The office of the ICO is an a conundrum: it is tasked with a virtually unlimited but moribund mandate, yet with the primary mission of building viable institutions of a young independent state. Its mission has evolved from the close relationship with the Kosovo state institutions that saw through the implementation of the majority of the Ahtisaari Plan to the second part which saw a deterioration of the relationship between the two partners as the ICO became more vocal and less willing to oblige their hosts who were facing a series of internal scandals and Ahtisaari fatigue that limited their actions, but also political conscience about the later by the ICO and willingness to allow more national ownership.
In this blog post I will not discuss the integration of the north, which has been the largest failure of the ICO, its part of the Ahtisaari bargain which for the most part it has miserably failed to deliver.
Increasingly, the effectiveness of the ICO is being reduced as it finds itself between a rock and a hard place. And finally Andrea Cappusela, the formed head of the ICO economics unit, has come out as a strong public critic of the failures of ICO and its chief, Pieter Feith.
Ironically, the public role that Cappusela has played, no matter how embarrassing for the mission, has served as a great example of the role foreign missions should play in Kosovo. Too often, their communication with the Kosovars is only done as a PR exercise to win good will from the local population rather than educating the public and explaining their positions. (As an illustration,, the European Commission Liaison Office to Kosovo does not even translate into Albanian the annual progress report which it writes on potential candidate states yet this report is held against Kosovo citizens and government officials alike when denying progress.) This distance and indirect communication along with actions behind the scenes creates a belief among the population that the ICO is not willing to act, even as they did so behind the scenes (perhaps to minimize their role in the eyes of the public), or that when it acted it did not act in the public’s interest. This role behind the scenes — deus ex machina – is hardly a contribution to the feeling of empowerment of the citizens and is much hurting the brittle democracy. Moreover, the unused capacity to effect change for the good, especially when dealing with corruption, is understood by the population as international missions cooperating with the corrupt national government officials, willing to maintain the status quo for the sake of stability or using their authority to gain political concessions in relation to Serbia while tolerating corruption at the helm.
Another interesting episode that builds towards my conclusions is the interesting power play that developed between the IMF and the Government of Kosovo, with the latter reneging on a fiscal responsibility agreement and the earlier duly suspending contractual relations until a later review date.
Capussela, whose aim was as much the national leadership as the international one, and the IMF episode created a new model which should be used for the remainder of the internationals missions´ mandate and thereafter in relationship with Kosovo.
Politically executive, corrective mandate of these missions should be ended immediately. Maintaining these mandates as some sort of Damocles sword over the local politicians without the will to use them in all cases makes these missions as much responsible for the outcomes as the elected politicians. Furthermore, the current arrangement goes against such noble principles as democracy and accountability which ironically the same missions are trying to establish in Kosovo. And although the ICR Pieter Feith has not exercises his mandate as much as he could have, the mere existence of it creates both bad feelings and actual negative outcomes which should go away if he gives up on his corrective authority.
Here’s the alternative. The ICO should continue with the same monitoring and mentoring authority, especially on the sensitive issues such as the police, a part of which increasingly seems to be used against the vocal opposition, the build up and transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into a proper defense force, the budget planning, and financial and fiscal stability. While positions in the boards should be kept, all executive authority and voting power should be removed.
Instead of striving to maintain the close relationships with the Kosovo Government officials as they have done so far, ICO officers should report publicly on the market of ideas where the government stands, where it has gone bad and what position does it think it should take educating the voter about the failures through the extraordinary insight they get as insiders, which the common citizens or opposition parties do not have. In parallel, normal mechanisms designed for normal countries from the likes of the IMF, World Bank and EU aid and integration process should be used to ‘correct’ Kosovo’s path. Ironically, although Capussela was informed and tried to challenge the damning PTK-DARDAFON.net contract which I discussed here, which led to bad relations between the PTK and the ICO, the deal went through while we learned about Capussela´s unsuccessful position only when he publicly opened up once his term expired and once a criminal investigation was opened into the PTK management almost three years later – three years too late. This is a sad outcome that can be avoided with a clear alternative.