November 07th 2012 06:37:56 PM
Police Insider: Kosovo Firmly in Grip of Organized Crime; Officials Just Waiting for High-minded Reformers to LeavePosted by Julia Gorin
Just as pathetic, those high-minded reformers — and our officials playing kissy-face with the mobsters — know this. As do the still-cheering Albanians.
Chief Albanian crime boss and Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci hugging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while the image-enhancer — the much ballyhooed “female president of a Muslim country” — Atifete Jahjaga looks on.
‘We Have Achieved Almost Nothing’
An Insider’s View of EU Efforts in Kosovo (Spiegel Online, Nov. 7)
Since 2008, the EU has had thousands of soldiers, judges and prosecutors in Kosovo to help it become a Western-style constitutional democracy. But a German police officer with years of experience there says it is still dominated by corruption, clan loyalties and drugs — with officials just waiting for the high-minded reformers to leave.
The development of a constitutional state in Kosovo is the biggest and most expensive aid mission in the history of the European Union. [Yet somehow still not worthy of Americans’ attention, apparently.] The so-called EULEX mission, with a staff of roughly 2,500, has cost more than €1 billion ($1.3 billion) since 2008. Nevertheless, a recent report by the European Court of Auditors finds that there have been hardly any successes. It concludes that levels of organized crime and corruption remain high, while the judiciary is inefficient and suffers from too much political influence. A German police officer familiar with conditions in Kosovo for many years confirms the report’s findings based on his own experiences in the country. Owing to laws applying to German civil servants, the officer must remain anonymous.
…I’ve known Kosovo for more than 10 years. In my opinion, we have achieved almost nothing in that time. I’m mostly disappointed with the police. Despite many years of intensive training and equipment meeting European standards, police officers are more interested in doing radar speed checks than in fighting crime. Nabbing speeding motorists doesn’t require any movement; you just sit comfortably in your heated police car.
It’s my impression that corruption is quite high among Kosovar police officers. I was told that, if you’re caught with a stolen car, all you have to do is pay the officer a bribe to take care of the problem.
The major criminals are already out of reach, protected by traditional clan structures and the old-boys’ networks within the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), from which many police officers were recruited. They obviously don’t want to be seen as whistleblowers, and they’re hardly likely to investigate their former commanders, who have struck it rich in the drug trade.
A wall of silence, impenetrable to police officers like us, protects these networks. In reality, we hardly have any idea what’s going on here. For example, the city of Ferizaj is considered the biggest hub for the drug trade in the Balkans, and yet we hardly ever seize significant amounts of narcotics there.
The only thing that’s clear is that Kosovo is firmly in the grip of organized crime. You only have to look at the many new gas stations and shopping centers, where there are almost no customers. It isn’t too much of a leap of faith to conclude that their main purpose is to launder money. Besides, apartment buildings are being built everywhere, and there are far more luxury cars than in neighboring Macedonia, for example, even though the per capita income in Macedonia is significantly higher.
Only a few weeks ago, the chairmen of both the Pristina municipal government and Kosovo’s football federation were arrested. They are accused of promising land in a conservation area to a developer in return for bribes and expensive cars. The only reason the case came to light is that the permits were not issued, and yet the officials still wanted to keep the cars.
The judiciary is also a long way from being fully functional. Many positions are not filled, or they are constantly being refilled. Some judges have apparently been known to refuse to hear certain cases. Colleagues recently told me that a war criminal sentenced to 15 years in prison was seen having lunch with one of the country’s top politicians in Pristina.
It’s certainly a success to see war-crime charges being brought against a former KLA member. An example is Fatmir Limaj, a popular politician with the governing party and a member of parliament. He was even a cabinet minister for a while. He was accused of being responsible for the torture and death of seven Serbs and a Kosovar while serving as a KLA commander. A key witness, who had been brought to Germany for his protection, committed suicide in (the western city of) Duisburg in September 2011. A court acquitted Limaj in May.
(Please note: Advocating on behalf of Limaj’s criminal career early on was the 2010 New York Republican Senate nominee: Joe DioGuardi. A translated quote from Kosovapress.com, circa 2005: “If we wouldn’t bring one expert with international credibility as witness in [the] case [of] Limaj…I don’t believe that Limaj would be out in freedom now. We’re activists and not people that talk, we in fact talk good but we also [know] how to make good strategies how to make things reality, and this is an advantage for Kosova if it uses it….”)
Kosovo is a country in which centuries-old traditions live on, and blood feuds are part of the culture. We Central Europeans have not been able to convince the Kosovars of the benefits of adopting a new legal and value system like the one we have in the West. That’s because they see that the old structures remain powerful while government institutions are weak. I fear that the Kosovars will ride us out, just as the Taliban are waiting for Western troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Even with all of this, none of those responsible for the EULEX mission is telling Brussels the truth. They just send sugarcoated reports from Kosovo, so-called “okay reportings.” Perhaps they have to do so to keep their jobs, so that they can continue working in foreign missions. But it doesn’t help Kosovo.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Ah, the Kosovo Spring’s eternal.
Just a short BBC item on the European Court of Auditors report:
The EU law and order mission in Kosovo is inefficient and the territory remains plagued by organised crime and corruption, European auditors say. EU help for Kosovo’s police and judiciary “has had only modest success”, says the Court of Auditors, whose job is to scrutinise EU spending.
Per capita, Kosovo is the biggest recipient of EU aid in the world.
Serbia - which lost control of Kosovo after a war and Nato bombing in 1999 - does not accept its independence. [But don’t connect what’s being reported here to why that might be.]
In a statement on Tuesday, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) said Kosovo’s judiciary “continues to suffer from political interference, inefficiency and a lack of transparency and enforcement”.
It also highlighted “important shortcomings” in witness protection and lamented the failure to extend the rule of law to northern Kosovo, where minority Serbs loyal to Belgrade reject Pristina’s authority. [There they go, not connecting it. In other words: Let’s spread the Kosovo disease to every last inch of the territory.]
The ECA says that from 1999 to 2007, Kosovo received 3.5bn euros (£2.8bn; $4.5bn) in donor assistance….From 2007 to 2011, EU assistance for the rule of law in Kosovo totalled about 1.2bn euros…
EU governments seconded insufficient and unqualified staff to Eulex, and for too short periods, the ECA said, and co-operation between the EU police agency Europol and Eulex “is subject to legal restrictions”. […]