29th Oct 2016

Corruption reigns in Kosovo despite EU millions

The almost €700 million in EU funds spent in Kosovo between 2007 and 2011 to improve the rule of law and rein in corruption have produced dismal results, an EU auditing body said this week.

A lack of co-ordination between the EU and the US, unqualified EU staff and weak anti-corruption bodies in Kosovo are among some of the findings in an investigation conducted by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Auditors.

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"Kosovo's authorities accord insufficient priority to the rule of law and EU support should be more effective," said Gijs de Vries, the court member responsible for the report, in a statement.

The court says lack of consensus among EU member states on Kosovo's independence dispels the incentive for the struggling nation to effectively stamp out corruption.

Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 but Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain refuse to recognise it.

The court also found member states are staffing Eulex, the EU's policy body in Kosovo, with unqualified personnel. It said some staff is sent on missions which are too short.

Eulex is mandated until June 2014 to support Kosovo towards establishing the rule of law, is staffed with 2,250 people and has an annual operational budget of around €111 million.

It is the EU's largest foreign mission.

The court's criticism comes after stinging remarks by Germany's defence minister Thomas de Maiziere earlier this month.

"We need a new start, a new name, a new structure, new people and a new mandate. In any case, it's on the wrong track. We need to sort that out at the EU level," he told Reuters.

He added that Nato is being forced to do Eulex' job in north Kosovo, where it has more popular support.

For its part, the German foreign ministry is more forgiving.

"We feel Eulex could do better in some fields," a German diplomatic source told this website on Wednesday (31 October).

"Concerning the fight against corruption, more could be done ... but they have already made a very good contribution. It's a very hard task in Kosovo, so you can't expect Eulex to find a silver bullet," the contact added.

EU navel-gazing aside, the Union's police body has long been viewed with contempt by leftist young Kosovars.

"Eulex out!" are among some of the tags found spray-painted on walls in and around Pristina.

Similar grievances are directed towards the around 6,000 Nato troops stationed in the country to maintain security amid the still simmering tensions with neighbouring Serbia.

Between 50,000 to 60,000 ethnic Serbs live in northern Kosovo.

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