23 September 2009
Kosovo: Rethinking EU Policy
Unless the EU makes economic development a top priority, the future of an integrated Kosovo is doomed to failure, Ekrem Krasniqi comments for ISN Security Watch.
By Ekrem Krasniqi in Brussels for ISN Security Watch
Confusion, disagreement and dispute are the rule of the day, and will continue to be so as long as competencies shared between Pristina and Brussels remained ambiguous.
In the meantime, economic development, or a lack thereof, appears to be playing second fiddle to basic law and order, and the risk of economic and social collapse are very real. (For all intents and purposes, Kosovo depends on imports, diaspora remittances and the expenditures of international personnel to stay afloat.)
There are those among the Kosovo Albanians who believe that EULEX is working against Kosovo's independence and full statehood. This is unfair, and largely the result of the mission's unclear mandate. At the same time, and in a rare moment of consensus, Kosovo Serbs are also growing increasingly anti-EULEX, claiming that the mission's attempts to introduce border controls (ostensibly to cut down on what it views as a smuggling problem) means a de facto recognition of Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Kosovo Serbs also perceive Belgrade's cooperation with EULEX as Serbia's silent recognition of Kosovo's independence.
Earlier this month, Serbia signed a police cooperation protocol with EULEX, and Kosovo institutions protested the move. But the contention was not with the contents of the protocol itself - which calls for an exchange of police information between EULEX and Belgrade to cut down on smuggling - rather with the way the protocol came about: It was agreed to and signed entirely excluding input from Kosovo institutions. Indeed, Kosovo authorities should have been involved in the protocol, and the move was ill-played by EULEX, whose success will largely depend on its acceptance by Kosovo authorities and the people of Kosovo.
The smashing and burning of EULEX cars and demonstrations against EULEX and the Kosovo government by ethnic Albanian youth are just the first signs of the growing frustration.
At the same time, the EU mission in Kosovo will find that while law and order are desperately needed, the core of their strategy in Kosovo should be economic development - without which, law, order and democracy have no chance of survival.
Ten years after the war ended and a year and half after declaring independence, Kosovo still has no industrial policy, no agricultural policy, no education policy, no healthcare policy, no environmental policy, no employment policy. There have been hints, here and there, of reforms, but nothing has made it to the implementation stage due largely to lack of competence and will among the current generation of politicians.
Three important points should be considered. First, only after a concise strategy for economic development is turned into legislation by the parliament of Kosovo should Kosovo proceed with privatization - a lack of legislation will allow for corruption and the selling off of Kosovo's most important economic pillars for personal gain.
Second, an economic development strategy should have education at its core. The EU must start to produce future interlocutors in and for Kosovo. Serious investments must be made in education, as current reforms in process lack long-term vision.
Third, the EU should also help the local economy by working to convince regional neighbors to clear political and administrative obstacles that have kept Kosovo products out of regional markets and hit exports hard. Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina should be pressured to lift their blockade on goods exported from Kosovo, and Albania should be pressured to lower heavy taxes and customs duties imposed on Kosovar agricultural products.
How much power should EULEX wield in Kosovo? Everyone will disagree, of course. But given the corruption, self-interest and lack of political will demonstrated by today's Kosovo politicians, a model like the international community's mandate in Bosnia might not be far off the mark. In Bosnia, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) has sweeping Bonn powers, which allow the High Representative to hire and fire democratically elected officials who are obstructing reforms.
Those who lack a serious will to reform Kosovo for the better should be dismissed immediately by the strong arm of the international community. That is perhaps a first step that could pave the way for a coherent economic development strategy - should anyone feel inclined to write one - that will make or break Kosovo's independence experiment.
Ekrem Krasniqi is a Brussels-based journalist originally from Kosovo.
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