Observers say a lack of political and judicial will is allowing corruption to erode the current Kosovo government.
By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 17/07/12
Corruption charges erupted not only amid high-ranking government officials, but also on the municipal level in Kosovo. [Reuters]
Despite Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's promise to have a zero-tolerance policy for corruption, the government headed by his Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) continues to be beset by allegations of wrongdoing.
In the most recent case, the EULEX prosecutor charged Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi and ten other officials with corruption on July 6th, accusing Bukoshi of abusing his authority, duty performance, tax evasion, and obstructing evidence while serving as health minister in 2010. The other suspects are either current or former health ministry officials.
Bukoshi claimed innocence, but resigned two days later. Thaci publicly thanked him "for undertaking this act [resignation] in respecting the law…and allowing justice to be done."
Thaci has declared a willingness to fight corruption. "We have committed ourselves to the motto, 'zero tolerance on corruption and organised crime,'" he said in a televised interview in March. "I am convinced we will achieve success and win this battle over evil."
But the results have been slow in coming, even reaching this year the head of the Anti-Corruption task force, Nazmi Mustafi, who was arrested this year on corruption charges.
In another well-known case, the head of Kosovo's Agency of Privatisation, Dino Asanaj, was fatally stabbed last month while under criminal investigation for allegedly seeking a bribe. Many are sceptical of the government's ruling that the death was a suicide because the autopsy showed that he sustained 11 knife wounds.
Corruption allegations have reached the local level. Xhabir Zharku, mayor of Kacanik, from Thaci's party, was sentenced to three years in jail on May 10th. Ramadan Muja, mayor of Prizren, is facing abuse of office charges.
Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci told SETimes that the cases show that the rule of law is working in Kosovo. "The rule of law and justice should take over regardless of the government [position]," he said.
But Avni Zogiani, the head of the anti-corruption organisation Cohu, said Thaci has shown little leadership in opposing corruption outside his public statements.
"[The] current government has had so many officials charged and sentenced on corruption charges, abuse of office, that it should have completely resigned long ago," Zogiani told SETimes.
Lumir Abdixhiku, executive director of Riinvest Institute in Pristina, said no one expects preventive anti-corruption measures from those that create it. He told SETimes the fight against corruption in Kosovo is far more rhetorical than political or judicial.
"Even when a corruption charge is made, we don't see a political class distancing themselves from the public," Abdixhiku told SETimes.
Merita Mustafa, manager at the Kosovo Democratic Institute, said that the real fight against corruption is lacking mainly because of political will, and that only "sporadically government gets involved in corruption," she told SETimes.
She said a lack of judicial independence, a lack of appropriate anti-corruption laws and political party finances contribute to corruption in the state. "For the stall on all of this there is, unfortunately, only one institution to blame – the government," Mustafa said.