Sunday

23rd Jan 2022

Opinion

Causing damage in Kosovo

"The key concept is local ownership and accountability: the Kosovo authorities will be in the driver's seat," the boss of the EU's police mission in Kosovo, Yves de Kermabon, said in August on his vision of the EU's mandate in our country. But even Kosovar children do not believe this fairy tale any more.

In May 2008, the planning team for the EU's mission to Kosovo launched the campaign "Come to Europe," a travelling roadshow intended to promote the EU. Every night on TV, we could watch children gazing at a spectacular truck turned into a stage. Six months later, Eulex arrived.

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A decade after the war and a year and a half since the declaration of independence, rather than stable progress we have stability as progress. Eulex defines itself as a "crisis management operation," as if the crisis is here to stay and merely has to be managed. "(Re)solution," the traditional vocabulary of international missions, has been replaced by "management." Crisis management means prevention of an explosion of crisis, not elimination of the crisis or its causes.

In this way, we are constantly kept on the brink of an explosion. Rather than a post-conflict mission, where the priorities are development and justice, Eulex is a pre-conflict mission operating with a doctrine of regional stability and internal security. Its paradigm of stability subdues people's rights and negates justice. The corruption of high-level local politicians, the richest people in Kosovo, is tolerated by the international missions because the local politicians pay for this tolerance with obedience and submissiveness.

The paradigm of stability instead of development implies that Eulex has appointed itself as guardian of the two processes currently moving us away from EU integration: ethnically-based decentralisation (which is a euphemism for cantonisation) and neoliberal privatisation (where everything is sold, fast, even rich mines and profitable telecommunications businesses, in the midst of a financial crisis which has artificially decreased their value).

Eulex' "rule of law" mandate is in fact a licence to become "rulers of the law." About 1,900 Eulex officials and their families are immune from legal prosecution in Kosovo. Eulex is not accountable toward our institutions, over which it retains executive powers unlimited in scope and time.

This is clear from the EU Council's decision of 4 February 2008, which says that Eulex shall "assume other responsibilities, independently or in support of the competent Kosovo authorities, to ensure the maintenance and promotion of the rule of law, public order and security, in consultation with the relevant Council agencies." While Eulex is said to be an interim mission that will leave soon, how "soon" is unclear: Eulex mandate has no deadline.

Unmik in all but name

Eulex is nothing but the new First Pillar of Unmik (the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, a pre-independence UN mission). What was before the Unmik Police and the Unmik Department of Justice has now turned into Eulex. The asymmetric practices of Unmik, which both ruled over Kosovo and mediated between Kosovo and Serbia, are being continued by Eulex. The EU mission sits in Unmik's former headquarters, the UN's white jeeps have changed their colour to EU blue, and Unmik employees have switched to Eulex.

Meanwhile, Serbia seems to have three mid-term goals: to not recognise Kosovo's independence; to become an EU member before Kosovo; and to establish within Kosovo an autonomous Serb territorial entity, modelled closely on the one it already has in Bosnia, Republica Srpska. As an EU member, Serbia would be able to impose conditions on Kosovo's EU accession. With an internal territorial entity, Serbia would be able to place conditions on Kosovo's functionality as a state.

It was in this context that Eulex announced the signing of a protocol for police co-operation with Serbia. The protocol draft refers to the infamous "Six Point Plan" of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (which will lead to Kosovo's ethnically-based territorial partition) and UN Resolution 1244 (which confirms Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo). The protocol calls on Eulex and Serbia to exchange police information and to meet regularly. It would remove a key obstacle for EU-Serbia visa liberalisation, but it has no benefits for Kosovo.

Open wounds

Serbia has a criminal past in Kosovo and criminal plans for Kosovo. During the last war, Serbian forces killed 12,000 people, raped about 20,000 women, deported almost 1 million people from Kosovo and expelled even more from their homes. Ten years later, 1,887 people are still missing. We fear that more mass graves will be found.

Today, the post-Milosevic, "democratic" Serbia finances illegal parallel structures inside Kosovo whose mission is to undermine our territorial integrity and sovereignty. In one example, Serb-funded vigilante groups prevent ethnic Albanians from crossing the main bridge in the town of Mitrovica. Serbia's desire to maintain power over Kosovo has with the protocol been legitimised by Eulex' "understanding."

We are not against the EU's presence in Kosovo, but we are against its loose mandate and destructive role. Eulex does not recognise Kosovo's independence, but has executive power over us. Eulex continues to legitimise Serbia's demands on Kosovo and encourages ethnic partition. The police protocol is merely the latest expression of Eulex' damaging role here. Overturning Eulex jeeps caused small damage compared to the harm caused by the mission.

Kosovo does not need more "stability." It needs democracy and development. We do not need more policemen, prosecutors and judges from the EU, but doctors, teachers, agricultural experts and engineers. We want the right to join the EU - not the EU's undemocratic rule over us.

Albin Kurti is the leader of the ethnic Albanian Vetevendosja ("Self-determination") group. Mr Kurti's original text referred to Kosovo as "Kosova" (the ethnic Albanian spelling). But this has been edited to reflect accepted international usage

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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