Wednesday

7th Dec 2022

EU police in Kosovo must be subject to law, NGO says

Leading NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the EU and NATO to make its future peacekeeping operations in Kosovo subject to law, after a string of failures by existing "accountability" structures to investigate allegations of criminal behaviour by international personnel.

EU foreign ministers on Monday (18 June) are to push forward preparations for the new EU police mission and civilian authority, to be put in place after Kosovo gains independence. The team will take over from an existing UN police and civilian authority, UNMIK, which has helped keep a fragile peace since 1999.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • A Ukrainian KFOR soldier: who will police the police? (Photo: Wikipedia)

The EU effort - the biggest of its kind in the union's history - is to see 1,600 policemen and 72 civilian officials deploy in January, if UN talks on Kosovo's status end quickly. An EU preparatory office in Pristina - the EUPT - began work in April with 40 staff but has now grown to over 200 personnel, reports indicate.

The EU policemen will be supported by 16,000 soldiers drawn from 35 countries, including the US, Turkey and Ukraine, as well as most EU states. The military force - currently called KFOR - is under NATO command and has already been working alongside UNMIK since the end of the civil war eight years ago.

UNMIK and KFOR are in theory subject to oversight by a laundry list of unique institutions including: an Ombudsperson; a Human Rights Advisory Panel; a Human Rights Oversight Committee; an UNMIK Claims Commission; UNMIK police complaints departments; internal KFOR claims panels and OSCE monitors.

The structures have not lacked bite entirely. In 2000, an American KFOR soldier was sentenced to life by a US court for raping and killing an 11-year old girl. In less serious cases, soldiers have been stripped of rank for drunk driving. The Ombudsperson had in the past "done well" in pressuring UNMIK to expedite complaints.

But a fresh HRW report out Thursday (14 June) suggests the system is breaking down. In February 2006 the Ombudsperson lost his mandate to oversee international bodies. The human rights panel has not yet started work. The oversight committee last met in 2004. The UNMIK commission has been invisible so far.

The "accountability" gap saw in February 2007 a situation in which Romanian UNMIK police fired rubber bullets at ethnic Albanian protesters, killing two. An investigation into the case has all-but unravelled, with the Romanian officers shipped back home in March and with Bucharest fudging questions.

Making matters worse

Tensions in Kosovo are already running high: radical ethnic Albanian groups impatient for independence are widely suspected of orchestrating a series of non-fatal bombs in recent months. And the region's 100,000 ethnic Serbs are beginning to move from isolated villages to larger Serb enclaves in the north out of fear.

The February incident showed how international governance problems could aggravate the potential for instability. In the aftermath of the killings, a bomb in central Pristina damaged UN vehicles and a rocket-propelled grenade struck a Serb Orthodox monastery. An April poll showed that UNMIK's approval rating was just 24 percent.

The HRW study urges the EU to restore the international mandate of the Ombudsperson to cover its new police and civilian authorities, as well as NATO troops. It also calls for a new Constitutional Court - to be set up by the post-status settlement government - to have authority over EU and NATO staff.

"The EU should learn from those mistakes and allow real scrutiny of its human rights record from day one," HRW director Holly Cartner said in a statement. "The international community cannot...succeed in building democratic institutions in Kosovo if it is not prepared to subject its own record to independent scrutiny."

But privately, some HRW staff say the EU is becoming less open to criticism as it moves closer to taking over responsibility from the UN. "Before, they were happy enough to listen to problems with UNMIK. But they are less receptive these days."

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Socialists opposed parliament taking Qatar rights stand

The socialists in the European Parliament are leading compromise talks on human rights in Qatar despite voting against putting the issue to a plenary vote. The move comes after the Left demanded that the European Parliament take a stand.

No top EU officials going to Qatar World Cup

None of the four top EU officials are going to the Qatar World Cup amid a stink on human rights, but some are more brave than others in criticising the gas-rich emirate.

Column

Autocrats make us all less secure

How should democratic states co-operate with authoritarian governments in the future? My organisation, Democracy Reporting International, has studied the security strategies of 13 democratic governments to understand how they see this relationship.

Opinion

Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin himself is somewhat suspicious of Serbia's leader, as are most who deal with the opaque Aleksandar Vucic. The Russian president has preferred to keep his Serbian counterpart compliant, via a tight rein of annually-reviewed gas pricing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid
  2. Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout
  3. Autocrats make us all less secure
  4. Big Agri's lies: green EU farming not to blame for food insecurity
  5. German top court declares €800bn EU recovery fund 'legal'
  6. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  7. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  8. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us