Kosovo and Europe: The Challenges Faced by EULEX


Kosovo was part of the Ottoman Empire for almost five centuries until Albania, which at that point Kosovo formed part of, declared independence on the 28th of November 1912 (1). At a conference in the wake of WWI (2), where ambassadors met to discuss the reconfiguration of the Balkans, Kosovo was attached to Serbia (3).

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was created on the 29th of November 1943 and was constituted of six republics (Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia) with two regions attached to Serbia (Kosovo and Vojvodina). The Albanians living in Kosovo were considered a minority group and; consequently, were denied the right of self-determination even though they were the third largest ethnic group demographically speaking (4). Since its fusion with Serbia the region of Kosovo has lived through a series of liberal and authoritarian political leaders and the situation was only exacerbated when Slobodan Milošević came to power. Kosovo’s autonomy was inhibited by a series of restrictive measures (5) that gave birth to the peaceful resistance movement led by Ibrahim Rugova (6).

In 1991 both Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence. The Bosnian War followed and only ended with the Dayton Accords in 1995 (7). The ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo, who increasingly believed they might achieve independence during the 1990s, were bitterly disappointed by the Dayton Accords which did not address their grievances. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was founded in reaction to this and, during 1998-1999, there was conflict between the military, paramilitaries, Yugoslav police officers and the KLA. The Račak massacre on the 15th of January 1999, where 45 Albanian civilians were killed, shocked the international community (9). The NATO mission began bombarding Serbia and Kosovo the 24th of March 1999 which, in turn, made it possible for Kosovo to declare independence on the 17th of February 2009. During these bombardments Serbian forces in Kosovo increased their murderous actions and forcefully displaced the civilian population (10).

Resolution 1244 of the United Nations on the 10th of June 1999 created the basis for an international civilian mission (UNMIK) and for a security mission (KFOR) in Kosovo (11). Many political analysts saw the international missions as a sort of supervisory body that diminished the responsibility of the local political elites.

The European EULEX (12) mission has since arrived and has faced numerous challenges. This mission has a dual mandate: one part executive and one part follow-up, advice and recommendations for the local authorities (13). Additionally it is important to emphasize the fact that five members of the EU still do not recognize Kosovo, and that Kosovo cannot become part of the United Nations due to possible vetoes by Russia and China in the Security Council, which makes its international recognition difficult (14).

The challenges faced by EULEX

EULEX, one of the largest civilian European missions, encountered its first problems when trying to clarify its legal basis for action. The mission only got approval from the United Nations after being put under the authority of UN Resolution 1244, making it effectively neutral vis-à-vis the status of the country. The mission was the result of a plan elaborated by Martii Ahtisaari, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and the former President of Finland. The Ahtisaari plan concluded that Kosovo’s independence was necessary but that it needed to be supervised by international missions. The Kosovar Parliament adopted the plan during the approval of the declaration of independence. The civilian mission, which did not completely replace UNMIK (15), was based on two documents that were not entirely compatible. A solution was found in 2012 when the President Atifete Jahjaga, in his letter on the 4th of September, asked that the mission continue (16) and when the Parliament voted in the law agreeing to an international accord between the EU and Kosovo. Emblematic of this chronic problem is the fact that this mission is still under the umbrella of UN Resolution 1244 instead of having a neutral approach with regards to the status of the country (17).

According to the leader of the “Vetëvendosje”, Albin Kurti (18), the Ahtissari plan engendered an ethnically based decentralisation of the country that created a division between the two ethnic groups that need to instead work together for the development of Kosovo. The “Vetëvendosje” movement, or “self-determination” in Albanian, was born during the revolt against the situation in Kosovo following the deployment of international missions and manifested itself initially through protests and political graffiti before later bringing their platform to the Kosovar Parliament.

They consider themselves as part of the centre-left political group and are currently the third largest party in the country. Their platform calls for the entrenchment of democracy, economic development and a strong judiciary which will, in turn, naturally lead towards long-term peace, stability and security.

The EUELEX mission in Kosovo was necessary and contributed to the consolidation of the Kosovar judiciary, police force and border guards. That being said, today it needs to be reimagined.

There has been much criticism of the lack of initiative in dealing with political corruption, in particular going after the “big fish”, and that priority was given to short-term stability instead of dealing with the endemic corruption or organized crime (19). Andrea Lorenzo Capussela, the former director of the economic division of the International Civilian Office in Kosovo (20), mentions the lack of an efficient link between Brussels and EULEX (21) and suggests that the underperformance of the latter is due to negligence, incompetence and a submission to the politico-economic elite of the country (22). In an interview recently broadcast on Kosovar media, he described how, as a member of the Privatisation Agency of Kosovo, he prepared dossiers that were sent to EULEX all the way until the end of his posting in 2011 but that were never acted upon by the mission (23). According to Albin Kurti, the EULEX mission is necessary but needs to be rebuilt and headed by experts who are competent in the fields that hold the most potential for Kosovo – agriculture, sustainable development and construction – instead of judges and prosecutors with both diplomatic immunity and disproportionate executive power, as is currently the case.

The very foundations of EULEX have been shaken by allegations – that are currently being investigated by the authorities – of corruption stemming from one of the mission’s prosecutors (24).

The exodus

Between a hundred and two hundred thousand people have left Kosovo for other countries in the EU. People are leaving due to the very poor quality of life, the unlikelihood of a change in the near future, the corruption of the political elites and also the great frustration at not being able to circulate freely within the EU inter alia. Ulpiana Lama, sociologist and professor, questions the quality of education and training available to youth if they are not able to circulate freely and interact with the younger generations of different European countries.

Serbia’s integration in the EU is already at a very advanced stage as negotiations began in the wake of the normalization of relations on the 21st of January 2014. Mr. Kurti emphasizes the fact that negotiations in Brussels between Pristina and Belgrade contribute to the integration of Serbia into the EU, but also within Kosovo, and took place without preconditions for Serbia (25).

The dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade (26), mediated by the EU via the High Representative, produced the “first agreement on the principles guiding the normalization of relations” on the 19th of April 2013 and which forsees the creation of an association of majority Serb municipalities in the future, although the terms remain vague. Serbia could thus conclude an accord that brought them closer to the EU without recognizing the independence of Kosovo (27). One of the goals of this association is to integrate the parallel structures established by Serbia in the majority Serb communities in the North of the country, which would henceforth be dismantled. During the 2014 parliamentary election, the Srpska electoral register enjoyed strong support from Belgrade and managed to win nine out of the ten majority Serb communities in Kosovo and is represented both in the Parliament and in the government. It is difficult to predict the attitude of this parliamentary group. Will they seek to negotiate or will they instead block the adoption of reforms necessary for the country?

The EU, through negotiations, hopes to become a stabilizing actor in the region in order to flex its muscle on the international stage and so that they can make sure that Serbia’s path aligns with that of the EU.

But the question remains: is this being done in the best interests of the population?


1 – The government established after the declaration of independence also included representatives from Kosovo.

2 – During 1912-1913. The conference did not take into account Albania’s declaration of independence and instead considered it as part of the Ottoman Empire.

3 – The conflict in Kosovo between Albanians and Serbs dates back a long time. The Albanians argue along historical, archeological and linguistic lines whereas the Serbs cite the existence of important religious and cultural sites.

4 – Michel Roux, Les Albanais en Yougoslavie. Minorité nationale territoire et développement, Paris, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1992.

5 – The closure of institutions, the layoff of Albanians and the situation at the University of Pristina.

6 – Creation of the Democratic League. After the dissolution of Kosovo’s parliament in 1991, a referendum was organised in which 99% of voters opted for the creation of a republic. In 1992, at the impetus of Kosovar intellectuals, new elections gave birth to institutions that ran parallel to Yugoslav ones. The Democratic League held the majority and Ibrahim Rugova was the president.

7 – The creation of a federal system constituted of a Muslim-Croat Republic and Srpska (the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina).

8 – The Kosovo Liberation Army sought independence and believed in using force if necessary.

9 – Jon Silverman, “Racak massacre haunts Milosevic trial”, BBC News, 14 February 2002. New mass graves are currently coming to light. The 22nd of August 2014 the bodies of a large number of Kosovar Albanians were repatriated following excavations in Serbia. EULEX is working with local authorities to help identify and return the bodies. “http://www.eulex-kosovo.eu/en/pressreleases/0636.php”

10 – Albanians were forced from their homes so that there could be a homogenisation of the Serbian population in Kosovo.

11 – UN Resolution 1244 is neutral with regards to the status of the country and considers that there will be a future political resolution. UNMIK was charged with assuring the autonomy of Kosovo and its administration until a political solution is reached. The KFOR operation was under NATO command and is in charge of maintaining the cease fire, the retreat of Yugoslav troops, the demilitarisation of the KLA and facilitating the return of refugees.

12 – EULEX (EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo) has a mandate that covers the judiciary, border and customs agents and the police. Their role is to stand in for local authorities in the judiciary and the police – in particular on matters of war crimes, serious crimes, corruption, etc.

13 – The executive section is constituted of experts charged with dealing with serious crimes, the war and corruption, but that also hold the power to cancel decisions taken by the Kosovar authorities in order to maintain the rule of law, security and public order.

14 – An important element to keep in mind knowing that decisions concerning foreign policy and security are taken unanimously.

15 – The UNMIK remains as a mediator between Serbia and Kosovo and also to provide travel documents for Kosovars travelling to countries that do not recognize Kosovo. Some of the UNMIK staff became part of the EULEX mission.

16 – Shpend Kursani, “Analize gjitheperfshirese e Eulexit: Cka me tutje?,” [Global Analysis of EULEX: and what after? ], Kirped, January 2013.

17 – In reality, the judges in the EULEX mission guarantee the application of laws in Kosovo.

18 – The third largest political party in Kosovo that advocates for a more direct democracy and does so via protests, graffiti but also in parliament.

19 – <http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/the-rule-of-law-in-kosovo-mission-impossible>

20 – The International Civilian Office in Kosovo is charged with following up the application of the Ahtisaari plan in the country.

21 – Ibid.

22 – <http://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Regions-and-countries/Kosovo/The-EULEX-scandal-perplexing-revelations-perplexing-reactions-156997>

23 – <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7eoyRvUzSc>

24 – <http://www.eulex-kosovo.eu/en/news/000533.php, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/06/eu-accused-over-kosovo-mission-failings>

25 – Among the issues highlighted: the recognition of Kosovo, the restitution of pension funds and war reparations.

26 – A dialogue that is above all concentrated on the resolution of the situation in the North of the country. Four municipalities are majority Serb and the city of Mitrovica is cut in two and is often barricaded by the Serbians from the North which creates an additional divide between the two parties. Barricades still exist in the city.

27 – <http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_12788-1442-1-30.pdf?140428121637>

Grejs Gjergji

Grejs Gjergji est albanaise et titulaire d'un master en droit européen de l'Université Paris-I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Grejs Gjergji se passionne pour les Relations internationales, et plus particulièrement la situation actuelle dans les Balkans.