Saturday

21st Apr 2018

EU's Kosovo mission struggles for credibility after smuggling incident

  • The head of Eulex in Kosovo said Romania needs to prosecute the officers caught smuggling (Photo: Council of European Union)

In a bid to boost its credibility, the EU's justice and police mission in Kosovo has started high-level corruption cases against local officials and fired 16 of its own gendarmes who were caught smuggling cigarettes and alcohol across the border.

"Our guiding principle is that no-one is above the law and we will continue to apply that," Eulex head of mission Yves de Kermabon told MEPs during a hearing on Thursday (3 June).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He highlighted the importance of the searches conducted by Eulex prosecutors on 26 April on the premises of the transport ministry in Pristina, with the minister himself suspected of money laundering, abuse of public office and corruption.

The 2,800 strong police and justice mission, deployed by the EU after Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, has been criticised in the past for not showing enough muscle against corrupt officials and organised crime – one of its core functions.

"The searches are only the beginning. Such activities lay at the core of the Eulex mandate," Mr de Kermabon said.

But he also warned against expecting convictions too soon, as the judicial processes take time, especially in Kosovo where judges have to work with three legal systems, depending on when the crimes were committed - the Yugoslav, the Serbian and the Kosovar one.

"We have major holes in the mission and are still lacking personnel. But the Kosovo police is working pretty well and maybe ultimately at some point we'll be able to reduce the police mission. The key component is the justice mission," he stressed.

In an embarrassing episode just a week prior to the anti-graft sweep, 16 Romanian gendarmes deployed to the Eulex unit in Mitrovica, in the northern part of Kosovo, were caught smuggling cigarettes and alcohol over the border as they were going home for vacation.

They have been meanwhile sent back to the country and an investigation has been launched, including into the higher chain of command of the Romanian unit.

"We reacted immediately very strongly and said we cannot accept this coming from a member of the EU. That is a question of credibility for Eulex and the EU as a whole," Mr de Kermabon told journalists after the hearing.

It is, however, up to member states to follow up on such cases in their own judicial systems, he stressed.

The 16 gendarmes were decorated in March by the Romanian government for their "professionalism" in carrying out their duties, which include crowd management, protection of VIPs and escorting valuable or explosive items.

The European Parliament will look into the matter and press Bucharest for a judicial investigation, so as to show that the EU is not practising double standards, Austrian Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek, the rapporteur for Kosovo told this website.

"Some people may link the fact that the EU is demanding rule of law and fight against corruption in Kosovo, but member states are not doing that if something happens. It is important that Romania shows with these people caught smuggling that there will be due legal process," she said.

According to Ms Lunacek, Bucharest should be particularly interested in showing that it follows up on such cases, after it failed to produce any sanctions against another of its gendarmes unit, responsible for the death of two people in 2007, during clashes with demonstrators in Pristina. At that time, the Romanian gendarmes were part of the UN peacekeeping mission, Unmik.

"Eulex is needed, but it is important that they deliver accordingly to the expectations people have. They will be judged, in the eyes of the Kosovo public, if they manage to do what the Kosovo authorities don't, really going against the big fish, not only petty corruption. And member states need to uphold the same standards when it comes to their own citizens, if they are guilty of corruption or other crimes," she concluded.

Analysis

Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties

Turkey has belittled the EU in a week of macho posturing, but strategic relations go deeper than the rhetoric.

EU tells Moldova it is still corrupt

In an annual progress report, European Commission says "independence of justice, law enforcement as well as national anti-corruption authorities need substantial improvement".

EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement

After the European Commission presented its Western Balkans strategy last week, with a view of possibly integrating the region by 2025, some EU ministers were less enthusiastic after their first discussion of the new policy.

Opinion

Appeasement will not work with Erdogan

As EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker meet president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria, their reluctance to use their diminishing leverage with Ankara means his dismantling of Turkey's democracy only speeds up.

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights