The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX)—the EU’s largest, costliest, and most ambitious mission—has operated in Kosovo for almost a decade with the goal of assisting the country’s judicial authorities and law enforcement agencies in tackling organized crime, corruption, and other threats to the country’s stability. To date, the 800-person mission—which consists of police officers, prosecutors, judges, and has its own power of arrest and prosecution—has resulted in over 40,000 court judgments and the investigation of over 400 war crimes. Yet allegations of corruption have dogged the project. Three years ago, Maria Bamieh was dismissed from her position as a EULEX prosecutor when she alleged corruption within the Mission, including a €300,000 bribe accepted by a EULEX judge. While a subsequent investigation and report by Professor Jean-Paul Jacqué (on behalf of the EU) dismissed Ms. Bamieh’s specific allegations, the report recommended that EULEX be reformed to better deal with corruption—a problem that, the report noted, remained “omnipresent in Kosovo.” Allegations of corruption were re-ignited in late 2017, when EULEX’s Chief Judge, Malcolm Simmons, resigned after alleging “several cases of corruption at the heart of the mission.” The accusations and counter-accusations between Judge Simmons and EULEX are complicated, and it is not my objective here to try to evaluate their credibility. In brief, Judge Simmons’ most serious allegation is that senior EULEX officials pressured him to convict Deputy Prime Minister (and former Kosovo Liberation Army commander) Fatmir Limaj, in order to prevent Mr. Limaj from taking part in the Kosovan election. (Judge Simmons also leveled other accusations, including an improper romantic relationship between a judge and a Kosovan jurist, and that a fellow judge had hacked his email.) The Mission swiftly responded that Judge Simmons himself was “the subject of a series of independent investigations into serious allegations against him,” with an EU official acknowledging that Judge Simmons is subject to five investigations and “allegations that Simmons interfered in some of the most important verdicts” in recent years. While it remains to be seen which allegations (if any) are true, the situation appears to be lose-lose for the EULEX mission.
The current EULEX mandate expires on June 14, 2018. The controversy swirling around Judge Simmons’ resignation, coupled with the upcoming discussions as to whether to renew EULEX’s mandate, provides a timely opportunity to reassess a flaw that has plagued EULEX since its inception: an actual and perceived lack of trust and accountability between the mission and local Kosovan judicial and law enforcement authorities. If EULEX’s mandate is renewed this year, steps should be taken to address this problem.