The EU has taken a tougher line against corruption in Kosovo and stepped up efforts to win over the Serb minority. But crime and political tensions remain huge challenges.
While the EU’s members remain split over whether Kosovo is independent from Serbia (see also component 34), there is broad support for EU efforts to maintain stability. The primary tools for crisis management are NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR), which largely consists of European troops; an EU rule-of-law mission (EULEX) with over 3,000 personnel; and the political leverage provided by the EU Special Representative (EUSR), who also acts as International Civilian Representative. The main challenges are corruption, organised crime and the refusal of Serbs living in northern Kosovo to recognise the Kosovar authorities.
In 2010, EULEX and the EUSR took significant steps to address these issues. EU police arrested leading political figures, including the central bank governor, on corruption charges. An “EU House” was set up in northern Kosovo to strengthen the EU’s presence in the contested region, while EULEX police faced down riots by Serbs in the summer. Kosovo-wide elections in December went off without significant security incidents, although the polls were marred by accusations of vote-rigging and had to be repeated in some areas. These steps, and especially EULEX’s anti-corruption activities (part of the €38 million in European initiatives devoted to the reinforcement of the rule of law), signaled a much tougher line by the EU in Kosovo than in the immediate aftermath of the declaration of independence in early 2008. Concerns that the EU would be constrained in Kosovo while Spain (one of the five member states that does not recognise the country) held the EU presidency proved unfounded. By October, NATO felt confident enough to announce a significant drawdown of KFOR over the next two years.
In spite of these positive developments, the EU’s investigations have only underlined the extent of corruption in Kosovo, while the number of irregularities in the national elections raised concerns about Kosovo’s democracy. Finally, the EU has not been able to decisively alter the attitude of Serbs in northern Kosovo towards independence.