Kosovo: EU to Investigate Corruption in Its Own Ranks

In response to accusations of corruption, the European Union (EU)’s foreign policy chief has appointed an independent expert to review the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX.

Federica Mogherini, the newly-appointed High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said on Monday Nov. 10 that she had chosen Jean Paul Jacqué, a French law professor, to investigate the corruption allegations.

Federica MogheriniOfficials in EULEX, which prosecutes sensitive organized crime, corruption and war crimes cases in Kosovo, including the trial of Naser Kelmendi, have been accused by British prosecutor Maria Bamieh and the newspaper Koha Ditore of taking bribes and cooperating with suspects.

Bamieh first made an internal complaint in 2012 after finding evidence that associates of  Ministry of Health official Ilir Tolaj, who was on trial for corruption, were in contact with chief EULEX judge Francesco Florit and chief EULEX prosecutor Jaroslava Novotna, according to Balkan Insight. An internal investigation was opened in May 2013.

Tolaj was found guilty in June 2013 of tax evasion and falsifying documents, but acquitted of his other charges, including abuse of official position, bribery, and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined US$ 1,300.

Bamieh also told EUobserver about a case where she claimed two men were convicted of a triple murder on shoddy evidence, and agreed to give EULEX information about the mafia in exchange for the promise of a retrial.

“They’ve been spilling their guts out, telling EULEX police everything that’s happening,” she said. “Now they’re saying: ‘When EULEX goes [away] everybody knows we’ve been talking and we’re going to be killed’ and EULEX is doing nothing for them.”

Bamieh told Reuters that she plans to take her case to the European Court of Justice. She was suspended on Oct. 24 under suspicion of leaking documents to the press, but says this is punishment for being a whistleblower.

Agron Bajrami, Koha Ditore’s editor-in-chief, says Bamieh was not the source of the leaks. Bamieh has been forced to stay in Pristina to answer questions in EULEX’s internal investigation, according to EUobserver.

Jacqué, the law professor, will present a report on his findings in four months. EULEX, which was launched in 2008, is downsizing in preparation for the end of its mandate, currently scheduled for June 2016. Bamieh’s position was set to be terminated as a result, although she claims that Novotna evaluated her unfairly during the rehiring process. According to Balkan Insight, EULEX has not said whether Novotna took part in the evaluations, but said they were competitive, with 17 candidates applying for just four positions.