Europe

Foreign Diplomacy and Organized Crime in Kosovo

Kosovo is locked in a territorial dispute with the Republic of Serbia since it declared its independence on 17 February 2008. Belgrade continues to claim it as part of its sovereign territory. Around 100 countries out of 193 members of the United Nations (UN members) have already recognized Kosovo’s independence.

©THE_FrontlinerIn accordance with the Vienna Congress of 1815 and 1961, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that the ambassador and embassy staff be granted diplomatic immunity and personal security of the host country.

Under the Vienna Diplomatic Convention, diplomatic envoys have no right to interfere in the development of internal and external policies to the state in which they operate. Pristina known as one of the three Albanian capitals, along Tirana and Skopje, has experienced an unprecedented intervention of some foreign diplomatic representatives on the development of internal and foreign policies.

Despite the friendship and respect for international powers, we witness the Albanians, especially in Kosovo, having been part of a political experiment, where some foreign diplomatic representatives on behalf of supporting the development and strengthening of “democracy” have continuously supported some corrupt politicians and this nature of diplomacy has immersed some of the politicians in organized crime.

It turns out that in Kosovo some of the mandated ambassadors do not choose the way to realize their diplomatic mission to achieve the implementation, which I doubt sometimes whether it is the foreign policy of the country, which they represent.  These policies do not necessarily coincide with our human interests, and national politics. The agreement to normalize the Kosovo-Serbia ties reached between Pristina and Belgrade in April this year in Brussels legalizes illegal political structures in the northern part of the country, which were marked by the U.S. State Department as ‘criminal structures’.

Moreover, through a proposal drafted by the Government approved by Kosovo’s assembly on July 10th, 2013 in Pristina (at least we were told) for amnesty and pardoning of all crimes and offenses committed before 20 June 2013. Many suspect the project is going to deliver legal benefits to institutional officials in Kosovo, who are suspected of political and economic crimes in the country.

There has been several voices of MP’s who didn’t want to pass the amnesty bill, but foreign diplomatic offices in Kosovo, reportedly have blackmailed and threatened them with a clear message “If they will not vote, they have to forget MP seat in assembly.” “There are several corruption and misuse of power cases against Kosovo’s MPs, suspected of also deeply involved in political and economic crimes in the country while foreign diplomatic missions keep ‘hidden files’ for them in case they stand up opposing such developments,” a Kosovo MP told me on condition of anonymity.

Is it possible that Kosovo is in the hands of the local and international political mafia, possibly backed by some United States and EU diplomats? To argue and face the existing arguments on the ground, I believe that we will have to return back to the historical discourse of organized political crimes in the country in which institutional leaders are allegedly involved. Without taking too long, we will quote the articles written by the foreign editorial staff of established Western media outlets who have had conducted journalistic investigations based on what they have seen as source of information from their homeland intelligence services as well as with regard to their investigators that researched organized political and economic crimes.

 

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Kosovo's PM Hashim Thaçi, during a Press Conference in Pristina, Kosovo's capital city. Picture by Vedat Xhymshiti, for Zuma Press

Kosovo’s PM Hashim Thaçi, during a Press Conference in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital city. (Picture by Vedat Xhymshiti, for Zuma Press)

Hashim Thaçi was born in Skenderaj, Kosovo. He studied at the Faculty of Philosophy, Department of History at the University of Pristina. Since 1993, Hashim Thaçi was living in Switzerland, where he joined a political group of emigrants. Accordingly he also pursued graduate studies at the University of Zurich in the field of history and international relations, but at Zürich University, there’s no prove about it. However, he became one of the founders of the People’s Movement of Kosovo (LPK) in exile. In 1993, Thaçi became a member of the inner circle of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Thaçi, otherwise known as the war nickname “Snake”, was responsible for securing financial means and armaments, including recruits who had to be trained in Albania to be sent later to Kosovo, a BBC report revealed. In 1997, Thaçi was tried in absentia and convicted by the Serbian authorities in Pristina for an alleged act of terrorist conspiracy related to his activities in the KLA.

Meanwhile, in March 1999, Thaçi participated in the Rambouillet negotiations as the leader of the Kosovo-Albanians. At that time, many Western diplomats perceived that during the negotiations Thaçi was the “voice of reason” within the KLA. During his participation in the negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade, Thaçi had demonstrated a willingness to accept “autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia”, the prestigious US newspaper New York Times published on June 25.

At a time when other rebel leaders have rejected any solution short of complete independence, including Thaçi’s agreement with Belgrade for autonomy within Serbia, the KLA figurehead emerged from the final diplomatic settlement as the leader of the strongest faction within a heavily armed but splintered Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

”He had made a tactical politico-military dash to consolidate power, unilaterally by appointing himself prime minister within a provisional government” a report published by the British national television BBC revealed. “Thaçi is alleged to have ordered killings of his political rivals within the KLA,” a detailed ‘The Guardian‘ report claimed. Thaçi is also reported to have extensive criminal links during the time when he was head of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The Washington Times reported that the KLA had financed its activities with illegal trafficking of heroin and cocaine in Western Europe. While supporters insist that the KLA received funding from the Albanian diaspora and the governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom. In 2000, British national television BBC in a report claimed Thaçi was one of the figureheads involved in criminal activities of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), which was transferred from the Kosovo Liberation Army. It further added “he had extorted money from businessmen under guise of “fees” for his self-appointed government”.

Although the KLA was officially disbanded at the end of the armed conflict in Kosovo in 1999, its successor the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) were mainly composed of former KLA fighters and militants of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) ruled by current Kosovo PM Hashim Thaçi. It mainly comprised the political leadership of the KLA. Thaçi’s strong monopoly was built on the power tools, based on the merger of KLA into the KPC, for allowing militants of the Democratic Party of Kosovo to take control of the machinery of government at municipal level, the BBC reports revealed.

PDK had regularly used violence and intimidation of political rivals to maintain local political control and to protect criminal enterprises that depended on friendly cooperation with local authorities built over Thaçi’s own network. In 2001, the Democratic Party of Kosovo had suffered electoral losses in the first free and fair elections in Kosovo. The BBC reported at the time: “It was ‘criminal acrobat reputation of the former KLA combatants’ that had resulted in a devastating effect on PDK because of the perceived overlap between its political leadership and post-KLA organized crime”.

AAK Chairman Ramush Haradinaj, during a press conference in Pristina, Kosovo's capital city. (Picture by Vedat Xhymshiti, for Zuma Press

AAK Chairman Ramush Haradinaj, during a press conference in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital city. (Picture by Vedat Xhymshiti, for Zuma Press)

In a recent analysis of organized crime in Kosovo prepared by German intelligence service, BND, and a confidential report contracted by the German army, the Bundeswehr, Thaçi, Ramush Haradinaj, and Xhavit Haliti are accused of an expanded involvement in organized crime. “The key players (including politicians Haliti, Haradinaj and Thaçi) are closely involved in the interconnections between politics, business, and organized crime structures in Kosovo,” prestigious German newspaper Die Welt wrote in its report quoting BND.

The report also accused Thaçi of being a key leader of a criminal network, which “operates throughout Kosovo since the late 1990s.” BND report also accused Thaçi of maintaining ties with Czech and Albanian mafias. BND says he, along with Haliti, ordered political assassinations committed by a professional hitman, known by his nickname as ‘Afrimi’, who is responsible for at least 11 contracted murders.

Who is behind the Mafia that Has a State?

Considering the fact that one of the cornerstones of foreign diplomatic missions under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic whose signatories is 28 European countries and the US, we have a different situation in Kosovo. What are the Vienna Convention duties for the foreign ambassadors to the article of peace contribution obligations? 1) Fight against terrorism; 2) Fight against drug trade; 3) Fight against international bribery; 4) Fight against human trafficking.

Four elements mentioned above, referring to international media articles that have engaged their staff to conduct investigative journalism in Kosovo. In addition to that, the media has also quoted the undisputed facts, which was provided by the intelligence services of various countries. Reports suggest foreign ambassadors in Kosovo are fully aware of the criminal activities of Kosovar politicians. This mere fact marks a grave diplomatic scandal and testifies the fact that foreign diplomats are also involved in criminal activities such as corruption, human trafficking, money laundering, etc.

 Some, Foreign diplomatic missions in Pristina are very clearly aware of the fact that organized crime and political mafia operates freely in Kosovo, but there is a problem; some of them are either involved with clear aim to benefit for their individual interest, or they are not interested to fight negative trends in Kosovo, which in both cases marks a terrible diplomatic international scandal, damaging the Vienna Convention of Diplomacy obligatory articles. Even worse, this could also mean that Diplomatic Missions are maintaining and assisting organized crime. Also it is possible that as we use to witness foreign ambassadors choosing easier ways to implement their foreign policy in relation to the interests of their countries by extorting politicians and institutional officials who are engaged in organized crime in Kosovo.

During July 2013 Kosovo Assembly became a temporary office to some foreign ambassadors who are appointed to Kosovo. According to several MPs, many foreign diplomats are alleged to be involved in blackmailing business with politicians, which perhaps were willing to push the approval of an amnesty law, which pardons all the crimes including political murders after the war in Kosovo until June 20th, 2013.

This situation poses an unprecedented international diplomatic scandal of all diplomatic missions in the country, because they are seriously violating the rule of law and the ‘constitutional’ morality of the Vienna Convention on the duties and responsibilities of diplomatic missions in countries with acts that establish friendly political and economic relations.

Additionally ‘Amnesty law’ comes in contradiction with EU preconditions strategy for enlargement which affects countries to fight impunity, this fact opens another path of allegations that senior officials, including the diplomatic mission of the EU rule of law mission (EULEX) in Kosovo are perhaps involved in crimes prohibited under the Vienna convention on diplomacy and its enlargement strategy, although foreign missionaries in Kosovo are not subject to the laws of Kosovo.

Therefore, heads of diplomacy of countries that have their diplomatic representations in Kosovo are strongly recommended to establish an independent body to launch investigations over the ambassadors who are accredited for diplomatic mission in Kosovo, which seems to have devalued missions by diplomatic values. Even so it is quite evident that the political mechanisms and ideologies that use religion to gain sympathy and popularity are growing day by day in the landlocked country immersed in crime. The immediate reaction is essential and remains as a fundamental need for human interests and European Union enlargement strategy by 2020.

 

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