristina that progress has been achieved in all the blocks defined by the EU's so-called roadmap for visa liberalization.

But she did note that “there is still much to do and that our institutions will continue their maximum commitment in the implementation of all requirements and recommendations of the European commission report."

Hard drugs like heroine and trafficked people are among a long list of problems where the commission wants to see improvements.

The wealth it generates provides “considerable incentives for bribery, money laundering and the abuse of public procurement procedures,” the commission report said.

The breakaway nation launched its visa liberalization dialogue with the EU in January 2012 and started EU-mandated reforms last summer.

Neighbouring western Balkan countries including Serbia already have a visa-free regime, entitling their citizens to travel throughout the EU for up to three months with no permit.

The commission report pointed to areas where Kosovo needs to make further progress.

For one, it said Kosovo should make marked improvements in putting an end to human trafficking. While the legal and institutional framework against trafficking is being put together, the commission says Kosovo remains a place of origin and transit point for trafficked women and children.

Women are shipped against their will for sexual exploitation throughout the EU while children are forced to beg on its streets, the commission noted.

Other Kosovar women and children are coerced into prostitution, marriage or forced labour. Most young women trafficked into Kosovo come from Albania, Moldova, Poland and Serbia.

Authorities have cracked down on some of the networks. In 2011, they netted 88 suspected trafficking offenders but the judiciary is backlogged with massive case loads.

Europol, the EU police agency in the Hague, bagged over 100 suspects in a human smuggling end of January in a network of countries that included Kosovo.

The report also cites endemic corruption.

Despite a raft of new laws and a new anti-corruption agency, results have been limited. The commission says agency is ill-equipped.

Abuse of public procurement remains prevalent and a law on political party financing still does not prohibit donations from people or organisations that are in a position of a conflict of interest.

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