EU’s Warning to Kosovo: War Crimes Court a Prerequisite for Healthy Mutual Ties

Written by | Monday, January 15th, 2018

The European Union warned Kosovo last week that a war crimes court linked to the violent independence endeavor was tightly linked to the quality of relations with the bloc. The EU’s warning came on top of one issued by the United States last month and both strike Kosovo amid uncertainty as to whether the country’s parliament will put a vote on the court back on its agenda this week after putting it aside in late December.

“This initiative, still pending before the Kosovo parliament, is of extreme concern to the EU and its member states,” the EU representation in Pristina said in a statement. “This would adversely impact Kosovo relations with the EU.” Representatives from Germany and France arrived in Kosovo last week to try to lobby among Kosovan leaders to drop any attempt to abolish the Specialist Chamber set up in 2015 to try ex-Kosovo Liberation Army guerillas alleged to have committed atrocities in the 1998 and 1999 war that led to Kosovo breaking off from Serbia. Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, President Hashim Thaçi and parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli are ex KLA commanders.

The court’s judges and prosecutors are foreigners, but Kosovan authorities have jurisdiction as it was established under Kosovo law. Washington warned Pristina in December that the overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian country in the western Balkans would be “isolated” if it abolished the court. The United States is Kosovo’s most important ally but the EU’s warning is also substantial since the small, impoverished nation hopes for eventual closer ties with the bloc.

NATO air strikes on Serbia forced Belgrade to withdraw troops from Kosovo in 1999 and the US-led alliance keeps 5,000 soldiers there to maintain a delicate peace. More than 100 countries recognized Kosovo’s independence in 2008 but not Serbia. The majority of EU member states have recognized Kosovo, but Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain have not.

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