Top Blair Official Helps Brush Up Kosovo’s Image


By Petrit Collaku and Maryrose Fison

Alastair Campbell, a key figure in the Labour government that took Britain into conflict with Serbia over Kosovo, is in Pristina helping the fledgeling state improve its communications.

The British government has committed more than £100,000 to a joint project aimed at boosting the image of Kosovo, whose prime minister, Hashim Thaci, is currently at the centre of an international investigation into organ trafficking allegations.

The campaign’s budget for this year is £251,000, with £125,500 being provided by the British Embassy in Kosovo and the other half coming from Kosovo’s foreign ministry.

Alistair Campbell, former communications director to Tony Blair, has been appointed to help run the campaign and is presently in the capital of Kosovo, Pristina, where he will deliver a workshop on strategic communications.

The campaign is being managed by the British Council in Kosovo and comes at a crucial point for the country, which broke away from Serbia after a bloody conflict in 1999, declared independence in 2008 and is working towards gaining membership in the European Union.

Last month a prosecutor was appointed to lead an international investigation into allegations of organ trafficking by the Kosovo Liberation Army in northern Albania. The probe, led by American John Clint Williamson, will examine the Council of Europe’s 2010 report, compiled by Swiss senator Dick Marty, which alleged that a criminal network with links to Thaci executed kidnapped civilians and sold their organs after the 1999 Kosovo war.

This report corroborated allegations raised in an earlier 2009 investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and other media agencies. Thaci has denied the allegations and pledged to work with investigators.

According to information from the British Council, the project will work on changing public opinions through public diplomacy tools. It will aim to increase the central capacities of the Foreign Ministry in Kosovo and the Kosovo Government towards more strategic communication and improve perception of dialogue in Kosovo.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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