The EU’s rule-of-law mission (EULEX), a civilian security and defense mission deploying around 1,600 EU police and judicial personnel in Kosovo, is facing serious credibility challenges after allegations of an EULEX judge taking bribes. ‘The reputation of the European Union on Kosovo is at stake’, S&D Group member of the European Parliament (EP) Tonino Picula said.
Last week EULEX prosecutor Maria Bamieh was quoted in a Kosovar newspaper, saying that the EULEX’s internal investigation is a ‘lie … a complete joke’ because key suspects are not being questioned and are still being allowed to work on sensitive cases. Among others, she accused former judge, Francesco Florit, of taking a 300,000 Euro bribe to clear a man accused of murder and seeking another bribe in a corruption case against a Kosovo government official. Florit denies the accusations.
The EUobserver reported that EP’s foreign affairs committee members were annoyed as two senior officials of the European External Action Service (EEAS) refused to give any details to the case while questioned in the EP on the grounds of ongoing investigation. The EP’s vice-president Ulrike Lunacek (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance) said that the allegation ‘cast a dark shadow’ on the reputation of EULEX and must be ‘duly investigated by an external and independent body and the reasons why she [Maria Bamieh] has been suspended must be clarified and immediately disclosed’. Meanwhile High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, stated that an independent legal expert will be appointed to review EULEX’s mandate implementation with special focus on the corruption allegation. In her statement Lunacek added that ‘Mogherini should clarify whether the rumours according to which former HoM [head of mission Bernd] Borchardt was aware of the investigations and withdrew because of this, in spite of his mandate being extended by then HR/VP [High Representative/Vice President Catherin] Ashton are true.’
Head of EULEX emphasized the fact that the allegations of corruption are being thoroughly investigated. “I reiterate that I have full confidence in the integrity and professionalism of my staff. The allegations put forward by Ms. Bamieh have been reviewed in full since 2013. These allegations contain, as you know, several names. As this is a criminal investigation, I do not want to dwell on which stage of proceedings each strand of the investigation is at. Hence I would ask you not to seek further answers on the specifics.