OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHPS #0148/01 0981727
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 081727Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRISTINA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8929
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 1148
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1655
RHFMISS/AFSOUTH NAPLES IT PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR TF FALCON PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEPGEA/CDR650THMIGP SHAPE BE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUZEJAA/USNIC PRISTINA SR PRIORITY
Wednesday, 08 April 2009, 17:27
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 PRISTINA 000148
DEPT FOR INL, EUR/SCE
NSC FOR HELGERSON
EO 12958 DECL: 03/14/2019
TAGS PGOV, PINR, PREL, KV
SUBJECT: KOSOVO/EULEX: AT FULL OPERATING CAPABILITY, BUT
NOT WITHOUT PROBLEMS
Classified By: Ambassador Tina S. Kaidanow for Reasons 1.4 (b), (d).
1. (C) SUMMARY: On April 6 the European Union’s rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, declared full operational capability (FOC). Four months after its initiation, EULEX can claim some significant successes, including a complete and violence-free roll-out of the police component; the reopening of the problematic Mitrovica courthouse and hearing of a case, the first since violence closed the court on March 17, 2008; and establishing its customs presence at border crossing points Gates 1 and 31 with Serbia. However, the EULEX police component’s low profile and its limited executive authority, the absence of control over its judges, and EULEX unwillingness -- or inability -- to clarify the question of applicable law continue to dog the rule of law mission’s ability to do its job effectively. All of these problems are compounded in the Serb-majority north, where EULEX has yet to reinforce its authority with the local populace. Success also requires that Serbia play a constructive role in dealing with EULEX on a technical level to solve practical problems while keeping the UN firmly outside the process -- an outcome we wish Brussels would underscore with Belgrade in a far more decisive manner. END SUMMARY
2. (C) EULEX’s Police component, with 1654 total staff (international and national), comprises by far the largest share of EULEX’s 2507 person presence in Kosovo. EULEX Police enjoyed some success when the Formed Police Units (FPUs or specialized riot police) responded to tense situations in January and March in the divided flashpoint city of Mitrovica. However, the EULEX Police component has remained largely invisible in day-to-day operations. This is largely due to a different mandate that EULEX sees for its police officers compared to how UNMIK Police operated. Where UNMIK Police possessed wide-ranging executive authority and were visible to the public throughout the country, EULEX Police focus primarily on monitoring, mentoring, and advising (MMA). EULEX headquarters tells us that this MMA role necessitates that its officers work most closely with the Kosovo Police on management functions, and this work requires primary staffing at the station level.
3. (C) American officers assigned to the Police component have expressed some frustration regarding this hands-off approach and the absence of executive authority when operating in the field. Officers in the Strengthening Department operating in Mitrovica and at border gates, for example, have no executive authority to enforce laws or make arrests for visible criminal violations committed in their presence. They can only perform their MMA activities, and acting outside of this mandate could expose individual officers to disciplinary action -- for example, responding with force to an agitated and threatening individual at a border crossing -- for exerting unlawful executive authority. As a result, EULEX refuses to deploy officers from the Strengthening Department to situations where they might be compelled to act in self-defense -- the very situations where an international presence would be most beneficial.
4. (C) As an example, March protests over power cuts in the eastern Serb enclave of Silovo/Shilovo (Gjilane/Gnjilane municipality) initially saw no EULEX police officers respond due to their absence of executive authority. U.S. officers assigned to work with Kosovo Police (KP) officers in station-level management positions in the region convinced KP commanders to visit the scene, thus creating a rationale for the U.S. officers to monitor the commanders’ performance in the field. At the same time, these officers exposed themselves to personal jeopardy by leaving what EULEX calls their primary workplace, the police station.
5. (C) As it stands now, there is a large gap in EULEX’s police activity. The Special Police Department provides in extremis crowd control and riot suppression and currently
PRISTINA 00000148 002 OF 005
deploys the bulk of its 455 FPU officers in the Mitrovica region. The Strengthening Department assigns officers to monitor, mentor, and advise at the station-level across the country. However, due to its lack of executive authority, EULEX has little role to play in emerging situations not yet requiring an FPU response -- situations that might benefit from the presence of international police officers whom local residents may regard as more objective and professional than KP officers.
6. (C) EULEX Police’s Executive Police Department (EPD) does possess authority to conduct investigations into organized crime cases and incidents where political interference undermines the rule of law, but EULEX tells us that this activity is limited due to insufficient equipment. Without surveillance or wiretap equipment, EPD officers cannot conduct effective investigations.
7. (C) The EULEX Justice component enjoys some success in the solid mentoring relationship it has developed with Kosovo judges and prosecutors. Feedback has been positive and cooperation with USG programs in these areas has been very good. Cooperation with EULEX Justice at the headquarters level has also been good, and weekly meetings, which include other international stakeholders including the International Civilian Office (ICO) and the European Commission (EC), have helped ensure a tighter, more unified message on the range of legal issues. Significantly, EULEX has occupied the Mitrovica court house and has begun prosecuting cases. Though Serbs in north Mitrovica initially protested EULEX’s presence, seeing the organization as a tool of the Kosovo government and independence, EULEX was able to conduct a prosecution against two Serb defendants in March that resulted in acquittal on charges of felony robbery. But continued confusion within EULEX on applicable law has detracted from the success of this proceeding. The judges chose to apply UNMIK law, arguing that the offenses occurred while Kosovo was under UNMIK jurisdiction. EULEXXXXXXXXXXXXX failed to clarify the question of applicable law with both the judges and the GOK prior to beginning the case. We expect the court to issue a written judgment on or about April 10, which could prompt an unhappy response from Kosovo leaders and media (a point we have made repeatedly to EULEX top officials).
8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX
9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX It’s also apparent that the rigidity of EULEX’s prosecutorial structure, with international prosecutors assigned to specific courts or prosecutor’s offices and case transfers among prosecutors necessary when a case moves to another court or jurisdiction, hampers quick and effective action.
10. (C) The EULEX Customs component has developed a strong mentoring, monitoring, and advising role with the Kosovo Customs Service and has gradually increased its activities since EULEX initiated operations on December 9, 2008. Coordination between Customs Head of Component Paul Acda and Kosovo Customs Director Naim Huruglica, stemming from their previous cooperation under UNMIK, is especially strong and transparent.
11. (C) Eight EULEX Customs staff are working at the Kosovo Customs Service headquarters, including the Customs Head of Component, his deputy, two media relations personnel, and four expert advisors working directly with relevant Kosovo Customs departments in revenue operations, law enforcement, legal, and finance and administration. EULEX Customs also has 18 personnel working as mobile customs units (six teams of three people), plus one team coordinator, monitoring all customs border posts. The mobile units group is based at a separate Kosovo Customs building located in Fushe Kosove/Kosovo Polje, just outside of Pristina. These units are fully staffed but are experiencing some equipment shortages, including phones, radios, cameras, GPS equipment, etc.
12. (C) The EULEX Customs Reinforcement Task Force has a staff of 22 internationals out of a planned 33, with no local staff deployed to date. This group first operated on a 9-to-5 basis in northern Kosovo in December 2008, and commenced 24/7 operations in mid-January 2009. On February 1, 2009, EULEX Customs officials began registering commercial goods entering through the two northern gates (1 and D31), data which had gone unrecorded since protesters destroyed the gates in February 2008. The registration process entails collecting basic information about shipments, such as company name, type of goods, value and quantity, to share with customs officials at the inland Mitrovica customs clearance terminal, and vehicles entering these gates receive instructions to proceed to the inland terminal. These are essentially the same procedures that were in place prior to independence (February 2008), except that EULEX officials are not yet withholding personal documents from drivers -- such as a passport or driver’s license -- as a guarantee that the driver will present the goods for clearance at the Mitrovica terminal.
13. (C) Full customs procedures will not restart at Gates 1 and D31 until the gates undergo repair and receive specialized inspection equipment. Possible next steps toward
PRISTINA 00000148 004 OF 005
reestablishing full customs controls will include building customs offices at the northern gates, establishing freight forwarding and bank offices, installing cameras that connect directly to the main customs operations center in Pristina, and acceptance of customs duties at the gates. Some of these steps, such as installing cameras and collecting duties, are likely to spark political sensitivities in the north, with threats emanating regularly from northern Serb hardliners about the violent response that will ensue if customs is fully restored. EULEX Customs also needs clarification on which customs law applies in the north -- UNMIK or Kosovo -- in order to begin collecting customs duties at the two northern gates. Discussions on how to rectify this legal dilemma are on-going in the context of “practical issues” consultations between EULEX and the Belgrade and Kosovo governments. EULEX Customs has recommended adding an additional 20 international and 10 local staff in the north to cover eventual revenue collection at Gates 1 and D31, which would take the Customs component to fully operational status.
EULEX BEYOND FOC
14. (C) EULEX’s policy chief Dominique Orsini on April 2 told us that Full Operating Capability (FOC) is a military term in vogue and in use because of former French General Yves de Kermabon’s influence and reflects only that EULEX has sufficient personnel to fulfill its mission. While EULEX declared FOC on April 6, it does not mean that EULEX’s activities or its mandate have grown to meet Kosovo’s requirements for EULEX’s mission. Orsini told us that EULEX is actively considering how to improve its performance and told us that other participant countries and the UN have also noted the gap in policing left by the limited executive authority that EULEX police officers possess. EULEX is considering creating a very limited cadre of civilian affairs officers that might be able to respond to emerging situations, providing on-the-scene international voices working with Kosovo Police to help quell local tensions. Visiting EU CIVCOM representative Kim Friedberg told the Ambassador on April 7 that this was under active consideration for the north, though the very next day EULEX HOM de Kermabon denied to the Ambassador that this civilian or political component would do anything more than simply “coordinate” among EULEX elements and possibly other international actors operating in the north. Confusion obviously still exists on the methodologies EULEX will employ to overcome some of these “gap” issues.
15. (C) Orsini is also less confident that EULEX will resolve the applicable law question. As long as only 22 of 27 EU member states recognize Kosovo, EULEX will be unable, according to Orsini, to develop a consistent policy that identifies Kosovo law as the only legal system operating here. He added that Madrid and the other four non-recognizing capitals complain to Brussels each time a routine report even suggests that EULEX is venturing beyond the bounds of status-neutrality and straying from its mandate under UNSCR 1244, and Brussels, in turn, notifies EULEX headquarters of its offense. (At the recent EULEX ceremony marking the opening of their new headquarters and reaching FOC, no Kosovo flag was displayed, though all EU member state flags -- including that of the UK, which recently announced its withdrawal of most of its EULEX contingent -- were prominently featured. No U.S. or Turkish flag was flown, either.) We expect that this confusion will continue to plague both justice and customs operations in the North, and it will become an ever more vocal bone of contention among Kosovo Albanian political forces and the local media.
16. (C) EULEX has had some successes -- its deployment, de Kermabon’s receptiveness to our counsel, its effective response to violent outbreaks in Mitrovica, and a growing number of concluded court cases, including a war crimes conviction against a Kosovo Albanian that carried a 17-year
PRISTINA 00000148 005 OF 005
prison sentence. Its cautiousness in hewing to status neutrality and defining its mission as purely technical, however, is a serious limitation. Right now EULEX is a stabilizing influence, helping to provide law and order in the absence of international consensus on Kosovo’s status, but it could quickly become immobilized by its inherent political limitations.
17. (C) EULEX must take a more active role in helping Kosovo resolve practical issues that fall within its legitimate mandate on customs, justice and police issues; this will obviously require an active dialogue with Serbia -- but without the UN presence in negotiations that convinces the Kosovars that these talks are just a continuation of the abortive “six point” discussions that almost led to a breakdown of stability in Kosovo last November. If EULEX -- the biggest and most ambitious ESDP mission to date -- is to succeed, it needs to make progress on the critical issues of the north, but that progress will only come if Brussels applies equal pressure on Belgrade and Pristina, rather than acceding to Belgrade’s political demands and alienating their Kosovo counterparts. Thus far the jury is still out on whether the EU will show the necessary degree of political leadership, but we will continue to urge a balanced and vigorous approach, as well as a more robust operational posture in Kosovo’s north. End Comment. KAIDANOW