Trials Resume as EULEX Restarts Work in Kosovo

The EU’s rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, has become officially operative again after the law extending its mandate was published in Kosovo’s official gazette – allowing high-profile trials to resume.

Eulex

The EU’s rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, was officially operational again as of Wednesday night, when two laws extending its mandate were published in the official gazette. This gives a green light to the resumption of several sensitive trials for corruption and organised crime in which EULEX is involved.

The Kosovo assembly adopted the two bills that extended the EU mission’s mandate on June 17, but it took almost two weeks for the legislation to enter into force before being published in the gazette. One of the bills ratifies the agreement between Kosovo and the EU on extending the EULEX mandate and the other changes and completes laws on EULEX’s mandate. The mandate expired on June 14 after Kosovo and the EU failed to reach a timely agreement on the mission’s continuation.

After Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,issued her approval on June 16 in a letter from Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, the assembly voted to extend the mandate the next day.

Several high-profile trials in which EULEX has a role, which were postponed after the mission’s mandate expired, are now expected to resume in July. One of the most sensitive hearings concerns Azem Syla, a former legislator of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, who is accused of running a crime syndicate. Its closed sessions scheduled for June were cancelled and the first new hearing is to resume on July 6. Syla is accused of running a criminal land-scam syndicate that cost Kosovo 30 million euros.

EULEX police and prosecutors were involved in a massive crackdown in this case in April, arresting several suspects. However, it will be difficult for EULEX to get involved in new high-profile cases of corruption and organised crime, as its mandate was extended with its scope of work reduced to a monitoring and advising role. While EULEX is expected to continue working on ongoing cases, the mission may deal with new ones only in “exceptional circumstances” and with the approval of the Kosovo judiciary.

“The EU Special Representative and EULEX KOSOVO will continue… in further strengthening an independent multi-ethnic justice system and police service in their progress towards fulfilling European Standards in their respective fields, including EULEX KOSOVO seeking new cases in exceptional circumstances,” Mogherini said in her letter.

Resumption of the mission was widely anticipated as many still question whether Kosovo’s own institutions are yet able to conduct independent investigations against senior officials allegedly involved in corruption.

Balkan Insight 

30 June 2016