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Kosovo's Plot Thickens

By Elizabeth Pond

Three German spooks are back home after a nine-day sojourn in a Kosovo prison, and a European rule-of-law mission named "EULEX" is now stationed in northern Kosovo after a nine-month vacuum there. Between them, the two events define the new landscape in the world's newest state.

Neither event is quite what it seems on the surface. The three German Intelligence Service (BND) fellows were jailed on the implausible charge that they had set off a bomb at the Pristina headquarters of the senior European Union official there. And, argues Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic implausibly, Serbia and the United Nations are finally allowing the EU's rule-of-law mission to deploy in Serb-majority northern Kosovo only because EULEX will be "neutral" on whether Kosovo is independent or is still a province of Serbia.

Below the surface, things look a lot more interesting. The first episode gives every sign of being a warning to the BND not to snoop on organized crime in Kosovo, which accounts for up to 80 percent of the heroin that enters Western Europe. And diplomatic fudge leaves enough ambiguity for Jeremic to fend off ultra-nationalist Serb critics by ignoring EULEX's explicit mandate to "supervise" Kosovo's conditional independence and guarantee the minority rights of the five percent of Serbs in this 90-percent Albanian country.

Even further below the surface, reality is at its most intriguing. It might seem odd for the Kosovars to single out the BND for unique humiliation; German, British, Italian, and American agents all spy on criminal gangs-and Berlin has long been a special patron of Kosovo, leading the EU drive to facilitate independence last February and giving Pristina more financial aid than does any other EU member. Yet, in internal reports that have leaked out to the public, the BND and the German military have indiscreetly fingered senior Kosovar politicians as being allied with traffickers. Hence the special satisfaction, perhaps, in daring to bite the German hand that feeds but criticizes Kosovo.

As for those EULEX rule-of-law teams, the first fact to note is that their long-delayed deployment in northern Kosovo infiltrates them into a hotbed of Serb mafias that profess ultranationalism but cooperate splendidly with Albanian smugglers south of the Ibar River. It was these mafias that recruited Serb mobs to burn down customs posts and chase UN officials out of the north when Kosovo declared its independence.

The second fact is that the new pro-European Serbian government shares the EU dislike of these Serb mafias, which were originally set up by the pro-Europeans' ultranationalist foes in Belgrade. The Serbian government is therefore quietly seeing to it that this time around, Serb mobs will not attack the new international officials. So don't judge the progress of Belgrade, the EU -- or the BND -- by the zero-sum rhetoric. Measure it instead by seeing how far their tacit win-win collaboration squeezes out the local mafiosi in 2009.

Center for Transatlantic Relations Senior Fellow Elizabeth Pond is the author of Endgame in the Balkans: Regime Change, European Style (2006).

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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Johns Hopkins University.

Comments (10)

Garak Author Profile Page:

The Serbs did nothing to the Kosavar Muslims that Israel didn't do to the Palestiniana. Dier Yassin was just a small part of the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestine. See "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" by Israeli Prof. Illan Pappe.

The Serbs' mistake was in not gaining control of the Western media to suppress the truth and spin disinformation. And in not successfully cloaking it in religion.

peggynine Author Profile Page:

It's amazing how whenever someone makes a comment and the Albanians don't agree with it, they claim it is propaganda.

Seems to me that only the Albanians are allowed to have an opinion and only the one which suits them. Everyone else is either uninformed or participating in some Serbian propaganda.

Some people just cant handle the truth.

tony_kos Author Profile Page:

This article is just clear propoganda very similar to Serbian lies and contributing the Kosovo bad image on the world.
The fact is that heroin traffic to Europe goes through Serbia and Serbian mafia together with croatian mafia are the best smuglers, because Serbia and Croatia are on the way to Europe.
Mr. Pond check out 400 milion euros stolen from international workers in Kosovo in "Die Welt" article.

asizk Author Profile Page:


Your racism is despicable:just what is wrong with a European Muslim democratic state?

The European Muslims have been severly victimised:genocide of Slavic European Bosnian Muslims and severe and brutal repression of Kosovo Muslim majority-both by the racist extremists murerous christian orthodox serbs.

"Civilized Europe's" rescue of the victimized always comes far too late:first the holocaust of the jews and more recently a holocaust of European Muslims-this time around a cold kind of holocaust.

Bosnians and Kosovens are just as European as any-they just happen to choose to be Muslim-an inherent right for any human being.

mentordosti Author Profile Page:

I can't believe WP publishes articles like these without prior verification. Basically in every state, regardless of its modest size when the foreign-spy agents bomb a building they get arrested and than their country of origin apologises. However, Kosovo is not treated with dignity and you can see that the spies have been released and there is no accounatibility. Journalists like Pond should defend and protect the small nations and states like Kosovo when they are unfairly treated and not critisize them even further just because they are poor. They still have dignity and they should be treated with respect. German Government aid provided to Kosovo is great, but if you do it to 'run' the country, than it is disrespectful.

warchild Author Profile Page:

80%? Oh come on. Such wild statements are tantamount to recycling of racist Serbian propaganda and throws into water the whole piece, for whatever it is worth.

In an area the size of Connecticut there are 17,500 NATO soldiers, 8,0000 Kosova cops, now 2,000 EU law and order officials and God knows how many Western intelligence agencies.

Here is a short version of a research paper that debunks the so called Albanian threat. Use it to fight this b.s.

Mikra Author Profile Page:

This is a poorly written piece of propaganda that tries to implicate Kosovo authorities into organized crime; and it's shocking that it can find its way into this respected forum. Much of what Pond says about the dynamics of politics in Kosovo, is just spewing outdated Serbian-style anti-Kosovo propaganda using the usually boring and dull arguments of trafficking and drugs. Things like 80% of heroin coming through Kosovo? Where on earth did you come up with this number?

edbyronadams Author Profile Page:

Be careful what you ask for. The Europeans asked for a Muslim majority nation on their back doorstep and now they have it.

Mifti Author Profile Page:

According to Pond, 80% of West Europe's heroin come's through Kosovo. This is a clear proof that she don't really knows a lot about Europe and Kosovo.

wimroffel Author Profile Page:

I don't agree with Pond that this is primarily about the mafia. For the EU it may be, allthough I have my doubts. I find it significant that US diplomats play a large role in EULEX. They have a history of befriending those mafia leaders and protecting them.

Also, I don't believe that the resistance of Serbia's government against the initial EULEX proposal was only out of worry about a nationalist reaction. EULEX initial mission was about implementing Ahtisaari's ethnic cleansing plan that would most probably have left Kosovo virtually Serb-free in a decade. Serbia had good reasons to protest against that.

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