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16th Aug 2018

EU mission in Kosovo to lose 450 policemen

  • Eulex current mandate in Kosovo expires on 14 June (Photo: Eulex)

Eulex, the European police mission in Kosovo, will reduce its staff by 25 to 30 percent from mid-June onward.

Speaking in Brussels on Friday (May 25), EU civilian operations commander, Hansjoerg Haber, told press the move is to prepare for Eulex' complete withdrawal.

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"It is time for Kosovo to take responsibility for themselves ... Eulex needs to adapt and needs to prepare its own disengagement from Kosovo," he said.

He added that in future it will do more special investigations into organised crime, war crimes, corruption and people who are still missing after the Balkan wars.

The number of international police officers seconded to Eulex is to go down from around 1,700 to 1,250, while local staff will drop from 1,200 to 1,000. Its administrative arm will stay intact.

The staff will be drawn down over several months.

Haber did not give a date for full withdrawal. But EUobserver understands it will stay around in Kosovo in some form for at least two years.

Meanwhile, Nato soldiers will stay in place to provide hard security so long as UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1244 stays in force. With Serbia's ally and UNSC veto holder Russia blocking any change to Kosovo's status, this could be a long time.

The Eulex pull-back comes after what is widely regarded as an EU success story in terms of training Kosovar police and customs officials.

It is partly designed to reduce confusion. When a Vatican envoy visited Pristina last September, EUobserver saw Kosovar police, Eulex police, Nato soldiers, Vatican security, Italian security and private security guards outside the venue.

The pull-back also comes amid renewed violence between Kosovar Serbs and Kosovar Albanians in north Kosovo, however. "The north remains a problem," Haber said.

Haber's plan to concentrate on organised crime and corruption comes after criticism that it has not indicted any big fish since it started work in 2008.

Pino Arlacchi, an Italian centre-left MEP who helped create an anti-mafia taskforce in Italy, told this website in January that Eulex is "amateurish" and that it is sheltering high-level Kosovar politicians in the name of stability.

For his part, Haber on Friday defended Eulex' record in the area of war crimes. He noted that it recently added two war prosecutors and now has four in total. Eulex has obtained some 20 war crime convictions from around 80 cases since 2009, he added.

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