EULEX’s Ps and Qs

09 April 2015

There is a lot of debate about the origin of the English expression “Mind your Ps and Qs.”  Some say that it originally referred to Pints and Quarts, admonishing pub owners to mind their measures, while others claim that it warns printers’ apprentices to take care with the arrangement of these two letters.   Regardless of whether it was printers or quarts, now the expression “Mind Your P’s and Q’s” means to be on your best behaviour.

In the recent atmosphere of paranoia and questions about EULEX, it seems to me to be time to clarify a few key Ps and Qs: I offer the following points to make things clear:

  1. Independence - EULEX doesn’t care about political parties, political pranks, political coalitions, or political promises.  The opinion of someone in Brussels (or my opinion, for that matter) about a politician has no bearing on any case because judges and prosecutors operate with independence.   Nevertheless, it is inescapable that our cases affect politicians and other influential members of society, making casting doubts about EULEX and its independence a tempting defense strategy.
  2. Proof - We do not trade in rumours and innuendo.  If there’s an offense, and we learned about it before April 2014 (in accordance with our new Mandate) it’s investigated.  If we learned about something after that time, we pass the information to the Kosovo institutions. But the point remains: if there’s a witness, we interview them.  If there’s evidence, we examine it. Our press office has two primary functions – keeping the mission informed about developments in local media and spreading awareness of rule of law.  We have neither the patience nor the staff to pursue fantasies or respond to every criticism or accusation that is written.  Frankly, spending our time wringing our hands over fabrications and repackaged and antique so-called “scandals” is a waste of everyone’s time and taxpayers’ money.
  3. Perfection - We aren’t perfect, nor have we ever claimed to be.   We know that in a mission that has had more than 5000 employees since its inception, there will be disciplinary infractions or violations.  Of course these occur.  (When you DON’T hear about such things with a mission of this size, that’s when you know there’s a cover-up!)  What’s important is how these violations are treated.  When a code of conduct violation occurs, our internal investigations unit looks into what happened, interviews witnesses, examines evidence, and makes a disciplinary recommendation.  When there is evidence of a violation of the law, legal remedies are used, and for international staff members, this generally involves the legal authorities of the sending state.  I hold EULEX personnel to the highest standards of conduct, and they are accountable not only to the EULEX chain of command, but to the legal authorities of their sending state.   
  4. Purpose - Our purpose is, and has been, to assist the Kosovo institutions, judicial authorities, and law enforcement agencies in their progress towards sustainability and accountability.  We endeavour to ensure that these institutions have the tools to be free from political interference and adhere to internationally recognised best standards.  It is inescapable, however, that we (along with Kosovo’s citizens) are being profoundly impacted by the failure of Kosovo’s judicial institutions to set aside political games and work together for the good of Kosovo’s citizens.  When the KJC can’t endorse judges, the waiting times on cases increase.  When the KPC can’t endorse prosecutors, there are fewer prosecutors available to prosecute crimes against citizens.  When independent institutions embark on political point scoring, Kosovo loses credibility.  When the justice system refuses to engage in the necessary steps for its own basic governance, we all lose.  For the remainder of its mandate, EULEX will remain focused on its purpose, and we ask Kosovo’s judicial institutions to focus on their purposes as well.

My promise to Kosovo is that as long as EULEX remains, we will mind our Ps and Qs.  We will not be dragged into political games, but rather we will keep our eyes on the goal of ensuring that Kosovo has every opportunity to build strong, independent rule of law institutions.  In the end, however, all that the EU and EULEX can do is ensure that Kosovo has the opportunity to provide independent rule of law to its people -   Kosovo’s people and politicians must be the ones who decide providing good governance and rule of law for all is the non-negotiable, highest priority of its government.