Interviewed by: Evliana BERANI
In the interview for Info GLOBI, the head of the EULEX Mission in Kosovo, Bernd Borchadt, speaks about the battle against corruption and organized crime, about cases of the war crimes that has been addressed or awaiting to be addressed by the justice, about importance of the rule of law and its connection to the better investment climate in Kosovo and broader in the region.
InfoGlobi: You were in Kosovo during 1999 and you are now here again. What changes do you see and they meet your expectations?
Borchard: When I left Kosovo in 1999 after the end of my assignment, I left in an optimistic mood: the energy with which the people of Kosovar approached reconstruction impressed not only me but many other internationals that had come here to help. And my and our optimism was well justified: In 1999 it was unconceivable that reconstruction and development would be so rapid. We saw all the destroyed dwellings, the mass graves, the unsettled people who had lost their entire livelihood. Today I see an impressively different Kosovo.
That was the time of conflict and a lot of things happened since then. Now the region, including Kosovo, is aspiring towards the European perspective and we (EU and EULEX) are here to help, as much as we can, on the way to join the European family and to adopt and implement the best European practices.
What did the people of Kosovo want in 1999 apart from freedom and peace? They wanted the same they want today – irrespective of their maternal language. Economic wellbeing, rule of law, human rights, stable, democratic institutions: a European Kosovo on its way into the European Union.
infoGlobi: Why is the unemployment rate so high? Why are so many people still so poor? Where all the international community money ended?
Borchard: A lot of money went to the personnel. But lets be honest, but there are many people that helped to build quite a good institutions, maybe better than in many countries.
infoGlobi: Maybe in capacity building and institution building aspect, but certainly not when we come to a economics and poverty. We cannot talk about significant progress in development, no?
Borchard: I do believe that this is a question of investment climate and the rule of the law. And basically this is why we are here. I strongly believe that gaps in the rule of law give an answer to many of these questions, and the EU is making a great efforts to Kosovo to help to overcome these problems.
With the rule of law the investment climate will improve as well.
infoGlobi: So how are you doing in this regard?
Borchard: If we compare situation in 2008 with one we have now the differences can be seen. On one hand we have a advising component, a lot of police, prosecutors and judges advising their Kosovo counterparts. Than we have also the executive side. We do a lot of court or prosecution cases, either alone or together with Kosovo prosecutors and judges.
And the numbers have gone up. In 2008 to 2011 in SPK we had 62 cases of indictment, wile last year only we had forty five cases.
Only in the last month 12 people were found guilty on corruption charges, including senior government officials. Several high profile criminal procedures are currently on-going where EULEX is heavily involved. 45% of cases that SPRK currently deals with are related to financial crimes. The number of cases that the SPRK deals with has increased with over 35% compared to 2011. So a lot is being done and more is in the pipeline.
So this gives you an impression that the machinery is working, the system is working and Kosovan counterparts are becoming stronger. Of course there is space to be improved over the time as well.
infoGlobi: Since you are talking about the EULEX mission what is the role that EULEX will play in northern Kosovo, in the case agreement is signed and implemented?
Borchard: This indeed will depend on political agreement.
However, even now the EULEX is involved in many rule of law related activities in the north, at the crossing points with Serbia we have a considerable number of police and customs officers deployed to implement the dialogue agreement, our Task Force Mitrovica works to investigate and prosecute crimes, EULEX judges and prosecutor are working in the Mitrovica Basic Court, and our advisors work together with KP and the Mitrovica detention facility. We are also acting as second responder to provide security in the north.
For example we have 200 people assigned to implement Integrated boarder or boundary management agreements in six crossing points between Kosovo and Serbia. As you know two of them are in the North and they are quite big. They are functioning now.
infoGlobi: But there is still problem that hasn’t been solved. Kosovo police , including the EULEX staff are still going via helicopter there! The movement is limited?
Borchard: No this is not true. The people that are still going via helicopters are customs officers, because we still don’t have fully implemented customs agreement. That is also problem for Kosovo side, because we don’t have yet the development fund for north, where customs revenue should go to.
Infoglobi: Does this mean that the EULEX is moving freely in Northern Kosovo?
Borchard: More or less, yes. In general , yes. There is still limited access sometimes, when people stop our cars. But in general we can move freely.
We also work in Mitrovica District Court, and now the Basic Court of Mitrovica was re-opened. The EULEX judges working there – have issued 58 verdicts in serious criminal cases including judgments in war crimes, smuggling, murder and organised crimes.
infoGlobi: How the ULEX handled the issue of archieve that was destroyed and disappeared in the court during the riots several years ago?
Borchard: We have received cases from UNMIK and we have them in electronic form, so archieve is there and it is not missing.
The problem exists with the big number of the court cases overall, and small number of the employees. I must say there is enormous backlog, because our Court is the only legitimate Court functioning there. And we are small team.
The mission would very much like to see the return of local Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb judges and prosecutors to the Court in Mitrovica and to other basic courts in north, but again, this is also matter of the agreement. This would be to the benefit of all communities.
infoGlobi: As a result of technical and later on of the political dialogue, there were a number of agreements reached by Kosovo and Serbia. Portion of the tasks resulting from agreements are assigned to EULEX (civil registry, cadastres, etc). Where the EULEX stands in regard to these issues?
Borchard: In regard to civil registries our collegues are working continuously. It is estimated that there are approximately 12,036 registry books in Serbia. EULEX until now has handed over 1756 certified copies of Civil Registry books, covering the municipalities of Lipjan/Lipjan (848), Obiliq/Obilic (264), Fushë Kosovë/ Kosovo Polje (219) and Gllogoc/Glogovac (425).
EULEX is continuing to certify copies of all original civil registry books, municipality by municipality, in order to enable the establishment of a comprehensive civil registry in Kosovo.
infoGlobi: There are critical point of views. There were voices saying that such documents can be disputed because they are not legal. The photocopies are not legally valid documents, they say.
Borchard: But they are certified copies. This is why we are there. With our authority the certification is taking place. This is not just photocopying them, but it is giving them legal base by certifying the documents. So they are valid.
infoGlobi: Meanwhile, what is happening with cadastres?
Borchard: For the implementation of Agreement on Cadastres we are awaiting Kosovo Parliament to adopt the legal cadastre framework.
infoGlobi: You were present in Kosovo when some war crimes happened, such as Rogovo case. How difficult is for EULEX and justice overall to operate in the environment, those who comitted crime sometimes are perceived as heroes in their society?
Borchard: War crime is a war crime. Period! That is very clear. If somebody during the war conducted an act that is punishable by criminal law, that has to be followed.
So crimes has to be punished. I have been in Rogovo, Racak and some other crime scenes and I know what happened. Many crimes are still unpunished.
We have a number of war crime trials or ongoing cases. There are 85 under investigations and 62 on preliminary stage. So far we have delivered 26 rulings.
I am very much aware that this is very difficult for societies, in particular for societies that lost many people and where many people are murdered and where the revenge happened. But even revenge is a crime. I mean we are not leaving in the ancient time when revenge was normal. In normal and civilized countries revenge is punishable.
In Germany , we had a case two weeks ago. I read the German newspaper reporting that we have a 40 new cases opened for war crimes.
I am not sure how many out of forty suspects are capable to stand to the court. However, the war crime cases will be opened always and will be tried.
infoGlobi: So what are you saying basically for Balkan countries, is do your work now and don’t drag things. Correct?
Borchard: Yes. In society where I come from, in Germany in immediate post conflict time, some 60 years ago, there were Allied courts and German courts trying to establish the justice against those who did killings in Auswitch and other places. Trials became the part of public debates for the so called ‘sins of the father’ after 1968. So almost twenty five years after the war, it became again an issue in the society. And around 90s there were expositions of the crimes of the German army and not only some extermination Courts for some Hitler’s crime.
infoGlobi: The EU established the War Crime Task Force in Brussels, which reports to you? Are Kosovo and Serbia government open to investigations?
Yes they are open and cooperative in regard to investigations. We have our own war crime unit and it is collocated within Kosovo Police war crime unit. It seems that it is more a problem of society. It is no single serb within such war crime units and this is very regrettable.
On the other hand for instance we had just recently we were going after possible graves in Serbia. This is also ongoing issue, but there with the authorities from Serbia. Cooperation with them is also good.
I know that there is also something related to political reactions towards the war crimes. Emotionally I can understand such reactions, but sorry the crime is crime.
For any country that truly aspires to become a modern and democratic society, solving the war crime cases represents a very important prerequisite in showing the capacity of a strong legal system to handle past atrocities and a goodwill gesture for reconciliation.
infoGlobi: What about the Task Force in Brussels. My understanding is that the staff is expanding, or I am wrong?
Borchard: Yes we expanded it with a couple of more people.
infoGlobi: Why? Is there something new, such as new proofs or its mandate expanded? Why more people are needed there?
Borchard: I would not like to reveal this to the public because these investigations are very important.
infoGlobi: Let’s move to organized crime and corruption. People are willing to see that the results are produced. The complains are many that justice is slow.
We have to deal with a lot of investigation , lot of cases. This has to be very thoroughly investigated. We must have a clean case when you go in front of judges, in particular if the cases are complicated. Idea that things can happen for one to tri months, is a wrong idea.
Yes, the fight against corruption and organised crime are very high amongst the mission’s priorities. But it’s important to stress that the fight against corruption does not include only high profile cases. There has to be a more comprehensive approach. We have to fight together; EULEX, the local authorities, the people, everyone. And it will never be totally eliminated.
Betraying people just because you handle the money of the people, is an act that must be addressed, this is extremely important for the entire society. I mentioned earlier only this year we have 12 people convicted for corruption
Anyway, EULEX is working and contributing to the Kosovo Special Prosecution Office ( SPRK), one that deals with the most serious crimes in Kosovo, such as with economic and financial crimes.
In 2011 there were 33 indictments filed and 18 trials concluded. In 2012 45 indictments were filed and 25 trials concluded. This shows how the hard work on the side of the prosecution is producing increasing results in terms of output.
In February because of EULEX information 103 people were arrested for organised crime in a Europe police operation. 15 people related to this case were arrested in Kosovo, including some of the ‘leaders’ of this organised crime network.
Tackling corruption and organized crime is a field where always more can be done. Of course this is joint task of both, EULEX and Kosovo government.
infoGlobi: The perception exists that the trust of the people in the institutions is very low.
Borchard: Yes and this is why we are here. We must help Kosovo institutions to change such perception through the results.
infoGlobi: Why the structural dialogue on justice issues is important for Kosovo?
Borchard: The Dialogue has been institutionalized and it is related to the rule of law, because it is overall impression that the rule of law is the weakest part of the country.
We are raising the problems that we see in the field of the rule of law. In some areas we go deeper in the joint dialogue. This give us a better direction on how we can proceed with the certain issues.
The structural dialogue where we sit all together, for Kosovans it gives the targets, whilst for us the directions what should be done.
Such dialogue existed in all countries that wanted to join the EU.
infoGlobi: The EULEX will have a significantly important role to help Kosovo fulfil the criteria in justice sector, in order to speed up its integration in the EU. What concretely the EULEX will do?
Borchard: It is not only in the field of justice, but also in meeting criterias for visa liberalisation.
There are still a plenty of the pieces of legislation that need to be passed or reviewed, in order to comply with the EU legislation and EU standards.
Us together with the EU office are offering our coordinated advice on how it can be done.
infoGlobi: What about auditing report of the Court of Auditors. What the EULEX is going to do to ‘correct’ the identified weaknesses?
Borchard: Assisting and promoting the rule of law in Kosovo is a joint effort undertaken by EULEX and the Commission in a difficult environment, and we continue to strive to improve the rule of law in Kosovo.
While EEAS accepts the Court’s conclusions and acknowledges shortcomings in some areas, we disagree with several of the Court’s assertions and provide comments and responses to that effect throughout the report.
Many of the EULEX’s most vital executive and strengthening efforts are not covered in the scope or timeline (2007-2011) of the report, and indeed, several of the court’s recommendations have already been addressed. Since the writing of the report, Kosovo institutions have improved their performance and the EULEX Mission itself has been renewed to 2014 and reconfigured to improve resource allocation and coordination.
EULEX continues to challenge a culture of impunity by investigating and prosecuting ministers, politicians and senior officials, former wartime commanders, prominent businessmen and intelligence services. Hundreds of ongoing investigations, over 300 verdicts in criminal and civil cases, 23,000 solved conflict-related property claims, and over 300 human remains of missing persons returned to their families also attest to the Mission’s impact.
So all this things are things that should be acknowledged.
Beyond statistically measurable results EULEX has, in many instances, has acted as a deterrent and preventative actor, defusing situations which would have otherwise erupted into conflicts. Considering the fragile state of Kosovo rule of law institutions at the time of the Mission’s establishment, the current relative stability is worth taking into account in assessing the effectiveness of the EU’s investment.
infoGlobi: The EULEX Human Rights Review Panel, is it functional and are there cases that has been addressed in the past?
Borchard: I think it is a good and important thing that it exists. This Panel is controlling us in the executive activities.
Everybody who feels affected by the executive activities by the EULEX, should go and complain there.
In three cases amongst those reviewed during my time here, the measures have been taken. Prior to that the measures were taken in two other cases.
infoGlobi: Was somebody sacked from the EULEX because of the leak of information?
Borchard: The leaks of information that is something not related only to Review Panel. During my time there was one case, yes.
infoGlobi: What would be your main message to Kosovans?
Borchard: Fighting corruption should be patriotic task, because this is damaging country.