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23rd Feb 2019

MEPs ask tough questions on EU mission in Kosovo

  • Brok (l) said 'questions were not answered' by the EU foreign service in Monday's hearing (Photo: euoparl.europa.eu)

Two senior MEPs have, in a letter to the EU foreign service, asked tough questions on corruption allegations against Eulex, the European rule of law mission in Kosovo.

The letter - sent to foreign service chief Federica Mogherini on Wednesday (5 November) - says the European Parliament was “utterly shocked” by the revelations, first published in Kosovo daily Koha Ditore last week.

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“If the case had not appeared in the press when would we have found out?” it says.

“If the allegations were to be confirmed, it would be a disastrous situation” for EU credibility in the Western Balkans, the MEPs - Elmar Brok, the German centre-right chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian Green deputy - added.

The allegations, citing leaked documents, say senior Eulex officials colluded with criminal suspects, took bribes to shut down cases, and quashed internal EU probes.

They also say Eulex gave classified information to Serbian intelligence services, turned a blind eye to miscarriages of justice in Kosovo courts, and failed to protect informants.

Maria Bamieh - an Eulex prosecutor-turned-whistleblower after Eulex sacked her on suspicion she leaked documents to press - says she has more evidence on “mismanagement of EU funds” in the Kosovo mission.

“The recent downsizing of Eulex [from over 2,000 to some 1,600 staff] cost more money than it saved”, she told EUobserver last week.

She also called for an external enquiry by a credible investigator, such as “a distinguished British QC [a top legal qualification in the UK]”.

The EU’s initial response was to say Eulex was already looking into the problem since 2013.

The EU foreign service’s new chief, Federica Mogherini, then said she will “appoint as a matter of urgency an independent and experienced legal expert” to look into the situation.

Her spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, told EUobserver on Thursday that no name and no date for the initiative have yet been set.

Meanwhile, the Brok-Lunacek letter goes on to question the EU claim that Eulex followed due diligence until now.

“For how long did Eulex and the EEAS [EU foreign service] have information about allegations of corruption … when was the internal Eulex investigation started?” their letter asks.

“Bamieh already drew attention to possible problems in 2011/2012, but there was no follow-up, no transparency, and no information given to parliament”.

They note that Bamieh was suspended without proof that she leaked anything, while the suspects in the case have kept their Eulex posts: “What is the policy framework to protect the alleged whistleblower? … This way of proceeding sheds a strange light on Eulex”.

“There are allegations of threats [by Eulex] to the Koha Ditore journalist who published the reports … Have these allegations been investigated?” they add.

The letter came after EU officials stonewalled parliament in a behind-closed-doors hearing on Monday.

But Lunacek told this website on Thursday she is pleased that Mogherini “reacted so quickly” with her pledge to appoint an external sleuth.

For her part, Mogherini spokeswoman Kocijancic noted that since the MEPs’ letter was made public “I imagine the response will be public as well”.

Investigation

EU and Kosovo corruption: Scratching the surface?

The EU has asked an ageing academic to look into Eulex corruption allegations. But former officials want to know why it failed to convict a single "big fish" in the past five years?

Opinion

Western Balkans: Nationalism is not the answer

After a century of bloodshed and hatred, the independence of Kosovo in 2008 seemed like a sign that peace and stability is possible in the Western Balkans.

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