Kosovo: Was Europe blind?

17 December 2010

Nicknamed "The Snake" when head of the KLA, Kosovo's PM Hashim Thaçi at a financial aid conference, Brussels, 2008.
Nicknamed "The Snake" when head of the KLA, Kosovo's PM Hashim Thaçi at a financial aid conference, Brussels, 2008.

The European Council report released on 15 December accusing Kosovo’s leadership of organ trafficking raises plenty of questions about the EU’s indulgent attitude towards prime minister Hashim Thaçi and former Albanian separatists.

In his report, Swiss senator Dick Marty, who gained fame for first revealing the existence of secret CIA prisons holding alleged terrorists, "accuses the prime minister and several government officials from the UÇK [KLA - Kosovo Liberation Army] of being directly responsible for organ trafficking", explains Le Monde. “Marty has identified six detention centres in Albania in which Kosovo Serbs or pro-Serb Albanians were held. These centres allegedly continued to operate even after the Serb surrender [following NATO bombardments] in June 1999". This situation, notes the French newspaper, "persisted until NATO deployed international forces. Once the prisoners were taken to Albania, they were tortured" – and their organs were removed, in some cases.

This is not the first time such accusations have been levelled at Thaçi and his henchmen, points out Le Monde: in her book The Hunt (2008), Carla del Ponte, former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, "already accused KLA members, who were leading the armed struggle against Serbia at the time, of extracting organs from nearly 300 captives held in Albania".

Kidnapped on orders from the prime minister of a European state?

"Is it possible? Is it possible that people could have been kidnapped on orders from the prime minister of a European state? That he had them murdered in order to extract organs from their dead bodies, e.g. kidneys for rich customers in Germany, Canada, Poland or Israel willing to shell out up to €45,000 for the deal?" asks the Tageszeitung (TAZ). "Is it possible that Hashim Thaçi, the prime minister of Kosovo, unanimously backed by Berlin, London, Paris and Washington, owes his political power to wealth he amassed in criminal activities?" At any rate, according to the Berlin daily, "Dick Marty’s report will heavily impact the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo that has been heralded with much pomp and circumstance in Brussels."

Indeed, explains the TAZ, "Not a single Serb would agree to sit down at the negotiating table with Thaçi. Without him, however, it will be virtually impossible to form a government in Pristina following the general elections on 12 December." Furthermore, "If Eulex, the EU mission in Kosovo, wants to remain credible, it will now have to conduct an impartial investigation into Thaçi & Co – which it has refrained from doing so far because a number of Albanian politicians are former guerrilla commanders and still have armed groups at their disposal.”

Everything about Thaçi’s criminal involvement puts the EU in the dock

So how will Brussels react? Hard to say: "In September 2010, the War Crimes section head for EULEX made statements that completely, or almost completely, contradict Dick Marty’s report", notes Le Temps. There was “no evidence”, according to Finnish police officer Matti Raatikainen, to corroborate the charges of organ trafficking made against Thaçi’s entourage, recalls the Swiss daily.

And yet, adds the paper, "The European Union knows that everything that emerges about Thaçi’s criminal involvement will put the EU in the dock. How can it then keep demanding that Belgrade arrest Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general still on the lam? Above all, how can it argue against those, like the young nationalist Kosovar politician Albin Kurti, who call for EULEX to get out after its shady concessions to the power elite?”

It is quite telling that the cabinet of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton reacted to Marty’s report by asking him “to furnish proof”, observes Le Temps, adding that “In truth, the EU hardly has any choice. Kosovo’s independence (which Spain, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Slovakia still won’t recognise), rubber-stamped by a joint agreement with the United States, has always been perceived in Brussels as a bitter pill to swallow on the road to the future integration of the Balkans.”

Translated by Eric Rosencrantz

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