Head of EULEX, Berndt Borchardt interview with RTK

23 December 2013


QUESTION: Mr. Borchardt welcome

BORCHARDT: Thank you

QUESTION: I would like to know first, because the opinion would also like to know what will be the mandate of EULEX after June 2014, as it is the date when it will expire as a mission.

BORCHARDT: Well, the new mandate of EULEX after June 2014 has to be agreed between the EU and the Kosovo government. In the EU that means not only our Brussels colleagues and structures and “shefs” (shefat) but also the member states. So this is a rather complicated compromise-finding process, and this process has also to reflect a number of important developments in the relation between Kosovo and the European Union. This has been a great year for Kosovo in developing its relations with the EU. The SAA, which means the Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations have started. The negotiations on visa liberalisation are on-going, and most importantly, with the brokerage of the EU, lots of agreements have been reached between Belgrade and Prishtina, and this mission is very much involved in helping to implement these agreements. So having said that, there needs to be a new approach which also takes into consideration the views of the Kosovo Government, and there is a new situation.

QUESTION: But our government has proclaimed that they have a document which will make a transition of EULEX in 2014. Did you receive that document, or are you aware of that?

BORCHARDT: Of course we have received and we have seen the letter that the Prime minister sent to the High Representative, the baroness Ashton, and in which he suggested some steps for the development of the mission. This is being under discussion and it is taking into consideration, and this has also been communicated to the member states. At the end we will have to find a common solution which takes into consideration the new situation, as I described it, and the aspirations of the Kosovo government, of the member states, and of course our technical input of what is reasonable to do.

QUESTION: We had elections and a very long campaign about the first and the second round, that were considered as historical because of the participation of Serbs in the north. The first round had few incidents in the north. Most of the people and the media have criticised EULEX about non-organising security on that part during the first round, which was not seen during the second round, because in the second round it went very well. What happened actually in the first round in the north in the polling stations?

BORCHARDT: Well, during the first round in Mitrovica and in Zvecan some spoilers appeared, but at the end they were not successful. The next round went on without any problems, so these enemies of democracy could just produce a small hiccup, but had no success in interrupting the election process. What happen in detail? Well, we had a security setup which was very wide. There were 44 polling stations in the north which meant that there were less police available on Kosovo Police, on our side, and also with KFOR. So it was more stretched. The second aspect: we wanted to be less visible, at a political request – to be less visible. At the second round and the repetition in Mitrovica, the Kosovo Police, our police and KFOR were in much higher numbers present at the stations. Nevertheless, even at the first round they could reach to police stations, then our people were there to reinforce the Kosovo Police, we dispel them. In Zvecan we arrived early enough and we chased them away when they were trying to attack the polling station.

QUESTION: As we are talking about the north recently you met newly elected leaders of municipality or mayors of municipality. Do you think that these elections can improve their integration into Kosovo Government, and also the population in general, in new, after the war, new situation created in Kosovo?

BORCHARDT: There are, now, new elected mayors, and town assemblies, as one of the many steps which have been taken to create the conditions for more positive and the better future for the people in the north of Kosovo. There has been agreement on the integration of the former, so-called parallel police. This is on-going to be implemented. There has been an agreement on customs collection. The money goes into a development fund. This development fund will be used to develop the north. There will be, the Government has announced that there is going to be a pledging conference where international friends of Kosovo can pledge money for all the projects needed to develop the north. From water supply to building of a better police station, maybe. This is one of our interests and of the police. A lot of things have to have started moving and I think that with a better perspective the integration will come automatically.

QUESTION: What will be the role of EULEX, if there is going to be any, towards integration of this ex-MUP police members in the north?

BORCHARDT: On that we have double role. First of all, our people are doing an orientation course. I mean your police set up, the structure is different. Your Criminal Procedure Code is different. Police legislation is different. So these new policemen get an orientation. The first group was just finished yesterday. More to come. And the second is of course that we continue our general work with the Kosovo Police in the north. I have deployed 23 of our advisors and they will also support and advise new policemen, the additional policemen in their new working environment and their new structure. And I think this is tremendously positive development. When I arrived here early this year we had all this, you remember, that we had all these explosions in Mitrovica. And that was still our police together with KP who had to quale that. With more policemen on board in the north they will be able to do that themselves.

QUESTION: EULEX was not very welcomed in the north in the beginning. Are they allowed to go free to the crossing points or borders with Serbia? What is the situation now?

BORCHARDT: We are travelling there freely but you remember that the worst that happened to this mission this year, the killing of one of our colleagues has led us to travel more safely in armour vehicles. We hope that we will find the culprit, and that we will able to travel again in soft-skin vehicles. But this is the only restriction. For the rest, and this is a security restriction not a political restriction, or a restriction which comes from a bad mood against us amongst general population 

QUESTION: Recently we had a historical agreement between Serbia and Kosovo in Brussels and we are now gradually implementing those agreements. What is the role of EULEX concretely towards the implementing the agreements for example IBM and the others that are agreed in Brussels?

BORCHARDT: There are many activities. One which will be probably finished sometime in the spring next year, is the coping of the Civil Registries which will be going back to Kosovo. Another one where we have an  number of men power involved and women power is our support to the work of the Kosovo border police and Kosovo Customs at 6 crossing points with Serbia.  We have 135 people there covering 24 hours, seven days a week, also now in the coming holidays our people and colleagues will be working there. We are verifying continuously the closure of the former of the so-called parallel police stations. We verify the cases of Serbian courts which existed there. We are, as I mentioned already, we are supporting the build-up of the police. We will be involved in a way that has to be agreed between Pristina and Belgrade, in the setting up of the judiciary, as soon as there is a final agreement reached on that as well.

QUESTION: You have had also sever visits in Belgrade. You met Serbian officials there. Is there a chance to receive from them original documents of civil registry and cadastre, or first we are going to complete the phase of receiving the copies and afterwards there will probably be another agreement on that?

BORCHARDT: These are certified copies, so they have the same value and the next step there is the digitalisation of these data. This is the next work step.

QUESTION: So what is the point of view of the Serbian delegation when you go there? I mean, how do they expect you there, what do you talk concretely with them?

BORCHARDT: Many matters. For instance recently work started with the excavation of an alleged mass grave site in Raska, just on the other side of the border boundary line, as the Serb call it. This had been agreed in Belgrade. I mean I had asked for it and the Serbian war crimes prosecutor, who is working very closely and very intensively       with our colleagues here and the Special Prosecution and the Department of Forensic Medicine, he has been very supportive and the political side supported that as well. Other areas in which we had discussions and which we are still discussing is getting more information from other sources on potential graves. There is always a huge number of issues and of course in Belgrade, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the President whom I met once, have expectations from us as well. And we try to meet them as far as our mandate permits.

QUESTION: As you mentioned this mass grave in Raska, there are also two other sites that are suspected to be mass graves. Is there any date or month when we will expect exhumations there and I’m interested to know whether Kosovar forensics medicine experts will be participating at least as observers there, while these excavations are done?

BORCHARDT: We do not know how many people have been buried there. I know that there is enormous lot of hope among the people who are still missing, finding knowledge of where their love ones have been buried, so I understand that there is a lot of expectation and results, but so far we only know that four people have been buried there. But we hope and we are pretty confident, we hope and expect to find more and to continue but now the soil is deep frozen and my colleagues from the DFM ensured me that it is best international practice that you wait until the weather conditions get better for this kind of …

QUESTION: Sorry for interrupting you. Is that place under security because the population is afraid here whether Serbs are going to move the corps from there?

BORCHARDT: Some remains of people have been collected already and stored and the rest of the site is under permanent guarding.

QUESTION: Let’s go back now to some developments in Kosova. Recently there was a perception report of corruption from Transparency International. Kosovo is five places worse than it was last year. What is EULEX task towards fighting corruption and do you think that there are concrete steps towards fighting corruption, because lot of media and politicians are complaining that EULEX is dealing more with war crimes than with corruption cases.

BORCHARDT: Well, we have been dealing a lot with corruption cases as well. I’m just going to give you the exact figures on corruption. We have 44 ongoing investigations and 42 verdicts on war crimes. We have 89 ongoing investigations, so it is more, but 29 verdicts, which is less and they are not all at the appeal’s level. That gives you an indication on what we are dealing with and what we are involved in all these fields intensively. I think a brought misunderstanding is that we pick cases, that we concentrate on specific areas, but we are dealing with cases which are assigned to us by the terms of our mandate and then a prosecutor concentrates on a case where he has leads, where he has enough evidence to file an indictment. And you cannot follow every case, Just from UNMIK we received 12 hundred unresolved war crimes cases, but we follow those, which are promising where we think we can reach justice, we can reach a verdict, be it acquittal, be it condemnation of a culprit.

QUESTION: I ask you this because there are also a lot of critics who are saying that because of corruption we are not yet recognised by all EU member states, or they have some internal problems and they like to make problems with Kosovo, but do you think that if we are more successful in fighting corruption, we will also have the recognition of other member states, which haven’t recognised Kosovo yet.

BORCHARDT: I think the reasons of the five non recognising member states differ from country to country, but everybody, also the 22 recognizers expect progress in the rule of law in Kosovo and in particular in the field of corruption and I think fighting organised crime is to a large extent and issue of police, prosecution and courts. Corruption is also of course an issue of police and anti – corruption agencies etc. but it is also to a large extent an issue of prevention and I have been just this morning dealing with that. We strongly recommend to the Government to concentrate on that. For instance the legislation of procurement, the progress support criticised that there are so many different, that there are more than a hundred different places where procurement is done. Albania has been successful in fighting corruption in this area by introducing electronic procurement and centralised procurement, so there is more a way forward. There is also the issue of staffing at public services, all these are areas where more can be done or Kosovo can learn from its neighbours including Albania. And I have been recently in Tirana and there is big willingness to support for Kosovo on such projects like procurement, like centralised procurement and exchange experiences and avoid the wheels to be re-invented when it was already invented in Tirana.

QUESTION: But do you think that Kosovar Government is capable of continuing on its own when EULEX mandate will be finished in fighting corruption, in making better procurement system, etc.

BORCHARDT: As I said at the start of our discussion, we hope we can find an agreement with the Kosovo Government on a new mandate for a new mission. A the same time there are also other instruments of the European Union to help countries here in Europe to develop, to fight corruption to fight organised crime etc. That includes projects, IPA projects but that also includes a very tensed political dialogue. We have this structured rule of law dialogue which will commence next time in January. We have negotiations on the visa liberalisation road map on which we are of course supporting Kosovo that Kosovo can meet conditions on this road map. I think we play a quite important role in many fields, but Kosovo has to do a lot to get forward and then finally the next step on your road towards European Union is a completion of the Agreement on Association and Stabilisation which also requires lots of progress indeed not only in this field but also in the field of fighting organised crime and corruption. 

QUESTION: Yes, we need bigger support in in visa liberalisation as we are the only state in Europe that needs visas to travel anywhere. We appreciate bigger help from all member states, so Kosovo could at least get a free travel.

BORCHARDT: This is why I think that the support that EU are providing to Kosovo with its mission is in the interest of Kosovo and that we are helping you to move forward on this matter with all experience from the member countries which are assembled in this mission.

QUESTION: I would like also to give back to the investigation. There are lots of rumours these last days as there are cases that are already in the courts about ex KLA commanders. Yesterday there was a report that EULEX is investigating one high ex official of KLA. Do we know any detail on who is next going to be investigated and for what reason or this is maybe confidential?

BORCHARDT: I cannot comment on ongoing investigations. This would be a bit immature of my side if I would do that so we concentrate on areas in which we feel that we can be successful. As I mentioned earlier, there are many war crimes cases and we have only one page, to find after fifteen years, still evidence, witnesses. It is incredible difficult. In other cases it was possible. Witnesses contacted us and then they were ready to give their statement. And then you have a chance to bring a case to  court. And then a prosecutor has a lead and he can continue and search for other witnesses. And that is why he can achieve something and finally get a verdict, acquittal of guilty.

QUESTION: What do you think is Kosovo’s biggest problem? Corruption or organised crime?

BORCHARDT: I don`t think you can really say that one problem is bigger or not. Of course a corruption is haunting you as a very bad place in Transparency International`s list. Only Albania is lower in the Western Balkans on the list. So this is very visible and when I see pools and what people consider as relevant and where do they want to see action from us, where they want to see action from the government. This is fighting corruption. This is something where people are suffering most. And second point: there is often a very strong link between corruption and organised crime. Often it is corruption which enables organised crime to finance its activities, to start financing its activities. And third aspect, organised crime is affecting EU member states. And therefore we have a very keen interest in prosecuting organised crime cases, as the drugs which goes through Kosovo is sold to our children. To some of them. So we have a very, very strong interest in finding the perpetrators

QUESTION: Are you putting any pressure towards Kosovo’s prosecution to be more effective towards fighting corruption and do you have any cooperation with Kosovo’s Anti-Corruption Agency?

BORCHARDT: In the field of fighting corruption we are concentrating on the political dialogue for instance as I mentioned procurement law legislation, on e-procurement, electronic procurement and on  centralised procurement. Our experts are involved in a very technical and detailed discussions on how can the cooperatioan with Anti-corruption Agency and prosecution  can be improved on how cooperation between the police and the prosecution can be improved. We are providing a lot of input.  These are the issues on which I have encouraged my colleagues to do when came here to concentrate more and I hope over the time this will bring results.

QUESTION: Since I taken some statistics from your website that currently EULEX has 2250 staff members. Do you think this is enough to overcome all of these good and bad situations that we have in Kosova?

BORCHARDT: This is the theoretical staffing level. This is the number of staff we may employ. The actual staffing level is a bit less. We are working here inside the Kosovo legal system and Kosovo legal system gives a key role to prosecutors. So we the number of 30 prosecutors that we have here. They are the core of the business to put it that way. They are guiding the police, they are presenting their cases to the judges and there is an area which we have to I would like to see to continue strong staffing. In other fields we will also in the future certainly need less staff. As  I mentioned we are now filling up with the help recruitment of former parallel policemen, we help filling up the rank of Kosovo police in the North. That would mean that less of our policemen would be needed one day. In some areas we have been very successful. When you look at the Transparency International for instance there is a negative picture by this very low ranking of Kosovo in their corruption list. However, when you look into the details of the corruption barometer your police has very good reputation. It has the best reputation in the whole region – also a perception but Transparency knows very well how to get these perceptions. They are compiling a lot of information so that is quite reliable. I think that good perception concerning Kosovo police is not only our success. This is the first of all success of Kosovo police; this is the success of many others who are contributing to building up Kosovo police. During the last years we have invested in this lot of efforts. We have since year and year and half changed our strategy away from this supervisory role, from the role of the Mission doing the job for Kosovo, we went more into partnership relationship. We are now doing police investigations together with Kosovo police investigators and we do whenever possible in mixed teams. Our prosecutors work together with Kosovo prosecutors and in the courts, we usually have mixed benches, that means international judges and Kosovo judges in cases where EULEX is involved and this is something which where we try to hand over more and more responsibility to Kosovo judges, that there are two Kosovo judges and one international judge, that the reporting judge is from Kosovo, etc. So we, this is for us also the way to even more transfer our knowledge, not only through the training programmes we do, that what we call mentoring, monitoring and advising, but also through this kind of peer to peer work of prosecutor, police and judges in the executive function that we have.

QUESTION: Now we are approaching the year 2014, what do you see as the biggest challenges for this year, for Kosovo, and especially for your Mission?

BORCHARDT: Kosovo has an enormous lot of challenges which goes far beyond the area of rule of law. In the field of rule of law, there is a criminal system review is ongoing. The results are going to be implemented so there is a long list, and we are more than willing to help, and that is why we are here. The visa liberalization further progress and meeting the conditions is I think something that is very close to the heart of the people and where they expect their government to advance quickly, and for the Mission it is helping as best as we can, helping to find a good solution between the Member States and Kosovo and Pristina on the future of Mission support for Kosovo and of course our continued support for the implementation of the many agreements reached between Belgrade and Pristina, where we will continue to do our best to get them implemented.

QUESTION: What will be your message for the upcoming year for our leaders and population also, if we can get any message from you?

BORCHARDT: We are a technical Mission and not a Political Mission, so I cannot give you any political message. First of all I would like to wish all people who are seeing this on tv, all the best for the coming holidays. To the Christians, Merry Christmas, and to everybody Happy New Year and on the political side, we are still here, we continue and we are available to support Kosovo. This is the aim of this Mission.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time!

BORCHARDT: It is my pleasure.