Kosovo's 120-member parliament ratified on Friday (September 7th) an international tractate that extends the mandate of the EU rule of law mission, EULEX, for another two years, until 2014.
The vote was 97-11 with two abstentions. All parliamentary groups except for Vetevendosja supported the extension of EULEX mandate.
The agreement also includes the provisions for the international judges and prosecutors, permission for EULEX staff to hold weapons and guaranteeing the immunity of staff.
The agreement was reached first through an exchange of letters between Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.
Ashton's spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, told SETimes that the parliamentary vote ensures "a good domestic legal basis for the EULEX mission."
"The letter of invitation and the subsequent adoption by the Kosovo Assembly will be fully compatible with the Kosovo Constitution," Kocijancic said.
The Council of the EU unanimously approved the extension.
Dren Doli, a researcher for the Kosovo Group for Legal and Political Studies, said that the agreement shows that the EU does not want to enter into an international contractual agreement with Kosovo, mainly due to the status-neutral position vis-a-vis Kosovo.
"It is important to note that this model of communication, with regard to the post-supervised independence mandate of EULEX in Kosovo, reflects the status-neutral position as well as the informal communication regime that EU has applied towards the Republic of Kosovo," Doli told SETimes.
The EU said improving the rule of law remains a priority for Kosovo, and EULEX will remain committed to this area.
"We are pleased that we have now also have come to an understanding with the Kosovo authorities on a good domestic legal basis for the EULEX mission. This is important for the continuing partnership between the Kosovo Rule of Law institutions and EULEX and maybe even more important for the progressive improvement of the rule of law in Kosovo," Kocijancic told SETimes.
Doli said that although EULEX has been mostly "ineffective and powerless" in establishing the rule-of-law agenda, especially in the northern Kosovo, and "very passive" in terms of fighting corruption and crime all over Kosovo, it can still play a role to ensure that the delivery of justice by Kosovo courts, prosecution and police is supported by an external, professional and standards-driven mission.
"That said, an objective-based mandate … that will help both Kosovo and EU to measure the performance of EULEX is necessary to help increase the efficiency of EULEX .... Should this not be the case, there is no rationality for EULEX's presence in an unsupervised Kosovo," Doli told SETimes.
One of the biggest challenges for the mission remains northern Kosovo, where local Serbs that dominate the area and do not recognize Kosovo sovereignty, also oppose EULEX and accuse it of taking the side of Kosovo institutions. The mission does not have yet full freedom of movement in the north.
The EU decided to send a rule of law mission to Kosovo in 2008, immediately after the country proclaimed its independence.
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