EU's Kosovo report scathing on graft, justice

Published on November 9, 2007, Reuters

Category: Organized Crime in Kosovo

BRUSSELS, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Serbia's United Nations-run Kosovo province is plagued by graft, human rights abuses and cronyism because of weakness in the province's authorities, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

The EU executive's annual progress report concluded there was little progress in the province and institutions were weak, mainly due to widespread corruption at all levels.

"Due to a lack of clear political will to fight corruption, and to insufficient legislative and implementing measures, corruption is still widespread," the report said.

There was little control on how politicians and officials got their wealth and "civil servants are still vulnerable to political interference, corrupt practices and nepotism."

"Kosovo's public administration remains weak and inefficient," the report added.

In a reference to a widespread perception in Kosovo of cronyism, the report said that "the composition of the government anti-corruption council does not sufficiently guarantee its impartiality."

"Some but uneven progress can be reported in combating money laundering," and "little progress can be reported in the area of organised crime and combating of trafficking in human beings."

The report is an indictment for the U.N. bureaucrats running the province since 1999, and for the province's ethnic Albanian leaders, who are seeking independence from Serbia, political analysts said.

Belgrade rejects the demand, and the two sides have been locked in negotiations for months, closely watched by the EU that is preparing to take over some of the U.N. functions once Kosovo's status is settled.

According to the report, Kosovo's judicial system is still "weak" and institutions have made "little progress".



WAR CRIMES

Laws are not standardised and there is not enough qualified personnel. The case backlog is growing, and there are several hundred pending war crimes trials from the 1998-99 insurgency by ethnic Albanians and the counter-war by Serb forces.

NATO intervened and expelled Serb troops accused of killing civilians while cracking down on the rebellion. Serbia accuses the guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army of also killing civilians not loyal to its cause, both Serb and Albanians.

"These (war crimes trials) are being hampered by the unwillingness of the local population to testify," the report says. "There is still no specific legislation on witness protection in place." The report notes that "civil society organisations remain weak," "awareness of women's rights in society is low," and there is no adequate mechanism to address complaints from Kosovo's citizens against the U.N. authorities in Kosovo.

It also highlights major problems in minority rights, especially related to the situation of Kosovo's remaining Serb minority. Some 100,000 stayed in the province after the end of the war, and as many left, fearing reprisals.

"Especially the Kosovo Serb community still see their freedom of movement being restricted ... Returnees' houses are still the targets of violent attacks," the report says.

It adds that acts of vandalism against Serb Orthodox religious monuments "including with mortars", remain a problem, and investigations into the crimes are not always professional.

(Writing by Ellie Tzortzi; Editing by Peter Millership)


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