Thursday

23rd May 2019

EU officials upset MEPs on Kosovo corruption scandal

  • Brok (l) and Gentilini (at the end, on the right) in a previous and public EP hearing (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Two senior EU officials have annoyed MEPs by refusing to give details on the corruption scandal in Eulex, the EU’s rule of law mission in Kosovo.

Fernando Gentilini, the EU foreign service’s top manager on the Western Balkans, and Kenneth Deane, a Brit who runs its civilian missions, faced questions in the European Parliament on Monday (3 November).

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They insisted on meeting the foreign affairs committee “in camera” to exclude press.

But despite the veil of secrecy, they declined to comment on details of the corruption allegations on grounds there is an “ongoing” investigation inside Eulex.

The scandal erupted last week when Kosovo daily Koha Ditore wrote a story, citing internal Eulex files, which said: top Eulex officials took bribes from Kosovo gangsters to block prosecutions; colluded with criminal suspects; and quashed internal Eulex probes.

The daily also reported that Eulex gave classified information to Serbian intelligence services.

One parliament source, who attended Monday’s Q&A, said Gentilini hardly took the microphone and that committee members left the session “very disappointed”.

A second contact told EUobserver: “They [Gentilini and Deanne] told MEPs nothing more than they already knew from media reports … everyone is pissed off they weren’t able to give specific information”.

The source noted that Elmar Brok, the German centre-right committee chair, was “hesitant” on whether to call for a European Parliament probe “at this stage,” but is to file written questions on the affair.

Some committee members proposed that Olaf, the EU’s anti-fraud office, should look into the allegations.

Another idea was to recruit an independent investigator from an EU state.

For his part, Eduard Kukan, a centre-right Slovak MEP and former foreign minister, said following the hearing that Eulex should be “thoroughly examined by independent investigators”.

He added: “these accusations have already shaken [its] credibility”.

Tonino Picula, a centre-left Croatian euro-deputy and also a former foreign minister, said: “The reputation of the European Union on Kosovo is at stake”.

The Eulex accusations go back to 2012.

But its only action so far has been to suspend Maria Bamieh - a British prosecutor seconded to the EU mission - on grounds that she leaked information to press.

Bamieh and Koha Ditore say she was not the source of the leaks.

But she began to speak to media after being fired in order, she says, to defend her reputation.

She told EUobserver last week that Eulex' internal investigation is a “lie … a complete joke” because key suspects are not being questioned and are still being allowed to work on sensitive cases.

She added that Gentilini should be held responsible to stop the EU from “passing the buck”.

“I name him because, at the end of the day, Eulex is run by the EEAS [the EU foreign service]. But they always … say: ‘It’s not us. It’s the [EU] Council’. The Council says: ‘It’s not us. It’s the EEAS’. Nobody takes responsibility”.

Eulex employs 1,600 policemen, judges, and prosecutors seconded from around Europe. It is by far the EU's biggest foreign crisis mission.

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