EU anti-fraud investigators should examine bribery and corruption allegations in Kosovo
Urgent consideration should be given to bringing in the European Union's Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) to take over the investigation of alleged bribery, complicity to evade criminal charges and threats against journalists by officials in the EU's 'EULEX' rule of law mission in Kosovo, according to Richard Howitt MEP, foreign affairs spokesperson for the S&D Group in the European Parliament.
"A failure to do so could trigger a parliamentary inquiry into the allegations", he said.
Richard Howitt MEP also questioned the apparent failure to apply whistleblower protection procedures, after the British official reported to have brought the allegations forward was suspended from duty.
The S&D spokesperson made his comments during an interview today (Tuesday 4 November) on Kosovo's leading station, Radio Dukagjini, following a meeting of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee which questioned senior EU officials responsible for Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and from the European External Action Service (EEAS) about the allegations.
On behalf of the S&D Group, Richard Howitt MEP backed proposals for the foreign affairs committee to submit further written questions about the investigation into the allegations, leaving open the possibility of a parliamentary inquiry if the committee does not receive immediate and satisfactory answers.
Richard Howitt MEP said:
"We have a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption and the European Parliament is sending a message that any possible corrupt and criminal activity in this case must be dealt with severely.
"If allegations of corruption come forward, they have to be dealt with fully, fairly and satisfactorily and, as it stands today, I can't say hand on heart that I believe that that has yet been done.
"EULEX has done a lot and we want it to do more, not less, but their credibility and Europe's is at stake.
"The test for the EU is not simply about whether any corrupt act has taken place, it's about how the allegations are dealt with, whether they're properly investigated and whether those responsible – if evidence is found – are then prosecuted and held to account.
"If judicial proceedings take place in Kosovo itself, they should have the support of those of us in Brussels.
"In this case, I and many of my MEP colleagues feel the investigation has taken too long and that the current attention on it may only be because these issues have appeared in the media.
"I'm also concerned that there is an alleged whistleblower, who happens to be a national of my own country, the United Kingdom, and that rules for the protection of whistleblowers appear not to have been properly applied.
"Threats against independent journalists doing their job are also absolutely contrary to Europe's commitment to free expression. If shown to have taken place, the officials responsible should have no role in Europe's service at any level and should be dismissed.
"I've spoken directly today to Federica Mogherini, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, security and defence. I know that she is personally exercised by these reports and is giving high political priority to supporting the investigation and ensuring full transparency for its outcome. She has my Group's support and I believe that is the way to maintain the confidence of the Kosovan people – a confidence which we all want."