Prime Minister, Mob Boss
A new report says Kosovo's leader is involved in drug dealing and organ smuggling. Why don't Kosovars care?
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Kosovo, the youngest country in the world (it declared independence on Feb. 17, 2008), is still flush with newborn national pride, which could explain the lack of response to the Council of Europe's allegations. The 2008 U.N. report notes that Kosovo's position in the World Bank's rule of law rankings is the lowest in the Balkans, while popular satisfaction with the government is the highest in the region.
Internationally, however, the response could be more damaging. The European Union maintains a "Rule of Law Mission" in Kosovo, charged with combating organized crime. A representative says that the organization will be reading the council's report closely. "If they have got chapter and verse … then obviously we would like to hear from them more formally so that we can deal with it," the mission's deputy head, Andy Sparkes, told Reuters.
The Council of Europe report notes that Thaci was emboldened by his support from the West, which considered him its favored interlocutor in Kosovo:
The Western countries that engaged themselves in Kosovo had refrained from a direct intervention on the ground, preferring recourse to air strikes, and had thus taken on the KLA as their indispensable ally for ground operations. The international actors chose to turn a blind eye to the war crimes of the KLA, placing a premium instead on achieving some degree of short-term stability. In effect the new Kosovo has been built on the existing structures of the Kosovar Albanian homeland movement. It follows that the successive international administrations put in place, as well as the US Government, which is generally regarded as playing an important role in the affairs of the new Kosovo, have had to maintain good relations with their de facto allies on the ground, as the latter have become the new masters of the local political scene. This situation ... has ultimately foiled the prospect of our getting to the bottom of the crimes committed.
Sparkes' desire to "deal" with this situation notwithstanding, the influence of the European Union and United States in Kosovo is declining as Kosovo's government consolidates its independence after nearly a decade of U.N. rule. The E.U. Rule of Law Mission is one of the few remaining international institutions with any authority in Kosovo, and it is increasingly unpopular among Kosovars.
On Sunday, Kosovo held its first post-independence general election, and Thaci's party won handily. The West helped create the situation in Kosovo today. And now it looks like it may be stuck with it.
Joshua Kucera is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.
Photograph of Hachim Thaci by Alex Wong/Getty Images.