By Muhamet Brajshori
With EULEX pledging to investigate last week’s outbreak of violence in northern Kosovo, the incident provides another test of the mission’s capacity to help strengthen rule of law.
“EULEX prosecutors will investigate the circumstances of the developments in Jarinje, which will depend on the scale of the investigation, and who will be questioned,” spokesman Nicholas Hawton told the press.
Analysts say it is vital for the EU mission to show it can carry out its mandate in the face of such challenges.
“Recent actions should be part of a sustained effort to establish the rule of law,” said Balkan Policy Institute (IPOL) Executive Director Seb Bytici, citing EULEX’s role in arresting six suspects wanted in connection with the July murder of a Kosovo policeman.
The arrests were carried out with the support of KFOR during an operation in late August.
Such incidents, Bytici said, show that “parallel structures and organised crime in the north are not victimless”.
“[EULEX] should be able to effectively fight organized crime which is linked to parallel structures in the north, especially when Belgrade’s support for those structures is not tenable anymore. Now it is time for EULEX to prove that it is able to achieve its mandate, and that it has not already become a calcified, self-serving organization,” he added.
Fatlum Sadiku, a political commentator, agrees that the mission’s credibility of EULEX is on the line.
“All eyes are on EULEX,” he said. “They need to make progress now.”
While the government in Pristina would like the EU mission to clamp down on Serb-run parallel structures, however, Serb commentators warn of the risk of alienating local residents in the predominantly Serb parts of the north.
“EULEX must win the trust of Kosovo Serbs as well as Albanians,” cautions journalist Dragan Krstic. To do so, he said, it must work together with the Serbian government.
“People depend on Belgrade. They receive salaries and other benefits from Serbia. And if Belgrade agrees to any operation in the north carried out by EULEX, they [its inhabitants] will react positively. But if not, escalations can be expected.” Krstic said.
Reseacher Mergim Peci told SETimes that the recent arrest warrants and an indictment in the future will create problems between Belgrade and EULEX.
“The individuals for whom a warrant is issued will escape to Serbia or be secured by Serbian MUP that is functioning in the north. This will cause a problem for Belgrade’s leadership, which will not make it easy to surrender them to EULEX when Serbia enters elections in the coming year. EULEX will insist on [extradition] because it would harm its image and capability if it fails in this case,” said Peci.