Ambasador Delawie’s Interview with Kosovo Law Institute for RTK

Ambasador Delawie’s Interview with Kosovo Law Institute for RTK, December 13, 2016

KLI: Dear Ambassador, thank you for your time, for having this interview.

Ambassador Delawie: It’s great to be here, thank you very much.

KLI: Thank you. Mr. Ambassador, last week we had Anti-Corruption Week financed by your Embassy. We saw a mobilization of civil society, foreign embassies and also partners that support Kosovo in the rule of law and in the fight against corruption. We saw also, last week, numerous activities that have been organized. How do you see this? How do you assess? What next?

Ambassador Delawie: Last week was absolutely a terrific week, and we are very pleased with the results of Anti-Corruption Week. Just our Embassy sponsored about 25 different events, and  of course our NGO partners and other people in Kosovo did another couple dozen. We were very pleased with the way things went. We are also very happy that the coalition of NGOs was able to come together and to figure out some joint strategy, so how to make progress on corruption, and that was a positive sign as well. The thing now is to keep the energy. My friend, Ambassador Jan Braathu, Head of the OSCE Office, said the other day that every day needs to be anti-corruption day. And that would be ideal. We had a great week but we can’t forget, we have to keep going, we have to convert some of these terrific ideas and words into actual action that would improve the corruption situation in Kosovo. I can tell you the United States remains committed to this issue and we are looking forward to seeing concrete progress on things like fiscal transparency, and electronic procurement is an important part of that; accountability, better accountability for judges and for prosecutors; an updated anti-corruption strategy that has real benchmarks and goals that can be measured and tracked. I think the main thing for people to recognize is that change on this has to come, has to be driven by the citizens of Kosovo. Change has to come from within. Now, we are going to do everything we can to support but really change has to come from the citizens of Kosovo.

KLI: You are almost for 2 years as a U.S. Ambassador in Kosovo. When you came in Kosovo your 3 priorities were also rule of law and fight against corruption. What is your assessment with regard to the fight against corruption in Kosovo? Politicians are proclaiming that corruption is only perception. Also, Prosecution Office last week, during the Anti-Corruption Week, stated that corruption is not in the measure in which is proclaimed in media. What is your assessment on this?

Ambassador Delawie: There is no country that is free of corruption, including the United States and I think it is important to recognize there is a problem here. We had dozens of people who were arrested for selling public property several months ago. That’s a real corruption-type crime. There are credible surveys of Kosovo citizens that indicate they believe that corruption is a serious problem. To a certain extent perception and reality can merge and become the same, especially if you are thinking of economics. Whereas if you are an investor, whether a domestic or foreign investor, and you think corruption is a problem, you will be reluctant to invest. Perception and reality, they have to be dealt with. The best way to get at perception is to deal with the reality. No matter how much a country does about corruption there is always more to do. As long as you have people, you have a tiny percentage that are involved in corruption. There is always more work, even for the countries at the very top of the Transparency International list.

KLI: Besides that the United States is supporting rule of law in fighting corruption, still lack of results. What do you think, when the situation can change and who should take the lead to change the current situation and fight the corruption?

Ambassador Delawie: It’s important to build momentum and for people to work together, and civil society to work together with government to a certain extent, with regular people who care about this issue. I’d have to disagree that there are no results; I mean there are some results. We have had several senior government officials that resigned when they were indicted for abuse of office, we had several parliamentarians who resigned when they were indicted for abuse of office, we had dozens of people indicted in the Stent case, we had dozens of people indicted and arrested for the sale of public property case. It’s important to acknowledge progress when it happens.

KLI: When we can see judgments?  

Delawie: Well, you have to arrest people before you can indict them, you have to indict them before you can prosecute them, you have to prosecute them before you can convict them. You have to start somewhere, and you know we just have to keep following all these cases. Civil society needs to do corruption monitoring and I know KLI and others are doing that and that’s very important. And we are going to do our part, absolutely, we are supporting things like electronic procurement, we are doing training for judges and prosecutors and we are supporting codes of conduct for things like ethics. We are trying to make the best contribution we can. But, when will it change, you asked. It is going to change gradually, it is not going to change like that [snaps] I’m afraid. It will change when people say enough.

KLI: Presently was published also the Country Report of Kosovo. How do you see the recommendations and the inputs of such report?

Ambassador Delawie: This is the EU Country Report I think you are talking about? Yes, I agree with an awful lot. I think it was a very good report. There are a couple things that stood out for me in the rule of law area, and one of the things they recommended was additional work by the Government of Kosovo on asset forfeiture and confiscation of illegally acquired assets. That’s important. They also pointed out the importance of the reform of the Office of Disciplinary Council, which deals with allegations of misconduct by prosecutors and judges. Certainly we agree with that. I think once again it is important to point out when positive things happen. The Report also talked about improvements in dealing with violent extremism and terrorism cases. It is very important to acknowledge the good work of the Kosovo rule of law institutions. This report was written before the Albanian soccer game incident and it was still very positive. I think the Albanian soccer game incident, or potential incident, really demonstrated the capabilities of the Kosovo police and rule of law institutions to do good work.

KLI: Political influence in the judiciary system is emphasized in almost all local and international reports. How is politics influencing in the judiciary? We saw also that politics are not providing enough budget and resources for the judiciary.

Ambassador Delawie: There are kind of two main streams here that I think we need to talk about. One is visible influence in the judiciary and the other is invisible influence. Visible influence in the judiciary is where members of government or other officials say that a court or judge should make such and such decision or should not make such and such decision. Now visible at least you can see, you can react to. Invisible influence of the judiciary is more insidious because you don’t necessarily see it. And that is where people use personal or financial or some other means to influence the outcome of a case. Both of these are really bad, of course. The judiciary has to be independent of politicians. That is one of the fundamental tenets of democracy. But we also have to recognize that the judiciary and prosecutors, they have to perform according to the law too. And that gets back to what I was talking to you a minute ago about, the importance of reforming the Office of Disciplinary Council. Because misconduct has to be dealt with even if it is by a judge or a prosecutor.

KLI: Ambassador, Kosovo Law Institute monitors the corruption cases in almost all Basic Courts all over Kosovo. Based on the indictments that Kosovo Institute monitors, it seems that the government in Kosovo is pretty much corrupted. How do you assess this fact?

Ambassador Delawie: I have to say I would not go that far at all. I think there are a lot of Kosovo government officials who are trying to do their best to implement the law the way it is written and are operating in an honest way. I think it is pretty clear that the Kosovo Police is the most respected law enforcement agency in the Balkans. I think it is clear that the Kosovo Customs Service, which collects the vast majority of revenues disposed of by the Kosovo Government instituted a variety of procedures under the former director general that demonstrate no visible corruption. And this is the agency that collects over a billion Euros a year for the Kosovo government to spend. It is important to recognize things like that are happening. So no, everything is not corrupt. Now there are serious problems. Absolutely. And I am glad that KLI is monitoring basically all the courts across Kosovo and is producing clear recommendations. I certainly call on government and others to take seriously the recommendations that KLI and other non-governmental organizations produce. It is important to continue the dialogue, to continue working with civil society and government to try to improve the issues.

KLI: There have been no lack of policies in the judicial system [inaudible] for fighting criminality or corruption. However, such policies have not been implemented by judges and prosecutors. We saw that Kosovo Judicial Council and Kosovo Prosecutorial Council, unfortunately, they are somehow consistently violating the law while [inaudible] their functions. In the meantime, we saw that in KPC we have another who has an expired mandate. What is your message for citizens from these two very important institutions?

Ambassador Delawie: I can’t comment on whether anyone in particular is violating the law. That is not my role. But I certainly think the KPC and the KJC have an extremely important role to play in promoting rule of law in Kosovo. They have to demonstrate the best possible behavior. They have to deal with misconduct issues. They have to make their decisions in a fair, transparent and relatively predictable way, and they have got to recognize the example they set for the whole rest of the rule of law system in Kosovo and to behave accordingly.

KLI: The transparency and accountability of both Councils, how can it be improved in practice? We saw that the Ministry of Justice is in the process of amending the law and disciplinary proceedings. Do you think this can increase transparency and accountability of both Councils, judges and prosecutors?

Ambassador Delawie: I think amending the law of the Disciplinary Council is extremely important. I understand the Ministry of Justice is rolling out some draft amendments to that law this week. We certainly support that, there needs to be positive change there. I think it is also important for the Councils to operate in an absolutely transparent way and to demonstrate by their actions to the citizens of Kosovo that they are working on their behalf.

KLI: We can change the discussion now a bit. We saw last week that Kosovo and Serbia finalized, that they concluded the agreement, the integration in the north into the Kosovo system. What is your opinion regarding this agreement? We saw in the past that many of them have not been implemented in practice.

Ambassador Delawie: I am very optimistic about this agreement, it actually took a long time to get here and there have been interim steps along the way that had to be executed and they were executed. Starting I think January 10, will open a new chapter of integration for Kosovo Serbs into the whole judiciary picture in Kosovo. I see this as very positive, both from providing a consistent level of rule of law support throughout Kosovo’s territory which is clearly desirable, but also it is a key element of extending Kosovo’s sovereignty over its entire territory, which I regard as being very important.

KLI: The Special Court is already expected to file the first indictments. There have been many comments that this will cause a disturbance in the politics of Kosovo. How do you see the work of the court and the effects in Kosovo?

Ambassador Delawie: I think the court and what comes from it are going to be very important steps for Kosovo on its path to full integration into European structures, which I said numerous times is my goal for Kosovo. I have full confidence in the ability of the Court to render justice for crimes committed during the war period in a fair, responsible manner. I have met the Chief Prosecutor who happens to be an American citizen and he seems like a very professional, serious person, and he has explained very well I think what his goals and objectives are going to be in a variety of public statements.

KLI: Demarcation with Montenegro is one of the criteria for visa liberalization between Kosovo and the EU. There is a status quo in this process. What should government, Kosovo Assembly should do to proceed in this process?

Ambassador Delawie: I think it is important to recognize that the draft agreement with Montenegro basically codifies the border that has existed between Kosovo and Montenegro since 1974. It is the line that is referred to in the Constitution of Kosovo, so it is the right agreement. I realize that there are people that disagree with me, but it is the right agreement. As you said, the EU has made ratification of this agreement a condition of visa liberalization. I certainly support the ability of Kosovo to integrate into European institutions and have this ability to travel if the EU allows it, it is not my decision of course. But I think the Parliament should endorse this agreement, should ratify it. I would certainly encourage Kosovo’s citizens to talk with their Parliamentarians and explain to them how important it is for them to fulfill the EU’s conditions.

KLI: Ambassador, what is your final message for politicians with regard to independence of the judiciary- Kosovo Judicial Council and the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council?

Ambassador Delawie: I think the key thing to recognize is there is no magic wand for solving corruption in Kosovo or in any country. If I had one, believe me, I would use it. What has to happen is, we have to push in six or ten different directions at once using all the tools available and we all have to work together on this. We are certainly doing our part, as I’ve explained. You are doing your part in monitoring and other activities. Civil society needs to continue to play a role and citizens need to continue to demand improvements regarding corruption. Last week we really turned up the volume I think, twenty-five events we did, events that others did, they were terrific. As we approach the new year and holidays, there is a risk people will kind of forget the energy. And please, don’t forget the energy. We have to keep going on this. It is so important for Kosovo’s future that we see improvements in this sector. The United States remains committed to rule of law and to anti-corruption, and I am convinced there is plenty of room for positive change. I’m not giving up on Kosovo and I hope the citizens of Kosovo don’t give up either.

KLI: Ambassador, thank you very much for your time. We hope that Kosovo citizens and politicians take your message.

Ambassador Delawie: You are quite welcome. Thank you very much.