From: Die Morina van Uijtregt
Transparency International: Rule of Law Remains a Key Challenge for Kosovo and Region

Establishing the rule of law remains a key challenge for Kosovo and the regional countries, finds a report “Examining State Capture: Undue Influence on Law- Making and the Judiciary in the Western Balkans and Turkey” by Transparency International.

It emphasizes that efforts to fight corruption and organized crime have been made, but “despite some progress, the measures put in place to achieve these aims may be worsening the situation”.

Since 1999, Kosovo has created the conditions for facilitating state capture, including the misuse of foreign aid, privatization under questionable procedures, the legitimization of unaccountable politicians, and corruption by international partners.

When treating the high level corruption, TI uses as an example “Pronto” case of illegally awarding employments in Kosovo, made public through leaked phone calls by media outlet ‘Insajderi’. The material showed employment of people close to the Democratic Party (PDK) in government positions and by Adem Grabovci [former MP], leader of the party [back then Hashim Thaci] and eleven others.

From November to December 2011, Grabovci and the others arranged the appointment of the head of the Court of Appeals, the Chief Prosecutor of Prizren, the Director for Central Public Enterprises, the chief executive of the Registration Agency at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the chief executive of the Agency for Medicinal Products, among others.

Corruption cases involving powerful public officials are often parts of a scheme rather than random actions, report says.

One example of a scheme could be seen in the case of the former judge Kole Puka and five lawyers in the municipality of Klina Kosovo, a case which has now been dismissed. The defendants were suspected of organizing a scheme with the purpose of fabricating court cases, issue unlawful decisions, falsify documents, present false facts, and conspire with insurance companies to agree with Puka’s proposals during trials. These actions took place between 2004 and 2008 and the gain obtained was €1.2 million.

The report suggests that one of the most effective ways to control public decision-making is to have loyal people in positions of responsibility.

While a tailor- made law can create opportunities for systemic corruption. An example of this is the case with the Administrative Instruction to create a programme for treatment outside public health-care institutions, approved in Kosovo in 2012, which is related to the Stent corruption cases involving health authorities and practitioners.

A scheme involving the former minister Ferid Agani, other officials in the ministry, and doctors from both public and private hospitals, resulted in systematic abuse of the system by giving referrals in exchange for bribes and causing financial and human harm. The presumed damage is more than €4.5 million.

According the report, complex institutional settings pose challenges for the response of national judiciary systems to corruption, a factor by which Kosovo is affected.

The gradual transfer of cases from the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) to Kosovo authorities starting in 2014 increased the workload on national institutions without enough capacity to assume the burden.

The lack of training and capacity of national judges and prosecutors to deal with the cases created confusion and, in many instances, the cases needed to start over.

One of the cases affected by the situation involved high- level officials from the Ministry of Transport, Post and Telecommunications (MTPT) who were accused of awarding public contracts to road maintenance companies in exchange for a 20% commission. The case required a complete restart of court hearings. An added problem was that corruption already existed inside EULEX, the report reads.

On the other side the Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) produced by TI shows that Kosovo as a new security player in the region, is still developing its defence capabilities and “corruption risks in the sector are high”.

“Whilst Kosovo has a strong legislative framework for defence, there remains a noticeable implementation gap, which has resulted in weak parliamentary oversight, poor transparency, secretive procurement procedures and an uncertain environment for whistleblowers,” it says.