Part 1: Report from "Unmikistan" (Kosovo) , Land of the Future
This is what he screamed. I don't know what made him think of Katanga.
But where are we? The policeman who can't change gears is from Pakistan, it says so on his shirt. But the airport where I landed is Icelandic. And as we travel down the main street named after Bill Clinton (his portrait waves to you from the walls of the houses), the mobile phone beeps wishing me a nice stay in Monaco. At the next stoplight it beeps again. This time I am welcome to Serbia.
If I had not known where I had traveled , if someone had just dumped me here, would I have been able to figure out where I had landed? Probably not. The fire escape instructions at the Grand Hotel are written in many languages, but not in the one that the cleaner speaks.
That is still a piece of information. Because in this country, natives are not meant to stay in hotels.
But if you were woken up in the early morning from a terrible screeching noise, and at first you thought it came from a rusty caterpillar tank, then you would probably realize where you were. Behind the hotel window there is a tumbling black cloud. It dives, it turns and suddenly throws itself to the side. The famous jackdaws of Pristina. Once upon a time the province of Kosovo was named after its thrushes. Now the crow birds have taken over. They say it is because of the carcasses.
"Revolution", says Albin Kurti, emptying his cappuccino in one gulp, "we are going to make a revolution". When he has said this for the third time people in the coffee shop start turning our way. They recognize him, they observe with expressionless eyes but prick up their ears.
He does not look like a revolutionary. More like an over-aged student from Berkeley. Somewhat chubby from hours spent at the computer, glasses, pale skin, soft white hands. But appearances can be deceptive. Albin Kurti is the idol of the young and that says a lot in a country where every second person has yet to turn 25. Ten years ago he had a Rastafarian hairdo and led the student protests against Milosevic. When peaceful actions turned out to be pointless he became a translator and an ideologue with UCK, the armed guerilla.
He already has enough followers to poster the whole country with the word "Vetëvendosje", ("self-determination", which is also the name of his movement). Few people doubt that he could get the masses on to the streets.
Albin Kurti assures me that this revolution will be peaceful. One hundred thousand people will surround the headquarters, the police station and the court. They will stay as long as it takes. For a week, or maybe a month. That is how the colonial power will be chased out, this power that partitions his land, plunders its people and destroys its women. If I want to see where the Kosovo money went, says Kurti, I should look for newly built exuberant villas in London. Or in Amsterdam. If I want to learn about the morals of the colonial power I should count the number of brothels. "They were not here before you came."
Outside jeeps pass by. The diesel-fuelled electric generators growl while Kurti quotes UN declarations, Malcolm X and African nationalist leaders. "Self-determination is the right of all peoples!" It could have been Congo in the sixties. But as I said we are in Kosovo, within a stone's throw from Rome. And the colonial power, which will be thrown out - dear reader - is you and I. That is to say Sweden, one of the most dedicated members of the UN, who for seven years has governed Kosovo or in local slang "Unmikistan", after UNMIK: United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.
When the UN landed almost eight years ago we were welcomed as liberators. Since then Swedes have been wounded and killed in this mission. More then eight billion crowns of taxpayers money (the biggest assistance per capita ever recorded) has been spent on security, rule of law, refugee help, education and economic development. But nowadays it actually happens that people spit in our faces or destroy our cars. In October there was a water closet placed outside the UNMIK headquarters inviting us to relieve ourselves there instead of in the country. "The only way to keep Kosovo clean is to kick you out of here" was Albin Kurtis message.
What does Albin Kurti want? Talking to me he is polite, diversified and sophisticated. He even quotes the French psycho-analyst Jacques Lacan. In his leaflets he is more brutal: The disloyal Serbs, they're the fifth columnists. They say they only want their churches left in peace but we know what they are scheming."
Statements like these are well received in these neighbourhoods where "stranger" almost always meant "enemy" and peaceful actions usually led nowhere.
Someone says that Kurti wants to become the Gustav Vasa of Kosovo. Or their Garibaldi: get his statue in the town square and his name in the schoolbooks. Many are those in the spring of 2007 who compete for that honour. To be the founder of the state, the man who by decisiveness, shrewdness or violence wins the freedom for a humiliated people. "We do not want the UN Mission in Kosovo, we want the Kosovo Mission in the UN!" Kurti cries out. An adventurer? Maybe. But the wrath against the UN on which he is riding he did not invent himself.
I read in a UN bulletin with the revealing title "Early warning report" that only thirty percent of the Kosovans have faith in the UN. Four years ago that figure was double. Every second person is prepared to take part in organized protests against the world community. Is that only because the UN hasnt been able to give them the state they so intensely desire?
As a farewell gift Albin Kurti gives me a leaflet. It is the instructions for my own escape. "Ten Commandments of Evacuation" is bitter reading for a friend of the UN. "Don't forget your pictures of the SRSG and Kofi Annan...Don't use the elevator, there might be a power cut, remember?...Don't try to bring any locals with you and don't worry about their safety while you are escaping. Look after yourself only, exactly as you did during your mission here...Last but not least - don't ever forget Kosovo since you will never experience another mission like this where you could do whatever you pleased."
Before we part Kurti says: "Do you remember Algeria? The guys who threw out the French had "freedom, equality, brotherhood" on their banners. We will throw out the UN in the name of the UN ideals, ideals which you betrayed in Kosovo."
I actually came to Kosovo because of the ideals. And I thought there could be no better lookout if you wanted to see into the future.
The mission in Kosovo is not only the biggest in the history of the UN. It is the first one where the international community takes full responsibility for a country where more or less everything is in ruins. So this time we do not just secure the peace and pump drinking water - we build a whole new order from zero: We implement legislation, educate policemen, decide on one-way streets, work out curricula, and collect taxes. In short, the worlds first UN state, provisional but complete with all good principles, from equality before the law to gender equality to give way rules in traffic, and all this can be brought home to people without impediments and then be gradually handed over to a local democracy.
There are many who hope that humanitarian interventions will create a better world order because nowadays it is not despotic states but collapsed states which bring the most suffering to the world. An intervention in Congo eight years ago could have saved millions of lives. The one in Kosovo no doubt saved tens of thousands, thus it was justified. But what happened to the second task, the creation of the UN state, honesty, justice and democracy?
If we are to believe Albin Kurti, it all went to hell.
Maybe he just wants to paint a black picture of the UN? He is a revolutionary, he needs his enemies. But then again there is Maria, a Swedish expert who went to Kosovo, a UN enthusiast, who returned home with a depression: "My view of the world crumbled into little pieces. I lost trust. I could never believe that UN personnel would behave the way they did."
So how did they behave? Let's start with the effects.
I count the number of waiters at the coffee shop in the Grand Hotel. Like a flock of melancholy jackdaws they sit on window sills and around the bar. There are twenty-one of them. So it is quite natural that the only guest has to wait for a while to be discovered. He hardly makes any difference.
According to statistics these twenty-one waiters are part of the one half of the population that has a job. The same goes for the guys at the 660 petrol stations where people seldom stop to fill up the tank. In the UN-state there is one petrol station for every six kilometres, a fantastic record, which tells us that many of these companies do not actually deal in fuel only, but - like the hotels -launder money from the smuggling of narcotics, arms and sex slaves.
Well into the eighth year of the UN mission, after spending close to twenty-two billion euros on an area the size of Scania (with a population of about 2 million), the black economy is thriving whereas the white one is close to collapse. There is a standard explanation to this misery: As long as Kosovo's independence from Serbia is not confirmed, nobody dares to invest in the country. Very probable. But what investments do you need to grow cucumber?
I comb the markets to find some local produce. The soap is from Bulgaria, the shirts from Taiwan. How about the flour? Czech. Drinking water from Hungary. Kosovo's GNP per capita is lower than Rwanda's, so it is a surrealistic feeling to have to buy tomatoes from Turkey and salad from Italy - in an agrarian country where the fields lie fallow.
Why do they? Because, explains Mr. Bajrami at the Chamber of Commerce, it pays better to sell chewing gum to the UN staff than to toil in the fields. But also because the UN courts after seven years still have not managed to determine to whom the fields actually belong. Finally, what makes him most upset is the fact that the UN allows Europe to dump prices on food in Kosovo. (Yes, it is strange. One litre of milk travelling from Slovakia gets cheaper on its way. You can buy a bottle of imported Coca-Cola for only 29 cents.)
When I think about it, the driver who cried "Katanga!" was not so wrong after all. The economy of Kosovo is a reminder of the colonial times. But at least the Africans had their raw materials to give in exchange for sewing machines. Kosovo does not even have that because the mines (lead, zinc, silver) lie unexploited. It may be a symbol of the situation that Kosovo literally survives on ruins. The main export product happens to be scrap iron. But it only covers one percent of the import.
How is it possible, you ask yourself, that a UN-run state, possessing enough lignite to light up the whole of Balkans, who invested seven hundred million euros in its two power stations, has not managed to generate sufficient electricity, but instead create pollution 70 times above the limit permitted by the EU? Kosovo does not require much electricity, somewhere between 600 and 1,000 megawatts, similar to what is produced by one reactor of the Forsmark nuclear power plant. But most people have electricity only a few hours a day, others not at all.
I will not overwhelm the reader with more statistics. Let me just give you a handful of scenarios from the UN country which highlight the nature of the problems and the level of desperation: An EU cow in France is subsidized with three euros a day while every second Kosovan lives on the third of that amount. And he already knows that next year will not be better. If he gets robbed, chances are slim that the perpetrator will be found, despite Kosovo having the highest police force per capita in Europe. If he claims his right to a piece of land, the court shrugs its shoulders (There are 30,000 cases pending in Kosovos courts). If he falls sick the hospital will require that he brings his own syringes and bandages. If she happens to be a Roma or a Serb her house might be burnt down - while NATO soldiers stand watching.
Yes, this has happened, more than once. An unforgivable failure but, alas, not at all incomprehensible.
I have spent months studying what went wrong with this mission only to find that there was a faster way: Chose a head of a local municipality in Sweden or in Scotland, show her this UN-state, the rules, the hierarchies, the salary lists, the managers, everything - and then ask her if she could run Nyköping that way. "Unthinkable," she will answer, "unless you want to invite a band of hooligans to take over town."
For sure there is no easy explanation to the debacle, but there is a pattern, a kind of ghostly method behind the madness. My articles try to find the name of this method.
It is hard to make a past performance evaluation of UN missions because they are so volatile. The international community has a gigantic body but a memory shorter than Vänsjö's fishing club. Responsible persons are continuously replaced, reports are forgotten, you keep looking to the future with last year already long forgotten history. Kosovo is a shining exception to this rule. For the first time there is more information about the mistakes committed than what one would maybe like to know. Gratifyingly enough it is two Swedish makings that have made this difference.
The first one is called Inga-Britt Ahlenius. In November 2003 when she had grown too independent to the taste of the Persson government, she accepted the assignment to establish an Auditor General Office in Kosovo. The second phenomenon is called Ombudsman, an institution created by the Swedish Parliament in 1809. Kofi Annan thought that this institution could be useful in Kosovo to supervise the UN. But nobody could imagine that the person tasked with this mission would take it so seriously.
Among the first things Inga-Britt undertook in Kosovo was to produce framed sign boards with the text: "Kurrë mos harroni se një cent...", which means: "Never forget that every cent wasted from the taxpayer's money is stealing from the poor. Gustav Möller (1884-1970), Swedish minister of social affairs."
Thereafter, together with the European anti-fraud organization OLAF, she set out to scrutinize Kosovo's international airport. They thought that would take six months but it ended up taking more than two years.
In the spring of 2006, Ahlenius (who by now had been appointed head of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, OIOS) published the summary of the findings at the airport, which resulted in a tumult within the UN. The report showed that a group of managers at the airport had consistently been plundering the company for years. Corruption and mismanagement were "systematic" but could go on unpunished because top UN leaders in Kosovo had not created efficient control routines and had failed to take action against fraud and corruption: the Kosovo governor had received 33 reports on irregularities but most of those remained in his desk drawer.
Inga-Britt Ahlenius warned that if the UN continued to ignore corruption the whole mission could be jeopardized: "The reluctance by senior Mission management to address fraud and corruption will have a devastating impact on public perception inside and outside Kosovo..."
Locals in Kosovo had suspected this for a long time. The rot at Pristina airport was a serial in the local press: bribes for visas, bribes to get a job, money disappearing, nepotism. But now, finally, there would be a real clean up, right?
Here comes the sequel. Governor Jessen-Petersen counter-attacks. There is no corruption worth mentioning at the airport, he states, the report is unfounded, it is a waste of time continuing to discuss this. In fact the airport is a well-run company, you could even call it a success story. Jessen-Petersen is content with having implemented only 21 out of the 74 audit recommendations.
Let's take a look at what Jessen-Petersen considered unnecessary to judicially proceed against or even to speak about.
The traffic volume at Pristina airport today is similar to the one in Luleå, a small community in Sweden. While Luleå runs the business with some 100 people there are more than 500 employees at Pristina airport. The staffing grew to that level while Jessen-Petersen was governor. At an early stage he received a report (377/04) spelling out the possible reasons behind this increase. He in turn did nothing. I spent six months fighting to extract this secret document from UN in New York. It is scantily worded and all names are erased. But with some effort and the brave support from scouts in Kosovo the story can be reconstructed.
The airport needs a manager for Human Resources. According to UN rules the vacancy must be publicly announced. The British director Ioan Woollett, however, prefers to engage an acquaintance, let's call him Smith. A feverish activity starts. During the summer of 2004 Smith employs on average three persons a day. Some of them do not know English, lack all kind of education but are supposed to strengthen the finance department. Strikingly beautiful women, witnesses report. In fact, some of them won beauty contests.
After four months the number of staff has been doubled, from 235 to 486 persons. That's about 200 more than needed. By then Mr. Smith has already left Kosovo (to serve the world community in Sudan). Mr. Woollett later escaped from the UN state. Nobody knows how much money these two men managed to export but it should amount to hundreds of thousands of euros. The bribe fee to get employed at the airport varied between one and three thousand euros. But attractive women could pay by providing Mr. Wollett with "intimate services", according to sources in Pristina. Apart from the two Brits around ten local employees were involved in this trade.
Let's look at the stakes. Next to ethnic hatred, corruption is Kosovos biggest problem. It drains the economy and dilutes justice. But a handful of brave individuals chose to do exactly what the UN have told them to. They defy clan culture ("never tell on your kinsman") and take big risks by agreeing to give evidence to the investigators. (One person has been murdered in connection with this bribery business. The kind of risks the used women are running I need not tell.) They deserve all admiration and support.
But what a misunderstanding. It seems the villains are the ones enjoying protection by the UN.
You have to say that the persons who put their trust in the UN learned a lesson they will never forget.
What was to be found on the other scale? Was Jessen-Petersen and his staff threatened by the mafia? At least that would have been dramatic. But Im afraid something much pettier was at stake.
Jessen-Petersen was the fifth governor of Kosovo in as many years.
(It is incomprehensible, but apparently the UN believes that the building of a state can be entrusted to temporary deputies.) How does a foreign governor reason with himself knowing that he will stay maybe for a year and a half as he already aims for more honourable assignments? Does he call people to account for their actions when necessary, does he sack corrupt colleagues who might have powerful friends in New York? Does he risk negative exposure in the press? Or is it better to report about progress?
In the spring of 2005, after about six months in Kosovo, Jessen-Petersen aspires to be appointed head of UNHCR, the most prominent defender of refugee rights. That spring Jessen-Petersen rejects all eleven proposals from UNs own audit institution OIOS to deal with the corruption. (Proposal nine, as an example, states that employment should be based on formal merits.)
His report to the UN Security Council the same summer has very little to do with the actual situation in the province. But as a promotional document for Mr. Peterson himself it is a masterpiece.
Yes, Mr. Jo Trutschler is a well-known person in Kosovo. He is the senior manager of the energy company KEK, which is the subject of many complaints for all too frequent power cuts. The telephone company contacts Mr. Trutschler. "This is not my bill", he says. "But you have been living in Mrs Hisaris house and the calls were made to Germany". "I know nothing about that". Trutschler does not concede even when he is confronted with the fact that the phone calls were made to his own home number in Bochum. He is not going to pay, and thats the end of it!
Mrs Hisari is seventy years old, a widow, and with no income. I have not been able to determine the exact salary of Jo Trutschler at the time of this event, but it is around 20,000 euros a month. Donor money. The Swedish aid agency, SIDA, supports the company where he is chairman of the board, the European Union pays his salary, and all this under the mandate of the UN, who came to Kosovo to guarantee justice, security and human rights.
So Mrs Hisari does not give up. She writes to UNMIK. So sorry, replies UNMIK, but we are not responsible for what our staff does in private. Then Mrs Hisari files a complaint against the German at the local court in Pristina. She does not have much of a choice since the bill is for DM 6,900, about one and a half annual Albanian salary.
Alas, answers the court, our jurisdiction does not cover Mr. Trutschler. You see he is working for the UN and thus enjoys immunity in Kosovo. So he can escape justice and run away from un-paid bills? Yes, so it seems...well, actually his immunity can be lifted. By Kofi Annan. But, seriously Mrs Hisari, you can't expect us to bother him with a little bill?
This incident took place in 2001. Six years later the UN is about to leave Kosovo. Their mission to build a law-abiding state is considered more or less accomplished. Kofi Annan has finished his mandate. Mrs Hisaris phone is still dead. Her firm belief nowadays is that the UN is a gang of robbers.
I have come to know that Mrs. Hisari shares her experience with too many others. This could explain why youngsters cordon off the UN Headquarters building with a ribbon that says "Crime scene - do not trespass". The source of their bitterness I intend to describe in my next article. But first, let's follow Mr. Trutschler a few more steps along the way.
There are a few UN bosses above him. The vice-governor of Kosovo, Andy Bearpark, is one of them. Doesn't he care about the UN's reputation? When the German brings shame on the mission (Hisari's bill is a serial in the press) why doesn't the UN just tell him to pay? Or reconsider if he is the right person to handle billions of aid money?
Yes, why? With hindsight you feel that this question should have been answered by a prosecutor. As a matter of fact, two years later Mr. Trutschler leaves Kosovo. And with him 4,3 million dollars, transferred to his mailbox company in Gibraltar.
When the UN auditors in New York (OIOS) try to reconstruct what actually happened they find out that the man who managed the most crisis- ridden company in Kosovo for two years lacked all qualifications for the task. His CV was forged. He wasn't an engineer, or an economist. He had not studied in Boston or in Florida and he never took a doctor's degree in Aachen. He did not have ten years of relevant business experience. (How could he possibly have managed all of that at the age of just 33?). In reality Jo Trutschler was a German small-time swindler with a couple of mailbox companies.
If you want to understand why Kosovo, after almost eight years of UN-rule and some ten billions in aid money, remains in such a bad shape you should study the Trutschler affair in detail. How did he get the job? The OIOS discovers that nobody double-checked his CV. Why not? The OIOS does not answer that question.
On the other hand UN auditors discover that Trutschler paid a good round sum of money to his successor. Money that the UN man from Canada accepted. He has no explanation to this peculiar transaction. It was a private gift, he answers when the auditors suddenly begin to ask questions. Really, 200.000 dollars, for nothing? "Well no, as a matter of fact, Mr. Trutschler loved my daughter's voice. This was a contribution to her singing career."
Let's stop the film for a while. The UN has not yet caught Mr Trutschler the thief. but has already recruited another unbelievable person in his place. Is this pure coincidence?
When the UN auditors draw their conclusions they borrow an expression from James Bond. UNMIK had equipped Trutschler with a licence to steal", they write. All normal scrutiny was disabled and the audit was a joke. High officials were vested with virtually unchecked authority, but were never called to account for their actions.
The diagnosis published in 2003 was alarming and was confirmed soon thereafter. Without ado the persons who employed Trutschler were able to leave the UN country with excellent recommendations and a considerable fortune in their pockets. Vice-Governor Andy Bearpark, who never took action against the German, was even entrusted with the reconstruction of Iraq.
Not even Jo Trutschler was brought to justice in Kosovo. That he was punished at all was pure coincidence. Justice in Germany got their claws into Trutschler when they discovered that he purported to be a doctor! A German doctor! For that foul deed and for other cases of criminal deception he got 42 months in prison.
UNMIK was also tried in the verdict. "The clear lack of control mechanisms" it says, makes it easy for people without specific qualifications to get positions they would not have been able to find elsewhere. It is often enough to know someone who knows someone else, and so on..." So, considering that an open box of treasure makes the thief bolder, the court deliberated upon a verdict somewhat more lenient for Trutschler.
"Those who do not leave Kosovo with their pockets full of money are either dumb or saints" says Y.
"Kosovo is a rubbish heap for lethargic politicians and an El Dorado for thieves" says X. Some steal openly, impudent as children. Soon they will probably pull their trousers down and defecate in the street" says N.
"I have participated in quite a few UN missions but none as rotten as this one" says Z.
These four individuals come from different countries and have (or had) central positions in UNMIK. But no one had a better insight than Marie Fucci, in 2003-2004 head of the Kosovo Trust Agency, the umbrella organization responsible for public and socially owned enterprises.
The man in the street is worse off today than when the UN or the Western diplomats arrived, bringing amounts of money hitherto in Kosovo," Fucci says.
"The beneficiaries of donor support, who should have been the population, were instead the local mafias, some in local government, and cowardly and incompetent international administrators, who never ran anything in their lives but scared."
Large sums of taxpayers' money have been wasted on activities that have nothing to do with re-invigorating the Kosovar economy but with lining the pockets of the nomenclature of Kosovo and the UN, Fucci maintains.
She re-calls that half her working days were spent dealing with anti-corruption agencies, most of them not too competent either." Until she became persona non grata.
Marie Fucci blames the UN, but adds that it was not the only agency responsible. "If it weren't for the large flow of money from donors like the EU and USAID, financed by their countries' tax-payers with minimal accountability, much of the corruption would not have been possible."
"Corruption" is a relative concept. It was not until I had really dug deep into some real cases that I began to understand the depth of the damage. I cannot depict this understanding by stapling adjectives. So please be patient. Here comes The tale of the seven robbers or as many methods to plunder Kosovo. Some are well known, others I have tracked down myself.
The first profiteer we will call Bo Olsson. He is of the modest kind and frequently found. In his native country, he was perhaps an ordinary office clerk. In Kosovo he emerges as an international top consultant at the telephone company PTK. As a matter of fact the position should have been publicly announced. "But I knew an Albanian in Bangkok who knew the Austrian boss in Pristina", explains Bo Olsson. And what did he do in Kosovo? "Gave advise on how to organize and then I helped formulating some job vacancies."
"He was not worth even a third of his salary" they tell me at his work place. Thats for sure. His salary was some 11,000 euros a month. How, could you guess? Oh, yes. It was determined by marauder number two:
Her name is Lema Xheme. She belongs to the category of local talents who have been appointed company managers by UNMIK. Since she is Albanian her salary as manager is set according to local level, 1,000 euros a month, but nothing prevents her from hiring personal advisers" from abroad at ten times that amount. She brings in half a dozen, says Olsson. Dear reader, you have most probably already seen through the plan. Correct: When Mrs Xheme and Mr. Olsson both end up in custody (on suspicion of corruption) she can deposit a bail of fifty thousand euros, but he can't.
How many Olssons are there in Kosovo? Inga-Britt Ahlenius, head of the UN audit in New York, has investigated the UNs methods of hiring staff. Between the years 2003 and 2005 there were 403,792 applications for 1,758 positions in the UN. This means 229 applicants per job. According to UN regulations the candidate's abilities shall be tested in stages. A very detailed study of the UN mission in Uganda shows that six out of ten vacancies are filled up the Bo Olsson way: the person gets the job by knowing someone, with no double check on formal merits and without the vacancy having been announced.
The third kind of marauder is related to the previous two but is more impudent. More environmentally adapted, you could say. His name is Gavin Jeffery and he is the managing director of the same phone company PTK. Bypassing the finance manager without further ado he engages an acquaintance from London. The latter stays for nine months, mostly plays poker on the internet according to his colleagues, and enjoys 16,000 euros a month, plus an office car, plus - yes, it's true - an extra sum to be able to rent a car during weekends! (I did not think this was true until I saw the contract with my own eyes). Is it rude of me to remind you that the budget this money comes from is also the source for supporting the one million Kosovans living on less than 78 cents a day?
The fourth kind of marauder goes for larger preys so he is willing to run some risks. Like the Briton Roger Reynolds, another UN boss within the same company PTK. He finds a partner called Norway Invest and pays three hundred thousand euros up front to its owner Owe Johansen for a promised contract. A contract that could be worth up to ten million& It is said that Norway Invest will extend the emergency phone network. Thereafter Reynolds says thank you UN for the confidence placed in me and goes on to work for the Norwegian company where he enjoys a salary of 20,000 euros a month - of Kosovo money appropriated by himself.
Hey! Can you really do that? the Kosovo press clamours. Oh yes, it is perfectly all right, says Vice-Governor Andy Bearpark. There is no conflict of interest in this.
Now might be the be time to cheer you up a bit: Not everything is black in Kosovo. Even in the most evil tales there are good fairies. In Kosovo the fairies speak Italian and drive Alfa Romeos. And what luck, they actually arrive in time. One morning two black cars halt at Norway Invest and eight sad individuals step out. They (policemen from Guardia di Financa) need an hour or so to find out that this director Johansen, who for more than a year has been negotiating a gigantic contract with the UN, is not even allowed to run a sausage stall in Norway. He is a criminal, is not allowed to run a business, with liabilities of more than one hundred thousand euros and a little asset of three euros. Exit Johansen. But Kosovo never recovers the three hundred thousand.
When corruption is the size of six digits (in euros) it is local. When it grows to seven digits then the UN is involved" claims Albin Kurti, leader of the youth movement Vetëvendosje, who threatens to run the UN out of Kosovo.
Unfortunately he is right. As an example: for the assignment to improve the miserable energy supply in Kosovo, the UN entrusts the Irish company ESB International. The electricity company KEK makes a loss of 70 million euros a year, delivers five to six power cuts a day and manages to charge for every second kilowatt only. The Irish stay for three years, collect some 10 million euros in consultancy fees and leave KEK in about the same shape as when they arrived. No, Kosovo cant complain. In the secret contract there was nothing about enhanced performance. ESB got paid for&being there.
This contract is disloyalty to principal" says a lawyer. The principal is the people of Kosovo, he claims. And the disloyalty is brought about by the United Nations, who forced this contract through and then prolonged it in spite of protests from the locals. My friend the lawyer is a melancholy man. In his dreams he sees two black Alfa Romeos outside the UN headquarters. But he knows that will not happen.
And, I think to myself, nor will the Icelandic Government ever be held responsible. The Icelanders are plundering the airport" warns a UN economist in a letter to OLAF (European Anti-fraud institute). Yes, they do, and with the silent consent of the UN bosses.
It is said that pure charity was the reason why ICAA (Icelandic Civil Aviation Authority) gracefully undertook to supervise Pristina airport.
Someone has to do that too. Kosovo is not formally a state and hence not allowed to run an international airport. Apart from lending its licence, the ICAA is contracted to polish the airport working routines, supervise the activities and upgrade the airfield, all to get it duly licensed. How kind, such solidarity... But after a while locals start asking why the benefactors never finish. How long can it take to put up a fence around the airport? Six months? After three years it still hasn't been fixed.
What locals do not know is that the Icelanders have no reason to hurry. They have already cashed in close to 15 million euros in consultancy fees and daily allowances. And they will get more. (The amount corresponds to a quarter of the countrys health care budget). The secret contract between the UN and Iceland does not state any deadline for the ICAA. The contract is prolonged one year at a time. In addition, Iceland levies extra charges on procurements provided. Each time the airport orders a computer system or a consultancy work is arranged, an extra 15 percent rattles into the cash box in Reykjavik.
Once upon a time the world was easier to understand. Italians were corrupt while Scandinavians stood for honesty. But in Kosovo, "the Viking mafia" is a concept that stands for Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic profiteers. And local Kosovans pray to Allah that some day the incorruptible Italians will catch them.
The most prominent marauder in Kosovo's black tale is also not the one it should be. It is a democratic state, France, under the socialist leader Lionel Jospin.
In the summer of 1999, as soon as it is clear that the UN will intervene in Kosovo and that a French minister (Bernard Kouchner) will head the mission, the French government sets up a special commission, Mission interministérielle pour lEurope du Sud-Est (MIESE). Mission: to avoid a repetition of Bosnia. In those days French aid amounted to 17 percent of the total assistance, with only five percent returned in the form of contracts for French companies. This time, money shall be made to flow the other way.
France will give with one hand and take back with the other", the commission determines. But there is no time to lose, you have to be the first to arrive at these "bingo markets" where "everything is excessively priced because of the emergency."
With the blessing of the French Government, the big companies are allowed to dress up their officers in the reserve as KFOR soldiers with the straight forward purpose of fencing in areas of interest and establishing "informal contacts". You have to build good-will, so don't hesitate to give a humanitarian helping hand once in a while. Yes, that is what is written. "Pour se faire une place et jouer les éclaireurs, elles n'ont souvent pas hésité à donner un coup de main humanitaire." Makes you envy the clarity of the French language.
MIESE makes sure that all available channels are exploited within the UN, EU and the World Bank, so that the mission will favour French companies. It is about formulating the procurement needs the correct way. (Unlike in Bosnia where UN launched a tender for mine clearance with dogs, not considering that the French military does not use dogs!)
And look! What a fantastic success! After three years France is in 13th place as donor country (far after Sweden) but has won more than 30 percent of the UNMIK contracts. Lets look at an example of what they did.
When Bernard Kouchner lands in Kosovo in the summer of 1999 there is no mobile telecommunication. German Siemens and French Alcatel submit one offer each. A panel of local experts select Siemens. The offer is the cheapest and it is not colonial. At a fixed lump sum the Germans promise to build a network for Kosovo. The French offer says the network would remain French property and the country code of Monaco would be utilized.
What happens? Bernard Kouchner, Kosovos legislator, head of government and head of justice, all in one person, replaces the UNMIK director of post and telecommunications, an Albanian, with a certain Pascal Copin, who in turn awards the contract to Alcatel. It is the only feasible solution, claims Copin, because only Alcatel (in a collaboration with Monaco Telecom) can provide Kosovo, not a formal state, with a country code.
Result: Seven years later Kosovo boasts the worst and most expensive telephone system in the region, concludes the European Council. Yet every time a Kosovan lifts the receiver, money rattles into French and Monegasque bank accounts, and we are not talking about small money. Close to a hundred million euros over the years, more than Swedens annual aid to Kosovo.
Well paid, you must admit, for lending a country code (0377) and for some ancillary services. But why, a naïve Swede might ask, he who thought he was helping Kosovo and not France, why couldn't UN arrange a country code for Kosovo? When the ITU, which issues country codes, is a UN organ? Kosovans were the first to ask this question. In 2002 they got the answer. They found a letter from UN man Copin to the ITU board. In the letter he asks ITU not to issue a country code for Kosovo.
Bedri Rama, at the time head of PTK, wrote an open letter to the UN. How am I going to explain to aid organizations that donate money for the basic needs of Kosovo that Kosovo assets at the same time disappear to Monaco? he asked.
"How can we explain this to different donors from whom we are seeking help for the elementary things in Kosovo's everyday life? How can we explain this to pensioners, to the many unemployed, to teachers, to professors and to our doctors who live on the edge of existence?"
An impossible question. If someone thinks that the corruption in Kosovo has grown to bizarre proportions, he should bear in mind that the human being is an animal that adapts to its environment. These Trutschlers and Johansens would not have been able to carry on the way they did unless the UN had created an adequate biotope. Because in Kosovo they were privileged in a way that not even monarchs of the Middle Ages could have dreamt about. This is the theme of the next article.
Part 3: Complain in Azerbaijan
The custom from the peasant country fits well in the capital of Kosovo. To get to Mrs Xhezide Zogjani you have to wade through mud, waste oil and kitchen refuse. If you're not careful you can disappear down a sewer. (A sewer lid weighs some 20 kilos and scrap iron is the main export product). Safely arrived at Mrs Zogjani's in the range of concrete houses, the parquetry floor is well polished, the tablecloths dazzlingly white and napkins starched. And lemonade.
Shortly thereafter she was dismissed, after 29 years at the railway. The company needed slimming. But why her? "Look here," Zogjani shows a diploma for "particularly deserving worker". But she was the only woman in her department. And in the other departments it was the same. Inexperienced men could stay while well-merited women were sacked. That's how 19 women at UNMIK Railways realized that they were being discriminated. Watch out SIDA, here comes the receipt for the assistance work: They join forces and demand to have their dismissals tried in court.
They are turned down. They find out that if they had been discriminated by a private company the court could examine their complaint. But, alas, the railway is part of the UN: It's UNMIK Railways. And the UN, informs the court, enjoys legal immunity in Kosovo. So you cannot question the decision. It is irrevocable.
Xhezide Zogjani did not believe her ears, she says. She had just been taught by the UN that she should not accept to be discriminated. Also that "in the determination of his civil rights and obligations (...), everyone is entitled to a fair (...) hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal..." Now she learnt that the principles that UN teaches are valid for everybody - except the UN itself! Could this really be true?
Yes, it is true. It's unbelievable, devastating for the UN mission in Kosovo, but perfectly true. There are only two places in Europe where citizens cannot claim their rights either locally or in court in Strasbourg: Belarus is the first, the UN state Kosovo is the second.
Before we try to understand how it came to be this way, let's first try to experience how it feels.
There are 17,000 soldiers in the Kosovo Forces (KFOR). They are run by NATO which in turn operates under the UN umbrella. So it happens one day that the soldiers catch sight of a suspicious car. Maybe there is cocaine hidden inside or is it stolen? They bring it in for investigation. No, it turns out to be clean. But when the owner, lets call him Paloka, shows up to get his car at KFOR it is gone. Yes, it seems it has been stolen, comment the soldiers who might be from Azerbaijan. "Bad luck, friend." Compensation? No, there is no use in complaining at the UN, they are not responsible for the military. And forget NATO, they do not answer for the national units. So where shall Paloka turn to claim his right? To the Department of Defence in Azerbaijan. Unless the responsible officer that night was from Turkey. Then it's Ankara. Good luck!
KFOR is made up of units from 36 countries, among them Rumania, Morocco and Mongolia. I leave the rest to the reader's fantasy.
I have not spoken to Mr. Paloka, so we can just imagine how he felt. But I have met the customs official Bedri Shabani. It is heart-piercing to listen to this huge man telling his tale with the intonation of a child who has lost its faith.
Bedri Shabani did exactly what the UN wants Kosovans to do. He broke the Albanian pattern. When he discovered that several of his bosses within the Customs Service had been bribed by smugglers, he collected evidence and went to the UN police. "I had five kilos of documents." Time passed, nothing happened. Then he turned to the press. This was brave, close to stupid, because in Kosovo you can get shot for less. But look - a breakthrough! The head of Customs is arrested! But released shortly thereafter - by order of a UN judge. The Albanian prosecutor protested, saying he had been run over, and accused the UN of sabotaging justice. But people in the streets shrugged their shoulders. They had recognized the Albanian pattern.
By coincidence it so happened that Kosovo's governor at the time, the German diplomat Michael Steiner, was intimate with a daughter of one of the Customs bosses, himself the best friend of the arrested. No harm in love you may think (they married later). But to whom shall Bedri Shabani complain now, when his governor made himself challengeable? He writes to Kofi Annan. He shows me the letter. It's like in the fairy tales. The confiding subject carries his complaint about the governor to the Emperor and in simple words asks him to do justice.
So far it wasn't a catastrophe perhaps. We cannot know who had done wrong. It is not until this moment that the inconceivable happens. Shabani is sacked from Customs. It was an unforgivable breach of duty, the UN claims, to write to Kofi Annan. Not at all, retorts the court in Pristina where Shabani appealed. Kofi Annan exerts supreme power over Kosovo and you can complain to him, Shabani used his freedom of expression. The dismissal is void.
Encouraging, isn't it? First Shabani, father of six who risks his life, and then these Albanian lawyers who have studied their human rights. You are almost led to believe that the UN had started to make progress.
I would rather not have had to summarize UNMIK's reaction to the verdict. The most adequate is: Take your human rights and shove them up your ass! We do as we wish here.
Too crude? Well, put it this way then: Three years have passed since the court declared the dismissal of Shabani illegal. But he is still out of work. The head of UNMIK Customs refuses to obey the court that the UN has appointed and that passes verdicts based on UN legislation. And there is nobody who can force him.
I am telling this story in such detail because it is typical. There are thousands of Zogjanis and Shabanis in Kosovo to whom the UN represents lawlessness and lost illusions. If you want to understand how it could go this far you should look up a white house with a Swedish sign-board on the roof. "Was ist das?" you ask your driver. "Das ist Hilfe!" he shines up. (What is that? It means help!)
As a Swede your heart warms up. "Ombudsperson" it says. ("Ombudsman" was too male for the UN, they stick to zero tolerance when it comes to sign-boards.) The "Ombudsman", which we shall insist on calling him, copied from the Swedish institution Solicitor-General, is the only institution in Kosovo where citizens can file their complaints against the authorities. Through the years thousands have done so. All of them got answers and some were proven right. But the most humiliated victims the Ombudsman could not help.
Marek Antoni Nowicki, an international lawyer with roots in the Polish human rights movement, claims to understand the bitterness towards the UN after working five years as Ombudsman in Kosovo. "It shows clearly in my reports." In these reports we can read that in Kosovo the UN itself is behind most crimes against human rights. But against the UN itself there is no justice to be had.
"From a legal point of view Kosovo is the black hole of Europe", says Nowicki. "Or like a novel by Kafka. The UN arrives to defend human rights - and at the same time deprives people of all legal means to claim these rights".
The deprivation took place on the 18th of August 2000. That day the UN Governor accorded legal immunity (also retroactive) to the mission. All UN institutions in Kosovo, including their employees, and their soldiers, all in all maybe 60,000 persons, were placed above the law. They could not be sued, prosecuted, arrested or even interrogated by a local legal body - or by any other body for that matter (except soldiers who could be prosecuted by their respective governments). Only in cases where UN staff committed a serious crime could the immunity be lifted - by Kofi Annan alone.
Nowicki says that the decision was illegal, illogic and fateful. Illegal because it was violating the European Convention on Human Rights. "There is no right to a fair hearing" - article 6- if those in power are above the law." Illogic because the aim of the immunity was to protect UN-people from intoxicated policemen in Afghanistan or Islamic courts in Sudan. But in Kosovo? There the UN represents the one and only power. They manage the police, they write the laws and they appoint judges. "What actually happened in Kosovo was that the supreme power made itself immune to itself. It no longer had to follow its own laws".
I ask Nowicki if the UN maybe thought all UN-workers were angels. The immunity not only rendered the Kosovans impotent, it also got in the way of UNMIK's attempts to shape up their own staff. "I do not think they thought much at all," answers Nowicki.
Consequently I ask Hans Corell how he thought. In those days he was UN's chief of justice in New York, he approved the immunity. Was it really wise to make UN Customs and all other institutions immune to the UN justice?
Hans Corell sounds amazed. "What are you saying! Of course not." Such an interpretation, says Corell, is abusing the immunity. It is not even meant to protect a policeman driving drunk as driving drunk is not part of the mission. So what does he have to say about the director (my previous article) who ran away unpunished from his telephone bill? "That was not at all the way the immunity was supposed to be applied!"
No, evidently not. But that is the way it was applied, clearly demonstrated in the reports from the Ombudsman. The power put itself beyond reach of justice. It should be an urgent task for UN lawyers to find out how this twisted interpretation came about.
In the seventies some social experiments in USA and Italy (Milgram, Zimbardo) were carried out to see what happens to people when they are granted unrestricted power over others. Some had to be interrupted - it got too horrid. You could say that Kosovo is such an experiment, unconscientiously irresponsible but full-scale. What effect it had on the Kosovans can be deduced from the number of burnt out UN cars. But what does it tell us about us, about our democracies?
That they are very brittle, I'm afraid. That perhaps they are less built on the conviction in every man's heart and much more on the behaviour of the flock, the institutions and the fear of sanctions. When immunity lifted the risk of sanctions, when pressure from the flock was weakened, far away in the Balkans, it took only a few months for reliable democrats from Copenhagen and Paris to throw away their principles, one after the other: Habeas corpus, (no one shall be imprisoned without verdict), the independence of the judges, equality before the law.
The Kosovans were not particularly law-abiding in 1999, but they did not get any nicer by being treated like Hottentots during seven years. Show me a Swede that would accept to abide by laws only available in French. Look at the level of colonial arrogance: In Kosovo, where one in five does not know how to read, where there are power cuts all the time, the UN make some of their laws available only in English. Or only on the internet. If a court protests it's of little avail, because in UN land, judges are subordinated to the governor, who removes them if he wants to and ignores verdicts when it suits him.
A famous gangster is arrested. But he is popular, regarded as a freedom hero by some. Unpleasant, there could be protests... So UNMIK orders the prosecutor to release the culprit. It would not have been possible in Hungary, but in Kosovo it is possible. Or the other way around: A court (with international UN prosecutors) decides to release an arrested person for lack of evidence. But the governor wants him behind bars, (maybe a wish from the CIA?). So he orders the prison wards to disregard the court order. It would not have been possible in India, but under the UN umbrella it is possible. It is called "executive orders" to keep people locked up without trial and without the right to appeal.
In November 2005 Alvaro Gil-Robles from the Commission for Human Rights of the European Council sounded the alarm bells in Le Monde. Could it possibly be the case that there is a Guantanamo in Europe? Si senor, there is. Its name is Bondsteel, an American military base on the border to Macedonia, where prisoners in orange coloured overalls just like in Cuba are kept for an indefinite period, without trial, lawyer or verdict. Because the UN Governor believes they might be terrorists. The Ombudsperson Nowicki, like Amnesty and others, moved heaven and earth in protest against these encroachments. But where could they complain? Above George Bush there is at least the Supreme Court. Above the UN Governor there is nothing.
"Is this what you mean by all people having equal value?" Fatmir in Pristina asks. On the photo you can see men leaving a building. "Those are judges" Fatmir explains, "they just convicted a mafia boss. Very unusual in Kosovo and a health hazard. Look! The one to the left is a Briton, surrounded by his bodyguards. They follow him to the car which is bullet proof. They will keep watch over him even when he sleeps. The Briton earns thirty times more than the two to the right, local judges. They take the biggest risks, they have their families here. But they are left without protection."
What can I say but gnash my teeth? Of all the mistakes made by the UN the most unforgivable is that the few people standing up to fight corruption and mafia have been totally let down. "UN betrayed many of the brightest, most idealistic people in Kosovo in favour of the most thuggish" write two former UN workers, Whit Mason and Ian King. "The use of arbitrary detentions by the executive and the rejection of lawful court orders set a precedent that the UN may come to deeply regret because such moves undermine the democratic objective of developing an independent and strong judiciary", writes the Canadian judge David Marshall, who was a Kosovo observer on behalf of OSCE.
How come so little of all of this has been written about during seven long years? A possible answer could be that it has taken me almost six months to collect reliable information for these articles.
How do you go about finding out what the "Claims Office" in Pristina actually deals with? They say it is a place where Kosovans can lodge their complaints if a UN car crashes into theirs. How many complain? How are they received? You report to a guard at the UN headquarters outside town. The place is crowded with five young people dressed in blue UNMIK t-shirts. Maybe they used to study medicine or economy, now they are guards for the UN at triple the salary of a university professor. No, Im not allowed inside. So I call the boss of this claims office. She directs me to her boss, but that person is not allowed to talk to the press either. He directs me to the UNMIK press office.
It is about five kilometres away. It says that the office is manned seven days a week, but nobody opens a Tuesday afternoon at three oclock. I call the five different numbers posted on the door, no answer. I walk to an internet café, wait for the power to come back and send an email to a certain Gyorgy Kakuk, on top of the list. After two days, still no answer. I bang the door again and - lo and behold - a human being! Hi, Im Jeff Bieley", says the American while waiving to a bowing native to put his lunch tray on the table.
No, UN has not received a letter from Dagens Nyheter. "Did you write to Mr Kakuk? Ha, ha, he quit ages ago. What are you saying, is he put as person in charge?"
No, Mr Bieley cannot put me in contact with the Claims Office. I am allowed to put some questions to him and the answers will be channelled through him. It will take a week, maximum. And questions for clarification? Three days, no more. "How long are you staying in Kosovo?"
Out of the 6,000 UN officers (international and locals) there are only three who are allowed to talk to the press, explains Jeff Bieley. All the others go through him. OK, I say, here are my questions. "No, you have to send your questions by email". In Kosovo, where half the population enjoys only three hours of power per day? Mr. Bieley shrugs his shoulders indicating that the meeting is over.
I sent my questions to firstname.lastname@example.org on the 24th of October last year. Im still waiting for a reply.
It could be that the UN lawyers did not understand what they did when they subdued Kosovo courts and muzzled their own people. But others understood better. After seven years of experimenting, Kosovo is the European centre for women and drugs trafficking.
So think of that when you see this Balkan people on TV, throwing stones, burning UN cars and carrying on. New York will inform you that they were offered the best of Western democracy, but they were not clever enough to receive it.
Its not true. They were offered scrapings. Why this happened I will try to understand in the final article.
Part 4: Prowess, courage and plastic socks
Not until he starts describing how he and the other soldiers started thanking each other for what they had been through do I realize what he is trying to tell me. Negative thoughts to this sergeant from Gotland means they would not survive the night. "Hard to focus" means "scared to death". But he does not express himself that way. In Mickes vocabulary you dont even walk. You regroup.
Micke has participated in the battle of Caglavica, which took place on the 17th of March 2004. I guess the reader never heard about it. Nor had I until I came to Kosovo.
Strange, because realizing what was at stake it must have been Sweden's most important armed intervention since maybe a hundred years. And even more remarkable since it was carried out by bakers, carpenters and other voluntaries, that day under the command of an officer who did not obey orders.
That is already reason enough to tell this story. There are more: On that same day the UN-led peace keeping forces met with the biggest rebuff since Srebrenica. In the presence of 17,000 NATO troops and 4,000 UN police Albanian hooligans fell upon their minorities. 900 people were wounded, 19 died, some thirty churches were destroyed, 700 houses burnt down, 4,500 put to flight.
"I do not understand this", says Hans Håkansson, lieutenant-colonel from Gotland. "To defend the monastery in Prizren - it must be a soldier's wet dream! Ravines on all sides, a river, one small narrow bridge. Give me twenty men and I will hold it against a thousand. So, what happened?"
Yes, what happened? When two hundred Albanian extremists, armed with Molotov cocktails reached the 16th century monastery they sent out a negotiator with a white flag. He informed the German KFOR soldiers that not a hair would be touched on their helmets if only they moved aside and let them burn in peace. If they remained in place they would face death. So, the Germans rolled away their armoured vehicles and then watched the monastery burning from afar.
"They obeyed their orders" explained their general, Holger Kammerhoff. According to "Rules of engagement", which everybody carried a copy of in his pocket, they were supposed to protect lives. But there was no mention if they were allowed to use force to protect a building. Result: At the end of the day no German soldier had suffered the tiniest scratch. But most of what they were supposed to protect was burnt to the ground.
The same thing happened to what was under French protection: the monastery in Drenica and all the Serb houses in Svinjare.
That day Hans Håkansson had 700 men under his command. Mostly Swedes, but also Czech, Finnish, Slovak and Irish troops. They mobilized in such a hurry that they forgot to bring both maps and water. Thousands of Albanians were on the march towards the Serb enclaves Caglavica and Gracanica with its famous monastery. They carried iron bars, stones, some weapons, and rugs drenched in petrol rapped around long poles. (Thats the way you burn down houses in Kosovo. Smash the window and set fire.)
Håkansson lined up his men outside the village, there was no other choice. They got the same proposal as the Germans. "Get out of our way!" They answered no. Then they stood on line and held back. "It was a medieval battle" an observer noted. Truncheon against pole and shield against steel chain, seven hundred against ten thousand who attacked in waves. For how long would they be able to stand their ground? Maybe an hour, thought Håkansson. You could forget about reinforcements because that day the whole of Kosovo was on fire. Soon the whole Swedish camp was empty of people. "Everybody who could walk or crawl, people from the kitchen and from the repair shop who had never handled a truncheon before". No one gave them orders, they came of their own accord. They fought for two hours, four, six...they could not drink, they fainted from dehydration, they wet themselves, they got arms and legs broken and heard bullets whistling above their heads. But they fought for eleven hours non-stop. Until darkness fell and the aggressors got tired.
Thirty-five soldiers were wounded. But Caglavica was not burnt down. And the monastery in Gracanica is still standing. When Håkansson realized that they risked being outflanked he called on his radio: "Defend monastery. Use deadly force if necessary". Still he had the same manual in his pocket as the Germans in Prizren. Why did he do it?
Before Håkansson was sent to Kosovo he thought the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs would educate him in the history of the province. When that did not happen he bought the books himself. So he knew, he says, that the monastery in Gracanica was a major Serb cultural symbol. If it was destroyed the whole of Serbia could get on its feet. And for that matter, says Håkansson, "every order has its "best before" date. Then you are left to make your own decisions."
"It was Håkansson personally and his men who that day made the difference between right and wrong" says general Anders Brännström, who has been Håkansson's superior in Kosovo. "If he had put the safety of the soldiers first, as so many others did, Sweden would have had a new Srebrenica on its conscience."
I am describing all of this in such detail because in the native press the Swedish efforts got less space than the naked behind of a someone on a reality show. I find it symptomatic of our times. Håkansson just thinks its odd. Maybe the general belief in Sweden is that "UN soldiers distribute dolls to the kids and the rest is in support of gender equality. People probably get embarrassed from seeing us carrying arms."
When NATO and independent institutes analyzed the debacle on the 17th of March it became clear that the most responsible action an officer could undertake was to break the rules. But that only Swedes and Italians did so.
All over Kosovo military officers discovered that they were not heading an army but something more resembling of a sanatorium on picnic. Each group of patients had its own pack of guidelines. Americans were not allowed to fight against civilians. Slovaks were not allowed to use truncheons. Germans were forbidden to cross the street, because that was the limit of their section. And so on...
These were caveats, provisions each nation had put up as a condition for their participation in the mission. As a consequence of this most of the KFOR forces were useless when needed. Only 17 out of the 55 units were allowed to intervene in the event of riots. And there was not a single general in all of Kosovo who could keep track of what else they were forbidden to do. "Some were probably not allowed to stay out after five, P.M." a Swedish officer guesses.
You would like to think that a UN Mission is like a polar expedition: Clear goals, decisive leadership, adequate equipment, the most sought-after specialists dedicated to the task. You are in your right to expect this considering the sky-high salaries and that there are 229 applicants for each UN post. But the UN Mission in Kosovo has none of this. It cannot be compared to any other known phenomenon, but there is some resemblance to the health care centre in Sveg.
In Sveg they change doctors once a week. In Kosovo soldiers are sent home once they learnt to find their way. Six months is the period of rotation and the same goes for UN police. The Governor is replaced once a year and most of the UN superiors about as often. But there ends the resemblance to Sveg. Because if a short-term doctor prescribes the wrong treatment he will be accountable to the Health Board. But a UN police throwing crime reports on the rubbish heap has nothing to fear. In UN there are no sanctions against breach of duty. The worst thing that can happen is that the contract isnt prolonged.
A British source tells about a closet at the UN police quarters filled to the ceiling with crime reports nobody has ever read. It sounds unbelievable but most crimes in Kosovo are not investigated. But then again why would the police investigate if they do not feel like it? Actually it is not such a stupid question. Like this one:
What is Mr. Bangura doing in Pristina? He teaches the Kosovans how to run a railway and is paid some 8,000 euros a month. Local railwaymen who are supposed to live on 150 feel a bit humiliated by the project, especially since Mr. Bangura knows nothing about railways. How could he? He is from Sierra Leone where the last train stopped in 1975. He is an expert in harbours.
Mr. Bhattacharya from Bangladesh, to the contrary, is expert in nothing. He is a parking guard, without a drivers license and speaks only Bengali, but he must have paid handsomely in Dhaka, because now he is a UN policeman. There are hundreds of them, incompetent people, within the UN police, within finance and even within the justice system. (How about an expert in riparian rights assigned to judge murder cases.) They often come from "non-skiing nations", UN slang for Africa and Asia.
No, its not a riddle how they ended up in Kosovo. Its the UN system. "It is important to show that the whole world is taking responsibility" clarifies a diplomat. Right, some of them are useless, "but quotation is the price we must pay for the legitimacy".
Who are we? Kosovo was made to pay. Who seriously believes that a police force, drawn from 44 nations, of which one half is from semi-democratic states, of which one half is from dictatorships, of which one half does not understand what the others are saying, whereof one half are not even policemen, would risk their own lives to enforce law and order in a country that never had it?
They didnt. They looked on as mafia gangs infiltrated first the Kosovo institutions and then the UN Mission. (If there is an obvious conclusion to draw from this story it is that the UN needs its own police force, preferably highly paid crime experts from EU-countries, who could take to the field on short notice - and for which we would have to pay.)
If the reader feels that this article is about far away problems of no concern to him or her, let me inform you that it is today the Kosovo mafia deals in heroine in Kalmar and sex slaves in Oslo. And they are likely to sponsor the government in Pristina once the province gets its independence. And Kosovo is not to blame for this - we are responsible, we, who let it happen.
None of the seven Kosovo governors even tried to tackle the bands of gangsters in the province. The most powerful among them, with roots in the Kosovo Liberation Army, enjoyed close to immunity from the UN, who feared that otherwise they might cause unrest. Or even hurt the UN people. For the same reason the UN avoided to look for the guilty persons behind hundreds of murders of Serbs, Roma (and suspected collaborators) which happened in 1999.
It was a fateful appeasement policy. But not entirely incomprehensible once youve understood how the UN Mission is construed. To combat the organized crime would have required strategy, perseverance, courage and a spirit of self-sacrifice. Thats right, a mission, an inspired task. But the world community, in spite of its name, has no mission in Kosovo. Most of what it has are substitute UN bums, extremely well-paid but without any responsibility except for their own career and to whom Kosovo is just an episode. And the career is furthered if you can report stability and progress, not gunfire contests with the mafia or other upheaval. (Not to mention wounded UN policemen.)
This is how it came about that seven different UN governors reported about stability and nothing but progress, only to eight years later leave behind a mafia-ridden province. (Which the EU now will take over). And the common Kosovo citizen watched and learnt. Oh yes, the UN principles were really fine but nobody dared to stand up in their defence when it got too trying. So much for principles.
Why do the Swedish contributions seem to shine so differently against this background? Is it the auditor Inga-Britt Ahlenius, who acts as if she were not in the Balkans? Who says no, the same demands should go here as in Stockholm. The lieutenant-colonel Håkansson, who fights for the Serbs as if they were from Gotland. And the Ombudsman, certainly a Pole, but so typically Swedish, stubbornly upholding the laws.
The military Camp Victoria outside Pristina is a Sweden in miniature. There is a church, a gym, a post-office, pancakes with jam and recycling. Outside Albanians throw most things in the ditch, but in here they stick to composting and
ISO 14000. "Unfortunately", says lieutenant-colonel Håkansson, (the fighter from Caglavica) "in all of Kosovo there is no authorized way for recycling tyres". So, what do you do? "Ehmm...we...transport them to Sweden."
Picturing a truck passing by thousands of rubbish heaps in Kosovo on its way to the authorized 2,000 kilometres away is so bizarre that its hardly possible to refrain from jeering. But I have to. In honor of Ahlenius, in honor of Håkansson and in honor also of sergeant Micke from Gotland, the guy who at the beginning of this article was prepared to die at Caglavica. He is back Kosovo, now as head of a search team looking for explosives and weapons. Now and then his group makes a "hard entry". It means that during the night they rush into a house through closed doors and windows. But if no dangers are lurking inside then it means deescalating. "We ask for pardon, hang up our weapons, put on our shoe protectors and take photos of everything we damaged so people can claim compensation at Camp Victoria".
"Shoe protectors? Youre joking."
"Not at all. So we dont dirty the carpets. Like these..." He unloads the pockets of his fighter vest. Out come a torch, a compass, something lethal and at the bottom a couple of blue plastic socks.
Sergeant Micke tells me there have been incidents when people have had their doors kicked in and then invited them for coffee. Because of the plastic socks?
"Yes, we showed respect."
"Use deadly force" on the one hand, plastic blue socks on the other. Respect. Could one venture to say that the UN has a lot to learn from these soldiers from Gotland? There is much to be said about these peculiar people in the Balkans, but they show a sympathetic medieval trait: They despise protectors who do not take themselves seriously. Like UNMIK, for example. But they respect adversaries who stand up for what they believe in. Like this Micke, for example.