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Kosovo: It's Business, Not Personal

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The Kosovar citizens' lack of trust in the Kosovo local and international authorities became apparent with the recent horrific death of Dino Asanaj. Last week, Asanaj, head of the board of Kosovo's privatization agency, was found dead in his office. He was stabbed 11 times.

The grisly death defied common sense. Kosovars' social media outlets were filled with speculations that the killing was done by a deranged madman seeking revenge for a business deal gone wrong. It was only a matter of time when the culprit would be found. The unthinkable became incomprehensible when an autopsy by forensic experts from Kosovo and the EU rule of law mission, EULEX, said Asanaj had died as a result of stab wounds he inflicted upon himself. Kosovars cried 'cover up, again!' They are looking for answers from institutions they distrust and that are unlikely to provide.

Kosovo has become a country that rewards "getting away with the crime." Kosovar leaders accused by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, EULEX and other EU entities of war crimes, money laundering, cronyism, and the harassment of journalists have received a hero's welcome at government supported rallies upon beating the charges. As part of its blitzkrieg campaign against corruption, EULEX promised to catch some big fish. Ten years later, not one senior Kosovar official has been indicted. The Kosovars watched as accusations of corruption against the Prime Minister's inner circle, of which Asanaj was a member, were swept under the rug or dismissed entirely by EULEX. In April, EULEX arrested Nazmi Mustafi, the head of the Kosovo Task Force Against Corruption, on corruption charges! Mustafi is accused of demanding bribes from businesses to avoid allegations of corruption. The Task Force was part of the Special Prosecutor's Office, which was created by Prime Minister Thaçi.

EULEX and the international community serve as guardians of good governance and regional stability. This has involved a politics of hand-holding that has had both positive and negative consequences. As to the former, the international community has successfully contained clashes between Albanians and Serbs, keeping a lid on a potential regional conflict. However, to exercise this influence over local actors, EULEX has tolerated corruption and sacrificed the rule of law. This reinforced the public perception that government posts are positions of privileges rather than positions of service.

EULEX, UN and the other international organizations have reduced justice to charity. International government aid continues to support projects that promote an independent judiciary in Kosovo, good governance, and anti-corruption. The accused and the accuser often appear together at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for a new court, or at an anti-corruption conference.

Like many of the Prime Minister's inner circle, Dino Asanaj was also under investigation for corruption by EULEX. No formal charges were ever brought against him. Asanaj was loyal to Thaçi. His request to resign as head of the agency a few months ago was rejected by Thaçi. Throughout his tenure, rumors plagued Asanaj as a key player in the government's illegal money-making schemes. Many of his foes accused him of double-crossing deals.

Even under these dark rumors of Asanaj's complicity in illicit deals, the Kosovar public has demanded justice for his hideous death. They were looking for a compassionate face to a system that has failed them time after time. The governing institutions' Faustian deals for the past ten years are catching up with them. To the disbelief of the general public, EULEX and Kosovo's local authorities with great speed concluded that Asanaj had committed suicide. Kosovo's governing institutions returned to business as normal with the president in Iowa and the prime minister in Saudi Arabia wooing much needed investment. Who can blame the public for losing trust in Kosovo's governing institutions, especially when the rule of law has been replaced by the rule of money.