For countries saddled with a tight-knit, corrupt leadership class, what happened last week in Guatemala is cause for celebration. There a normally meek judiciary slapped down the president’s effort to end a corruption investigation that threatens his rule. What made the difference was the investigation is led by a United Nations entity created under an accord an earlier government had signed with the U.N. The agreement, and the support it enjoys both in Guatemala and abroad, gave the nation’s Constitutional Court both the legal rationale and the backbone to tell the president that even he was not above the law.
Before corruption fighters embrace internationalization as the deus ex machina in the corruption fight, however, they will want to pay heed to another, far less publicized event, that also took place last week: publication of Joschka Proksik’s analyis of the European Union’s rule of law mission in Kosovo ( (published in this volume). As with Guatemala, the government of Kosovo agreed to share with an international agency the power to enforce the nation’s criminal law. Unlike Guatemala, however, where the U.N. can only investigate allegations of criminal misconduct and domestic prosecutors and courts must take it from there, in Kosovo the EU’s power is unlimited. EU personnel can at any time and for any reason investigate, prosecute, and judge whether a Kosovar has violated the nation’s criminal law — without any involvement whatsoever by local authorities. Moreover, EULEX, as the mission is known, is far larger and far better resourced than the UN’s Guatemalan mission, staffed at its peak by some 1,900 international personnel at a cost of over €100 million in administrative expense alone.
Proksik interviewed dozens of current and former EULEX staff, analyzed data on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions, and perused pervious evaluations by the European Union and independent observers to determine what the progress EULEX has made in its almost nine-year life in realizing its core objectives of helping Kosovo’s judiciary and law enforcement agencies remain “free from political interference” and adhere to “internationally recognized standards and European best practices.” Because his careful, balanced, professional assessment merits the attention of aIl looking for ways to help countries stuck with corrupt leaders, I won’t give away the bottom line. But safe to say it forms an important counter to the Guatemala experience.
Proksik suggests some reasons why the results of internationalizing the corruption fight in the two countries differ so: EU’s large and unwieldy bureaucracy, the lack of a shared language between Kosovars and internationals, and the short-term secondments of many international staff. As Matthew explained earlier this year, there are pros and cons to internationalizing, or outsourcing, the fight against corruption. Given what a successful effort can achieve, understanding why the results in Kosovo have been so different from those in Guatemala is surely a topic worthy of sustained, careful attention.