By Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
The Inglorious End of EULEX Shows the Fate of the Justice Reform

EULEX, the Rule of Law mission of the European Union operating in Kosovo since 2008, has come to an end.

Around 3,000 EULEX functionaries were deployed to establish the rule of law in Kosovo and constrain the corrupt political class. In spite of its “executive mandate,” which it held until 2014, no “big fish” were prosecuted or tried.

Rather, EULEX became increasingly involved in a number of corruption and malpractice scandals that showed the “balkanization” of the Rule of Law mission. This led Andrea Capussela, an EULEX functionary, even to call for the withdrawal of EULEX because “the current mission damages Kosovo and in an indirect manner the interests of the EU.”

As Exit reported last year, the failure of EULEX to establish a functioning rule of law system in Kosovo, in spite of its far-reaching mandate, has a considerable impact on the Albanian Justice Reform. Four out of the eight international experts on the International Monitoring Mission (ONM), which is supposed to monitor the proceedings of the vetting institutions in the reevaluation of all judges, prosecutors, and supporting personnel employed in the justice system, have a background in EULEX. The first inconsistencies in the rulings already show the first cracks in the vetting system.

Moreover, the failure of EULEX, which now will cease to exist in any meaningful form after the EU spent over €1 billion on it, has in no way influenced the way in which the European Commission has approached similar problems of state capture by crime and corruption in Albania. If a direct, international intervention in the judicial system of Kosovo didn’t work, how can the European Commission expect a reform driven by the Albanian political class itself to provide any positive results?

In fact, the signs that another EU justice assistance mission, EURALIUS, with a much narrower mandate than EULEX, is already falling prey to the Albanian political situation are very clear. Through its Steering Committee, in which Albanian government representatives dominate, EURALIUS has become an extension of the executive branch, rather than an independent mission under the authority and control of the European Commission.

EULEX and EURALIUS are symptoms of the same thinking disorder that seems to prevail in the offices of Brussels: namely that a technocratic solution can be found to an essentially political problem – state capture by organized crime.

Supporting the Kosovar and Albanian governments while at the same time wanting to establish a judicial system with the help of these same governments that will bring an end to crime and corruption in the political class is an attempt to square the circle. It is of a profound naivety to think that the Rama government, assisted by EURALIUS, would help the Albanian justice system to get rid of itself.

A speech by Slovenian MEP Tanja Fajon held on July 19, 2016 at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament shows the precise problem that neither EURALIUS, nor the EU Delegation, nor the European Commission is able to address openly:

My information is as long as the main three negotiators [Edi Rama, Lulzim Basha, Ilir Meta] on the Albanian side will not get full assurances of their immunity when it comes to life, family, and power base – in that order – it will be extremely difficult to achieve Judicial Reform.

That the Justice Reform eventually went forward, shepherded by EURALIUS and the EU Delegation in Tirana therefore shows us either of two things: informal assurances were made by the European Commission that the ruling political class of Albania would not be touched by the reformed judiciary branch; or the Justice Reform will be so irrelevant and ineffective, that the ruling political class would not feel threatened by it.

Whatever the reality, the failure of EULEX in Kosovo and the absolute absence of any critical reflection on that fact at the European Commission show that the Albanian Justice Reform will end exactly the same way: by harming Albania and – in an indirect manner – the interests of the EU.