Kosovo’s Euro-Atlantic Illusions

John.SewelBRUSSELS / PRISTINA, Kosovo — Poor govern-ance and slow economic growth continue to be major obstacles in the process of the Euro-Atlantic integration of western Balkan countries. This is the outcome of a report, which the British politician John Sewel, in his function of the Rapporteur for the Committee on Economics and Security, recently presented to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: "The road … is rocky, and only Croatia seems close to achieving the basic qualifications … The others face daunting challenges … These include the debt crisis, problems of governance and corruption … and enlargement fatigue among some EU governments and their publics." 

Insofar it concerns Kosovo, Dr. Sewel addresses "in short the real economic story of Kosovo", which according to his findings "lies in the ongoing weaknesses of its institutions, the failure of its governing elite to breach the ethnic divide, the twin problems of corruption and organized crime … poor relations with Serbia and sometimes difficult relations with … Macedonia. Its weak economy cannot be expected to take off".

Against this background Rapporteur Sewel concludes that Kosovo’s "European ambitions will never be fulfilled until these issues are squarely addressed."

Sewel reminds, that "the International Court of Justice … has recently reaffirmed the country’s legal status as a sovereign nation, ruling that its February 2008 declaration of independence did not violate international law." Nevertheless he also remarks that "the state … confronts consistent challenges to its legitimacy launched by the Serbian state and from a sizeable Serbian minority." Due to the ongoing dispute with Serbia, Kosovo (likewise Serbia) doesn’t "meet the core Copenhagen criteria of enjoying fixed borders and good neighborly relations".

In direction to Serbia and the former Yugoslavia the report states that "many of Kosovo’s most serious economic problems arise from the very apparent deficiencies in its institutional structure and political culture both of which are partly the product of decades of political marginalization, occupation and finally war."

Regarding Kosovo’s economic situation, Sewel reports figures from 2009, which, apart from minor changes, still accurately describe the current situation: Kosovo "received 25 times more international aid per capita than Afghanistan, but this assistance has failed to genuinely galvanize the national economy or to help create an institutional structure that, in turn might facilitate economic take off."

To say it clearly: "Kosovo remains the poorest country in Europe … According to the IMF average per capita income stands at euro 1,726 or 6.9% of the EU 27 average … Perhaps the most telling indicator of its economic weakness is the 45.9% unemployment rate."

Concerning an ongoing Kosovo-sided problematic respectively responsibility, the report refers to the "Council of Europe Report" of the Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty, by which "senior Kosovo officials, possibly including Prime Minister Hashim Thaci," are accused to be "involved in organized criminal activities including human organ trafficking during the war." In this context the report also addresses "new allegations … made in recent months describing KLA intelligence service involvement in political assassinations, … illegal organ trafficking and the murder of hundreds of prisoners."

On this regard Sewel complains that – as to EU evaluation – "Kosovo has no viable crime reduction strategy in place and … lacks a witness protection law". Through this, Sewel writes, the possibilities to investigate "high level crime" are strongly limited. This situation appears even more complex, regarding the fact that – like in most countries of the Balkans – "loyalty to the state is … eroded by the prevalence of clan leadership structures".

Finally with his report Lord Sewel leaves no doubts: "The EU has identified these as matters that must be addressed before it further expands ties to the country."

KON / NK

This article was first published on Technorati – Politics!

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