EU needs different powers in Kosovo
EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - If economic development does not become the top priority of the European Union´s law and order mission in Kosovo (Eulex) and of local authorities, the future of an integrated Kosovo is doomed to fail.
The growing anti-Eulex mood here in Kosovo has its origins mainly in the lack of a contract between Kosovo institutions and the EU on what should be the competencies of Pristina and Brussels. As long as such competencies are not put down on paper and signed, confusion and disputes will multiply, damaging Kosovo stability and damaging Kosovo Albanians´ support for the EU mission.
The new contract must focus on economic development because the risks of economic and social collapse in Kosovo are growing in what is already the most under-developed country in the region.
Kosovo today largely depends on imports, remittances from the diaspora and the spending habits of the international personnel housed here. If the country and its economy fail, it could have worrying implications for stability in neighbouring states such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.
The biggest danger for Kosovo today, 10 years after the war, comes from the current selfish and destructive generation of politicians, who use their positions to become rich and who could care less about the country´s future and the quality of life of ordinary Kosovars.
The new Eulex and Kosovo government contract should give the EU the right to exercise controls over local politicians.
If there is one good thing the EU and the US could do for Kosovo today, it would be to dismiss all those in power who demonstrate a lack of will for serious reforms, lack of interest in long term foreign investments and the country´s economic development.
This kind of oversight should be a powerful new tool of the EU and US powers in Kosovo. But at the same time they should not give themselves the right, as they do today, to make practical decisions on running the country without involving Kosovo institutions.
Overstepping the mark
The recent agreement signed between Eulex and Serbia on police co-operation is an example of this. The EU should have put Kosovo institutions at the heart of the negotiations and the implementation of the deal.
As it happened, the pact was protested by both Kosovo Albanians and Serbs (in Kosovo and Serbia) but for completely different reasons.
I cannot agree with some ethnic Albanians who say that the deal is a symptom of Eulex´ work against Kosovo independence. Nor I can agree with those Serbs who say that by co-operating with Eulex Belgrade is silently recognising Kosovo´s statehood.
The substance of the protocol - exchange of police information between Eulex and Belgrade on illegal cross-border activities - is not the issue here, but the way it was put in place, completely excluding Kosovo institutions. Eulex´ egoistic behaviour led to the smashing and burning of EU cars and demonstrations against Eulex and the Kosovo government by ethnic Albanians.
The EU needs to have more respect for Kosovo´s young and democratricaly-elected institutions. And its mission cannot be successful with a team composed of just policemen, prosecutors and judges. Economic and democratic development needs to be at the core of the EU approach. The EU or some of its major countries should send economic experts and together with Kosovo institutions write a "Strategy for Economic Development."
A government with no policy
Unbelievable but true: 10 years after the war and 18 months after independence neither Kosovo, the EU nor the UN have an industrial policy, agriculture policy, education policy, healthcare policy, environmental policy or employment policy for the country.
Kosovo should proceed with privatisation only after a Strategy for Economic Development has been drafted and enshrined in law. The current government is selling everything, even Kosovo´s most important economic pillars, on the basis of 100 percent ownership. The faster they sell, the more they sell, the richer they get.
Under the strategy, education and the economy should serve each other. The EU must start to school the future custodians of Kosovo for EU and Nato membership. Under current trends, Kosovo could end up as a country with a surfeit of political scientists, business directors, PR experts and journalists, but without a healthy and self-sustaining economy.
The EU should also help Kosovo export its products, by pressing Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to lift their customs blockade and by pushing Albania to reduce the heavy duties imposed on agricultural goods.
The EU has all the legal instruments it needs to bring these changes about in the Stabilisation and Association Agreements which it has signed with all Western Balkans countries, except Kosovo.
The writer is the editor-in-chief of specialist Balkans news agency DTT-NET.COM