Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kosovars Concerned New Ministries May be Politicised

UNMIK's transfer of justice and home affairs to Kosovars raises concerns that the two biggest parties may turn them into political fiefdoms.
By Artan Mustafa

As the UN administration in Kosovo, UNMIK, prepares to transfer limited responsibilities for police and justice to the local authorities, there are growing fears that both sectors may fall under the influence of the entity’s biggest parties.


The internationally appointed chief of Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, handed a draft plan to create a ministry of interior and a ministry of justice to Kosovo's prime minister, Bajram Kosumi on July 19.


The plan, which envisages a limited transfer of policing and judicial responsibilities to the Kosovar authorities by the end of 2005, has got a green light from UN headquarters as part of their "exit strategy" from Kosovo.


The transfer is seen as part of the process of agreeing Kosovo's final status, expected to begin this autumn, in tandem with a reduction in the size of the civilian peacekeeping mission.


"The plan foresees the establishing of the ministry of justice and the ministry of police by the end of the year," Jessen-Petersen said in Pristina.


Jessen-Petersen said the new ministries would have to be free from political influence and work equally for all the people, regardless of their ethnic or political background.


UNMIK will retain a supervisory role and powers to intervene, reflecting concerns that Kosovars may not yet have the capacity to run justice and home affairs unaided as well as fears that these sectors may fall under political influence.


For Kosovars, the transfer of power over such key areas of national life is of great significance, reassuring them that there can never be a return to the Serb-ruled past.


At the press briefing with Jessen–Petersen, Kosumi said, " This was a big step forward for Kosovo."


But this does not completely close the issue, with both main political parties locked into a desperate struggle to insert their own people into the new structures.


The opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, has already taken aim at the Homeland Security, a body that effectively functions as the private security service of the ruling Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK.


At the same time, the PDK runs its own security structure, the National Intelligence Service, SHIK. The head of the PDK parliamentary group, Jakup Krasniqi, recently asked the Kosovo assembly to accept SHIK as a legitimate part of the Kosovar Intelligence Service, which is to work inside the newly established interior ministry.


The struggle between the LDK and PDK for control of the new interiorministry and intelligence service has left Kosovo's other parties feeling squeezed out.


The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, said it resented the prospect of the two big parties effectively dividing up the new ministries between them.


Naim Maloku, the AAK member of the Kosovo assembly's presidency, said his party wanted to "strongly distance itself from all party-based parallel and illegal intelligence services".


He said the AAK wanted to see "a new structure that will function solely in the interest of the citizens of Kosovo and will be under control of civilian authorities".


That may be a forlorn hope, as the PDK has clearly not resigned its ambition to gain control of at least part of the future security structures.


To justify this stance, a PDK leader, Enver Hoxhaj, said justice and home affairs would suffer if left solely in the hands of the current coalition parties.


"We have seen the performance of this government until now and we will suffer the consequences for ten years to come because they will politicise the two sectors,” said Hoxhaj.


That still leaves the smaller parties and many experts feeling worried. Azem Vllasi, a well-known lawyer, said parliament would need to guard against the process of politicisation in the new justice and police ministries.


"Parliament has an obligation to prevent their politicisation," he warned. "If not, there will be no democratic society in Kosovo."


The debate comes at a sensitive time, as the police are currently investigating the role of the unofficial intelligence services operating under the umbrellas of the two main political parties.


With the LDK expected to nominate Kosovo's first justice minister, the PDK is increasingly anxious that most of the human resources for this ministry will come from the so-called Homeland Security.


Vllasi recommends strong monitoring of the two new ministries by UNMIK and the selection of a truly professional staff, chosen for experience rather than political background.


Even Kosovo's top international officials are sounding a wary note. "Corruption and a lack of transparency are problems here," the OSCE chief of mission in Kosovo, Werner Wnendt, warned. "The way that people treat public institutions is a problem."


Artan Mustafa is a journalist with the Kosovo daily newspaper Express.